Let the Games Begin
mean, if this turns out to be all for nothing..."
"She's been featured on Wheaties commercials for the last two months, Mr. Monk; you really should watch TV more often," the girl told him. A warm smile crossed her face. "It has been close to eight years since Wendy moved to Texas. This will be the first time I've really seen her face to face since then, basically."
"But, but you do I.O.U her every week, don't you?"
"You mean I.M.," she corrected him, "Yeah, and she's excited like you can't believe. All her life Wendy's been training hard to be in the Olympics, so this is what she's been waiting for. I wanted to join her too, but I found I wasn't quite as good at gymnastics as she was."
"Nor quite as interested when it came down to it," her mother added with a knowing glance, "If I'd known that, maybe I wouldn't have plunked down that two hundred dollars we could have spent..."
"Hold it, Mom, here they come now," Julie held up her hand as the very intense booing that greeted the Zimbabwe delegation gave way to an almost seismic roar as the Stars and Stripes came through the tunnel and into Candlestick. "Oh my God!" Adrian yelped, covering his eyes. "What, what is it?" Natalie asked him.
"Look at their ties, they don't match their suits at all!" Adrian complained, pointing at the screen with his left hand while keep his right hand over his eyes. "We've got to do something, quick," he rushed for the phone and started dialing, "It may not be too late; if we can get through to the network, maybe we can get them to stop tape and hold the parade until they get it fixed."
"Stop a live broadcast in front of three billion people!?" Natalie raised an eyebrow at him.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, Natalie; I thought by now you would have known that..."
"Oh there she is!" Julie started screaming in delight as the camera focused in on a girl about her age with thick, bushy red hair waving a small American flag and smiling like she had just won the lottery. "So, so that's Wendy, I suppose?" Adrian inquired, putting down the phone (which Natalie immediately snatched up out of his grasp).
"You better believe it!" Julie was eagerly snapping pictures of the screen with her camera phone. Adrian dared to take a glance at the screen and listened as the announcers went on: "...newest sensation in U.S. gymnastics, Wendy Whitehurst just made the national team with a near perfect score in the national preliminaries; experts predict she's a shoe-in to win the individual all-around gold once competition begins, although the Russian team has boasted that they will coast to easy victory themselves. We shall see several days from now. Moving along, here's..."
The phone started ringing. Julie snatched it up. "Yeah, I saw her too!" she exclaimed, ostensibly to another friend, "I can't believe it either! We should call her over when she's got an off day and have a party to celebrate it!"
"Uh, I, I, parties aren't exactly the best...Julie, you really wouldn't need to," Adrian raised his hand, turning white at the very thought of a loud, messy adolescent party inside of the Teegers' house that probably would take him months to clean up.
"Yeah, and I'll get Mr. Monk too; I know she'd like to meet him, I've told her all about him too," the girl patted the detective knowingly on the kneecap. Adrian seized up in terror. "No need to overreact, Mr. Monk," Natalie was almost laughing at his reaction.
"I'm...I'm a dead man," the detective whimpered softly, seeing no way he'd survive such an experience.
"...Ac, Actually, Natalie, tell Sherry Trudy and I went all the way," the actor playing Adrian was saying on the detective's TV set later that night as he dusted along the ceiling, having noticed a mild concentration of dust building up in the corner. Adrian's brow furled at the line and he could only wonder why he'd ever thought of saying that in the first place. In the end, however, he supposed it didn't matter as much as long as the show itself was still top notch-and from the Nielsen results pouring in, apparently it still was. And better, at last the fervor over the change in assistants he'd had to go through had finally died down as people had seemed to accept Natalie at last (although a handful of diehard Sharonaists still sent him scathing letters every now and then). The producers-now including his father-in-law-had given him extra good news earlier in the week, that due to the show's popularity, they were launching an official book series to go with it, and in fact his father-who'd indicated the last time they'd talked that he was considering trying writing again-would be writing it, albeit under a pen name to avoid charges of nepotism. Adrian himself had helped to give him a couple of ideas from several noteworthy dreams he'd had over the last couple of months-his father had said that one he'd had about his late friend Rusty the fireman had the most potential and probably would be the first to hit shelves, although probably not exactly as Adrian had dreamt it. So now he had so much more to be happy about now that his fears that the series would wither without Sharona had proved unfounded.
He swept up the last bit of dust, sealed it in a plastic bag, climbed down and dumped it in the garbage can. Another crisis averted. He stopped to count his emergency stash of Summit Creek that he'd stockpiled over the last few weeks in case the athletes depleted San Francisco's water supply. Five thousand bottles even, just as he'd hoped. Satisfied, he lay down on the sofa in much the same manner as Trudy had asked him to so many times during their marriage and watched the faux Natalie let the faux Sherry Judd in. Natalie herself had been in high spirits the past week as well given the navy had finally cleared Mitch of charges of sabotaging planes on his base before his death-a crime that had actually been the work of jealous mechanic and militant leader Charles Schickram (although unfortunately the investigation had not gone into what had happened in Kosovo despite his and Natalie's protests to the commission that the official report needed reevaluating, and thus that cloud still remained to be dispersed). The detective had also gotten satisfaction out of the investigation, which had also solidly pinned four additional murders on Frank Nunn over a period of nine years from the testimony of militant members who'd worked with him before, but unfortunately no additional concrete information on the identity of the mysterious Judge had come to light, so the case that mattered most to him remained stuck in neutral.
No matter, he thought to himself as he started dozing off watching his show. Something in his gut told him he was getting closer now, and another clue would present itself in due time...
It was then the phone rang. Adrian bolted upright just as he'd been about to go to sleep. He glanced at his watch: ten to three in the morning. He frowned: who would be calling him at this hour? Usually it was he himself who did the calling this late. "Hello?" he asked when he picked up the receiver.
"Is this Adrian Monk?" came a hyper female voice.
"Yes. And who is this?"
There was deep frantic breathing on the other end of the line before the woman could speak again, "Please don't tell the press, Mr. Monk, I don't want them catching..."
"Slow, slow down a moment there, please," Adrian hustled to his desk and pulled a pack of wipes out of the drawer: given how upset his caller was, she could well be breathing a load of unintended germs in her end of the line for all her knew, "Just, just let me have your name and what..."
"I'm Wendy Whitehurst, Mr. Monk," she said, almost prompting Adrian to drop the receiver in shock, "If you can come down as soon as possible, please do; I think someone's trying to kill me!"