Author's Note: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This ficlit came about after several discussions with LuckyLadybug about our different takes on the events in "Mr. Monk and the Magician." As such, there are major spoilers for that episode, as well as some spoilers for "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy." Thanks again to LuckyLadybug for plot help!
Randy Disher was softly singing to himself as he looked over the copy of the puzzling case file before him. He barely took notice of his watch beeping, letting him know that it was 1:00 in the morning. He even ignored the thunderstorm outside, illuminating the cloudy night sky every few seconds with lightning as rain pelted against the windows.
"Randy, I told you, just because I have to stay and work on this case, it doesn't mean that you have to," Captain Stottlemeyer said. "Go home; at least one of us can get some sleep tonight."
Randy looked up from the file.
"I can't just leave!" he protested. "I'm your right-hand man! What will you do without me?"
"For one thing, I won't have to listen to you singing how you 'don't need a badge' every five minutes," the captain replied, not bothering to hide his grumpiness at this unearthly hour of the night.
Randy sat in silence for a moment.
"You don't like the song, do you?"
"Randy, the song is great," Stottlemeyer said, though he wasn't all that fond of it in reality. "Just… not a hundred times over."
"No, no," Randy said, with a wave of his hand. "You don't have to lie to me; I'm an artist. We know how to take criticism."
"You're also a cop," Stottlemeyer reminded him. "And since I'm going to be all zombied out tomorrow after all of this, it would be helpful if you had a good night's sleep and have a clear head in the morning."
"I'll tell you what," the lieutenant said. "I'll take this copy of the case file with me—"
"Randy, go away. Go home. Sleep."
"Is that an order?"
"Yes. Now get out of here. And drive safely out there; it's going to be a mess."
"Yes, Sir…" Randy said, getting out of his seat and gathering his things. "Too bad Monk isn't here; he'd probably solve this case in five minutes, and then you could go home."
"No, he wouldn't; not with that going on outside," Stottlemeyer said, as another flash of lightning was quickly followed by a rumble of thunder.
"Yeah, that's right," Randy realized, stifling a yawn. He moved to grab his copy of the case file, but thought better of it as the captain cleared his throat.
The lieutenant made a dash for his car, managing to get partially soaked in the process. It was inevitable, and now the lure of a warm, dry bed was starting to look like a good idea after all.
Traffic was slow; it was going to take a while before he got home. He idly considered calling up one of his nearby friends, as he neared a red light, but his thoughts were soon diverted; he could just make out a young man walking along the sidewalk beside the street without any sort of rain gear.
There was something familiar about him, too—very familiar.
Randy pulled over and rolled down his window.
"Hey!" he called. "You all right?"
He was most surprised when the young man greeted him with obvious familiarity.
"Lieutenant Disher!" the young man exclaimed. "Holy Toledo, I didn't think I'd see you out here! I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew out here, actually; I guess you have to expect that in weather like this. There definitely are fewer cars out here tonight than usual—not that I'm an expert at determining such a thing, of course. It's not like I made a habit of looking out the window at one in the morning every night and took a tally of the number of cars I saw, though there was that one time I had a bit too much espresso and was up half the night, and there was nothing interesting on TV—"
"I'm sorry," Randy said, cutting him off. "Do I know you?"
"Yes, we have met and spoken before. We met three times. Well, two actually. That last one doesn't count…" The young man's face turned slightly solemn at those words, but he tried to perk up. "We spoke after meeting in Adrian Monk's apartment—I'm his upstairs neighbor, Kevin."
"Kevin… Kevin…" Randy murmured, trying to recall. It was during times such as this that he wished he had as sharp a memory as Adrian Monk—or, as sharp as this young man's, anyway.
"Kevin Dorfman?" the young man prompted.
"Sounds familiar, but I just can't place it," Randy said, frowning at not being able to remember. Perhaps the combination of the late hour and the fact that his memory wasn't as sharp as Adrian Monk's was creating some sort of mental block. He shrugged apologetically. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Kevin said, waving it off with a grin. "Well, don't let me keep you; I'm sure you're in a hurry to get home."
"Well, yeah, but… Hey, why don't I give you a ride?"
"Are you sure? I don't want to take you out of your way…"
"Nah, Monk's place is on the way from here," Randy assured him. "Besides, I don't want you getting hit by lightning. Come on."
