Word Count: 3,000 words
Characters: Leland Stottlemeyer, Randy Disher, Adrian Monk, Natalie Teeger
Setting: During the Season 6 hiatus, after “Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night.” However, it’s spoiler-light, so anyone who is familiar with the later seasons should have no trouble!
Summary: The team investigates the puzzling murder of a welder. Oh, and Randy Disher has a date. A Stottlemeyer and Disher-focused tale. Gen.
Previously: Part 1 | Part 2
Captain Stottlemeyer was spending another evening reading a report, this time the coroner’s report for Bill Nichols. He scanned the page, noting the place and time of death. Nichols definitely had a cold; his nasal passages had been blocked and his lungs filled with fluid, but the coroner had determined his illness was not the cause of death. And no head trauma either, which might have explained the way he was found on the floor.
Per his request, the coroner’s office had indeed run the tox-screen. A chemical caught his eye, and he read it aloud: “Tetrachloroethylene?” He continued reading silently: “Trace amounts of the chemical were found in the subject’s blood; however, levels of tetrachloroethylene and trichloroacetic acid are typical of employees of metalworking industries.” No other toxic substance was found in Nichols’ blood.
Stottlemeyer blew air through his mustache. Despite the report, he couldn’t shake the gut feeling that Monk was right. He was always right. He picked up the receiver of his desk phone, tapping the code that he had programmed for Monk’s speed dial. At four rings exactly, the detective picked up. “Adrian Monk.”
“Adrian. Leland Stottlemeyer. You got a minute?”
“Ah...” The captain heard the clink of dishes in the background. “Sure. Just doing a little...” A squeaking sound came over the line. “Cleaning. Is it about the Nichols case?”
“I just got the coroner’s report back. They didn’t find any sort of toxic substances in Nichols’ blood.”
“Really?” The background noise of Monk’s cleaning stopped. “Did they say what the cause of death was?”
Stottlemeyer read from the sheet. “Pulmonary edema.”
“Heart failure?” Monk asked disbelievingly. “I was certain with the almond smell... Are you sure they didn’t find anything?”
“Trace amounts of...” The Captain paused to re-check the report, “tetrachloroethylene, but that’s all. Nothing out of the ordinary for a metalworker.” Stottlemeyer placed the report back on his desk and picked up a file of information he had been compiling all afternoon. “Still, I’m not willing to write off the fact that it was a murder -- so many things don’t add up. The fact that he was working alone, some of his wife’s comments, all of those suits in his closet...”
“Did the background check turn up anything?”
Smiling at the sound of steam releasing from an iron, Stottlemeyer shook his head. “Not really. He has an unbroken work history, was apparently a very responsible worker. He had a few friends he would meet with for poker... The neighbors said they had no reason suspect any marital problems between Bill and his wife... I guess the only thing we have to go on right now are the suits...” He glanced at his desk clock -- 4:30. “Randy was going to stop by the dry cleaners today before they closed...”
“Excuse me?” Lieutenant Disher stood at the counter at the dry cleaners. He could see the top of a graying head behind the carousel of plastic-covered clothing. “Can I get some help here?” He bobbed his head back and forth trying to see between the rows. “San Francisco P.D.!”
He waited somewhat impatiently, tapping the glass-topped counter with his fingertips. suddenly, he noticed a desk bell beside him. Gingerly, he reached out to tap the bell. As if by magic, a middle-aged balding man popped his head out from between two rows of clothing, as if he hadn’t heard any of Disher’s earlier shouting. “Can I help you?” he asked, face flushed all the way to his thin hairline with exertion.
Disher slipped his badge from his belt and flashed it at the man briefly. “Lieutenant Randy Disher, San Francisco P.D. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Sure...” The man looked down at his watch. “Will it take long? It’s almost closing time.”
“It shouldn’t be too long, sir,” he answered with an official-sounding voice. “I just need to ask you whether you remember this customer.” Bill Nichols’ widow had managed to find in a recent photo - he smiled affably out of the frame. Disher placed it in front of the clerk. “He was one of your regular customers.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure. I don’t really work the counter very often. Let me get Holly up here to talk to you.” Turning, he shouted toward the back, “Holly! Can you come up here for a minute?”
“Be right there, Anthony!” The woman who appeared was plump, but not overly so, with reddish-brown hair. At the sight of Disher, she put on an interested smile. “What can I help you with, hon?”
“I’m with the police department. I need to ask you a few questions about this man.” He passed over the photo, and Holly took it with a questioning look on her face. She frowned as she scanned the man’s face. “I think he’s been in here... he comes maybe... once a week?”
“Did the two of you ever make small talk?” He lifted his notepad from his inside breast pocket and clicked the top of his ballpoint pen.
