We pulled onto the main road toward his apartment complex, and I crawled closer to the windshield. A particular sort of building caught my eye.
“Stop!” I yelled, a bit too energetically.
Jerry jerked the wheel only slightly. “What?” he gasped.
I pointed off to the upcoming block. “Pull over there!”
Jerry squinted at the stop in question, “A flower stand?” He grimaced at me, “Seriously?”
I raised my hands, “Hey, I did say I was here to help, didn’t I? The way I see it, you have an apology to make.” I turned back to the racks of blossoms as he pulled up to the stand. “Why not do it in the best way possible?” I pointed out.
Jerry bought a bouquet of assorted flowers, some of which were Cherry’s favorite variety.
When we pulled into the garage, Jerry did not get out immediately, only watched me. Was he wondering how to get me into the house? No way was I going back into that briefcase!
I pointed to his shirt, “Pocket?” I suggested.
He nodded, “Yep, okay.” He held out his hand for me, and easily slipped me into his shirt pocket.
Cherry was thrilled and nothing short of shocked to get the flowers. She went to find a vase for them, and Jerry seized the opportunity to let me slip back into the dollhouse. I ran up to the room where it all began and met him at the window.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning before I leave,” he promised.
“What was that, Jerry?” Cherry appeared behind him.
I flashed him a thumbs-up and disappeared as he turned around and tried to smooth things over with his wife. “Oh, nothing,” I heard him murmur to her as I closed the window. I waited to see them embrace each other, and then returned to my bed. Now that I knew it was a dollhouse, not a hotel, the stiff, rough, cheap furniture was easier to bear.
The next morning, Jerry got his coffee, ate a bagel for breakfast, kissed Cherry “good morning,” and slipped me into his shirt pocket before heading out to his car.
It was much simpler not having to hide from him, at least. He stopped by a coffee cart on the way to the building.
“A second coffee?” I asked him.
“Oh, no,” he said, looking very nervous, “this isn’t for me.” He walked past his cubicle to the back of the room, where there was a door labeled “Galina Werehauser, Gen. Supervisor.” Jerry knocked very politely, and a young woman poked her head out.
“I’ve brought Miss Werehauser’s coffee,” Jerry said to her.
The pretty brunette nodded and accepted the mug. “She’s on a call right now, but I’ll see that she gets it.”
“Okay.” Jerry walked back to his cubicle. Once there, he let me out and onto the desk.
“So let me get this straight,” I began, “She makes you buy her coffee every morning, in addition to doing things illegal for her?”
Jerry sighed and glanced over the files on his desk, in addition to the stream of e-mails coming in on his computer.
“It’s not all illegal,” he said.
I noticed that some of the e-mails were forwarded; these were apparently addressed to Galina, asking her to make some phone calls or follow up on information.
“Jerry,” I spoke up, “does she make everyone do her work?”
He shrugged, “Just some of it.”
“Well,” I couldn’t understand what was going on, “What does she do all day, then?”
Jerry glanced furtively at her office before answering. “Mostly personal calls; she does some work; mostly the high-profile stuff that she can’t really pass off on us.”
“Look, Laura; I don’t really like it either, but she gets bonuses for it, and pays us a small fee for the extra work, and it gives us all more hours.”
“So as long as we’re getting paid for working, why be choosy about the work we’re doing?”
I sighed; it was about time someone put a stop to this. “All right, that’s it,” I told Jerry. I took a stand firmly at the center of the form he was working on to get his attention.
“What do you want?” he asked me.
“I want you to teach me how the phone works.”
Jerry raised an eyebrow. “What good will that do?”
“It’s the final thing I would need to know to take down Galina.”
Jerry’s eyes bugged out, “You’re going up against her?”
I folded my arms fearlessly. “It’s about time somebody did! Are you going to help me or not?”
Jerry put down his pen and hung his head. “I don’t know…”
“I could probably keep you from being implicated, but there are no guarantees. Be that as it may, Jerry, this has to stop!”
He huffed in frustration, “But why me?”
“Why not you? Who else do you think has the capacity to do this?”
“You’re telling me you already have a plan?”
