Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

Lee Goldberg - Author

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ISBN 9781101210703 | 304 pages | 05 Jul 2006 | Signet | 18 - AND UP
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Some people think Hawaii is paradise. But Monk knows that danger—like dirt—lurks everywhere. Look at Helen Gruber, the rich tourist who took a fatal blow from a coconut. The police say it fell from a tree, but Monk suspects otherwise. His assistant, Natalie, isn’t exactly thrilled about Monk’s latest investigation. It was bad enough that Monk followed her on vacation, and now it looks as though the vacation is over....

Smooth-talking TV psychic Dylan Swift is on the island and claims to have a message from beyond—from Helen Gruber. Monk has his doubts about Swift’s credibility. But finding the killer and proving Swift a fraud—all while coping with geckos and the horror of unsynchronized ceiling fans—may prove a tough coconut to crack....


Here’s the thing about brilliant detectives. They’re all nuts. Take Nero Wolfe, for instance.

He was this incredibly fat detective who wouldn’t leave his New York brownstone. He stayed inside the house tending his orchids, drinking five quarts of beer a day, and devouring gourmet meals prepared by his live-in chef. So he hired Archie Goodwin to screen clients, run investigative errands, chase down clues, and drag people back to the brownstone to be rudely interrogated. Archie was an ex-cop or an ex-soldier or something like that, so he was well suited for the job.

Then there’s Sherlock Holmes, an eccentric, wound-up, cocaine addict who played his violin all night and conducted chemical experiments in his living room. He probably would have been committed if it weren’t for Dr. Watson. The doctor retired from the army with a war injury, rented a room from Holmes, and ended up being the detective’s assistant and official chronicler. His medical degree and experience serving in the war gave Watson the skills and temperament he needed to deal with Holmes.

At least I didn’t live with Adrian Monk, another brilliant detective, the way Archie and Dr. Watson did with their employers, but I’d still argue that the job was a lot harder for me than it was for them. For one thing, I didn’t have any of their qualifications.

My name is Natalie Teeger. I’ve had a lot of odd jobs, but I’m not an ex-FBI agent or a promising criminology student or an aspiring paramedic, one of which I’d be if this were a book or a TV series instead of my life. I was bartending before I met Monk, so I suppose I could have mixed myself a nice, strong drink after work if I wanted to. But I didn’t, because I was also a widowed single mother trying to raise a twelve-year-old daughter, and it’s a good idea to do that sober.

If I’d done my research into brilliant detectives before working for Adrian Monk instead of after, I might not have taken the job.
I know what you’re thinking. Nero Wolfe and Sherlock Holmes are fictional characters, so what could I possibly learn from their assistants? The thing is, I couldn’t find any real detectives who were anything like Monk, and I was desperate for guidance. They were the only sources of information I could turn to.

Here’s what I learned from them: When it comes to assisting a great detective, you can be an ex-cop or a doctor or have other qualifications and it’s not going to make a difference. Because whatever makes your boss a genius at solving murders is going to make life impossible for everybody around him, especially you. And no matter how hard you try, that’s never going to change.

That’s especially true with Adrian Monk, who has a smorgasbord of obsessive compulsive disorders. You can’t truly grasp the magnitude of his anxieties and phobias unless you experience them every single day like, God help me, I did.

Everything in his life has to be in order, following some arcane rules that make sense only to Monk. For instance, I’ve seen him at breakfast remove every bran flake and raisin from a bowl of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran and count them to be sure there’s a four-flake-to-one-raisin ratio in his bowl before he starts eating. How did he come up with that ratio? How did he determine that anything else "violated the natural laws of the universe"? I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

He’s also got a thing about germs, though not to the extent that he won’t go outside or interact with people, but he doesn’t make it easy.

Monk brings his own silverware and dishes to restaurants. He takes a folding lawn chair with him to the movies because he can’t bear the thought of sitting in a seat a thousand other people have sat in. When a bird crapped on my windshield, he called 911. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Dealing with all of his quirks and acting as the middleman between him and the civilized world was very stressful stuff. It was wearing me down to the point of total exhaustion. So I turned to the books about Nero Wolfe and Sherlock Holmes hoping to glean from them some helpful advice that might make my job a little easier.

I didn’t find any.

I finally realized that my only hope was to escape, to get far away from Monk. Not forever, because as difficult as he was, I liked him, and the job was flexible enough to allow me to be there for my daughter. All I really needed were a few peaceful days off to go someplace where he couldn’t reach me and I could get some rest. The problem was, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

But then Lady Luck took pity on me.

