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Author's Chapter Notes:

This chapter was a tough one to find the right song.

In the end I went with this oldie by the Bee Gees


I started a joke which started the whole world crying

But I didn't see that the joke was on me oh no

I started to cry which started the whole world laughing

Oh If I'd only seen that the joke was on me

Early Morning, Friday, November 3, 2006

Dwight was the top salesperson in Scranton so the likelihood he would be offered a job in Stamford was pretty high, nothing Josh—he’d met him after all— or Jim could say to Jan was likely to change that. Jan knew what an oddball he was but she also knew the sales he brought in. Dwight could still choose not to take the job especially with his farm some two and a half hours away, but knowing Dwight he might not only take it, but commute to and from Connecticut daily using the travel time to pump himself up for a day of annoying Jim just like he used to.

Whether he was offered the Stamford job or not, his days in the Scranton office were limited but Jim still had a full box of his old stationery which he couldn’t let go to waste. Time to double up on the faxes he was transmitting as a prank on him. That meant getting into the office earlier but now that he was back to dreams of her and tossing and turning instead of sleeping, he was up anyway. Better to spend the time in the office torturing Dwight from afar than lying in bed worrying about what his crazy dreams meant.

This morning the fax he sent read:


You are on high alert for this afternoon. Michael will have an incident in which he will fall down and hit his head. You must be there to prevent this from happening so after lunch you must not leave Michael alone, not even for a minute. You must ignore the phone, ignore your bladder and ignore him when he demands you leave him be. His health and well-being depend on you so don’t let him down.

Cordially, Future Dwight

What Jim hadn’t known was that Michael had recently heard bad news that really did make him feel lightheaded and faint and was holed up in his office working on some mystery project ever since.

But Jim had no way of knowing this, the drunken chat with Pam that might have offered a clue, was still a blur than never quite solidified to a memory. Sending Dwight this fax was just a way to mess with him and toy with Michael a little bit too. Jim knew Dwight would stick like glue to him all afternoon waiting to play hero and save him from a head injury or worse.

As the fax transmission sheet slowly inched out from the machine, he couldn’t help but wonder, would she notice Dwight’s shadowing of Michael, and if so, would it make her beam in that all-knowing way, aware he was somehow behind it? It made him think once more he might call her.

Two weeks had passed and they still hadn’t reconnected. She hadn’t called and not even a friendly text popped up on his phone since their long but accidental chat.

But he hadn’t called either.

He wanted to, wanted to take his dream at face value and stop blocking the future he thought possible but in the weeks of mulling it over he decided he’d made enough first moves. The ball was in her court and it looked to him like she had no intention of serving it up. It was looking more and more like point, set, match… point Beesly… game over. Again.

Instead of hitting his desk to launch off a quick IM,  to fill her in on the fax from the future that Dwight would soon receive, he wandered to the kitchen to put up some much-needed coffee. He measured the grounds into the filter, adding an extra scoop for potency. Being first in the office meant he set the brew level and he needed the high-test now that his sleep issues were back.

After he flipped the switch on the industrial machine to begin the brewing of the magic elixir, he lay his head down on the table and closed his eyes.

The soothing sounds of the coffee gurgling and wall clock ticking were just enough to lull him to a light doze, sleep that he was jolted out of as he heard the front office door open again.

He assumed it was Matthew who was often in early to set up the cameras so he poured himself a coffee and went out to say hello and maybe offer up a talking head about the fax he just sent off to Dwight. But the voice he heard moving through the office space wasn’t that of the cameraman.

“Hi honey…No, the meeting is at noon. I stopped in the office first to check the latest from last night’s order form consolidation since those numbskulls I’ve got working here had to stay late again to finish what they couldn’t get done Wednesday…Yeah, even with the new guy in charge.”

Once he realized it was Josh and heard himself referenced in the conversation, Jim slunk back into the conference room curious to hear how much damage he’d done to his own position after he failed to manage a simple task the other night.

