The elevator door opens with a pleasant chime and an almost imperceptible hiss, partially because of how soft the noise actually is and partially because of the loud insistent hum that filled the air of the villa.
“What the Hell is that?” Googe asks. Erb and I look at him, at each other, shrug. Papa Chub is doing his best to ignore the noise and focus his attention on the girls instead, but the infrequent glances away from the girls, glances where his expression changes from humor and good-natured flirting to outright irritation, betray his true feelings.
Just as we step out of the elevator, the girls looking a bit nervous, a shout of pain splits the air. “Goddamn! Son of a bitch!”
“Monk?” I say, instantly moving forward, pushing aside the girls and the boys alike. I’m out of the elevator and through the miniature lobby or foyer or whatever the hell the brochure would call it and moving towards the living room. “Monk!” The buzzing is louder, more insistent, like the humming of angry insects. Maybe it’s my imagination or adrenaline, but the villa smells of blood and electricity, of pain and suffering. My heart is racing in my chest. The inanity of the woman in the bikini, the girls in the elevator, the boys in the lobby, the drugs, the money, almost everything (but not the woman in white, no, never her) is forgotten for a moment. My hands tighten into fists, into iron balls at the ends of my arm, into ill-conceived weapons, and a weapon exists to be used. I don’t know what unspeakable horror has befallen my friend, but I’m ready to leap on it with a manic and hateful glee. As anxious as I am in this moment, I’m relieved. I have purpose. Somewhere in the villa is an enemy I can understand, a fiend that I can vent all of my frustration and tension and uncertainty and neuroses on.
“Oh, are you guys back?” Monk shouts, and his voice is so calm and collected and mundane, that I find myself literally skidding to a halt on the tastefully appointed marble floor of the villa. He’s sitting half-naked at the kitchen table accompanied by a man I’ve never seen before, perhaps ten years older than us with pale skin and long dark hair combed back and black dress pants and a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up and revealing arms covered in tattoos. There’s something in his hands that’s buzzing like a wasp, and he’s drawing it across the left side of Monk’s chest, his collarbone. Dark ink and inflamed skin stretching from Monk’s shoulder down to his elbow mark the path the man’s machine has already taken.
Monk’s eyes brighten when he sees me. He grins, looking genuinely joyful at the prospect of being reunited with his friends. I hear footsteps echoing off the floor behind me, the gasps from my friends, the comparative silence from the girls, and upon seeing us all assembled before him, Monk shouts over the din of the machine, “Guys! I’m getting that tattoo I always wanted!”
Silence greets his proclamation, but if this bothers Monk, he doesn’t show it in the slightest. Seconds stretch on into eternity until finally Papa Chub, who has known Monk longer than any of us and is therefore the most qualified to say what we’re all thinking, speaks.
“Dude,” he says, and his voice is flat and neutral, a tone reserved for commenting on the awe-inspiring: a beautiful sunset, the birth of a child, the tragic death of a loved one, a childhood home burning to the ground. “Dude. Monk. Your wife is going to fucking kill you.”