She leaned forward onto the counter. “Well, sure. I usually chit-chat with the customers. Makes a...” She lowered her voice and smiled conspiratorially. “...dull job a little more interesting.”
Disher scribbled a note or two, adding, “Did he ever talk about his life? His hobbies, anything?”
“I don’t remember. I think we mostly talked about the weather, stuff on the news... nothing really specific.” As she talked, Holly came around the corner of the counter, unnoticed by Disher, who was busy writing everything she said down. “What about you? Do you have any hobbies?” She placed a friendly hand on his arm.
Disher jumped almost a foot to the left. “Me?”
“Yes, you. Being a cop isn’t nearly as boring as working for a dry cleaner, but surely you have some hobbies?”
“Well, I--I like to read, and listen to music...” Disher fought the urge to back into the opposite wall.
She sensed his discomfort and moved away from him. “Music? What kind?”
“I like all kinds... a little rock, a little hip-hop.” Now that she had given him a little space, his confidence was rapidly increasing. “In fact, I even write a little music myself.”
“Yeah.” He had forgotten all about the interview by now, face growing animated. “I have a band called the Randy Disher Project. My music has even been featured at a MurderUss conc--” His cell phone blared at that moment, cutting him off mid-word. “Excuse me,” he apologized. Taking a quick look at the text message, he flipped the phone shut again and put his notepad and pen away. “I’m sorry, Ms...”
“Ms. Walters, I have to go. Thanks for your time. We’ll contact you if we need any further information.” He nodded, walking backward toward the exit door. Just in time, he avoided whacking the door frame with his shoulder, and he slid through the doors, hitting the sidewalk at a run.
Holly watched him dash out of sight, her smile fading. Her shoulders slumped and she let out a nervous sigh before walking to the exit doors. She flipped the door sign from ‘Open’ to ‘Closed’ and twisted the deadbolt.
It was getting late, and as much as Leland Stottlemeyer didn’t look forward to going home, he was going to be of no use in his job if he didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Wasn’t that exactly what he had told Mr. Monk only a few months ago? As he stood, pulling on his jacket, he recalled the advice he had also given that same night: “You’re going to order one shot, a single malt scotch...”
It was time to visit Pastor’s Tavern on Pearl Street again. He tried not to think about how regular a customer he was becoming since the moment he had been forced to slap the handcuffs on his former girlfriend, Linda Fusco. But better that than drinking alone in an empty house.
He walked the entire way to the bar -- the night was pleasant and he could use the exercise anyway. Pulling on the door, he stepped inside. The place was pretty quiet, only a few patrons occupied the bar stools or the several booths lining the wall. He nodded pleasantly at the bartender and slipped onto a stool.
“What’ll you have? The usual?”
“Thanks, Mickey.” Stottlemeyer picked up the shot of scotch in front of him, intending to knock it back... but he paused for a moment. Better to make it last this time -- he didn’t want to have any trouble getting home, and he might still get that call from the research department he had been expecting. So he took a sip, letting the liquid warm him as it trickled down his throat.
Drinking this way, while it kept him alert, also made him reflective. He hoped Randy was having a good time on his date tonight. Lord knew that boy wasn’t getting any younger. And even as goofy as he was, certainly there was a girl out there who would think that was ‘adorable.’ Hell, six months ago, Leland would have been out to dinner with Linda, laughing and carrying on, or maybe dancing at the jazz club... now where was he? Back to square one. Or to be truthful, he wasn’t even on the game board anymore. When he told Monk that Linda was his last chance, he meant it. He was through with women. Period.
But it didn’t mean that he was sleeping well at night, with the other half of the bed cold and empty.
He slowly swiveled on his stool, scanning the other people in the bar. Men, all of them, most alone like him or with a buddy. A lot of them looked like this was the only place they really had to come to -- and he would have felt sorry for them, except that he didn’t have anywhere else to go himself. His eyes were drawn to the poor sod in the corner booth, who had his head in his hands, a row of shot glasses telling the tale of his evening better than any conversation would. Leland smiled grimly and took another sip. He’d done the same thing after Linda’s sentencing.
Just as he started to turn back to the bar, the man’s head lifted, and Stottlemeyer stopped in surprise. “Of all the...” After only a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed his napkin from the bar and walked over to the booth. When he reached the table, the young man lifted his head and stared at him, bleary-eyed.
“What are you doing here?”
Randy Disher stared back up at Leland Stottlemeyer with almost no recognition in his eyes. He blinked and rubbed at his eyes while Stottlemeyer went ahead and took the seat across from him.
“Yes, it’s me, Randy. Why aren’t you out on your date?” He turned and called for the bartender’s attention. “Hey, Mickey? A cup of black coffee for my friend?”
