Ivor Hawley crouched over an earth-filled flowerpot as Jia Mein stood nearby with a bottle and a dental hook. Ivor took both and drizzled viscous, green liquid from the bottle onto the soil. He put the hook inside his mouth, sucking before removing it, then spit into the bottle. He looked down and saw a soft pink bud extruding upwards.

“At last! Coaxed to the surface.”

He poured the murky brown potion on it, causing it to swell another half inch.

Ivor returned the tools, looking down on the pot like a proud father does his newborn baby. “The flower requires meticulous care. So rare … but delightfully useful.” He turned to Jia. “Now tell me about this medicine delivery company.”

* * *

Jake Smiley waved a flyer outside the Bank of California.

“Investors wanted for a medicine delivery company! You’ll help Gomorra and reap your own rewards!”

Most passersby looked disgusted, but an elderly woman brought him a fat envelope. “It’s wonderful to see enterprising individuals rise to our hour of need!” She pressed the envelope into Jake’s hands. “I’m Ida MacGregor. I’ll visit you tomorrow.”

Jake took it and shook her hand. “Somebody must do something!” What Jake would do was order supplies from Smith & Robards, taking a 33% markup for himself. The fine print called it a ‘Samaritan bonus.’

Eventually Jake looked up from the hefty envelope to see Ivor Hawley directly in front of him, grinning widely.

“Mister Smiley! Your humanitarian effort warms my heart. You are a true flower of Gomorra!” Ivor withdrew a large pink flower from his coat. Before Jake could react, Ivor planted the flower on his lapel. There was a small pricking, but Jake was too polite to flinch. “Consider this a free ticket to the circus! Please walk with me. I’d like to invest in you!”

Jake felt unsteady, but the promise of money drew him. “Absolutely, sir! Let’s go to my office!”

The men only walked a block before Jake’s legs buckled. His face turned white as blood flowed from both nostrils over his lip and into his mouth. The flower turned yellowish as more petals emerged. Ivor pulled Jake into an alley and shushed him with a soothing whisper.

“There, there. Just lie down. This won’t take long.”

Jake looked up from the ground. He felt threads running through his veins. His eyes dimmed, seeing only Ivor’s inhumanly wide smile. There was a cut above one tooth, and a maggot protruded from within.

* * *

Ivor sighed as the new clown with the billowy orange flower tried to learn team juggling. His reaction was always too late, delivering bowling pin blows to the face three times.

Ivor grumbled. “Ugh … he is by far the biggest waste of a rose ever. The only one of my clowns who has proven to be more useless after I claimed him!” Ivor trudged away, with Kevin Wainwright scuttling behind.

The trainer studied the new clown. “Perhaps he can do a clumsy fall. That’s always good for a laugh.”