But Monk was already reaching for the microphone and turning it on.
“Attention, shoppers. Would the owner of the brown Acura please move your car to the first open parking spot closest to the store? Thank you. For future reference, owners of Alfa Romeos, Audis, and Aston Martins may park in the first spot of any row if it is available. Otherwise, alphabetical order according to the make of your vehicle always applies. For instance, a Bentley or BMW may park in the next available spot, followed by a Chevrolet or Chrysler. And so forth and so on. This is true of our parking lot and any others that you may visit. Thank you for your attention and good citizenship.”
He clicked the mike off. The manager stared at him suspiciously.
“Are you any relation to Ambrose Monk?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I said, before Monk could answer. “Why would you think that? Thank you again for your help.”
I grabbed Monk by the arm and led him quickly out of the store before he could do more damage.
“Why did you lie to the manager about me and Ambrose?” he asked once we were outside.
“I didn’t want the manager to invalidate the password he gave me to view their surveillance footage or to ban you from the store forever.”
“Why would he do that?”
I knew Monk would never understand how irritating it was to the management for him to gather expired products or how outrageous it was to demand that people park their cars in alphabetical order according to their brands. So I came up with an explanation he could accept.
“Because he’s petty, vindictive, and small-minded. He’d want to get back at you, or worse, at Ambrose, for pointing out to him his intolerable mistakes and staggering incompetence.”
“Then you did the right thing,” Monk said. “Let’s hope he will now, too. Between poisoning his customers with expired food and letting his parking lot devolve into anarchy, it’s a wonder that store is still in business.”
“I’m sure he’ll remember this day as his epiphany,” I said and headed for the car.
* * *
As we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on our way back into San Francisco, I called Ambrose, told him what little we knew, and had him arrange to have Yuki’s motorcycle towed back to his house for safekeeping.
The call drew a scowl from Monk, who felt that having the motorcycle at the house would “attract a bad element to the neighborhood.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Yuki Nakamura,” Monk said. “And her biker friends.”
“She lives there already,” I said. “And if she came back, it would make things a lot easier for us. We wouldn’t have to look for her anymore and you could tell Ambrose that you’re leaving, and dating a woman who sells crap, without feeling guilty.”
“I am not dating Ellen Morse,” Monk said.
“What would you call it?”
“Altruism,” Monk said. “I’m trying to save her.”
“Disease, death, and eternal damnation. I am perhaps the only person who can get her to quit her outrageous occupation before it’s too late.”
“She does what she does for the same reason you do what you do,” I said. “To maintain the natural balance. I was there when you told her that you understood that and that you would make an effort to accept it.”
“I solve murders. That’s very different from peddling poo-poo.”
“Murders are violent, bloody, unpleasant, and frequently very gory. How is a mutilated, decomposing corpse any less disgusting than dung?”
“Corpses don’t come from anyone’s behind.”
“That’s it? That’s what makes poop more disgusting and dangerous than murder, a crime so heinous that it merits the death penalty?”
“Not murder,” Monk said. “Corpses.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“We can’t put a stop to excrement, though it’s certainly something we all wish for, but we can stop murder. Excrement is a disgusting fact of life best left unseen, and properly and sanitarily disposed of,