The Beast, Pt. 71 (Chapter 18b)

We kick open the door of the villa like we’re a bunch of cops raiding the place. It’s largely an empty gesture; the locks are keyed to our biometrics and the door opened as we approached it. It’s entirely possible the thing would have opened on its own if we’d simply waited for a few seconds. But waiting is a form of oppression, and we will not be oppressed. Rather, we will impress, and so long as the women are still laughing and smiling and rolling their eyes good-naturedly, the universe will continue turning like a music box tuned to the whims of the God of Bros and Good Times.

There’s a catered spread on the dining room table awaiting us. Meats and cheeses and snacks and sweets and ever more drinks. There’s a little note on the edge of the table, white paper folded in half, the Libretto’s logo, tasteful embossing. “Enjoy, boys! We get off work at 1. If you’re throwing a party, we’d better get an invite,” and then a drawing of a winking face, a name, a number. I show it to Papa Chub and ask him, “Hey, who the Hell is this?”

He looks at it for only a moment before glancing back at me, disbelief playing across his drunken features. “The chef from earlier, man.”

“Oh. I didn’t get her name.”

“How did you not get her name?”

“I don’t know. I’m bad with names.”

He rolls his eyes at that. “You’re only bad with names when you don’t care.”

I purse my lips in irritation. “Hey, I care. I care tons. I care so much–”

One of Googe’s triplets slides in between us, a cigar held to her lips. “Hey, can one of you gentlemen give me a light?” and I’m spinning on my heels, looking for a lighter of some sort on the table (there’s actually a butane chef’s torch nestled amongst the sweets for reasons I will never understand.) I light the cigar, encourage her to turn it between her fingers and take puffs rather than just stick the end into the fire. It’s lit, she says thank you, I smile guilelessly, turn back to Papa Chub.

“Wait, what were you saying?”

“Nothing, man. Absolutely nothing.”

In between sips and nibbles, one of the three daughters asks what we’re going to do next. Monk says, “Well, earlier we were playing this game, Matchstick Corbo. We could do that again.”

The daughter, the blonde, frowns. “Like, a board game? I’m not really in the mood for board games.” Her expression changes suddenly, becomes something so bright it’s like being blasted with a floodlight. “Let’s put on some music! Our friends should be here soon.”

Googe and I set about locating the sound system for the villa, setting it to pump music into the main rooms, trying to come up with a playlist of modern danceable stuff and older, more classical songs. Distantly I hear Monk tell the others that they should invite the girls we were hanging out with in the day, Papa Chub responding with, “I’m working on it, I’m working on it.” There is a knock at the door. The villa announces the arrival of more guests.

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