"There's absolutely no chance of that happening," Kevin said, quietly, as he walked around to the passenger side of the car and got in.
Randy pulled back out into the traffic and tried to recall from where he had seen Kevin before.
"All right, I give," he said, at last. "When did I meet you?"
"Oh, in Adrian's apartment, you mean? Well, I'd say it was about five years ago… six, if you want to round it up."
"Six years?" Randy repeated, chuckling. Now he didn't feel so badly about not being able to remember.
"Yes, that's right—during the paperboy case. I gave you a list of all of my addresses, and you wrote them all down—meeting one. And we met the next day when I stopped in to ask Adrian for some ingredients—meeting two. Any of it coming back to you?"
"No, but I hope it will in the morning, at least," Randy sighed. He blinked as another bright flash of lightning lit up the sky ahead.
"You glad you're not in that anymore?" Randy asked.
"No, I was just wondering if Adrian's okay," Kevin said. "You know how he hates lightning. Usually, I'd be there checking in on him this late, because he'd be all alone."
"Well, he could just call Natalie…"
"Not in a storm," Kevin said. "He knows, you know; you shouldn't be on a phone during a storm—especially a non-cordless landline, like he has. Or a computer, for that matter, but that's not an issue, since he doesn't have one. And I guess it would apply to a wired video game console—not a handheld, because that's battery powered, so you'd be okay with one of those. Of course, Adrian doesn't have any sort of video game console, so that isn't an issue, either."
"Yeah, I can't exactly picture Monk playing Super Mario," Randy agreed.
Kevin gave a nod.
"He's pretty good at board games, though—if you can get him into it," he said.
"Guess he would be," Randy said, with a shrug. "So, what have you been up to? I've been to Monk's place a couple times recently, but I don't think I've seen you around…"
There was an awkward silence.
"Well," Kevin said. "I… haven't been around for the past year. I've… been visiting with relatives I haven't seen in a very long time."
"Uh-huh. Hey, were you anywhere near New Jersey?"
"Well… You know… Sharona…"
"Ah, that's right!" Kevin said. "Unfortunately, I haven't seen her since she left San Francisco. We did communicate via email, though, so it wasn't as though we completely forgot about each other. She was always asking how Adrian was doing; I could really tell that she regretted leaving. She was the one who asked me to keep an eye on him after she left, you know?"
He sighed. And it had been all in vain, too; Sharona hadn't said it in her emails explicitly, but it was clear, between the lines, that her attempt at fixing up her marriage had been a lost cause. He could understand that she had wanted Benjy to have both of his parents in his life, and was genuinely sad that it hadn't worked the way she had wanted.
"And then Natalie came along," Kevin went on. "I'm glad she's there for him; I don't have to worry as much now that…"
"Now that… what?" Randy prompted. Another flash of lightning jarred him from that train of thought. "What a night to be out driving…"
"Actually, it's scientifically proven that your car is a safe place to be during a storm. Well, as long as it's a closed car like this one; if all you've got is a convertible, then you're out of luck…"
"Well, what do you know? Here we are!" Randy said, cutting him off as he pulled over. "This is as close to the front of the building as I can take you, though."
"That's all right," Kevin said. "Thanks, Lieutenant."
"No problem. You know, I might have an old poncho in the back seat somewhere," Randy said, putting the car in park and removing his seat belt to root through the mess back there.
"Don't bother," Kevin said, quietly. "I can't get wet. So long."
"What do you mean, you can't get—?"
Randy's question remained unfinished. The passenger seat was completely empty—no trace of anyone.
The lieutenant's eyes widened, and he looked around. The door hadn't opened; he knew that because the lights hadn't come on. So… where had Kevin gone?
Another flash of lightning illuminated the area, and there was no one in sight. Randy shook his head slightly, as though trying to clear his mind.
"I must've imagined the whole thing," he muttered to himself. "But he seemed so real… Guess the captain was right; I need to sleep."
The lieutenant looked back to the apartment complex. Well, as long as he was here, he might as well check up on Monk. Finally recovering his poncho from the backseat, he dashed to the apartment, knocking on the door.
"Monk?" he asked, not too loudly in case he was asleep.
There was a quiet, incoherent mumbling coming from within the apartment, and Randy checked the door, finding it unlocked.