I went to my mailbox one day and found a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, courtesy of my best friend, Candace. She was getting married on the island of Kauai and wanted me there as her maid of honor. She knew how strapped I was for money, so she paid for everything, booking me for seven days and six nights at the fanciest resort on the island, the Grand Kiahuna Poipu, where the wedding was going to be held.

The easy part was talking my mom into coming up from Monterey to take care of Julie for a week. The hard part was finding someone to take care of Monk.

I called a temporary staffing agency. I told them the job required basic secretarial work, some transportation, and strong "interpersonal skills." They said they had just the right people. I was sure Monk would go through all of them before the week was over and that I would never be able to call that temp agency again. I didn’t care, because I could already feel the sand between my toes, smell the coconut lotion on my skin, and hear Don Ho singing "Tiny Bubbles" to me.

All I had to do then was break the news to Monk.

I kept putting it off until finally it was the day before I was leaving. Even then, I couldn’t seem to find the right moment. I still hadn’t found it when Monk got a call from Capt. Leland Stottlemeyer, his former partner on the SFPD, asking for his help.

That made my predicament even worse. Stottlemeyer brought Monk in to consult whenever they had a particularly tricky homicide to solve. If I left Monk in middle of an investigation, it would make him crazy (or crazier than usual, to be precise). And Stottlemeyer wouldn’t be thrilled either, especially if it meant his case would drag on without a solution because Monk was distracted.

I cursed myself for not telling Monk before and prayed the case would turn out to be a simple one.

It wasn’t.

Somebody poisoned Dr. Lyle Douglas, the world-famous heart surgeon, while he was performing a quadruple bypass operation on Stella Picaro, his forty-four-year-old former nurse, at the hospital where she worked.

Dr. Douglas was midway through the delicate procedure, which was being observed by a dozen doctors and medical students, when he had a violent seizure and dropped dead. Another surgeon, Dr. Troy Clark, had to jump in and save the patient from dying. He succeeded.

Nobody realized Dr. Douglas had been murdered until the autopsy was completed the following day. By then, all the evidence that might have been left at the crime scene was gone. The operating room had been thoroughly cleaned, the instruments disinfected, the linens washed, and everything else discarded as biohazardous waste immediately after the surgery was over.

There might not have been any evidence, but there were plenty of suspects. The main one, of course, was Dr. Clark, the surgeon who saved Stella Picaro on the operating table and was being treated as a hero. He also happened to be Dr. Douglas’s major rival.

Dr. Douglas had a lot of other enemies. He was a manipulative egomaniac who’d hurt a lot of people, including just about everybody on his surgical team, many of the doctors observing the operation, and even the patient he was cutting open when he died.

But neither Stottlemeyer nor his assistant, Lt. Randy Disher, could figure out how Dr. Douglas was poisoned in front of so many witnesses without anybody seeing a thing. They were stumped. So they called Monk.

They briefed Monk at the station and afterward he wanted to visit the scene of the crime. I could have told him about my trip on the way to the hospital, but I knew if I did that, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else all day.

When we got there, he insisted on wearing surgical scrubs over his clothes, a cap on his head, a mask and goggles on his face, plastic gloves on his hands, and even paper booties over his shoes before going inside the OR.

Are you trying to get into the mind of the surgeon?" I teased him as the two of us stood outside the operating room doors.

"I’m trying to avoid infection," Monk said.

"Heart disease isn’t contagious."

This building is filled with sick people. The air is thick with deadly germs. The only thing more dangerous than visiting a hospital is drinking out of a water fountain," Monk said. "It’s a good thing there are a lot of doctors around."

"There’s nothing dangerous about drinking from a water fountain, Mr. Monk. I’ve been drinking from them all my life."

"You probably enjoy playing Russian roulette, too."

Monk stepped into the OR, and I watched as he carefully surveyed every corner of the room and each piece of equipment. His investigation of the crime scene resembled an improvised dance with an invisible partner. He repeatedly circled the room, making sudden pirouettes, gliding back and forth, and dipping every so often to peer under something. He stopped at the stainless-steel table where the surgery was performed and gazed down at it as if imagining the patient in front of him.

He rolled his shoulders and tilted his head as if he were working a kink out in his neck. But I knew that wasn’t it. What was irritating him was a detail, some fact that didn’t fit where it was supposed to. Nothing bothered Monk more than disorder. And what’s a mystery, after all, but a situation in disarray, crying out for organization--an imbalance that needs to be set right?

"Where’s the patient that Dr. Douglas was operating on?" Monk asked.

"She’s upstairs," I said. "In the ICU."

Monk nodded. "Call the captain and ask him to meet us there."

