Word Count: Part 1: 1700 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.
Author's Note This was my yuletide story -- and my first ever real foray into the Monk fandom. I wrote it for jane_elliot, who asked for a Stottlemeyer/Disher story -- with PLOT! I'd never thought of focusing on those two (though I did place the characters into my list of characters I would write for!), so I completely blame any awesomeness on her idea. ♥ A big, special thank you to everyone who commented and recommended this story in the community!
Thank you to alphielj, alamo_girl80, foxtwin, oldromantic and van_el for the beta help -- I was so nervous about this!
Although winter in San Francisco was rarely very cold, nightfall still came as early here as anywhere else. Most of the shop windows on Bryant Street were dark, the businesses closed for the evening. One light, however, illuminated the street outside with intermittent flickers of sparkling light.
Inside the machine shop, a TIG torch blazed away at a metal seam, which was slowly coming together. The tungsten arc was quite a bit brighter than the fluorescent lamp above Bill Nichols’ workstation. Loudly-crackling bluish sparks reflected off of his helmet, dying quickly as they leapt onto his protective gear or into the open air. A few moments later, Bill shut off the flame with a flip of a switch on the control box, adjusting the angle of the piece to begin on the next side. In that sudden silence, his cell phone blared, echoing in the nearly empty shop. The ring was so loud, in fact, that it was clearly audible even in the darkened break room several yards away. With a loud sniffle, Bill set the torch head down onto the counter beside him, lifted his face plate, and reached into his jacket pocket. Flipping open the cell phone, he glanced at the display briefly before answering with a hoarse voice, “Hi, honey.”
From that break room, Bill’s side of the conversation was being overheard. “Yeah, I’ve still got a bit of a backlog to finish up... I’ll probably be another hour or so, unless traffic on the Bridge is bad tonight... No, don’t hold dinner, I’ll just grab something out of the fridge...” He suddenly sneezed, and then snorted noisily as he tried to clear his sinuses.
“No, I just can’t seem to shake it... Yes, I took some more medicine, I promise... Well, I can’t -- if I stayed home another day, I’d get even farther behind than I already am...” Bill held the phone to his ear while he dug in his pockets for a tissue. Coming up empty, he made his way to the foreman’s office. Through the glass which separated the office from the shop floor, the person hidden in the break room could see Bill searching futilely for a tissue box. “Aw, you know that I’m still going to take you out this Friday...” Bill lifted an empty tissue box from top of the file cabinet, shaking it in frustration. “I owe it to you, after everything...” He started to cough violently then, covering his mouth with his jacket sleeve. “Sweetheart,” he continued with a garbled voice, “I gotta go -- I’ll be home as soon as I can... Love you, too... Bye.”
He flipped the phone closed, shoved it into his pocket, and nearly ran for the men’s room. Just as the door closed behind him, he could be seen pulling frantically at the toilet roll with his clean hand to loosen enough to use.
As soon as the door clicked shut, the person who had been secretly watching from the break room emerged, walking carefully over to Bill’s workstation. One gloved hand tilted a bottle ever so slightly above the metal, pouring a thin coating of liquid over the top of the project Bill had been working on. Taking care not to spill any on an overlarge sleeve, the person finished pouring, replaced the cap with a quick turn, and moved away as quietly as the work boots would allow. Just before slipping back inside the break room door, the person set the bottle back on a shelf on the wall, gloved fingers sliding across the label marked TECHTRIDE PERK.
And it was just in time. Bill opened the bathroom door, still sniffling, blowing his nose on a long, wadded-up piece of toilet paper. After tossing it into the wastebasket beside his workbench, he stuffed the unused portion into his pocket. Bill sat back at his station, replacing his face mask and picking up the TIG torch. As the arc made contact with the metal, Bill began to cough violently again. Despite his cold, the cough was stronger than just a new wad of mucus forcing its way out of his lungs. The torch dropped from stiffened fingers as Bill hit the concrete floor with a thump.
When all had been completely still for a few minutes, the murderer rechecked the seal on the gas mask and stepped out of the break room. After one final check around, the murderer’s gloved hand reached out to flip two switches on the wall. One plunged the machine shop into darkness. The other started up the blades of an exhaust fan, which dissipated a whitish haze to the air above.
