Chapter 1

"Dr Mark Sloan?" There was a pause. A harassed looking, middle aged man, with a clipboard called out the name again, looking at the crowd of people sat before him.

Adrian Monk didn't turn around to look, for he knew Mark Sloan was in the room. He had noticed him arrive and was becoming impatient waiting for a response.

"Dr Mark Sloan?" The man with the clipboard repeated in a firmer voice.

Irritated, Adrian turned around and saw a tall man, broad shouldered, and with a prominent chin, nudge the man he recognised as Mark Sloan. The Doctor who had been reading, smiled and mumbled embarrassedly before raising his hand apologetically, confirming he was there. Adrian turned around but his assistant Sharona was still looking behind. "Steve Sloan is here," Sharona whispered excitedly. Indeed it was Steve who had nudged his father Mark. Adrian observed Sharona and Steve sharing a glace, and hopelessly insisted she turned around. "His hair has changed from when he was last on television," she remarked.

"It's dyed. Definitely not ginger, I think they call that shade," laughed Adrian. Being mean did not suit Adrian, but he was concerned. He was not jealous in a romantic way. He had however come to depend on Sharona, and one of his many fears was that she would leave her position with him for a relationship.

After a few minutes, once everyone had answered their names, the speaker greeted them to what he joked as "the safest room in America." They were being welcomed to a new convention for all the best sleuths who tirelessly worked to assist law enforcement in solving crimes. There were also a select group of esteemed detectives who had come to share their knowledge and expertise. This was a room so clued up on crime that even Sherlock Holmes might feel inadequate in it. Along with Adrian Monk, his assistant Sharona and the Sloan father and son, there was also the crime writer, Jessica Fletcher, Thomas Magnum, a private investigator, Doctor Quincy, a medical examiner and Father Frank Dowling, a priest from Chicago. These people, along with everyone else in the room, have been helping out law enforcement for many years. This was a convention for expertise to be shared, lectures to be delivered and murder to be solved…

The morning session had been stimulating; a Psychological Profiler named Special Agent David Rossi, from the Behavioural Analysis Unit of the F.B.I, had given an interesting speech about the varying characteristics of the serial criminals, or Unknown Subject as the B.A.U refers to them. The afternoon session promised to be just as intriguing, with a Lecturer in Criminology due to take the stage, and also a presentation from esteemed sleuth Hercule Poirot. This was an important weekend for Adrian Monk and he was keen to make a good impression. Adrian was used to being special and gifted and he feared that he might not stand out in such outstanding company.

"You're gonna be just fine here Adrian" Sharona reassured him as they chatted during the interval. "Besides you're the only one with a birthday this weekend!"

Adrian didn't like birthdays. He had been having a nightmare all week about having to blow into a Party Whistle, which another person could have blown into. For him that was one reason why a birthday had potentially horrific consequences. He had woken up five times that week, after that nightmare, and brushed his teeth for twenty minutes. Adrian had hoped to keep the fact that tomorrow was his birthday a secret. In a room full of elite crime-solvers this was going to be hard, but he was confident he could keep this information hidden.

"Adrian, it's so lovely to meet you!" It was Jessica Fletcher. She was smiling as she shook his hand with some vigour.

Sharona winced and instantly drew an antibacterial wipe from a packet she kept in her bag.

Jessica's smile turned to surprise as she watched him wipe frantically. "Now Adrian, I left your birthday card in my room but I will make sure I give it to you later."

A panic fish squirmed in the depths of Adrian's stomach. She gave him another wide smile and returned back into the conference room. "Did you see that?" Adrian yelped at Sharona.

"Yeah, of course. She seems nice." Sharona replied.

"She's not nice Sharona! The woman is unhinged!"

"Oh come on Adrian! She was just being friendly."

Before he could protest, an announcement came over the tannoy system for everyone to take their seats back in the conference room.

Adrian and Sharona were the last two to enter the large, square conference room. "Can you believe her?" He whispered angrily to his assistant


"Jessica Fletcher! She is in my seat! The seat I had this morning!"

"It's ok Adrian, she wouldn't have known. We'll take those two on the end of this row."

"I can't!" He protested. "Those seats were dead centre of the front row, spaced halfway between two emergency exits!"

Sharona shook her head, and took a seat in one of the chairs in front of them, and eventually, after some angry mumbling, Adrian joined her, looking thoroughly fed up.

The first speaker was Hercule Poirot, and the Belgian was getting increasingly irritated on the stage, as Columbo had interrupted him six times, and on each occasion had claimed he had just one more question. As Poirot was explaining how he had solved his latest crime, Adrian noticed something. Two British amateur sleuths, Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, who had been present in the first session, were not present now. This seemed strange as it was they who had surely the most to learn.

After Poirot had vacated the stage and the guest speaker, a Lecturer in Criminology started to deliver his talk. Adrian was taking mental notes when a mobile phone began to ring. It was a ringtone version of Ride of the Valkyries, and a piercing noise that caused the speaker to stop. Nobody admitted it was their phone ringing. There were accusing glances and a murmur of collective annoyance.

"Who could be so rude?" Quincy asked Sharona, who was sitting next to her.

Adrian stood up as an excited smile ran across his face. "Could you turn your phone off please Jessica Fletcher?"

He had heard Jessica's phone ring when she was in the lobby that morning. He was now going to get one over on Jessica and impress the room.

"Oh" she laughed. "Whilst you are correct to identify that as my ringtone, I am pleased to say that mine is switched off." She pulled her phone out of her bag and Columbo confirmed it was off.

Adrian felt terrible. He was wrong. Of course he was right about the ringtone, but he had accused Jessica wrongly in front of the whole room. After a few seconds Thomas Magnum admitted culpability. He had bought a new phone that week and had never heard its ringtone. He apologised to the room and the lecture continued…

After the lecture some people left and some mingled in the lobby making acquaintances. Sharona watched Adrian straightening a picture on the wall. She was just about to ask him to stop, when a loud scream of unalloyed terror rang through the lobby. People rushed towards a half open door, where a hotel maid was stood shaking. Inside the room was a set of large sofas, some tables and a grand bookshelf. On the sofa was the body of Rosemary and just behind, on the floor, was Laura Thyme. Rosemary was quite clearly dead. A hoe had been embedded into the side of her neck. All concern then moved swiftly to Thyme. Mark Sloan and Dr. Quincy, excited to pronounce her dead, both stooped over her at the same time, banging heads in a slapstick manner, before falling over. It was therefore left to the significantly more composed Veronica Mars, to check her pulse and vital signs. Finally the young blonde looked up at the crowd, as shook her head solemnly.