The Fabrication (Part II)

Despite the vast interiors of the castle, it lacked a main lobby. The check-in desk was concealed at the end of a narrow, twisting corridor. She stepped quickly but could not keep with her new husband’s pace.

The humidity of the passageway released an odor of mold and mineral, like a murky riverbed. Roughly hewn stone walls snagged at her coat, attempting to detain her.

She picked at the hole in her sleeve. The down filling did not escape because it was polyester. No wonder she had been so cold.

“Chateau Esprit D’Escalier—does it mean anything?â€? she asked the desk clerk as he presented the room key in a small, red velvet pouch.

“Madame, it is a clever response,â€? he explained, “that you realize only after the heat of an argument.â€? The guidebook had made no mention of the expression.

Joe bent over to pick up the bags, dismissing a bellhop he didn’t feel compelled to tip. “The wit of the staircase,â€? he added.

“Oui,â€? said the clerk, “a very long one, monsieur.â€?

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