“Even with Jim overseeing it they still can’t manage to do something as simple as data entry without messing it up, but I get the sense Andy had something to do with it since Jim’s usually a pretty competent guy.”

He was happy to hear he wasn’t being blamed for the catastrophe of the other night but didn’t want Josh to know he was there overhearing his private conversation with what seemed to be his wife.

“Thanks sweetheart, but I told you this meeting is really just a formality. After the last meeting, the VP said it was pretty much a done deal, this meeting is just to go over some of the logistics…I just wish I didn’t have to drive all the way to Framingham again but I figure while I’m there I’ll feel him out on the six-month plan, see if he can wait out the extra months in order to maximize their gains.”

Did Jim just hear Josh say Framingham? That was where Staples headquarters was. Was he leveraging his new job into a position there? What would that mean for them and what was the six-month plan? He slipped further back into the room, inching closer to wall to get a better listen to the chat happening on the other side.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself...Yes, that is if I go over right away…then they’ll put us up in a corporate apartment until we find something but I think I’ll be here a little while longer and we’ll have six extra months to find the right place. Yes, I know you want to be in Beacon Hill. I promise if things go to plan, that’s where we’ll go…. I’m just hoping that Jan is willing to match my offer so I can sock away some extra dough while I pick up a few new clients to bring over…I don’t know I guess then you’ll have to get the C-class instead of the S-class but it will still be a Mercedes…Maybe they’ll put Jim in charge here, he’s still pretty green though... Yeah, they could still close Stamford. I’m not really sure but I’m covered either way and I don’t really care what happens here once I’m gone… Since when do you care about my employees?...oh, it sounded like you were… …Listen I hear some of my guys showing up and I’d better get on the road... I love you too. I’ll call you after the interview.”

As he hung up Jim heard what Josh did too, the sound of the front door to the office opening again. Peeking out of the glass window of the conference room he saw this time it was Matthew. As he shuffled in, he glanced around and immediately spotted Jim hiding in the conference room, nearly blowing his cover by calling out. Luckily, Jim had years of experience speaking with nothing more than his eyes, and Matthew as a cameraman was adept at reading and interpreting the body language that was telling him Josh needed distracting so Jim could sneak his way back out of the conference room.

“Hey Josh, how are you doing? Think I might be able to get a talking head with you this

Relieved his soundless message was received by Matt, Jim watched the cameraman approach Josh’s doorway and get turned down yet again for the interview he’d been trying to secure since he came over. Nonetheless, as Matt asked, Jim was able to slink back to the kitchen where he stayed until the rest of the staff started rolling in to the office and joined him in the kitchen to grab the coffee Jim had put up earlier.

“Uh man, whoever made the coffee this morning made it too strong again.”

Jim tried to shrink his large frame into the corner as Andy griped about the coffee. Despite their bonding session over shots of Jäger, this other brown tonic could still be a point of contention when not made to his liking. With Andy, what could set him off was still a gamble and one never knew when coffee would be the root of a day-long bad mood, or worse cause him to pound his desk or kick a wall. Jim had enough on his mind this morning without having Andy throwing a tantrum while hopped up on more caffeine than usual, but if were to happen, Jim certainly didn’t need him or anyone else knowing he was the one responsible.

After using up half the communal creamer, Andy left with his mug, now super-charged with sugar as well as caffeine leaving Jim to loiter in the kitchen longer still to wait out Andy’s temper.

The rest of the office rolled in and out, greeting him with silent nods and lukewarm smiles. Martin tried to chat him up about the upcoming Patriot’s game, but with the Eagles on a bye week and his focus tied up in what he just overheard he wasn’t in the mood to talk football and Martin sensing it, grabbed his coffee without comment about its strength, and returned to his desk.

Jim still couldn’t quite wrap his head around what he just overheard and what it meant for the fate of the two offices. He was still in a haze, waiting until Josh left again on his travel to Massachusetts when Karen came in, her eyes bright as they fixed on Jim, her smile a little broader than it had been before she noticed him.

