Doing Good Business

Entry by: Seth Dinario

2nd June 2017
Ainsley craned her neck to see if she could discern the summit of the skyscraper. Negative: cloud the colour of a day-old bruise obscured it. Rain was imminent. She glanced once again at the slip of paper: Suite 7, 280 Fifth Avenue.
Was it suspicious, she thought, that her therapist was just a few blocks down? Was he in cahoots with this place? Fat drops began to spot the paper and she hurried inside.
Ainsley scanned the elevator legend. The word 'Avesa' was next to the information that Suite 7 was on the thirty-fifth floor. She pressed the call button and thought about the word. By the time the elevator arrived, her brain had served up what she expected: nothing. What the devil could it mean?
She was alone in the elevator. She found it maddening that she was unable to tell whether it was going up or down. Her own breathing seemed unnaturally loud. Why couldn't they play some of that goddamn muzak? Who wants to hear their own goddamn breathing when they're about to enter the unknown? She'd take anything now, even some Boney M or Celine Dion.
The elevator announced its arrival with a soft 'bing'. Ainsley emerged like a cautious woodland animal. At the end of the generic, plant-potted corridor, a window was darkened by the silent storm that lashed it; rivulets of water poured down the glass.
She checked the suite numbers as she walked, stopping at number seven with a low whistle. This door was different to the others: some kind of dark wood with shapes carved into it. They seemed to twist as she looked away; abstract versions of faces, howling, grinning, weeping, hooting with static laughter. There was a metal grille with a button underneath and the word 'Avesa' in runic script above.
Ainsley pressed the button, which made a faint buzz.
Within seconds, a smooth female British voice answered. 'Can I help you?' it said.
'Uh, hi,' said Ainsley, glancing up and down the deserted corridor. 'I've come on the recommendation of Cyril Glass?' She chewed around a painful hangnail. 'Also of Fifth Avenue?' she added, feeling foolish.
There was no response for ten seconds or so then the door swung open. Ainsley expected a creak; it was silent.
She entered a plush, modern foyer, completely at odds with the arcane door. Dull but competent paintings hung on the walls: seascapes, landscapes. Low-level lighting whose origin was unclear. The only furniture was a comfortable-looking leather sofa and a coffee table with a magazine on it. The door shut behind her with a click which made her jump.
From a door in the opposite wall, a sophisticated-looking woman emerged: immaculate business suit, hair fashionably piled up, probably in her forties. She smiled as she approached Ainsley and held out her hand.
'A pleasure, Miss Spellman. I'm Ms Chattingham,' she said. Her voice was smooth and confident: it was the same woman who'd answered the buzzer. Ainsley caught the scent of some alluring perfume.
'How do you know my name?' said Ainsley.
'Mr Glass, of course,' said the woman.
Ainsley nodded. 'I - I assume this is a shrink's office, but like - like a better one?' she said, looking around.
Ms Chattingham smiled. 'You'll see. As fortune would have it, Mr Prowse is available for a session now: would you like to proceed?'
'Um, I don't want to jump in without er, y'know,' said Ainsley. Ms Chattingham arched an exquisite eyebrow. Ainsley made a rueful face and rubbed her fingers together.
Ms Chattingham gave a reassuring smile. 'You needn't worry. The first consultation is free, with a suggested fee if you wish to go ahead. Shall we?' she said, indicating the door next to the one through which she'd emerged.
'Sure.' Ainsley swallowed and followed. Ms Chatthingham opened the door and indicated that Ainsley should enter.
She stepped into the room and simultaneously noticed the most amazing thing alongside the most normal, mundane aspect: the room had shelves of muliticoloured liquids from floor to ceiling, all the way around the walls, and there was a small, neat man sitting behind a very ordinary desk. He stood up and walked over to greet her.
'Ah, Miss Spellman,' he said in modulated, upper-class New York tones. He had a deep, reassuring voice, especially for such a small man. 'I'm Miles Prowse. Won't you sit down?' Ainsley smiled and took the only available seat: an expensive, huge Lay-Z-Boy type affair. Mr Prowse had resumed sitting behind his desk. He took out a file.
'Your case is very interesting indeed. I believe I can help you. Would you like to talk about it now?'
Ainsley found to her surprise that she did. It was something about his deep voice and kind eyes. She told him all about the months of incarceration, the abuse, the final dramatic escape from that basement room. 'The hazards of online dating,' Mr Prowse said with an expression of utter empathy juxtaposing the flippant words.
Ainsley continued to outline her problem, namely that she could not continue normal life since her release. Friends had left her, jobs were unable to be held down, and doctors' remedies were ineffective. She wanted it all to just fucking go away.
'I know this will provoke disbelief,' said Mr Prowse after a sensitive pause, 'but I can not only help you to get over it, I can remove the experience altogether. Would this be something you'd like?'
Ainsley looked round at Ms Chattingham, who gave her a soft smile. 'Um, okay? How much?'
'Seven hundred dollars. We operate a payment plan,' said Mr Prowse.
Ainsley must have nodded because a metal vice came up over the chair and held her head fast.
'Ms Chattingham