"Mom, I can stay if you want. We can rent a movie and eat ice cream straight from the tub…"
"No, sweetie, you've got class, and I have to go to work. Steven was right, he deserves someone who isn't just trying to replace her late husband. I care about him, but really, I was just with him because it made me feel closer to your dad. I see that now."
"Are you sure you're okay, Mom?"
"I'm fine, sweetie. I just need a double homicide or something to get my mind off it."
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too, baby." Natalie kissed her daughter goodbye and drove to her employer's apartment.
"Mr. Monk! I'm here!"
"In the kitchen, Nat!" called her boss, Adrian Monk.
"You're seven minutes late. If you couldn't be on time, couldn't you have at least made it an even num…Natalie, you've been crying. What's wrong?"
"How can you tell?"
"Natalie, I'm the world's greatest detective. You think you can fool me?"
"You haven't always been the greatest at reading other people's emotions, Mr. Monk."
"I guess you're right. I used to be; when Trudy was alive. She used to say she could never get anything past me…of course, she fooled me the day she died…" Tears welled up in Adrian's eyes.
Natalie patted his shoulder and pulled a pair of tissues from her purse. Handing one to Adrian she quipped, "Great, now we can both be miserable."
"What's wrong, Natalie? Did something happen to Julie?"
"No, she's terrific. It's Steven."
"Did he die?"
"No, Mr. Monk, he broke up with me."
"Idiot," Adrian muttered under his breath.
"Did you say something, Mr. Monk?"
"I said, the man is an idiot."
"Thank you, Mr. Monk." Natalie hugged him.
"Oh, sorry, did I hug you too long?"
"No, um…did he…is it my fault? I mean, because of what I told him last time he was here?"
Natalie glared at him. "What did you say?"
"I…um…I told him that you kissed a leper."
"How did that come up?"
"Um…it was something like, 'Hey Steven, nice weather we're having, did you know that Natalie made out with a leper once?"
"Why would you say that?"
"Well, I saw him kiss you, and that reminded me…so I just said it. I'm sorry if that's why he broke up with you."
"I don't think so, Mr. Monk. I think he broke up with me because when we were kissing on the couch last night, I accidentally called him 'Mitch'."
"Do you do that to all your dates? No wonder you go through them so fast."
"No, only with Steven. See, I think maybe I was just with Steven because the uniform and the memories reminded me of Mitch."
"I almost made that mistake once."
"Before I met you, I was working a case and the prime suspect was a woman who looked a lot like Trudy. She was innocent, and she was in danger from the real killer, and I…well, I stayed over at her house to protect her…in the guest room of course…Anyway, I was only interested in her because she reminded me of Trudy, and she was only interested in me because I reminded her of her husband…"
"Was he dead, too?"
"No, he was in a mental hospital in Europe. After spending some time with me, she decided to go back to him."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Monk. You must have been heartbroken."
"Only that she had her husband to go back to, and I didn't have Trudy. I was far from ready to move on, then. But it was an important lesson. I realized, even if her husband had been dead, it wouldn't have worked out between us. You can't replace true love. I don't know if it's possible to find true love again, but I think…I think you just have to stick with a few key characteristics that are important to you…and not try to find a carbon copy."
"So which of Trudy's characteristics would you look for in a woman now?"
"Her compassion, her devotion to justice, her patience, her optimism…I think any woman would have to have those characteristics to put up with me."
"I hope…I hope that Steven wasn't exactly a carbon copy of Mitch anyway…"
Natalie stared at him questioningly. "Why is that?"
"Because I'd like to think that Mitch was good enough for you and Julie. I've never thought that Steven was quite good enough for my girls."
"Steven is a better man than you give him credit for, Mr. Monk…but you're right...he's no Mitch."
"So next time, instead of looking for Mitch's uniform, or Mitch's hair, or whatever you've been looking for…"
"Next time, I'll look for Mitch's courage, his intelligence, his stubbornness, his passion for doing the right thing."
Adrian awkwardly patted her on the back. "I think you're getting the picture, Teeger."
Nat wiped her eyes. "Thanks for the pep talk, Boss. Who would have thought I'd be coming to you for relationship advice?"
Monk's phone rang. Remarkably, he picked it up himself.
"Hello?... Oh, hey Leland… No, we're not busy… Yes, she's right here with me… A suspect?... Me and not her?... I don't know if I can do that… Well, yes, but she is my assistant…well, think of it like a partner; you don't take a case without your partner…Really?...Yes, she just told me about that…Well, let's leave it up to her, shall we?"
Adrian hung up and turned to face the blond woman who was sitting on his counter.
"Were you and the captain just talking about me?"
"Yes, and could you please take your…buttocks…off my food preparation surface?"
Natalie hopped down. "Thanks for calling me your partner. Why didn't he want me to be on the case?"
"You caught that, huh? Here's the thing…there's a suspect they just brought in for questioning on a homicide who swears he's innocent and he's asked for me to investigate…but the suspect didn't want you to come."
Natalie's eyes narrowed. "Is it someone I know?"
Monk nodded as he spritzed cleaning spray onto the counter.
"You're getting good at deduction, partner."
"Wouldn't JAG be in charge?"
"The SFPD has jurisdiction over the case. If Albright is charged, he'll be represented by a JAG lawyer."
"Why wouldn't he want me to be his alibi? I mean, if the crime was committed while he was on leave; we spent at bunch of time together."
"We'll know for sure when we get there, but my guess is the crime was committed while he was not with you. And seeing as how he dumped you last night…"
"Oh, thanks for bringing that up!"