AN/ This is the sequel to Mr. Monk and the Price You Pay. I recommend reading that before you delve into this. I own nothing except my love of Monk.


Chapter 1 - Aftermath of an Explosion


Police Captain Leland Stottlemeyer stood, legs spread, eyes shaded with his left hand, right hand on his hip, and watched as the fire engine's long extension ladder rotated on its platform and reached the narrow landing of the third-floor fire escape. Other aerial fire trucks were doing similar work, and he cared about the success of all of them, but this was the only one he cared about personally. The firemen locked the ladder into position and steadied the bucket. The fireman in the rescue bucket took young Charlie Monk from his father's arms and his sister, Emery Monk, from their mother's, and then the fireman beckoned for Julie. He could take the three and would return for their worried parents. At first, Julie hesitated, unable to choose between staying with her parents or going with her young siblings. However, she eventually realized the children needed her. The descent fascinated the two kids, agape with a mixture of fear and excitement, and who each subconsciously benefited from their sister's warm hand on their shoulder. As soon as the bucket reached the ground, their godfathers were there to greet them, scooping them in their embraces, and Jared Stottlemeyer's arms subsumed Julie. Randy Disher held Emery close as she trembled; despite her fascination with the firetruck, fat tears rolled down her cheeks as she said one word, "Daddy." Her chin was quivering, and Randy's heart broke a little as he hugged her tight.

"Don't worry, Emery—Daddy and Mommy will be alright." Emery continued to cry but nodded and tucked her head under his neck. Emery was an adventurous little girl at three years and eight months old, often giving Adrian and Natalie fits with her fearless little soul, but now that little soul was scared. Randy, an experienced girl-daddy himself, knew just how to comfort her and rubbed her back as he sheltered her in his arms.

Leland held Charlie as the fireman was raised again to the third floor. Charlie looked to his younger sister and patted her arm, "They will be okay, Em. They will be okay." Leland looked at his godson as he often looked at his godson's father. With a combination of pride and confusion. How could a five-year-old possess such calm in the face of such terror? So much like Adrian, a serene calmness that could suddenly cut through his anguish or fear with complete confidence. For Adrian, it was to see the solution to a case or the clue that everyone else had missed; for Charlie, it was to mitigate Emery's fright. Leland was ripped from his thoughts as the building trembled, and he saw pieces come flying towards the ground. The fire escape holding his best friends shook and became further unmoored, drooping more precariously than before. He pushed Charlie at Jared and told him and Julie to back away with Randy and Emery. If the building collapsed further, it would be in their direction. As always, Leland ran toward the danger. Towards his friends, for whom he could do nothing but pray.

The ladder and bucket had paused their motion. Finally, the building had stopped shaking again, and Leland could see Monk laying flat on the fire escape holding onto Natalie, who was dangling perilously from it, blood dripping from her knees down her legs. Adrian's legs were hooked around the upper floor escape ladder, keeping them alive. The top two floors seemed to have pancaked onto each other and threatened to crush the rest of the building. The fire escape itself was still hanging on—but tenuously at best. Leland was conferring urgently with the Battalion Chief of the fire department, who finally gave the okay to restart the upward trajectory of the ladder and bucket. Slowly, so slowly, it went higher. Leland thought he would scream as he watched his friends struggle to stay alive with nothing he could do to help them. He pulled at his mustache in anguish. Wishing the children weren't witnessing this. Wishing TK was there and, concurrently, glad she was not. Wishing he had something to break, missing his anger management yo-yo for the first time since he'd given it up. Okay, since he'd thrown it at a wall, and it finally cracked into a thousand pieces. Which Monk had cleaned up. Because it had been aimed at Monk's head, after all. Leland barked an inappropriate laugh then, remembering Monk's stubborn opposition that had caused Leland to lose his cool and throw the object that was supposed to keep his cool. He covered the laugh with a cough. He retrained his attention about 40 feet up above him.

The fireman grabbed for Natalie just as Adrian's sweat-slick grip was about to fail. Adrian's relief was apparent, even to Leland three stories below, and he watched as his oldest friend immediately passed out. The relief must have been overwhelming, but maybe it was more—there was blood on his face. Adrian then dangled from the fire escape as the building trembled again. Some large piece of debris hit Adrian on the leg on its way past him going down, and thankfully he didn't notice—he was out cold. He didn't even flinch as far as Leland could tell. The fireman grabbed him under his arms and managed to haul him into the bucket mere moments before the fire escape gave way completely. Leland had to jump back to avoid being struck by the pieces of metal falling around him, and a fireman ordered him to move back even further. As soon as the three got to the ground, EMTs carefully took Adrian into a waiting ambulance for evaluation, with a second group of EMTs doing the same for Natalie.

