Word Count: Part 2: 2,300 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
“Wipe.” Adrian Monk covered his nose with one hand and held out the other toward his weary-looking assistant, Natalie Teeger.
Monk stared warily at the object of his disdain -- an innocuous-looking sachet. It spun slowly as it hung from the rear-view mirror, unfortunately emitting a strong almond scent.
She gave him a look of utter incredulity. “Mr. Monk, in case you didn’t notice, I’m driving.” Natalie took a moment to signal a left turn. “And it’s pitch black! Why do you need a wipe, anyway?”
“That…” He squinted at the air freshener. “…stench! I’ve got to block it out somehow.”
With a frustrated jab, she punched the dome light above Monk’s head, and inclined her neck to indicate a box on the passenger-side floor. “Down there - if it’s not too far to reach.”
Monk eyed the package of baby wipes on the floor with distaste. He turned his head toward Natalie - with her eyes firmly fixed on the road, she didn’t notice. With marked disbelief, he asked, “Really?”
“If you want a wipe...”
Monk blinked slowly, and then stretched his fingers toward the box, noting the grime that covered all sides, including the lid he was required to touch to open the flip top. Centimeter by centimeter, his hand drew nearer, his face contorting in concentration. But all the effort was in vain - he simply couldn’t bring himself to touch the lid. “Uh...” He cleared his throat. “Maybe you could pull over...”
“I’m not pulling over!” She switched the dome light off again with a frustrated jab. “You can handle it for a few more minutes... we’re almost there.”
“Maybe if I opened a win--”
Sighing, she turned the steering wheel and guided the car to a stop beside the Captain’s unmarked car. “It’s a good thing Julie has a sleepover tonight...” She yawned, twisting the key out of the ignition. The two of them got out of the car, Natalie pulling her jacket tighter around her body.
Monk stepped close enough to touch the antenna of the car, and then gingerly stepped over the gutter to the sidewalk. Touching the Captain’s antenna next, he added, “You know, you could get another scent... like pine... or linen...” Monk tilted his head sharply then, popping the joints of his neck as he often did when he was bothered by something but trying not to show it. “Or bleach...”
“I happen to like almond, okay?” She gestured toward the entrance of the shop, following him as he finally went inside.
As they came close to the crime scene, the voice of the foreman filtered through the general noise of the other police officers working the investigation. “...just doesn’t make any sense!”
“So when you walked in, you found him on the floor beside his workstation?” Captain Stottlemeyer asked, Lieutenant Disher stood beside him, scribbling a few notes in his police pad. The Captain acknowledged Mr. Monk and his assistant as they approached, but gestured for the foreman to answer the question.
“Yes, I opened the door to the shop, flipped on the light, and he was practically the first thing I saw.” The foreman ran a hand across his salt and pepper hair, clearly upset. “If I hadn’t come back to get something out of my desk, I don’t know what...” He trailed off, pulling his hand down his face.
While the foreman talked, Monk began a slow circuit around the area, framing the scene with upraised hands.
“So, Mr....” Disher checked the name he had written on the page before. “Mr. Clarkson, what do you think happened?”
“Well, Bill has been with us for about ten years. He’s one of our most experienced welders.” The foreman’s eyes saddened as he talked. “Maybe he passed out, hit his head?”
“He had a cold, right?” Monk straightened out from bending over the wastebasket, holding a used wad of tissue far from his body with his tweezers.
“Well, yes... he missed a couple of days this week. That’s probably why he was in here, trying to catch up on work. Maybe he was sicker than he thought he was...”
“Could it have been his cold medicine...?” Stottlemeyer speculated.
“No, he was a pro. We all know how dangerous that stuff can be. He would never have done that. But then again...”
“Then again, what?” The Captain tilted his head, running his fingers over his mustache.
“He was here, all by himself, using dangerous equipment? Even I would have probably made sure I had a buddy around to watch out. Accidents do happen, you know.”
“Yes, they do.” Stottlemeyer glanced over to where Monk was scanning the shelves, and then nodded at Disher. “I think we have enough for now, Mr. Clarkson. We should know more once the coroner gives us his report. We’ll contact you if we need more information.” The captain waved over one of the uniformed officers to escort the foreman from the shop.
The trio of Stottlemeyer, Disher and Natalie fell silent as they let Mr. Monk go about his normal routine of inspecting the crime scene for clues. But after a few moments, Natalie’s attention wandered, taking in Disher’s clothing. “Well, Randy,” she grinned. “That’s some outfit you’re wearing.”
He brightened and turned to her. “Do you like it?”
“I’m impressed! Do you have a new girlfriend?”
“Oh, no,” he replied at first, then quickly changed his mind. “I mean, yes, there’s a girl, but we’re not...” Though Natalie’s look of amused interest never wavered, he stumbled ahead. “We were supposed to meet tonight.”
Natalie opened her mouth to respond, but Monk’s voice interrupted, causing them to turn toward him. “Ugh, Natalie...”
“Yes, Mr. Monk?
He lifted the sleeve of his jacket to cover his nose, grimacing dramatically. “I can’t get the smell of almonds out of my nose...”
“For Pete’s sake...” She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples tiredly. “Fine, I’ll get rid of it...”
“You’re smelling almonds, Mr. Monk?” Disher’s head snapped up suddenly, and he sniffed the air. “It’s smelled like that since before you got here.”
“Come to think of it, it has,” the Captain agreed.
“See, I’m not the only one who likes it...”