“Hey Jim, TGIF right? Any plans tonight now than we finally don’t have to spend the evening here again?”

Even with his mind on so many other things, Jim couldn’t help but play with Karen as he formulated his witty response.

“Right, two nights in a row is about all I can take of order forms, raw fish and Andy’s acapella. I’m glad we got that done. Tonight, I was planning to go out for sushi, find a karaoke bar and knock back some Jägermeister shots. Wanna come?”

Karen made a face of disbelief that slowly morphed to a smile as she realized he was joking.

“I think you’re cut off from Jägermeister, Halpert. You cannot hold your liquor at all. For such a big guy, you’re kinda a lightweight. Did you like never go to college or a rager?”

Jim never thought of himself as a lightweight before, but he didn’t usually knock back shot after shot of 70 proof liquor. It was hard to believe that Karen, in her all of 110 pounds or so kept up, going shot for shot with them and didn’t seem to get anywhere near as drunk as he and Andy did.

And then he realized she couldn’t have. There was no way. He was about to call her on it but she kept on ribbing him.

“… and you have trouble remembering to use your phone voice when you drink. I think the building across the sound heard you screaming into the phone the Wednesday night. Which reminds me, whoever you were talking to that night called back when you were puking in Gary’s trash can.”

Jim couldn’t remember talking to anyone on the phone Wednesday night. He wondered who it was that… he called… called him? Neither scenario rang a bell. Wow, if he forgot a whole phone call, he really couldn’t hold his liquor. According to what she’d just said, he’d had a full conversation with someone and now he wondered who it was. Hopefully not his mom, or worse his brother, but if it was either of them, they’d have called him the next day to either give him a talking to or a ribbing about it. He pulled out his phone to look at his history when he suddenly remembered why he was hiding in the kitchen and the other phone call he was curious about.    

“Hey, Karen, did you see Josh when you came in.”

“Yeah, I saw him down in the lobby. He said he was on his way to some meeting and he’d be back in the office much later. Why, did you need him?”

“Um, yeah,” Jim lied, “but I guess I’ll catch him later.”

Jim returned to his phone, scanning through the history and suddenly the smile that had been on Karen’s face had nothing on the one that came over his. He found it hard to believe, no matter how drunk he may have been, that he’d forgotten speaking with Pam. No wonder he felt like hell the next day. He must have been beyond blitzed to not remember the call he’d been waiting on almost two weeks.

Turning to hide his own broadening grin from Karen and pour himself a fresh cup of coffee now that his original cup had gone cold, he realized how inconsiderate he was being. Karen did, after all take care of him Wednesday night, getting him home— he now realized she had to have been sober since she drove him—and helped him into his apartment, making sure to set him up with Tylenol and water before she left.

He knew she was into him but now he really couldn’t start something with her.

Two weeks ago, maybe.  

Back then he might have given it a go but after learning Pam had called, it was not going to happen.

But still they were friends and he was being rude, too caught up in his glee to even notice the mélange of disappointment and nervous energy coming over her face when he turned back around.

Still holding the pot, he noticed her grab a mug and hold it out for him to fill it, her hand shaking as if she’d had a shot or two this morning but it was merely her nerves as she tried to work up the courage to suggest they really go to dinner or share a drink after work.          

“Um, Jim I’ve actually got no plans tonight myself if you wanted to grab a beer or dinner someplace other than Sushi Jo. We could go by Richard Cory’s and see who our favorite bartender shares his Midori shot with tonight.”

Jim knew it would come to this sooner or later and he didn’t want to lead her on. He would have to go easy on the flirting and set some boundaries and even though it would be nice to have another friend to spend time with outside the office, that started by turning her down for tonight.

“Thanks for the offer, but after the two late nights, I think I’m going to just head home and have a lazy evening.”

It wasn’t a complete lie; he was hoping to have a lazy evening while he talked on the phone with Pam.    

“Another time maybe.”