* * * * * *

There’s something really creepy about intensive care units to me. I’ve been in only a couple of them and, while I know they exist to save lives, they scare me. The patients connected to all those machines don’t look like people to me anymore, but like corpses some mad scientist is trying to reanimate.

That was the way Stella Picaro looked, even though she was wide-awake. There were all kinds of tubes and wires connecting her to an EKG, a respirator, and a toaster oven, for all I knew. Machines beeped and lights blinked and she was alive, so I guess it was all for the best. Still, I tried not to look at her. It made me too uncomfortable.

Monk and I were standing next to the nurses’ station. He was still in his surgical garb and he was breathing funny, almost gasping.

"Are you feeling all right, Mr. Monk?" I asked.


"Then why are you gasping?"

"I’m trying to limit my breathing," Monk said.

I thought about it for a second. "The fewer breaths, the fewer chances you have of inhaling some virus."

"You should try it," he said. "It could save your life."

It was scary how good I was getting at understanding his peculiar way of thinking, his Monkology.  That in itself was a pretty strong argument for me to get away from him for a while.

I was about to tell him about the Hawaii trip right then and there, when Stottlemeyer sauntered in, holding a latte from Starbucks in his hand. There was a little bit of foam in his bushy mustache and a fresh stain on his wide, striped tie. I found his disheveled appearance endearing, but I knew it drove Monk insane. Sometimes I wondered if the captain did it on purpose.

Lieutenant Disher was, as usual, right at Captain Stottlemeyer’s side. He reminded me of a golden retriever, always bounding around happily, blissfully unaware of all the things he was destroying with his wagging tail.

Stottlemeyer grinned at Monk. "You know it’s against the law to impersonate a doctor."

"I’m not," Monk said. "I’m wearing this for my own protection."

"You ought to wear it all the time."

"I’m seriously considering it."

"I bet you are," Stottlemeyer said.

"You have foam in your mustache," Monk said, pointing.

"Do I?" Stottlemeyer casually dabbed at his mustache with a napkin. "Is that better?"

Monk nodded. "Your tie is stained."

Stottlemeyer lifted it up and looked down at it. "So it is."

"You should change it," Monk said.

"I don’t have another tie with me, Monk. It will have to wait."

"You could buy one," Monk said.

"I’m not going to buy one."

"You could borrow one from a doctor," Monk said.

"You can borrow mine," Disher said.

"I don’t want your tie, Randy," Stottlemeyer said, then turned to Monk. "What if I just take mine off and put it in my pocket?"

"I’d know it’s there," Monk said.

"Pretend it isn’t," Stottlemeyer said.

"I don’t know how to pretend," Monk said. "I never got the hang of it."

Stottlemeyer handed his latte to Disher, took off his tie, and stuffed it into a biohazard container.

"Is that better?" Stottlemeyer asked, taking back his latte from Disher.

"I think we all appreciate it," Monk said, looking at Disher and me. "Don’t we?"

"So what have you got for me that was worth chucking my tie for?" Stottlemeyer asked.

"The killer."

Stottlemeyer and Disher both glanced around the room. So did I.

"Where?" Stottlemeyer said. "I don’t see any of our suspects."

Monk tipped his head toward Stella Picaro. Just seeing the breathing tube down her throat nearly triggered my gag reflex.

"You’re talking about her?" Disher said.

Monk nodded.

"She did it?" Stottlemeyer said incredulously.

Monk nodded.

"Are you sure?" Stottlemeyer said.

Monk nodded. I looked back at Stella Picaro. She seemed to be trying to shake her head.

"Maybe you forgot this part," Stottlemeyer said, "but when Dr. Douglas died, that lady was unconscious on an operating table, her chest cut wide-open, her beating heart held in his hands."

"And based on that flimsy alibi, you wrote her off as a suspect?" Monk said.

"Yeah, I did," Stottlemeyer said.

"Even though you told me she was his surgical nurse and his mistress for five years?"

"That’s right."

"Even though when Dr. Douglas finally left his wife, it wasn’t for her but for a twenty-two-year-old swimsuit model?"

"Look at her, Monk. She was having a quadruple bypass when the murder was committed. She nearly died on the operating table."

"That was all part of her cunning plan."

We all looked at her. She stared back at us wide-eyed, not making a sound. All we heard was the beeping of her EKG--which sounded kind of erratic to me, but I wasn’t a doctor.

Stottlemeyer sighed. It was a sigh that conveyed weariness and defeat. It was tiring dealing with Monk, and futile arguing with him about murder. When it comes to homicide, Monk is almost always right.

"How could she possibly have done it?" Stottlemeyer asked.

I was wondering the same thing.

