Tiny Viola ~ Chapters 81-90
Eighty-one ~ A New Hope
Suddenly the lights in the lab came on. Bonofacio ran back to the boxes and the cabinet as fast as his little legs could take him. He climbed up quickly, threw open the cabinet door, and dove inside. He took one little peek out of the slit between the doors and could see an Asian janitor mopping down the aisle. He dared peek out a little further, straining his neck to see more. He could see the janitor look over the cages at the tiny sleeping people and shake her head to herself. For the first time since Bonofacio had found himself shrunk, he felt a sliver of hope.
Eighty-two ~ Grouping Up
"Las Vegas?" Taylor asked. She had been shrunk the most recently. She was from Las Vegas, a show dancer.
"Yes," said Audrey. "It appears the one thing his recent victims have in common is being from or having gone to Las Vegas in the time shortly before their disappearance."
"It's causing some problems for us, of course," said Geoffrey. "It's hard to set up a sting there since we're not sure which hotel he stays at -- he seems to be changing them frequently."
"And we've found another problem," said Jeremy.
The little group waited.
"The problem is," said Saulo, "Stockton Hydrobi Lars seems to be familiar the faces of those employed by the FBI."
"How's that?" Gilbert asked.
"He seems to have once worked with us," said Jeremy. "Under a different name."
"Henry Morter," said Audrey.
"Henry Morter -- Stockton Lars -- Professional Ghost! This guy has more than enough names," said Sam, who was just beginning to put it all together.
"He worked as a forensic scientist which gave him clearance to higher levels of security. Apparently he's been able to keep tabs on us which is how he's been able to avoid us for so long," continued Saulo.
"So how can you find him then?" Viola asked.
"We've been discussing that," said Jeremy.
"We were training a highly secretive team of FBI agents for a Las Vegas sting but have found out that Lars has been in on it from the beginning," said Geoffrey.
"He knows our faces and our moves before we put them into action," said Jeremy.
"We don't think there's a leak," continued Jeremy, "but we think he's been spying on our previous location. We're fairly sure he hasn't found us here though."
"So we've had to come up with a new plan where we can track him without him knowing it's us," said Saulo.
"And we want to know if any of you would like to help us?" Audrey asked.
"I would!" Elsa said.
"Not you. You have to be at least 18 years old."
"Count me in," said Andrew. "I want to see that son-of-a-bitch pay."
"I'm in," said Viola.
"Viola," said Espie.
"I'm in," said Viola.
"I'm in too, then," sighed Espie.
"I'm in," said Sam and Alex at the same time.
"Me too," said Genie.
"Me three," said Linda.
"OK, you got me, I'm in," said Gilbert.
"I guess all that's left is me," said Taylor. "OK, I'm in."
Eighty-three ~ A Helpful Hand
Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.
~ Wayne Dyer
Ling Ling had worked for five years as a janitor for Ming Testing. In that time her young eyes had seen the transition from mouse specimens to little human specimens. The first time she saw a tiny human body in a cage she couldn't believe it. She thought that was the experiment, that getting a big, regular sized human down to two inches was the achievement within itself, but it turned out it was only a body to be experimented on. Later she was told that the little two inch people were not really people but human like animals grown in a lab. Thus, they could be experimented on with greater accuracy as to the results having similarity on real and real-sized human beings.
Her young mind did not really question what her employer told her. One time, during an experiment where food was restricted the little two inch people, and Ling Ling was caught sneaking extra food into their cages, she was severely reprimanded and told due to her lack of education, she could not understand that these little beings were not people and were not to be treated as such. They were simply specimens, to be counted and not named and to be test with rigor so that health, medicine, and science could advance for the greater good of the real human beings in the world.
Ling Ling was thus told to repress any feelings she had for the beings, and to ignore them. And for some time, that is what Ling Ling did. She found it easier to mop and clean around the cages and the cages themselves if she did not notice the little beings inside, particularly how much like a real human being they looked, acted, and behaved. She even found out they could talk, although not in languages that Ling Ling could understand.