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer turned a page of the report he was perusing, shifting the toothpick to the other side of his mouth in the same tempo. The clock beside his name plate read eight o’clock, but he hardly noticed. Most of the staff was gone for the day, just the night shift remained. There was no one to go home to, after all. Not anymore. He flipped another page and ran a hand through his thinning hair. The movement brought his eyes up enough to see through the blinds into the main office, where Lieutenant Randy Disher was rushing past. Well, that was nothing out of the ordinary. Stottlemeyer rolled his eyes and read the bottom half of the page, focusing in on one particular part of the text...
A body zoomed by the window again, going the other direction this time. Before he could pause to wonder, Disher flashed across his vision again, the plastic of a dry cleaning bag catching the light. Eyebrows slowly rising, Stottlemeyer watched as Disher passed one more time from his desk to the restroom. “What the hell is that boy up to?” he asked himself aloud. Shaking his head, he set the report on his desk, rose from his chair, hitched his pants, and slowly walked to the doorway. Leaning against the door frame, he lazily watched the young detective briskly return to his desk to flip open his briefcase and snatch a shaving kit from the inside. Disher soon disappeared inside the restroom once more. Stottlemeyer waited for a minute or two, fully expecting Disher to come stumbling out again...
Nothing at all happened. Stottlemeyer shrugged, and turned back to his desk. The report was waiting. Not that it mattered -- it would be there come morning...
“Well, what do you think, sir?”
At the sound of Disher’s voice, Stottlemeyer swiveled slowly to face him. Instead of his normal work suit, Disher was standing in the doorway dressed head to toe in black -- from silk shirt to shiny shoes. “What do I think,” he responded flatly.
“Yeah! Do I look...” He struggled to find the word, “...snazzy?”
“Are you going out or something?” He asked, avoiding Disher’s question with a glance to the side.
“I’m meeting someone.” Disher smiled with false confidence, straightening his tie. “She likes guys with good fashion sense.” He shifted awkwardly. “At least, that’s what she said...”
Intrigued despite himself, Stottlemeyer stepped closer. “So, who is this mystery lady?”
“Her name is--” Disher paused, tilted his head and then pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. Pulling a slip of paper out of the billfold, he read it and nodded. “Mary Beth. Her name is Mary Beth.”
A wry smile crept over Stottlemeyer’s face. “You didn’t know her...? What is this? A blind date or something?” He reached for the slip of paper.
Disher jerked it back, stuffing it haphazardly in his pants pocket. “Um, no! Well, something like that... Look. It doesn’t really matter,” he said, beginning to pace nervously. “I’ve got to meet her in an hour at the Starbucks on Polk and Vallejo...” He strode toward the door in a tizzy.
The sound of the phone from Stottlemeyer’s desk startled Disher into whacking the door frame with his shoulder. He spun, steadying himself with both hands to avoid falling over.
The Captain bit his lip to keep from commenting, lifting the phone to his ear. “Yeah, Stottlemeyer.” He listened for a moment, and then picked up a notepad from his desk. “Nah, I’m still here. I’ll give Monk a call, and I’ll head over there right away. Gimme the address again?” He scribbled a few notes, and then looked up to see Disher still hanging about in the doorway. He shooed him off before speaking into the mouthpiece again. “All right, see you in a few.”
He grabbed his jacket, and slipped it over his shoulders, nearly running into the lieutenant on his way out the door. “I thought you had a hot date?”
“Uh, um...” he stammered for a moment. Then Disher drew himself up tall, raising his chin. “Duty calls. She’ll understand.”
“Suit yourself.” Stottlemeyer pushed past Disher with no further argument, threading his arms through the sleeves of his jacket and heading for the exit doors. Randy hurried to his chair to remove the freshly pressed jacket from the other dry cleaning bag laid across it. His hands shook with haste as he tried to disentangle the hanger from the plastic...
“You comin’?” the captain shouted from the hallway.
With a huff, Disher threw the jacket -- bag, hanger and all -- across his shoulders and skidded across the floor to catch him.
Next: Part 2