The address was scrawled on the back of a used envelope and it led me to a dimly lit corner of the Palm Tree Office Plaza. I found the door I was told about: flaking green paint and a burn mark that looked like a top hat, and went in.
The dark lobby smelled of cigarettes and bug spray. A clown nose was stuck to the wall with a switchblade and I’m pretty sure the red mark on the floor beneath it wasn’t grease paint. I ducked under the police tape and stepped towards the counter, trying to avoid the remains of a balloon animal on the floor.
There was a cough from the counter and I looked up, to see a woman in a faded blue dress watching me. Her brown hair was up in a tight bun and she was smoking a cigarette. There was a large beauty mark on her left cheek.
“Whaddya want?” she said, blowing a smoke triangle towards the ceiling.
“I need to see the professional.”
She blew a smoke parallelogram, causing her beauty mark leap off and buzz about the room. “He ain’t in.”
“Meredith sent me,” I said, laying a buck fifty in loose change on the counter.
The change disappeared. “Take a seat.”
I found the chair with the smallest bloodstain and picked it up. The lobby itself was done in the same faded green paint as the door, with only a few old pictures on the walls for decoration. A single magazine lay on the floor in the middle of a chalk outline. It had a bullet hole in it.
My arms started to get tired from holding the chair. “What’s his story?” I asked, nodding at the outline.
The receptionist shrugged. “I heard he got on the wrong side of the clown mafia.”
“It’s the greasepaint,” I said. “Makes ‘em crazy.”
There was a buzz and the receptionist glanced down. “He’ll see you now.” She gestured towards the back. “First door on the left.”
I walked past her, banging the chair on her desk as I went by. She didn’t appear to notice. There were three doors in back and I went into the first on one the left. The room was empty save for an examination table, a rack of power tools, a pair of Italian loafers on a shelf, a saddle, a large stack of pizza boxes, and three years worth of Seventeen magazine sorted by month. So yeah, empty.
I sat on the examination table, letting the chair rest against my thighs. After a few minutes, the door banged open and a heavyset man with slumped shoulders shuffled in. He leaned against the wall and stared at me with his good eye.
The receptionist’s beauty mark buzzed by.
“So,” he finally said. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s my gall bladder,” I said. “It’s trying to kill me.”
Tomorrow: Part 2