So one night when the cupboard opened of its own accord and then slammed shut, Ling Ling had no idea other than it must be a ghost. It did not occur to her that one of the little beings could or would escape and would attract attention to itself with the cupboard with the sole hope that Ling Ling herself -- young, inexperienced and undereducated Ling Ling -- would come running over and act as its savior.
And that's what happened. Well, Ling Ling did not run because she honestly thought the cupboard opening on its own was a ghost.
Ling Ling steeled herself. If it was a ghost, it could not hurt her because she was one of the living. All the same, Ling Ling felt a big fear inside. She went to the cupboard and stood in front of it. She was sure it was the right side that had opened. Very slowly Ling Ling opened the right door of the cupboard and peered inside.
Dr. Bonofacio Sacchi crouched quivering, looking directly at her.
"Ah!!" said Ling Ling. For some reason seeing a little being outside of its cage surprised her.
The two stared at each other for a minute. Bonofacio stopped shaking. Ling Ling was so young looking, and she was a janitor, not a scientist.
Ling Ling held her hand out so her fingers formed a platform right in front of Bonofacio's feet.
Bonofacio stepped onto her hand.
Audrey, Saulo, Jeremy, Geoffrey, Matthew, and Ramon all stood in the Mouseville room. Viola, Espie, Sam, Alex, Gilbert, Andrew, Taylor, Elsa, Genie, and Linda were on the balconies of the doll house talking to them.
"Can we show you guys something?" Audrey asked the little people.
"Sure," they all said.
The big people reached down and lifted the small people onto their palms and transported them to the room with a clear view of the wall screen, on which was a map of the world with lit dots on it. The state of California was zoomed in.
"I want to show you a little movie we've made," said Jeremy.
On the screen, the dots disappeared.
"Each bright yellow dot represents one house where one person was shrunk and disappeared from. The red dots represent the location where that person was sent. Now watch the timeline and see if you see a pattern," said Jeremy.
On the screen, a yellow dot appeared in Pasadena, California.
"That was number one," said Jeremy.
"Me," said Alex.
A red dot appeared in Brea, California.
"So Max Brody was my neighbor," said Alex.
Jeremy paused the movie.
"We don't think you were mailed, Alex," said Jeremy. "We think you were hand delivered via the 210 and the 10 freeways."
A second yellow dot appeared in Santa Clarita, California, slightly north of Pasadena.
"That would be me," said Genie.
A red dot appeared in the middle of South Central Los Angeles.
"So that's where I was," said Genie. "Figures."
A yellow dot now appeared slightly north of Santa Clarita,.
"Linda," said Jeremy, as a red dot showed up in Michigan. "Except she didn't make it to Michigan because we found her before. At this point we were x-raying all USPS packages that fit a same, standard size -- five by five by five."
Another yellow dot appeared north of Los Angeles along the coast, and then a red dot in the middle of Los Angeles showed up.
"That would be Elsa," said Jeremy, "also intercepted, although her package was being sent to a priest in Los Angeles."
Viola and Espie looked at each other.
Another yellow dot showed up in the middle of California.
"Who's that?" Elsa asked.
"Timothy Carson, a drifter known to local bars in the area who suddenly disappeared. A potion bottle was found with his belongings behind a barn. Unfortunately we were not able to track his package although we believe he was sent to China," said Jeremy.
"Based on the others that we have tracked as far as Hong Kong. That's when the leads grow cold," said Audrey.
The map continued to show yellow dots in the area and then red dots in Hong Kong.
The next yellow dot was in San Francisco.
"Viola," Espie said.
A red dot appeared in Paris.
"Why all of a sudden Paris?" Viola asked, remembering her time with Jean and Lielle. She shivered at the thought of those long, scary days locked up in the mouse cage.
Jeremy again paused the movie.
"We've developed a working theory about how and why Lars picks his victims and their 'owners,'" said Saulo, putting "owners" in hand quotes.