Karen’s voice got quieter and a touch less lively as she directed her gaze away from him and quickly splashed the appropriate amount of Hazelnut Coffeemate into her cup before she left him alone in the kitchen.

Once she was gone, he filled up his own mug, nearly spilling it in his distraction brought on by the two very different phone calls. He wasn’t sure which to focus on first.

There was nothing more he could find out about the call that he had in fact taken part of, even if still no memory of it surfaced; not at least until he spoke to her and that he wanted to do in private and after he had a chance to think what he might say.

That left the other call to focus on. The call that wasn’t actually with him, but he knew more about, even if it wasn’t much.

With a renewed hope as to a future and a love back in Scranton, more than ever he had to figure out what Josh was up to. With what he just discovered he could possibly save her job and get himself back to his home. Matt, too who he assumed was just as anxious to return, having heard small bits about someone that he maybe had a thing for back where they were from. But first he had to get more details. It seemed like there was something more to Josh’s plan than just jumping ship for Staples.

With hot coffee in hand, he left the kitchen in search of his friend, the only one who knew his history and his real reason for leaving Scranton in the first place. They’d never discussed it since coming to Stamford but there was no way Matt didn’t know and the way he never spoke her name or referred to her directly in Jim’s presence confirmed it.

It still seemed odd to Jim that nearly six months later, Matthew was still here but now more than ever he was glad for it. Matt had been his only friend in the early days of Jim’s relocation, someone Jim could talk to when he wasn’t busy recording the day-to-day monotony of life in Stamford or the private interviews that were a huge part of whatever this thing was they were creating for TV.  Today, he would turn to his friend for a big ask.

Jim had always tried to respect the proper boundaries most of time but as they were each other’s only connection to back home they became quite friendly and even grabbed a drink from time to time, despite it being frowned upon by the network. Jim had never crossed the line before and asked him to share footage but this was an extenuating circumstance. He had to know what Josh was up to. His own job depended on it, but more importantly hers did.

He caught up with him in the conference room, where Jim shut the door behind him and flipped the blinds letting the rest of staff believe he would be doing a talking head. This time, however it would be Jim asking the questions.

“Matt, buddy. Thanks for saving me this morning but now I’m going to need another favor.”

Matt was still busy unpacking his equipment and preparing it to begin his craft of capturing the events of the new day.

“Yeah Jim, what was that this morning? Not a good idea to make Josh the target of your pranks. He’s your boss you know and a lot savvier than Michael ever was. Probably not your wisest move but if you’re going to be pulling something, as a pal you gotta let me know so I can be prepared with the camera when the prank lands.”

In the past, Jim and Matt shared a few private laughs following Jim’s attempts to victimize Andy and followed it by dissecting the reactions over beers. While tippling, they also discussed the tension turned attraction of Karen towards him.

So it seemed likely the two items of news that Jim only learned this morning, Matt must have known about already and he harbored a fraction of resentment his friend hadn’t shared either of them. But he knew why. It was one of the things that made his relationship with Matt tricky. Jim couldn’t pull the journalist trick of saying things off the record, and he was no fool to even try and Matt was bound by his job to hide from Jim what he learned through his footage.

Forgiving his friend for keeping such a big thing from him, now that he learned that he had spoken to his crush back home he needed to know more. With it no longer a secret, he hoped Matt could share at the very least what he may have said during their drunk conversation.

But as anxious as he was to ask about that event, currently his focus was on uncovering whatever the deal was with Josh. He pushed back his elation and curiosity and ignoring the jocular tone of Matt’s reply, Jim responded blankly.

“Not a prank, Matthew and I need your help. Josh is up to something. I think he’s making a move to go to Staples, but maybe not right away, I can’t quite figure out what his plan is but it could screw everyone, me, the guys here, our pals in Scranton,” he paused before he spoke her name, even though he knew Matt was well aware of everything that happened between them and his feelings about her, “and Pam.”