Not really, but I knew I was getting pretty handy at improvising. “Yeah, I do.”
Jerry stared at me for a while, then shook his head, “All right,” he conceded, “I’ll show you.”
By the end of the day, I did not doubt Jerry was glad that he had given me the information. I may not have been able to answer the phone myself, but I could be an extra pair of hands, to take down a message or to switch lines for an important call. He still had reservations over my decision to put an end to Galina’s schemes, and he kept nagging me for information, but I figured the less I knew, the better.
The next morning, I told Jerry, “It’s time.”
Galina was going down, or this story was going to be the worst ever told.
Galina Werehauser surveyed her desk with pride. From her office, she had a clear line of sight toward everyone whom she forced into her "dirty little secret." In particular, there was wimpy, stupid Jerry Montgomery. Galina chuckled; what a stooge! True, he had managed to behave very well these last few days, drawing the attention of several directors, she knew; well! She would show him who really held the power! He wanted attention, she would just have to teach him that the only attention his behavior would ever get had to come from her; and her kind of attention was never meant to be pleasant.
Galina leaned back, letting her girth settle over the luxurious leather of the desk chair. Where did Cherry Montgomery ever find the money to buy her husband gifts like this one? Galina deserved nice things like this, not some lowly cubicle rat like Jerry!
Galina's head snapped up as she espied a movement at the corner of her desk, near the wastebasket. She glared at the corner, but nothing moved. Suspicious, Galina stood and leaned over without disturbing anything on her desk, checking for a small mouse or a large bug. She saw neither. After all, who would dare trespass Galina Werehauser's domain? A noise at the door drew her attention.
"What?" she barked. She sneered openly as Jerry Montgomery entered with her coffee.
"Here you go, Miss Werehauser," he said.
"Thank you, Jerry," Galina kept the dangerous edge in her voice. "Get back to work, now."
He paused to gaze longingly at the mug before leaving.
Smugly, Galina raised the cup to her lips and took a long sip. Oh, that was good coffee. It made her feel warm and cozy all over, in spite of the stiff blazer and starched blouse she had to wear.
Galina glanced over the reports she would be presenting to the directors soon. The numbers looked good; Jerry had a system: he would round her amounts up to the nearest whole number, while rounding Angelica's numbers down by ten. To give the illusion of an arbitrary number, Jerry added ".23" to all of Angelica's numbers, while assigning random decimals to Galina's. That way, in the unlikely event that she got caught, it would seem more likely that Angelica was doctoring her numbers than Galina. She finished her coffee, closed the folder, and tottered away from her office.
As soon as she left, I climbed out of her coffee mug. What Galina mistook for envy over such a delicious-looking beverage was actually anxiety on Jerry's part. He did not know why I wanted him to put me in Galina's cup. He was afraid she would swallow me. I tumbled out onto the desk, careful to mop up the droplets of coffee I left behind. It had not been easy to avoid her lips, but my presence was essential to Operation Takedown. I knew I only had a little while, so I grabbed the letter opener from her desk and used that to lever the drawer open. I leaned the tool against the top of the desk as I dropped into the drawer to find a certain object. There was a box of staples at the back of the drawer. I peeked at the top of the desk. Perfect! A white handkerchief hung out of Galina's purse. I grabbed a section of about twenty staples and hauled them up to the desktop. Very carefully, I anchored the staples in the thick material. This done, I set about writing a note. I carried one post-it to the edge of the desk and hung it on the corner. That was Jerry's signal. He came in with a file of papers. He was sweating and very nervous.
"Are you sure this will work?" he asked me.
"It's got to," I replied, taking up a pen and doing my neatest handwriting on the six-foot paper. "She's going to come out soon, you'd better leave."
Jerry scuttled back to his cubicle.
I had no sooner finished the note and buried it under a few other files on Galina's desk when I heard her come tromping back toward the office. I jumped into the drawer and pulled the letter-opener down with me just as she entered.
"I've never been so embarrassed," she muttered, "Why didn't anyone tell me?" I heard her water cooler bubble, as if she was wetting something, and then—
I smiled. Phase one, complete.
Galina screamed for her secretary.
"Tell the directors I had an emergency," she said.