Above the massive noise, Natalie heard Emery wailing and moved to go to her little girl but found she was in so much pain that she couldn't. Randy came rushing to her instead; Julie and Jared weren't far behind with Charlie. "We're going to San Francisco General," the EMT told them hastily.

"Okay, we'll be there," Disher replied and headed for his car with the younger Monks and Julie.

"Jared, can you please ride with Adrian?" Natalie called out before they walked away. Her head was pounding with pain, fear, and heavy-duty anxiety. That usually meant her blood pressure had skyrocketed. So frightened that Adrian would wake alone, but knowing she couldn't get to him and that the kids needed Julie and Randy.

"Yes, Natalie, of course." Jared and Adrian had bonded over many years and on many occasions. From burgers in the worst possible restaurant when Karen, Jared's mother, had been hospitalized. That had been when Jared was about eleven or twelve. Then, just last week, Jared had gone to Adrian for old-fashioned permission to ask for Julie's hand in marriage. Jared's lips were set in a grim line as he sat down beside Adrian in the ambulance and remembered their conversation. Not only had Adrian cried when Jared asked for Julie's hand, but he had given his whole-hearted approval. His, Natalie's, and Mitch Teeger's, for whom, after all these years, Adrian still felt he spoke. And for whom Adrian knew, he bore the responsibility of Julie's life and heart. He told Jared that he still hoped, with all his heart, that he'd done right by Mitch all these years, and Adrian was now expecting Jared to love and take care of Julie the way Mitch would have and the way he had. Jared had nodded solemnly and promised Adrian, and therefore Mitch, by proxy, that he would devote his life to making her happy and making sure she was safe and well-loved.

Jared placed a hand on Adrian's shoulder. "You'll be okay, Adrian. You have to be. I want to see your face when I first call you 'Dad,' and one day when someone calls you 'Grandpa,' too."

When the ambulances arrived at San Francisco General, there was chaos to meet them. Every available bed and curtain area had been filled due to the explosion. Patients worse off than Adrian and Natalie and the kids were taken to the trauma centers at other hospitals. SFGH had been commandeered for broken bones, head trauma, and the like. Natalie's left shoulder was dislocated, and her knees had pieces of embedded glass, as well as one extremely swollen kneecap. She might have a break there; they were waiting on an x-ray machine to become available.

Randy had called Sharona, who was working at the time of the explosion, and she made her way down from the seventh floor to the triage area. As the hospital was in complete pandemonium, it was all available hands on deck, Sharona asked for reassignment to the ER, and the ER Chief quickly put her to work. When she came to Natalie's cubicle, Sharona took one look at Natalie's face and ran to the curtain where Adrian was receiving treatment. Still unconscious. As she examined Adrian's condition, what she saw worried her; bent at a funny angle, his right leg had a piece of his tibia poking through the skin of his shin. It was a good thing he was unconscious, Sharona thought. The pain in his leg would be horrific. She returned to Natalie and reported what she had seen, and Natalie's blood pressure went up further, the monitor started beeping alarmingly.

"Natalie, calm down. They are taking care of him."

"I don't care! I want to be next to him. Now!" she yelled. The children turned huge eyes on their irate mother. A nurse was tending the two on the bed right next to Natalie for minor scrapes and abrasions. Yelling was a thing that didn't happen with great frequency in the calm, loving Monk household. Natalie couldn't even put her arms around them for comfort because her left arm was immobilized. All she wanted was to hold her children and be held by her husband. Instead, her eyes filled with tears, and her heart raced with anguish. Some birthday this was, she thought with more tortured self-pity.

Julie and Jared handled the younger Monks like experts, Sharona noted with her own sense of pride in them. Everyone but Julie knew that an offer of engagement was forthcoming, and Sharona was as excited as everyone else. They were truly one large family. That would really seal the deal. Natalie calmed herself for the children's sake and asked the nurse to move her bed next to her husband's. After about ten minutes, she got her wish, and they moved her into a double emergency bay with Adrian. After much begging on Natalie's part, Julie and Jared took Charlie and Emery home to have dinner. They complied only after extracting promises of updates from Randy and Sharona or whoever was available to call them.

As soon as Julie left with Jared and the children, TK walked in and took one look at the Monks and began to cry—partly in relief, partly in horror. Leland had finally gotten through to his wife, and she'd rushed to the hospital. Leland was still at the scene, supervising the processing, and Randy was about to leave to join him. TK left the curtained area, gathered herself together, and finally reentered the makeshift room where Sharona, now off-duty, was waiting with Natalie and Adrian. Natalie had gone for her x-ray, and her knee was sprained but not broken. They had to remove the embedded glass, but she refused to leave Adrian for the time being.