Disher snapped his fingers. "I’ve got it. Astral projection!"

"You’re saying her spirit left her body and poisoned him," Stottlemeyer said.

Disher nodded. "That’s the only explanation."

"I sure hope not. I’d like to keep this badge for a few more years." Stottlemeyer faced Monk again. "Tell me it’s not astral projection."

"It’s not," Monk said. "There’s no such thing. Her body was the murder weapon."

"I don’t get it," Disher said.

"When Stella discovered she needed heart surgery, she realized it was an opportunity to commit the perfect murder," Monk said, shooting a glance at Stella. "Isn’t that right?"

She tried again to shake her head.

"You appealed to Dr. Douglas’s ego by begging him to save your life and then talked him into performing the surgery here, at the hospital where you work."

"What difference did it make where the surgery was done?" Stottlemeyer asked.

"Because here she had access to the operating room, the supplies, and the equipment before the surgery and could doctor them, no pun intended," Monk said. "The iodine Dr. Douglas applied to her skin before making his incision was laced with poison."

"Wouldn’t that have poisoned her, too?" Stottlemeyer said.

"It did, but she was getting the antidote in her IV," Monk said. "Take a look at her chart. It shows higher than normal levels of atropine."

Stottlemeyer took the chart that was hanging from the end of her bed, opened it, and stared at it for a long moment before closing it again.

"Who am I kidding?" he said as he put the chart back. "I don’t know how to read a medical chart."

"Neither do I," Monk said.

"Then how do you know what is or isn’t in her blood?"

"Because she’s alive," Monk said. "And Dr. Douglas isn’t."

"But what about the other doctors who were working on her?"  Disher said. "How come they weren’t they poisoned, too?"

"Because they weren’t wearing the same gloves as Dr. Douglas," Monk said. "He used only Conway gloves; the other brands gave him a skin rash. Before the surgery Stella put tiny pinpricks, invisible to the naked eye, in all the gloves in his box, so he would absorb the poison through his skin."

Stottlemeyer looked at Disher. "Contact the crime lab, Randy, and make sure they hold on to the box of gloves Dr. Douglas used. Have them examine the gloves for perforations."

Disher nodded and scribbled something in his notebook.

I looked at Stella. She was so pale and weak, she seemed to be melting into her bed. Her eyes were filling with tears. I remembered hearing how Dr. Clark had to reach into her open chest and save her life after Dr. Douglas collapsed.

"But Mr. Monk," I said, " even with the antidote in the IV, it would have been suicidal for Stella to kill her surgeon while he was operating on her heart."

"It was a risk she was willing to take," Monk said. "It was poetic justice. She used her heart to kill the man who broke it."

Stella closed her eyes and tears rolled down her cheeks. I couldn’t tell whether they were tears of sadness or anger. They might have been both.

Stottlemeyer shook his head in amazement. "I never would have caught her, Monk."

"You would have, sir," Disher said. "It might have taken longer, that’s all."

"No, Randy, I wouldn’t have. Not ever." Stottlemeyer regarded Monk with genuine appreciation. "How did you figure it out?"

"It was obvious," Monk said.

"Go ahead, rub it in," Stottlemeyer said. "Don’t let my remaining shreds of self-respect stop you."

"There is no way any of the doctors or other medical personnel could have poisoned Dr. Douglas without being seen," Monk said. "That left only one possible suspect."

Stottlemeyer frowned. "Makes sense. I wonder why I couldn’t see it."

The captain turned toward Stella, so he didn’t notice Monk studying him, regarding his friend as if he were a complex painting.

Disher marched over to Stella’s bedside. "You have the right to remain silent—"

"Randy," Stottlemeyer interrupted. "She’s got a breathing tube down her throat. She couldn’t say anything even if she wanted to."

"Oh," Disher said, then dangled the handcuffs he was holding. "Should I secure her to the bed?"

"I don’t think that will be necessary," Stottlemeyer said.

"Captain," Monk said, "I could never drink out of a water fountain."

"Is that so?" Stottlemeyer seemed a little confused by the nonsequitur.

"Not if my life depended on it," Monk said. "You probably do it without a second thought."

Stottlemeyer looked at Monk for a long moment. "All the time."

Monk shrugged.

Stottlemeyer nodded.

I guess what Monk was getting at is that life has a way of balancing out. It figured Monk would notice that more clearly than the rest of us.

“Charm, mystery, and fun.”—Janet Evanovich

“Sly humor, endearing characters, tricky plots.”—Jerrilyn Farmer

“Can books be better than television? You bet they can—when Lee Goldberg’s writing them.”—Lee Child


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