"Did you notice the yellow dots?" Audrey asked.
"They started in southern California and then went up to San Francisco," said Viola.
"And the red dots are clustered around southern California, and then many go to China, and then they're scattered," said Audrey.
"The yellow dots are you guys," Jeremy said, continuing the movie. "They're also the path Lars took traveling to San Francisco and then to Las Vegas."
Yellow dots around Las Vegas began to light up.
"The red dots are very interesting," said Jeremy. "They're all people that Lars knew or knew of. First he starts with people he knew -- he picks the nastiest people he can think of, people who in their past have shown by their actions that they hate other people."
"So Alex gets sent to Max Brody, one of the most heartless lawyers in LA, known for frivolous lawsuits and representing the dirt of the earth," said Matthew.
"And what happens is Max locks Alex up," said Geoffrey.
"Like a friggin' pet," said Alex.
Jeremy used a laser pointer to circle the second red dot on the map.
"One day Lars sees a kid hurting animals. So he chooses this kid to send his next victim, Genie."
"Linda," said Jeremy, circling the third yellow dot. "Almost sent to Michigan, to the home of a criminal that Lars knew of through his forensic work."
"Luckily I was intercepted," said Linda.
"What about me," asked Viola. "Why was I sent to Paris?"
"Because that's where Raymond and Sonia Lopez now lived. Friends of Lars and con artists who had bilked millions out of unsuspecting old ladies. They were facing fraud charges in their native Argentina and so they fled to Paris and assumed new identities -- Jean and Lielle Abadie. But they still kept in contact with their friend Lars, who would occasionally supply them with cocaine."
"He was their dealer?" Viola asked.
"Yes," said Audrey. "He's a busy man."
"I have a question," said Gilbert. "Why me?"
"You were in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jeremy. "All of you were. Look at the pattern of the yellows dots -- starting from southern California and going north to San Francisco along highway 5 and then east to Las Vegas along highway 80. We don't think Lars knew anything about you except for some basics -- your name, for instance, and occasionally an occupation. The yellow dots trace Lar's path. You guys were unlucky enough to take his bait in some cases or else drink spiked drinks."
"How is Lars able to pull this off?" Viola asked. "Doesn't he have a job like most people?"
"He's worked for the FBI and as a chemistry professor. We now believe he's employed very handsomely by a Chinese pharmaceutical conglomerate called Ming Testing. Ming tests their products on tiny human beings."
"That is SO illegal," said Espie. Her human rights heart was all over it.
"It is illegal but it's also underground," said Jeremy.
"After all, no one believes two inch people exist, right?" said Audrey.
"And don't the workers who are doing the testing wonder where these two inch people are coming from?" Viola asked.
"We think that Lars has used his bio-chemistry background to convince his employers that these people are grown in a lab," said Jeremy.
"I think I've heard enough," said Andrew, shaking his head in disgust.
"Me too," said Alex.
"You wanted our help?" Viola asked. "What's the plan?"
Eighty-five ~ A Savior for Bonofacio?
Ling Ling spoke to Bonofacio in Mandarin and then pocketed him. He tried speaking to her but it was no use. No matter how he pleaded she didn't seem to understand.
Ling Ling finished mopping and then began dusting. She came to an empty cage and opened it up.
She reached in her pocket and grabbed Bonofacio gently and tried to put him in the cage, but he wouldn't let go of her shirt sleeve.
The two stared at each other, Ling Ling's arm dangling inside of the cage and Bonofacio clinging to her shirt sleeve for dear life, trying to scamper up her arm, his terrified eyes appealing to her heart.
This little non-human being appeared more human to Ling Ling than the company that employed her would dare admit to her, thought Ling Ling. Even if he was grown in a lab, thought Ling Ling, the expression in his little brown eyes was human. Ling Ling made a decision.
She carefully pulled her arm out of the cage and let Bonofacio run up to her elbow, where he clung to the material of her shirt sleeve. With her other hand Ling Ling carefully picked him up and once again the two looked at each other.