Adrian was inside, sitting on his couch with the lamp on beside him, shuddering with each flash of lightning.
"You okay, Monk?"
Randy blinked, though he quickly realized he shouldn't have been so surprised.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked. "You know, my car's parked outside; I could stay for a while, if it wouldn't put you out."
"No, no…" Adrian replied; after having Stottlemeyer as a house guest once, he was unwilling to have anyone else—even Randy. "You… you go on home; I'll just stay here and… wither away."
Randy shook his head slightly, realizing just how sorry he felt for him.
"Are you sure? It really wouldn't be a bother—"
"You look like you're ready to fall asleep on your feet," Adrian assessed. "You won't get a good night's sleep here. The captain will attest to that."
"Well, I won't deny that I am tired," Randy said. "I just hallucinated that I drove a friend of yours here—your upstairs neighbor, Kevin. He said he wanted to make sure you were doing okay."
"What?" Adrian asked, forgetting about the storm.
"Yeah—Kevin Dorfman. Slim guy with glasses, talks about a mile a minute… He lives upstairs, doesn't he?"
"…He used to…" Adrian said.
"Yeah, he told me… Well, the hallucination told me he hadn't been around for the past year."
"Randy… he's dead. He's been dead for the past year."
"Randy, you were there—at the magic theatre. You saw the body; you were the one who told me he was strangled!"
Unbidden to Randy came Kevin's words in the car.
We met three times. Well, two actually. That last one doesn't count…
It didn't count… because he was dead, Randy realized. But that would mean that it wasn't a hallucination and it was really…
The lieutenant massaged the bridge of his nose.
"Monk…? Do you believe in ghosts?"
Adrian blinked, not sure how to reply to this. By all that was rational, it should be impossible, and yet… What about all of those times he had spoken to Trudy—those visits… those words…?
He shrugged, helplessly, and Randy gave him a nod.
"I guess I'll take an 'I don't know' as an answer," he said. "That's definitely better than a 'No way; you're crazy,' at least. But, uh… I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring this up to the captain."
Adrian managed a nod in reply, but he was upset about something else.
"I was able to save him once…"
"Kevin. I saved his life once. Why couldn't I save him again?" Adrian asked, his voice slightly hollow. "That time, during the paperboy case… I saved him. But I wasn't able to do it a second time."
He looked to Randy with a slightly haunted expression.
"Why?" he asked again.
The lieutenant blinked, not sure how to answer.
"I guess there isn't an answer for that, either…" Randy said at last.
Adrian had to agree, even if he didn't like it. There would never be a satisfactory answer—just like he had never found a satisfactory answer for why Trudy had been taken away from him.
Randy ended up staying for another twenty-five minutes; by that time, the storm had let up enough for Adrian to stop fretting over it. After ensuring that Adrian would be all right, Randy took his leave, still trying to figure out what had happened that night as he headed for the door.
It was as he passed the door that he heard what sounded like Kevin Dorfman's voice again.
"Thanks again, Lieutenant."
Randy blinked, but said nothing, still mulling it over in his mind. Adrian, in the meantime, sighed as he found himself finally able to relax again now that the storm was fading away. He headed to his bedroom, leaving the young spirit leaning against the wall, feeling oddly contented.
"You've made progress, Adrian," he said, softly. "I remember when you'd still be trembling for hours after the lighting stopped. You should be proud of yourself. I knew you could do it."
"Now I know… I don't have to worry about you. You'll be fine. But don't blame yourself for what happened to me. You said it yourself—you saved me once before. I got almost five extra years because of you…"
It had been a sobering thought after that fiasco, though, once Kevin had found out that that poor paperboy had been killed indirectly because of him; one of the first things that Kevin had done after reaching the other side was to track down the paperboy's spirit and apologize to him—not that Kevin had anything to apologize for, but that certainly didn't stop him from doing it.
"There was nothing you could've done last time," Kevin went on. "I'm just glad you caught the man who killed me. And I know you'll find who got Trudy, too. And speaking of Trudy…"
Kevin turned to the second spirit in the room, sitting on the sofa with her feet up on the coffee table, as she had done in life.
"He's all yours," he said, cheerfully, as he phased through the door, aiming to visit some of his relatives before he went back.
Trudy smiled back and waited politely for Kevin to go before crossing to the bedroom to watch over her husband.