Jim knew full well how good the camera crew back in Scranton were at getting their spy shots. He’d learned they caught him and Pam plotting against Dwight on numerous occasions and he even suspected they’d caught the fateful kiss based on something Matt slipped out accidentally during one of their unsanctioned trips to the local bar.

He only hoped that Matt had the same skills and had caught Josh in other secret conversations that could reveal more.

“I’ve never asked you before to share what you are filming but do you know anything?”

Jim knew he did.

Matthew looked up at him, his eyes darting to the portable mike pack Jim still had to wear as part of the agreement he made back in Scranton when the filming began.

It’s off,” Jim assured him before he continued, “better yet, can you share some of the footage you recorded in the last month or so. I bet there’s something in the tapes.”

Jim took a seat at the table watching Matt as he meticulously brushed the lens of the camera like a makeup artist applying blusher to his subject.

“Jim, man, I don’t review the footage before I send it back to my producer and you know I’m not supposed to even talk with you about this stuff. And even if I wanted to show you, I’ve already turned over everything up through Wednesday night, and man if there was ever footage to share it would be that, there was some funny shit happening the other night.”

Jim, fully aware now that Matt had witnessed everything up to and including a conversation with Pam on Wednesday night, almost forgot about the whole Josh thing, anxious to learn more about his conversation with her instead. But as he was already crossing a line even asking for help with the Josh situation so he put off pressing him for the details of that mystery too.

“Yeah, I’m sure it was a hoot. My mom’s sure to get a kick seeing me shitfaced on TV. But right now, I’m more concerned what she’s going think when I’m out of work. You gotta know something. I know I’m asking you to break the rules but I’m desperate.”  

Matt put down the wand in his hand and picked up a bulb which he used to blow air around the glass eye that saw all, revealed secrets and in some ways predicted the future.

“Ok, I’ll say this and you didn’t hear it from me – I mean it, I could lose my job…but don’t trust Josh. He comes off as a good guy, a team player but he is a Class A bullshitter. That big sale you made a few months ago, all you right? But I heard him tell Jan how he set it all up and then let you close it cause that’s the kind of manager he is. I’ve followed him to fancy client lunches where the client,” Matt raised his fingers to make accentuate the word in air quotes, “is his wife and you know he’s expensing that shit. And I’ve heard him tell both Andy and Karen, to watch out for you because you’re a spy for corporate. But really that’s all I know.”

Matt flipped the camera around and fiddled with something on the other end. Not unnoticed by Jim, he put his hand in front of the lens stopping him from beginning his day of footage.

“Hey man, can you hold off on the filming. You can’t drop that shit on me and then stick the camera in my face.”

“Sorry Jim, force of habit, you know. But like I said there’s not much I can do. I already turned in all the past stuff and I can’t think of anything else.”

As he spoke however, Jim saw a look come to his face, his eyes darting up as proverbial smoke escaped from his head. Jim knew he had a thought. He pulled Jim to the far corner of the conference room and signaled for Jim to drop his voice down. Whispering, he began again, so quiet, Jim almost couldn’t hear him.

“Listen, you’re not even supposed to know this and I’m really putting my job on the line if they find out I told you but I’ve got the place miked up to catch additional audio. I have one right outside Josh’s office feeding to a portable recorder and I haven’t checked that yet. Let’s catch up after work tonight and I’ll see if it got anything. But seriously, my ass is on the line if anyone finds out so you can’t say a word. Even if we do hear something, you can’t let anyone know you heard from me.”

Matt lifted the camera onto his shoulder and left the room to begin his day of recording the events of the Stamford branch. His primary subject however, remained in the conference room deep in thought.

It was bad enough she’d be losing her job if her branch closes, but to lose it so Josh could parlay his position to a place at Staples; to have everyone there be out of work so Josh could buy his wife a fancy car and a fancier house in Boston, that wasn’t right.

He could only hope Matt’s bugs, cause that’s what they were after all, caught something more than him, Karen and Andy goofing off and he left the room to begin what would be an excruciatingly long day.


Chapter End Notes:
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