in the parking lot. But now that I thought about it, I remembered that he had stayed in the parking lot and never went inside the store.
“I think you’re safe,” I said. “It’s been decades and the store has changed hands since then. The ban has long since expired and been forgotten.”
I turned my back on Monk and approached the customer service desk, where a portly fellow with a mini-beard on his knobby chin stood organizing coupons. He was facing a mounted microphone on an adjustable arm.
“Excuse me, are you the manager?”
“Yes, I am,” he said, moving the microphone aside. “How may I help you, ma’am?”
I reached into my pocket, took out my badge, and flashed it, an action that continued to make me feel really good. “I’m Natalie Teeger. We’re detectives with the Summit, New Jersey, Police Department.”
“Me and my partner.” I turned to gesture at Monk, but he was gone. I looked around and saw him racing out of sight down the frozen food aisle with a shopping cart. “Who is around here somewhere.”
“You’re a long way from home, Detective.”
“It’s a big case and a vital witness might have been in your store yesterday. Her name is Yuki Nakamura. She’s in her twenties, dark-haired, about—”
He interrupted me. “Yeah, I know her. She’s Ambrose Monk’s assistant. She was in here around four o’clock. We used to make deliveries to the Monk place two times a week until she came along. Really sweet young lady. She’s saving us a bundle in time and aggravation.”
“Did anything unusual happen when she was here?”
He shook his head. “Nope. She came in, got her stuff, and left.”
“What about afterward?”
“Mr. Monk called about fifty times looking for her, saying she didn’t come back, but like I told him, nobody knows where she went after she left the store. That guy is a strange one. He never leaves the house. Ever.”
“So I’ve heard,” I said.
“He’d pay us in exact change,” the manager said. “The cash was ironed and the coins were cleaned. I swear to God.”
“I believe you,” I said. “Do you have any surveillance cameras on the parking lot?”
“We’ve got one right above the entrance to the store,” he said. “It’s a wide-angle view.”
“Would it be possible to get the footage from yesterday afternoon?”
“I can do better than that.” He opened a drawer, pulled out a business card, and wrote something on the back. “All the cameras inside and outside the store record onto a DVR. The footage goes back thirty days. You can access it online and scan through whatever you like. Here’s the username and password but don’t spread it around.” He passed the card to me.
That’s when Monk charged up with a shopping cart filled with boxed, canned, and frozen goods. He was breathing hard and there was a smile on his face. “I haven’t lost my mojo.”
“I’m sorry, sir, this is the customer service desk,” the manager said. “You’ll have to pay for your items at one of the cash registers.”
“No one is buying these. They are all expired goods,” Monk said. “You need to dispose of them right away.”
The manager looked confused. “You came into my store just to look for expired food?”
“I feel like a kid again,” Monk said to me. “Still wild at heart. It’s nice to know some things never change.”
The manager glanced at me. “You know this guy?”
“My partner,” I said.
“You should be more vigilant about checking for expired food,” Monk said. “I should never have been able to gather so many items in so little time.”
“What are you?” the manager said. “The grocery police?”
I laughed and took the card off the counter before the manager could change his mind. “Thank you so much. You’ve been very helpful.”
I started to go, but Monk held back.
“We need to make an important announcement to your customers,” Monk said to the manager.
“No, we don’t,” I