"Miss Werehauser!" the secretary was shocked, and no wonder. I knew exactly what she probably looked like.
From the lip of her coffee mug, I could easily cause a small trickle to fall on the front of her blouse without her noticing—until she stood to give her presentation in front of the directors, that is. I knew she would come running back, desperate for something to clean it: the handkerchief. A smattering of staples across it ensured that in her haste to get the brown stains out, she would inadvertently shred the front of her blouse.
"Never mind," Galina barked, "Get me a new blouse or a sweater or something!"
Galina's phone rang.
She answered it. "Galina Werehauser—yes, Mr. Travers, I am very sorry, I have just had an emergency—no, I mean, an emergency has arisen for someone else that I need to take care of... Yes, Mr. Travers, thank you very much. Oh no, that will be just fine. Thank you. Bye."
Galina slammed down the headset.
"Ooh, when I get my hands on the little drip who—"
I heard her sit down hard in the chair. The secretary came in with a new top for Galina. As soon as the girl left, I heard the portly manager mutter, “Montgomery,” under her breath. Had she seen my note? She left the chair to change her blouse.
I crawled out of the drawer and Phase Two commenced. I climbed down to the chair. The cushions were very soft and supple. I carefully climbed to the underside of the cushion, where the shaft connected. In order for this to work, I needed—
Galina came striding out of the bathroom much sooner than I expected. I clung to the springs under the chair, hoping that she had not seen me. I watched her swollen feet march straight toward the chair, stopping alongside it. Please, I thought to myself, Please…
I heard the shuffling of paper. Now was the perfect time for her to read the note.
“What?” Galina muttered, “I thought I—“
As she backed away from her desk, her leg caught the seat of the chair and sent it spinning round and round. I thought for sure I was going to be sick or fall off. I heard Galina’s door slam, and did not doubt she would be bawling a few people out—which would mean I had a few minutes to complete my task. I accomplished the deed with only minutes to spare. (no small feat when you have to do things at six inches high!) I returned to the desk and dialed a certain extension Jerry had shown me, while lifting the phone slightly off its cradle. I heard the buzz of static that let me know that the code had worked. Just then, I heard Galina outside her door having a heated conversation with her secretary. A man’s voice cut her off. I switched the first note on the file for a second one and dove into the desk drawer again as Galina opened her door, saying, “Mr. Travers, what a pleasant surprise, come in!”
“Thank you; you said you had an emergency—“
“Yes, that’s all past now, thank you.”
Galina stood behind her desk, while I had no doubt Travers occupied the other side.
“Care to finish that presentation you were giving earlier when the catastrophe hit?”
“But of course, I—“ With a colossal crash, Galina went to sit in the chair, and the whole seat promptly fell from the shaft. She sprawled on the floor in an ignominious heap.
Travers came around the side of the desk to assist her. “Good heavens, Miss Werehauser, are you all right?” I saw him stop as a certain message on the underside of the chair got his attention: To Jerry, with love from Cherry. I was ready with a narration.
“Every bit the professional,” I whispered, staring right at the giant man, “Travers decided to keep the information to himself, and find out who this Jerry was, and perhaps why Galina had his chair in her office.” Travers accordingly moved past the chair to assist the stocky manager to her feet.
“Here,” Travers offered smoothly, “Let me get you another chair.” He set one of the extra chairs from the opposite side of the desk in the leather chair’s place, moving it out of her way.
“I’m sorry,” Galina kept her voice smooth and gentle, not harsh and threatening like she spoke to her underlings. “I don’t know how it happened.”
“It’s probably old,” Travers lied, “I’ll see about getting it thrown out.”
I smiled; a man after my own feelings. “In reality,” I whispered, “Travers resolved to find Jerry and have the chair repaired and returned to its rightful owner.” Meanwhile—as I expected—his eye fell on the note I had left on the stack of files. While Galina was still smoothing herself out, I watched him smoothly slip the file under his arm.
“Well, thank you for that, Galina. You can keep doing your work; I’ll be back in my office if you need to contact me.” He instructed the secretary to bring the broken office chair out of the room, making sure to close the door behind him before giving further instruction.