She paused, noticing the way Monk had gone terribly still, staring fixedly at a panel of switches beside the door. He slowly looked between the panel and the taped outline on the floor, as if measuring the distance with his eyes. “The foreman said the lights were off when he came in?”
Disher flipped backward in his notepad. “Yes, he said he came in, turned on the lights, and saw the victim.”
Monk nodded, though he had already moved back toward the workstation. Slowly crouching to inspect a scuff on the floor, he lifted his head to look the Captain in the eyes. “You’d better ask the coroner to run a tox-screen. Bill Nichols was definitely murdered.”
The next morning at the Nichols’ residence, Randy Disher leaned against the archway into the sitting room, only half-attentive to the conversation between Captain Stottlemeyer and Bill Nichols’ widow. Every few minutes, his hand drifted to his pants pocket to touch the cell phone within, as if to make sure it was still there. Between checks, he shifted position, distraction evident in every line of his body.
Natalie, sitting on the loveseat to the left of Mrs. Nichols, passed another tissue to the grieving woman. Her presence seemed to comfort Sarah Nichols, who kept sending grateful glances in Natalie’s direction. Adrian Monk wandered the room, inspecting photographs and knickknacks with an odd sort of concentration, still fully cognizant of the conversation.
Leaning forward earnestly where he sat in an armchair, Captain Stottlemeyer repeated, “And you’re sure you don’t know of anyone who might have wanted to kill your husband?”
“No!” She sniffled. “He was so well-liked by everyone! He was the most easy-going person... I can’t understand why anyone would want to murder him!” She wiped at her eyes again. Natalie gently placed her hand over the top of Sarah’s, who gave her a small, broken smile.
From his place on the other side of the room, Mr. Monk spoke. “How was your marriage these last few years?”
“Our marriage?” She looked down, twisting the tissue between her hands as she spoke. “It was just fine... We’ve been... we were... married for almost twenty years. Why?”
Mr. Monk idly pulled a wipe from his inside breast pocket and dusted the top of one of the picture frames on the wall beside him. “I was just noticing that you don’t seem to have any recent photos of the two of you. The house seems a bit feminine...” He gestured to the floral-patterned sofa and delicate china displayed on the shelves. “But I don’t see anything that might have belonged to your husband.”
Mrs. Nichols straightened, unhappy with the implication Mr. Monk seemed to be making. “Bill let me decorate the way I liked - he didn’t mind me cleaning up after him either.” Her face heated as she continued. “We had a few problems, but who doesn’t?”
Natalie nodded her understanding, squeezing her hand. The tiny gesture loosed a new flood of tears. “He was going to take me out tonight to dinner... he’d gotten so romantic again, like when we were first married...”
Everyone else in the room allowed the Sarah a moment to compose herself. Suddenly, in that awkward pause, Disher’s cell phone loudly sounded, signaling a text message. Embarrassed and startled, he fumbled to take the cell phone out of his pocket. Stottlemeyer flashed him an annoyed look. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled apologetically. He slipped around the corner out of sight, presumably to turn the phone off.
Stottlemeyer placed a hand on the armrest of his chair, and levered himself to a standing position. “Thank you, ma’am, for your time. Do you mind if we look around the house? Any information we can get on your late husband might help us in the investigation.”
Mrs. Nichols dabbed at her eyes. “Of course.”
Natalie rose as well, keeping hold of the woman’s hand a moment longer. “They’ll do everything they can to make sure the real killer comes to justice.”
Sarah caught each of her guests’ eyes in turn. “Thank you.”
Monk and Natalie set off toward the study and Stottlemeyer joined Disher in the hallway, where he was staring into space with a goofy grin on his face. “I hate to bother you, Randy...” the Captain drawled.
“Oh!” Disher covered his surprise quickly. “No problem.”
“Glad to hear it,” Stottlemeyer responded, not hiding his sarcasm. He jerked his head toward the bedrooms in the back, indicating that Disher should follow. The master bedroom was similar to the rest of the house, decorated in blue and white, lacy curtains on the windows. The only indications that the room was shared were the size of the bed and the clothing in the closet.
Disher began to open one of the nightstand drawers when his cell phone blared with the sound of another text message.
“I thought you turned that off.”
“I tried to change it to vibrate,” he said, flipping open the phone to check the message. He smiled as he read the words on the screen. Looking up, Disher explained, “It’s Mary Beth. We’ve been trying to reschedule our date.”
“Well, by all means, don’t let your job get in the way of your love life.” Stottlemeyer shot Disher a significant look.
Disher’s thumb paused, mid-text, and then he flipped the phone closed with a shrug. “I suppose it can wait.”
Stottlemeyer rolled his eyes, and turned away, peering into the master bath. Amidst the figurines and porcelain bowls of potpourri, he found a lone razor. The medicine cabinet contained a can of shaving cream and some deodorant, and not much else.
Coming out of the bathroom, Stottlemeyer found Randy lifting a plastic-wrapped sleeve in the walk-in closet admiringly. “Are you going to ask to borrow it?” the Captain joked.
“No, it’s just funny...”
“What?” Stottlemeyer sidled up to his junior partner, running his eyes over the suit. It looked no different than the dozen other dress suits hanging beside it.
“He gets his clothes cleaned at the same place I do.”
Stottlemeyer grimaced, recalling Disher’s recent foray into high fashion. He whacked the lieutenant’s shoulder with the back of his hand, but then he really noticed the contents of the closet. “Bill Nichols was a welder...” Moving to the end of the row of suits, he lifted aside a solitary work jacket, with the name “Nichols” embroidered on the left breast. “Why would he need so many dress suits?”
Next: Part 3