"Please help me," said Bonofacio.
He fell on his knees, crouched on her palm, and looked up at her.
Ling Ling sighed. She'd have to be careful.
Ling Ling pocketed Bonofacio once more.
Eighty-six ~ The Plan
"The plan," said Geoffrey, "is a sting in Las Vegas."
"You guys will be utilized as a distraction device," said Audrey.
"We know that if Lars sees us he'll just disappear," said Jeremy. "But if he sees you, and you're following him, he'll try to cover his tracks."
"He might try sending you to China," said Audrey.
"So it's a bit dangerous what we're asking of you," said Saulo. "However, if you choose to be part of this, please know we'll do everything we can to ensure your safety."
"Are you still with us?" Geoffrey asked.
After a moment of silence, everyone slowly nodded, even Elsa.
"But what about the LSR potion," Viola asked.
"We'll keep working on solving the LSR potion matrix," said Saulo. "Mariana Gemora is studying how to distill LSR from formaldehyde using Dr. Sacchi's notes. And we have others working on it also. As soon as LSR potion is available, believe me, we'll have it coded to each of your DNA so that you can resume your regular size, even if this means our Lars sting has to wait."
"I'm also going to be busy tracking Bonofacio," said Audrey. "Although if he's at Ming Testing, it will probably be hard to find him. The company keeps its location so secret that we have yet to find it."
"But finding and stopping Lars is our first step," said Geoffrey.
Eighty-seven ~ Quangduong Province, Hong Kong
Ling Ling took Bonofacio home with her that night, after she finished her routine of cleaning cages, changing water bottles, emptying garbages, and dusting the blinds that separated one glass office from another.
Ling Ling's apartment was small. It consisted of one dingy gray room which acted as kitchen and bedroom, and one tiny bathroom. Posters of Chinese rock stars adorned the walls. Ling Ling placed Bonofacio on a kitchen table and began to cook a dinner of noodles and vegetables.
Once dinner was ready Ling Ling served herself a portion and on a little plate, served a spoon-sized portion for Bonofacio.
Bonofacio knew he was now safe. He ate with a smile on his face, unworried about intoxicants for once.
Ling Ling smiled back at him.
Eighty-eight ~ Step One
"Step One of our plan," said Geoffrey, "is to get you guys in shape and get the equipment necessary for your success."
"What equipment?" Viola asked.
"Remote control cars," said Geoffrey, "except we're going to rig them -- with your help, since your hands are small enough -- for you to drive."
"Do you mean we're going to trap him via little remote control cars at his ankles?" Viola asked sarcastically.
"No," said Geoffrey. "The cars are for you to get away. We actually want him to see you running throughout the hotels in the mice holes -- which we will make for you -- along hidden behind-the-scenes pathways that he can't get to."
"We think he won't want to let you guys out of his sight. We're pretty sure he's going to give chase, only he won't be able to find you guys," said Jeremy.
"You're going to lead him directly to us," said Audrey.
"As long as we get away," said Espie, "I like this plan."
Eighty-nine ~ Getting in Shape
"I am in shape," said Andrew, sweat on his brow.
Everyone of the little people was lined up next to each other in the gym room, which was a large table surrounded by a twelve-inch wall. Little weights, a speedball, a punching bag, and a boxing ring surrounded them. Espie was showing the group kickboxing moves.
They had already run around the room, a two inch high person's equivalent of three miles. They had done calisthenics, lead by Andrew, and step aerobics lead by Genie. In the evening they would have a cool down session of yoga poses, courtesy of Viola. Following this regime for days, tiny muscles had begun to appear on lithe little bodies.
Alex, Sam, Andrew, and Gilbert all worked on tweaking the remote control cars that could now be seen racing around the FBI compound with tiny little people inside. Alex used his robotics expertise to help rig them so they could be operated from both inside and outside the car.
