Ann Marie Gamble

Posted on November 27, 2017

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Mondays Are for Changes

Stella’s thigh muscles were starting to burn. To get to the executive level via the elevator, Marvin would have had to use his key card. They could have ridden anonymously to the thirtieth floor, and no one would miss her until the 3 p.m. status meeting, but now—for once—Marvin had found a cautious streak and they were hiking up the fire stairs to the roof.

Stella paused on the landing but hardly gulped a second breath before Marvin poked her with the enormous revolver he’d been brandishing since her officemate left for lunch. “Don’t tell me you’re tired,” he said. “Little Miss Diligent, ‘here I’ll file that for you.’ I should’ve known Autumn wasn’t the one on top of things.”

Stella put her foot on the next stair and willed herself up. No, Autumn was not. Stella could have been learning how to skydive, base jump, rock climb; she could’ve been dating a hunk on the hook and ladder crew or internal affairs; instead she had been getting the whole floor caught up after the archiving software changed and teaching Autumn how to use spreadsheets.

Another poke. “Come on, we’re more than halfway. Don’t you want to see what executive stairwell looks like?” Marvin had apparently taken another martini lunch, probably also expensed out. It turned out that spreadsheet problem wasn’t Autumn but the data: it was hard to reconcile books that were being cooked.

Stella put both hands on the banister and pulled, partly to give her legs a break and partly escape Marvin’s martini breath. She could have used more of her vacation time. She could have gone outside during her lunch breaks. She’d worked in the building for six years and she’d never been on the roof—it was allowed, for all the staff—even after several days flirting with the window washers. They of course had finished two days ago, so no one had seen Marvin come into her office brandishing her missing key ring and that enormous gun. Autumn did leave the building for lunch, and if there were any peeping Toms in the building across the street, they had turned their telescopes away from Stella’s beige office many fiscal quarters ago.

“Nobody would’ve missed any of that if you hadn’t come along and stuck your nose in.”

“I was just—”

“Oh, don’t say you were doing your job.”

She was going to say she was just helping Autumn—Autumn who got phone calls from people who made her laugh, who brought her makeup samples from wherever she went at lunch, who noticed the least little thing Stella did with her hair.

If she got out of this, she was going to Jamaica. Someplace where she could see flamingos or toucans. She was going to wear bright tie-dyed sundresses and drink cocktails with those colored umbrellas on them. She got to the next landing, felt her pocket buzz, and only just stopped herself from reaching for her phone.

But Marvin wasn’t right behind her anymore. He was flagging finally, too. The door to the next floor was half a flight away but around the corner of the landing, out of the line of fire. Stella slid her phone out of her pocket and made a few blind swipes.

“Hey! Where do you think you’re going?”

“You said the roof.” She slid the phone back into her pocket and reached for the banister.

“Six more flights.”

Who built a building that was thirty-eight floors, anyway? Why not thirty-five, or forty? Nobody at this company cared about numbers.

The gun was at her back one more time to open the door to the roof. The sun glinted off the news helicopter on the building across the street. She saw the weatherman at the coffee kiosk almost every morning; next time she was going to tell him hello. She would introduce herself and ask for a ride in the helicopter.

She put her hand back in her pocket.

“Right,” said Marvin. “Your phone.” He brandished the gun at her for emphasis.

“I’m not going to call anyone.”

“You got that right.” He tossed it a couple of times, then wound up and heaved it, as though he had a chance of hitting the helicopter. The screen caught the light as it spun in a wide arc over the edge of the roof.

On the one hand, Stella wanted to see it land, see the people below stop, pick it up, wonder. Her link with the rest of the world. On the other hand, she wasn’t going near the edge while Marvin was on the roof, too. But he was gesturing at her with the gun to move.

“I synched it with my computer.”

“It’ll take ’em days to unlock it.”

“I unlocked it. I turned off the screensaver.”

“I’ll be in Brazil.”

Stella took a breath and turned her back on the edge. Marvin’s gun looked blacker in the bright sun. Behind him were planters of the foliage she expected to see in Jamaica, and behind those the glassed-in executive dining room. Whether there were more suits or police officers crowding the windows was hard to tell at a glance.

“You can’t even get off the roof,” she said. She pointed.

“You aren’t going to get me to fall for . . .” But Marvin’s gun arm wavered, and he turned around.

The dénouement was faster than the climb. The police had had no reason to avoid the elevator.

Autumn pushed through the knot of executives and hugged her. “You’re never away from your desk. And then your phone synched, and the GPS was on.”

Stella smelled something like seacoast in Autumn’s hair. She would take her vacation time first, and then she’d think about resigning. She’d need a key for the elevator to stay.

****

Ann Marie Gamble is an editor at an ad agency in the Midwest. She writes fiction, poetry, and screenplays, and practices keeping it pithy on Twitter. She still hasn’t come up with an interview-ready answer to ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’

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