A doctor came in then to see both Monks. "Dr. Daniels?" Natalie recognized the tired-looking man from her last traumatic hospital visit many years ago when she'd broken a drinking glass in the dishwasher.

He looked closely at her and then at Adrian and said, "Natalie Teeger?"

"Yes, well, I'm Natalie Monk, now. It's been a long time! I wish I could say this was a pleasant reunion, but it's not."

"Yes, I'm sorry you got caught up in whatever this was," he waved a hand and shook his head sadly. "I'm glad you're both alive." Dr. Daniels quickly determined that Natalie must immediately go to a procedure room and have the glass extracted from her knees before they swelled further. Otherwise, she would get an infection or need further surgery at some point to remove the glass. She finally cooperated and left Adrian in Dr. Daniels' care and under Sharona's watchful eye as TK updated Leland and then Julie over the phone.

Sharona paced for a while as Dr. Daniels examined Adrian.

"He's going to need surgery to repair that break in his leg," the doctor said to Sharona. She bobbed her head in acknowledgment. "He's going to be out of commission for quite a while. I didn't want to say it to Natalie, but they're both going to be out of commission for a while."

"Great, they have two kids that are five and three and a half, and they work together. They're going to need some help. Christ! We have to call her parents, his father, and his brother. When are you going to do the surgery?"

"As soon as we do a CAT scan on his head. I need to see what's going on with that bump. And we'll have to do one on his leg as well to see if there is more damage than what we can see with the naked eye, of course."

"Okay."

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

After what seemed like months later to TK and Sharona, Leland and Randy walked into the waiting room, jackets off, ties askew. Looking like they'd each aged years since they'd left their homes that morning, they sank heavily into chairs next to their wives. Julie had made all the calls that Sharona enumerated, and the waiting room quickly filled with Davenports, Monks, Saunderses, and Evanses. Leland and Randy acknowledged them all with waves and serious expressions.

"What's the latest?" Leland asked his wife.

"Adrian has a concussion but started to come around as they were taking him to surgery for his leg. He was in pain, but there didn't seem to be internal injuries, So otherwise, he's alright. Natalie has an immobilizer and a sling on her left arm and shoulder, and her knees are glass-free, and hopefully, infection-free. They have her sedated, and she's sleeping. She was creating a ruckus about not seeing Adrian before the surgery." Leland nodded, knowing that neither could live without the other. In fact, he didn't think they'd been apart for more than a couple of hours since before they were married almost six years ago. Even before that, when she was just his assistant, they were rarely apart.

The waiting went on for a few more hours; Jared slipped in and quietly sat next to his father at around midnight. Leland opened his eyes, "Son."

"Julie forced me to come. She's freaking out."

"Did you call out from work for tomorrow?" Leland inquired, knowing how the District Attorney was about his staff missing work.

Jared nodded. "Thankfully, neither of us has to be in court tomorrow. Well, really, no one has court. They've closed all city, state, and federal buildings in the city. I'll go into the office just to see if I can be of any help if something breaks with this situation. Julie will stay with the Littles." That was Jared's nickname for Charlie and Emery, from an ancient children's book he'd read to them when they were younger. Julie and Jared had gone into the "family business." With a stepfather who was the world's foremost detective, a mother who was on her way to becoming a forensic psychologist, and another father who was about to be promoted to commander of the Metro Division of the San Francisco Police Department, somehow it was only natural that their offspring should fight for justice as well. Julie used her theater background to great success as an Assistant District Attorney. Her opening and closing arguments were already becoming legendary. Jared used his steady, calm personality as his secret weapon—people thought he was a soft touch, a pushover—until he attacked with his keen intellect when his opponent least expected it. Jared was quite like Adrian in that regard, not his own often volatile father. Leland rose with impatience and kicked a table as if he'd read Jared's mind.

"Leland," TK quietly admonished, yet understood his frustration.

"When are they going to be done?" He asked rhetorically.

Sharona walked in just as Leland returned to his seat. She'd been checking on Natalie. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Randy responded quickly, "We're just getting antsy."

"It probably won't be much longer. But, ORIF surgery can be complicated."

"Oreef?" Randy asked, misspelling in his head and mispronouncing aloud. Sharona rolled her eyes.

"O.R.I.F. — it stands for open reduction and internal fixation. It's a type of surgery used to repair broken bones that need repair. During that kind of surgery, some hardware holds the bone together to heal. Unfortunately, Adrian's tibia—his shin bone—was twisted and sticking out through his skin." Everyone in the room groaned.

"Thanks for loading us up with that image, Sharona," Jack Monk said and shook off a case of the willies.

"Thank God he wasn't awake for that," Kyle Saunders murmured to his wife, Molly, who leaned against him for comfort under his protective arm.

"Really!" said Jared, squirming squeamishly.