Meanwhile, Disher had his head back in his hands. He moaned, hardly slurring at all, “There was... no date.”
“What?” Stottlemeyer patted the younger man’s shoulder. “Oh, man, did she stand you up?”
“Nooooo,” he answered, not lifting his head. “I stood her up.”
Stottlemeyer was speechless. Randy? He had been so excited about this date, texting the girl incessantly over the last few days. It didn’t make any sense... Mickey brought over the cup of coffee and set it in front of Disher, who didn’t react. Instead, he sat there rocking his head back and forth in his hands.
Pushing aside all of the empty shot glasses, Leland shook Randy’s elbow, hoping to shake him out of this funk. He knew first-hand how useless it was. “Now come on, Randy. Have a little coffee -- then you can tell me what happened.”
“Nnnnn,” Disher groaned.
“That’s an order,” Stottlemeyer teased him gently.
He lifted his head, finally, and pulled the coffee close with a loud scrape. Taking a sip, he kept his eyes downcast. “Thanks.”
“What are friends for?”
Randy looked up, tilting his head. Stottlemeyer could tell he was rolling the idea of ‘friends’ around his addled brain, but bit his tongue on a qualifying joke. This wasn’t the time to tease his junior partner. So he waited patiently for Randy to explain his night.
“So, you know, this girl... Mary Beth? We’ve never met... not in person, anyway.” He took another sip, looking back down at the table again. “She really seemed so nice... but I--I just couldn’t go through with it.”
Leland kept silent, sensing that the whole story would come out if he didn’t force the issue.
“As you know, normally I have my pick of the ladies -- just today at the dry cleaners, the clerk was really attracted to me. If they hadn’t been about to close, she probably would have given me her phone number...”
Stottlemeyer took another drink of his scotch, turning his head to keep from laughing. Randy had always been overconfident -- to his detriment. Stottlemeyer set his drink down and pulled his fingers down his mustache to control his expression. “So what happened this time, then?”
“I... um...” He took a large swallow of the coffee, almost like a fortifying drink, then stiffened at the heat on his tongue. He closed his eyes, bracing himself on the table. “Do you wanna know how we ‘met’?”
He opened his eyes again and looked straight at Leland. “She started posting comments on the boards at therandydisherproject.com.” As he explained, he seemed to become more lucid. Maybe he wasn’t really that drunk -- or he’d taken hours to go through the empty glasses on the table. “She really liked the band, and she was a big fan of my songwriting--”
“Wait a minute,” Stottlemeyer interrupted. “This girl... you met her online?”
“Hey, a lot of people are finding a date that way!” Randy argued, finally straightening up. “I mean, the kind of job that we have... the only way to meet women is when we arrest them!”
Leland couldn’t argue with that. He’d had much the same thought himself. And a couple of the guys at his golf club had found a companion through online dating. But before he could agree, Randy plowed on.
“It’s a perfectly valid way to meet women in the twenty-first century... but... I chickened out. I mean, who knows what she’s like in real life. Sure, she might be really nice, pretty, a good conversationalist, but she could actually be a drug addict or a murdere--” Randy clapped his hand over his mouth when he realized what he had just said.
The flash of anger Stottlemeyer felt over Disher’s slip of the tongue was soon quenched; it was all too true. He blew out a heavy breath. “Being on the police force takes a heavy toll on your love life.” He didn’t say aloud what they were both thinking. The death of Monk’s wife, Trudy -- Stottlemeyer’s bad luck with women -- Randy’s complete lack of real experience...
Randy smiled bravely. “Well, at least we’ve got each other, sir.” He gave Leland’s forearm a squeeze.
Leland looked down at the hand resting on his arm... For once, he didn’t feel the need for a sarcastic retort. He lifted his drink. “To the unlucky in love.” They clinked glasses, coffee mug to shot glass.
Stottlemeyer chuckled and the ghost of a smile crossed Disher’s face. A cell phone chirped its ringtone just then, but this time it was Stottlemeyer’s. He checked the display -- the research department had finally called back. “Hey, Carol -- you get that financial info?”
He listened for a few minutes, his face growing taut with interest. Grabbing a napkin and a pen out of his jacket pocket, he scribbled a few notes. “Well, I’ll be damned. Thanks a lot, Carol. Go home and get some sleep.” He flipped the phone shut. “This explains a lot.”
“What?” Randy asked, shaking his head to clear the slight buzz.
“It seems that our Mr. Nichols had a credit card only in his name -- he was sending the bills to his work address. A lot of charges in the last year, which pretty much stopped about a month ago. Restaurants, clubs, hotel rooms...” He looked up into Disher’s mystified face. “Our guy, Bill Nichols, was having an affair.”
Next: Part 4