Galina sat stiffly in the awful chair she had subjected so many visitors to. I could see that her eyes darted nervously to and fro across the room. My plan was working; she was now paranoid. Squirming uncomfortably, she jerked the chair forward to work on her computer. Just then, she happened to glance down at her desk. Her eyelids flew back, and her jaw dropped.
“What happened—“ she muttered to herself, digging through the few stacks of stapled pages on her desk, “I could have sworn—“ She sat back with a sharp gasp as the realization dawned. She buzzed her secretary. “Did you see a file on Mr. Travers when he left just now?” she asked semi-casually.
The secretary paused for a minute, “I—I believe he did.”
Galina swore sharply. “I’m going to make a call,” she said, “don’t let anyone bother me till I’m done, are we clear?”
“Yes, Miss Werehauser.”
In the time it took Galina to close the door, lock it, and return to her desk, I escaped the drawer, scuttled across the desk, and ducked under the telephone. I had to stifle a giggle at what I was about to do.
In his enthusiasm for training me to use the phone, Jerry had also warned me of the system’s foibles, ones that the full-size people could do only by accident, but I—being six inches tall—had to take special care to avoid. Only this time, I thought as I reached past the cord and cables to access the bits of exposed circuitry. A twist here, a tug there—I finished as Galina dialed an extension, unaware that I had also completed a different extension.
“Listen up,” she said to someone on the phone, “There’s been a complication; I think one of the directors got a hold of one of the files. I’m gonna try to get it off him, but if I’m too late, it’s all over. Just make sure you get those files from Angelica before anything happens.”
I felt into one of the outlets to another section of wires. I pulled the right one just in time to hear a new female voice ask over the speaker, “Galina? Is that you? What are you talking about?”
Galina almost dropped the phone. She looked around the desk like a startled animal. “I didn’t—how did—“ she spluttered.
Galina’s secretary poked her head in. “Galina? Are you done? Because Mr. Travers is here, and—“
“Galina, I’ve just received the most shocking news—“
In the confusion of people coming into the office, and Galina screaming and crying and trying to plead innocence, no one noticed Jerry sneak in behind the others and lift a six-inch-high figure from behind the telephone. He cupped me in his hand as he walked out of the office and stopped in the hallway.
“Did it work?” he asked me.
I smiled, “Came off like a dream. She won’t be able to pin it on you, because they have a direct confession. You could even testify against her if you want.”
Jerry laughed and leaned his head back on the wall, almost collapsed with relief. “I don’t know how you did it, Laura,” he murmured, “but thank you.”
Just then, the voice of Galina’s secretary nervously announced over the PA system that everyone was to be dismissed early, for the rest of the day. Jerry picked up his things from his cubicle and let me climb back in his shirt pocket. We both waited until we were safely in the car and out of the parking structure before laughing and cheering at the day’s events.
“There’s good times coming now,” I assured Jerry. “They’re probably going to investigate Galina, which means that full control will most likely go to Angelica.”
“I’ve heard she’s the better manager,” Jerry said. “She’ll make the company successful.”
“This means I’m going to meet Cherry, right?”
Jerry hesitated, “Well—“
“Come on,” I begged, “you have to tell her sometime! What if she asks why you’re home so early?”
Jerry shrugged. “Oh, all right.”
We arrived home, and Jerry carried me in his hand.
“Cherry?” he called.
The house was quiet. Jerry set me down in front of the dollhouse and turned to the counter, where a note bore his name.
“What does it say?” I asked as he read it.
“It says she’s running errands, she’ll be back in a bit. She probably doesn’t expect me for a few hours, so we have time before she gets back here.”
I stretched and yawned, “Well, in that case,” I said, “I’m going to take a nap.” Nearly getting swallowed, running around a desk, and pulling pranks on a giant made for a long day, even if it was still early in the afternoon.
Jerry shrugged, “All right; I’ll wake you up when Cherry gets back.”
“I’m counting on it,” I said, entering the dollhouse. I tumbled into bed and fell instantly asleep. It seemed only a few minutes later that I awoke with the distinct impression that I wasn’t going to meet Cherry, after all.