The meals the little people ate began to look healthier also. More whole foods, greens, grilled veggies, fresh fruits, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and lentil loafs, less and less to none of junk food and chips. Audrey, who turned out to be a total health-nut, explained to the complainers that their little bodies needed more nutrient-dense foods and would clog up on junk.
Only Matthew continued bringing junk food occasionally, but when Audrey was around, he was not allowed to share it with tiny bodies.
Ninety ~ Life in Hong Kong
Ling Ling's apartment was small and it was dingy, but it was home. Rather than get a cage for Bonofacio, she let him run free in the apartment on the floor which meant his cage was the small room, for he could not get very far trying to escape down the long hallway or through the balcony. Ling Ling basically kept Bonofacio as a pet also, but rather than treat him like a mouse, she treated him like a kitten. She bought him toys to play with but he didn't have the energy nor the interest. His one thought was to get back to his lab and the FBI somehow. Most of the time, if he wasn't scurrying out of the way to avoid getting squished by a socked foot, he was looking for food (in Ling Ling's backpack) or looking for Ling Ling's cell phone, which, as far as he could tell, was located above on one of the tables or the counter, never down on the ground.
Food was inconsistent, because Ling Ling would go out with friends and stay out all night, forgetting the tiny tummy in her apartment whose little growl of hunger could not be heard by her ears. She did always share a little spoonful of whatever she ate with him, and for that he was grateful. She also talked to him in Chinese, even though they both knew neither could understand each other, he listened, and over time, he picked up some words. It was Ling Ling's way of releasing steam.
A few rough translations would be:
"I don't understand boys. I texted my boyfriend ten times before he responded back to me. What's wrong with him? I wanted to tell him about this red shirt I wanted to get and if he liked me in red or not. I know he wasn't busy because his class is over at 3 pm and then he should be free to talk to me. So he made me wait half an hour to talk to me and the whole time I was ready to give up on the entire concept of purchasing the nice red shirt that I thought my boyfriend would like, for my boyfriend. Did you ever have a girlfriend?"
(Silence. Bonofacio shrugs.)
"Well if you had a girlfriend would you make her wait half an hour when obviously she wants to talk to you?"
(More silence. Bonofacio was tidying up a corner of the room and readying it for bed. He slept in one of Ling Ling's socks.)
"I guess you're too old and too small to have a girlfriend. But let me tell you something, Mister Small, boyfriends aren't all they're cracked up to be!"
Another translation, at a later date:
"I really don't like my boyfriend talking with Chou-yu. I think they have enough time together in chemistry class. I'm sick of it. I don't think it's fair. I'm his girlfriend. That means he should talk to me more than he talks to Chou-yu. Don't you think so Mr. Small?"
(A short silence wherein Bonofacio realized Ling Ling was done talking and then, mercifully, nodded his head. He found nodding his head to be the most agreeable way for both Ling Ling and him to communicate.)
"That's what I think!" Ling Ling exclaimed.
She gave him extra food that night.
But for the most part, Bonofacio felt neglected. It was better than his stay at Ming Testing but he was worried he'd never be able to get home and back to his lab. It was not just himself he was worried about -- he knew other little people depended on him also. The breakthrough in making Lycomobin Synclopia Rye took much insight, experience, and "ah-ha" moments, and he doubted any other scientist or scientists could easily replicate it. Hopefully they were using his notes at least. At any rate, Bonofacio's big problem was trying to communicate to Ling Ling the seriousness of his disappearance.
He knew things were not getting across the day Ling Ling spent the afternoon with her tiny sewing machine and sewed him a bright blue and pink rimmed one piece leotard, the same that a rock star of some sort was wearing on the poster above her bed. Bonofacio cringed and refused to wear it. Ling Ling was much put out about this and almost refused to feed him. They made amends when he agreed to wear the horrid costume for dinner, but right afterwards he slipped right back into his old shirt and pants, the regular clothes he was wearing on that walk so long ago in Bordeaux.
However long this stay was going to be felt long enough to Bonofacio.