T he alarm went off at 6 AM as usual, but Jason didn't really feel like getting out of bed. He reached over and hit the snooze button at least twice. By the time he was dressed, ate his last bagel and finished his coffee, it was 9 AM. He could not locate the card Willy had given him. After searching the apartment, he finally found it in the pocket of the pants he had worn the day before - the pants he had thrown into the hamper last night.
He did not look at the card when Willy had given it to him; he had just stuck it in his pocket.
He wondered to himself where area code 212 was. It wasn't anywhere around where he lived. He noticed that the last digit was not on the card. What is this? He thought to himself. The card looked like it had been folded one time over the last number, which was possibly a 2 or a 7-or was that a 4? Great, he thought to himself. He tried a 2 and on the first ring, Willy answered the phone.
"Talk to me," Willy said.
"Hi, this is Jason."
"Hey, is now a good time for you?" Willy asked. "How long will it take?"
"I really don't know, sometimes it takes a while to scan for these things," Jason answered.
There was a long pause. Willy finally said, "Okay, I understand. Look, just don't interrupt anyone while they're working. The address is 1147 West 8th Street, fourth floor. You can come over now if you want."
That's not too far away, Jason thought. "I'll see you in a bit," he said, and hung up. Jason debated driving there, but remembered he did not know where his car was. He thought he could use another cup of coffee so he grabbed his laptop bag and walked down the street to the 7-11 at the end of the third block. He drank his coffee and walked the remaining thirteen and a half blocks to 1147 West 8th Street, which was a hotel. The sign that was supposed to spell out "HOTEL" flashed a measly "HO L." One of the neon lights flickered and the other was burnt out; the paint was peeling and it looked like it had been there for a very long time.
As Jason entered the lobby he thought it looked more like a flophouse. There was an older man at the front desk behind a cage, like you would see at an old bank. The desk looked more like a banker's cage than a hotel counter. It had bars that went from the counter to the ceiling, with an opening in the front to slide items without reaching between the bars. At the opposite side of the room was an old TV bolted to the wall. An old man with a white cane sat on the couch opposite the TV.
The only light in the room came from a big, grey window. Jason suspected that it was that color because of dirt, not because the window was actually tinted grey.
As soon as Jason approached the desk, the older man behind it asked, "What do you want?"
"I'm here to see Willy," Jason replied, completely unsure of his surroundings.
The man behind the desk said, "Fourth floor. Elevator is right around the corner, but it doesn't work. Stairs are through the door across from the elevator."
"Thanks," Jason said. He walked past the cage and toward the back of the hotel. The hallway was dimly lit. From where Jason stood he could not even see the end of the hallway. As soon as he turned the corner he found the old freight elevator. The sign on it read, "OUT OF ORDER." It looked like it had been a very long time since the elevator had worked. Across the hall from the elevator door was another door. He opened it and saw the stairs.
The stairwell was also dimly lit, to say the least: One bare bulb jutted out of the wall just above the door he came through, which closed with a thud on his third step. Each floor had the same light above its door. The stairwell had the scent of urine. It reminded Jason of a place where delinquents came to practice mugging people.
Finally on the fourth floor, he opened the door to a sight that didn't seem to fit with t