"It will heal. It just takes some time and patience. But we all know patience isn't one of Adrian's strong suits..."

The surgeon came in, and everyone who wasn't already up came awake. Peggy and Bobby had been leaning together, napping. The same for Ambrose, who was leaning against a wall. Jonathan Davenport had been pacing a hole in the floor by the windows. His wife, Stacey, was home with their three young children waiting for news.

"Dr. Daniels!" Sharona exclaimed.

"Hi everyone, as I said to Natalie before, it's great to see everyone again after so much time, but not under these terrible circumstances."

"Thanks, doc. What's happening with the Monks?" Leland asked, to the point as always.

"Well, I'm sure you know about Natalie. Natalie's shoulder was severely dislocated from the slip from the fire escape, and her back muscles are badly strained because she was holding on to Adrian. However, her shoulder is back in place and completely immobilized. The original blast heavily impacted her knees because she crawled over glass and plaster to get to Adrian and the kids. Her knees were heavily embedded with glass shards, but they were cleared. Her left knee is sprained, and that is in a brace over the bandages. She is on a high dose of antibiotics and painkillers right now. She is also sleeping soundly, at least, last I checked." Sharona nodded, having just checked for herself. "She will need at least four weeks, maybe even six, plus physical therapy to recover fully." The group looked at one another with consternation.

Dr. Daniels continued, "Adrian did quite well during the surgery. There is a rod holding his tibia in place with some other pieces of titanium hardware. His recovery could take a lot longer than Natalie's—possibly ten weeks or more, as it will require quite a bit of physical therapy to get the leg to be able to hold all of his weight again. I understand he is a runner. So that, too, will take time. The rod will be a permanent addition to Adrian's being, and he'll have to carry a card in his wallet for going through magnetometers at security points."

"Oh, he's gonna love that," Randy said sarcastically. "That usually means a secondary pat-down search."

Leland thought about how many times they went to court a year and how many Monk tantrums this would involve and shook his head. Or if they needed to visit a prison. Oy vey. One problem at a time. "Okay, we have to start thinking about how to help them with the kids, how to get them around."

Just then, Peggy spoke up. "They will move in with us for the duration," she declared. Leland looked at her with surprise. This was new and wholly unexpected.

"It's the obvious solution. We have all kinds of domestic help on hand to help them with their every need, with the children, mobility, and everything. Plus, we," pointing between Bobby and herself, "will be there for them. It's the very least we can do for them." This pronouncement left everyone else in the room not only shocked but dead silent.

TK recovered first. "That is so generous, Peggy," she said. "Do you think it would be okay if the rest of us came and went as well?" TK was thinking about the extraordinary amount of time they spent in and out of each others' homes. They were very intertwined, and it may not look healthy from the outside, but they were godparents to each other's children and the best of friends aside from colleagues. So the six adults, the Stottlemeyers, Monks, and Dishers, were tighter than a pack of teenagers.

"Of course, TK, the more, the merrier." Wow, Leland thought, as he exchanged glances with his wife, something big had happened. I guess a bombing that almost cost you your children and grandchildren could do that to you.

Bobby picked up the thought, "School is over for the year next week, and I'm certain Charlie can make up whatever work he misses — if he misses any at all. We have plenty of room—ten bedrooms and a guesthouse. Plenty of help, plus we can hire more. If any of you feel you want to stay too, we can accommodate it. Plus, we can send the kids, including Willow, to day camp to keep them busy while you all work."

Sharona's eyes glistened as she said, "I'm sure that Adrian and Natalie will appreciate it more than they will be able to express, especially since they will be so drugged up and unwell when you broach it to them at first. So, I will say it for them. As their friends, their children's godparents, we appreciate it and are grateful. We will be taking you up on the offer to visit and to stay as often as we can."

Leland chimed in then, "It will also be a relief to know that they will be safe, as many of us will be wrapped up worrying about what happened today, who did this, and why. We need Monk secure and rested so his mind will be sharp, even if his body is somewhat broken. Believe me, you are going to be sick of seeing us and whomever we send to bring him the case files."

Bobby laughed—albeit with a bit of uncertainty at Leland's proclamation. He mentally put private security on the list of things to do. Both here and at home. Could the Monk family have been targeted? "Excuse me, I have to go make a quick phone call," he said as he exited to call Davenport Industries chief of security immediately, rather than wait.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Far north and east of San Francisco in a well-outfitted bunker in Boundary County, Northern Idaho, sat a man with a list with 195 words listed on the left side column of a computerized chart and 4 other columns going across the top of the chart. The columns were titled: San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles. He looked up at a screen above his desk at a replay of the chaos that had ensued after the first bombing in San Francisco. His players had done reasonably well for the first round. His face was wreathed in an evil smirk. The Game had begun.