They have not.
We take the elevators all the way down, and wander around the lobby aimlessly but confidently for a little bit. Papa Chub is nothing if not gifted at talking endlessly until folks feel safe and comfortable and welcome, and this is indispensable while Googe and I (but mostly just me) struggle to remember just where the Hell we came from and how we’re supposed to get back to the villa. Erb is alternately amused at our struggles and irritated at our foolishness, but at least he’s pleasant to the girls (which I suppose is more than I can say for my own behavior twenty some minutes back.)
“So, like, where are we going?” one of the girls finally asks after our journey leads us past some bathrooms and over to a dead end.
“To our villa, like we said,” Papa Chub answers immediately. He’s smiling still, but the humor’s gone from his eyes. Likely he’s just as worried as Googe, just as annoyed as Erb. “Now, I’m not going to lie to two intelligent sophisticated young women such as yourselves. We are, in fact, a little lost. But that’s what happens when you party all night, strike it rich, and keep the party going until the sun comes up. Ride hard and put them away wet, you know what I’m saying?”
I smile to myself. Nice one, Papa Chub. Make us sound like interesting crazy dudes, and not shockingly incompetent.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It’s about horses originally,” Erb says to no one in particular. Still, the girls’ attentions snap towards him, and eyes of the younger looking of the two (by which I mean she might be nineteen and not twenty) light up.
“You know about horses?” she asks, her voice rising in excitement. Papa Chub is forgotten, at least temporarily, and he does not look pleased by this.
Erb blinks in surprise. “Uh, yeah, some. My family has a few. My little sisters ride.”
“Oh, my God, I love horses! They’re such beautiful creatures! It’s sad that they don’t exist in the wild anymore, don’t you think?”
Erb smiles. It’s a sincere, guileless smile, the smile of a man who’s set aside the wall of distance and indifference he’s erected around himself because he’s found something that’s comfortable and familiar to engage with instead. It’s not Googe’s hopeful grin. It’s not Papa Chub’s predatory smirk. It’s just the smile of a man with a surprising amount of opinions about equines and a willing and captive audience.
Googe stands on listening as Erb and the girls discuss ungulates. Papa Chub, meanwhile, slides along the periphery of the group and back towards me. He’s got an unhappy look on his face, probably due to the sudden attention Erb’s getting and the fact that we’ve been utterly lost for a good thirty minutes at this point. “Dude,” he hisses once he draws close enough. “What are we doing?”
“We’re trying to find the express elevator back to the villa. Come on, man. Try and keep up.”
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and opens them before speaking again. “Okay, let’s try that again. Why haven’t we found it yet?”
“Because due to a combination of drunkeness and inattentiveness, we have no idea where it is. But I kind of remember it being by bathrooms.”
“There are bathrooms everywhere.”
“Yeah.” I stare at the wall and frown, but the seed of an idea has been planted in my mind. “But how many of them have dead ends that go just a little bit past them?” I mutter mostly to myself.
“No time for small talk! I’ve got to act on my great idea!” I push my way through the group, nudging aside Erb and the girls with my shoulders and stand before the wall. The surface is perfectly uniform, the wallpaper identical to the kind everywhere else in the Libretto’s lobby (subdued and classy and probably carefully chosen because the pattern makes the human brain five-percent less risk-averse or something.) Still, I am confident that the elevator we’ve been seeking for so long is here. I’m certain of it. Some gesture, some spoken command, some hidden button will reveal the way forward.
This kind of random, unfounded certainty is probably a sign of insanity, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m rich. That means I’m eccentric, not insane.