Hey there. Chuck Barriano, Private Eye.
I’ve been doing some contract work lately. Anscombe Society stuff. It’s not just handing out flyers. There’s undercover work going on too. And to do it, they hired me. Why? Cause I’m the best in the biz, that’s why. I’ve been preventing hookups since you were wearing diapers, kid. I’m a professional. They call me “The Blocker.”
Anyways, at about ten o’clock on a Saturday two months ago, I get a call. No name. The voice asked, “Is this The Blocker?” I said, “You bet your mother’s biscuits it is.” He said, “McCosh 10, eleven, be there.” Then he hung up. I figured some extra dough might be a better way to spend my Saturday than the usual — watching some How It’s Made and calling it a night — so I got myself together and walked over to McCosh, interested in finding out who in the hell had called me.
Mysterious rendez-vous aren’t all that uncommon in a P.I.’s life, but I wasn’t prepared for the scene that greeted me in the lec- ture hall. I entered the dim room to see fifteen people in hooded cloaks with A’s on the chests. It was enough to spook a beat cop. “You all aren’t—”
“We’re not St. As,” one of the hooded figures replied.
“Well then who the hell are you, see?”
“We are all members of a certain society; you may have heard of us. We…morally advise our fellow undergraduates. We seek to set them on the righteous path.”
“So what do you want with me?”
“We’re interested in your…unique skillset. You seem more capable of ending hookups before they begin than anyone we’ve observed on this campus in four years — or in Dan’s case, five.”
“Hey, I — ”
“Shut up, Dan. We want to employ your services to that end. Chuck, will you help us protect the undergraduates from lives of vice, sin and unfulfilling short-term relationships?”
He wrote a number on a piece of paper and passed it to me. I’m not a particularly religious man, but when I saw their offer — and I mean this was an offer — I couldn’t say no. For that kind of money you can call me the Holy Father. Hell, for that kind of money I’d be the Holy Father.
“You will be assigned hookup prevention cases the night-of, with a bonus for every casual hookup prevented. That is all.”
So, I was on the case.
In Ivy it was White Night, yes, but outside it was dark—so dark it’d make the boogeyman nervous. There I was, standing under a streetlight on the Street, smoking my last cigarette and thinking about the beatdown I’d just gotten in pool.
And then, there she was, in all white, a blonde looking hotter than the griddle at a house of pancakes and more vulnerable than a bunny rabbit. And then, there he was, wearing a wife-beater, with “hookup culture” written all over his big, smug mug. They started talking. They knew each other. They were getting along well, and I followed them real quietly as they strolled back towards the Slums.
When a P.I. spends his life working on the Street, he gets a funny kind of… sixth sense. So maybe it was just the drunken grin she gave him, or the fact that her hands were down his pants rubbing his Sugar Ray Robinsons, but somehow I knew—I just knew—that something or someone was about to go down. And I knew that I had to stop it.
So I ran up and booted all over her. Case closed.
The P.I. Goes to T.I.
Thursday. Or as the kids call it, Thirsty Thursday. I hadn’t been feeling great, and by 9 p.m. I had a headache that’d make a man glad to have his cranium in a vice. But I had work to do. I’d just gotten my second assignment.
My contact told me he could get me into Tiger Inn under a false name. Turning that down’d be like a fat man turning down a ticket to the Chimppugenwak County Fair. I knew I needed to get out of my rut and get going. I headed over to the Street and walked up to the T.I. bouncers. I handed over my pass and my friend’s prox. “I don’t think so, man,” said one of the bouncers as he pushed me away with arms as big as Babe Ruth’s belly. I knew I needed another plan.
A few desperate texts and an hour of walking later, I was back at T.I. with a blonde wig. Head down, twisting my hair like a schoolgirl, I stepped up to the door. “Domingo” — my contact had told me about him — “I lost my pass. Please, please, friend….” He puffed his cigar, looked at me with his handsome eyes, and then nodded his head. I was in.
Right away, something gave me the heebie-jeebies. The air was heavy with sweat, and I heard loud music pumping from the basement. I followed the sounds and smells down the stairs.
I didn’t know where to begin. I tried yelling, pushing and grabbing, but I couldn’t distinguish myself from all the other fellas doing the same damned thing. And when I stepped between an athletic undergrad and his newfound lady, well thatmadehimaboutasmadasacatina hornet’s nest. Soon I was running for it. I don’t think he followed me out of the club, but I couldn’t be sure, so I sprinted to the place I’d be safer from a big, muscular man than anywhere else on campus: the library.
I needed a place to hide. I ran down to the stacks. Gradually, I noticed a noise that sounded a lot like lips smacking. Like any good P.I., I was curious. I snooped around the corner and saw two students going at it like dogs in heat. I had to think of something. I remembered … She kissed me, so I told her I loved her and she had nice gazongas. She never responded to my texts again.
“I love you,” I said, hidden. The girl looked up at him. “Ew, what? I barely know you….” She stormed off. I had done my job, but the night left me with more questions than a big-city newsman. Why were these people making out in a library?
About a week later, I got wind of an event in Cap & Gown that I needed to go to worse than a hog needs hay: Capmandu. My contact explained what went on over the phone and I got my disguise ready for the evening. Wearing leather pants and an unbuttoned white shirt, I hoped I’d blend right in.
Capmandu was steamy and crowded, and more low-down than a — well, no, it basically was a strip joint. I figured right away there wasn’t much a fella could do to keep the kids off each other, so I got creative. I did something I had done during my first Frosh Week. First, I drank like a man who’d just crossed the desert with bad knees. The beer kept coming and coming. At one point — I’m not quite sure when — someone came up to me and whispered, “I’m going to be bored at Firestone.” I was too drunk to think much of it at the time, so I didn’t, and I kept drinking.
Eventually I assume my plan worked, because I woke up in PMC the next morning to the sound of “Sh-boom, sh-boom,” my ringtone. The voice on the other end would’ve been visibly excited if I could’ve seen it. “Cap was closed down last night when they took you to the hospital. Congratulations, Chuck. You took hookup prevention to a whole new level. The society is impressed, so we’ve decided to give you a thirty percent bonus. Enjoy.” Altogether, not a bad night.
Princetowhat Just Happened?
Every P.I. has nights when the sheer quantity of work to be done, and the knowledge he can’t do all of it, makes him, well, blue. Incidentally my costume was a blue morphsuit. Nice and anonymous, like a good grey fedora.
I don’t have friends, so I pregamed alone in my single and then headed
out to the Street. For most students, Princetoween is a night of wild revelry and vice. For me, it’s a night of hard work. I saw some girls run by dressed in plastic wrap. This was going to be a tough one.
I walked to the Street. Tonight’s assignments: Cannon, Terrace and Cloister. I expected to see a lot that night. I expected debauchery that’d make a cathouse madame cry, but I’m not sure I expected to see so much skin. It would’ve taken every damned tailor in the state of New Jersey to cover up the girls on the Street that night.
I also didn’t expect that I’d be dragged away from the street so quickly. Within half an hour, I was following a couple back to campus on account of they were dry humping harder than a couple of chimps trying to start a family. But they led me in a direction that threw me off. I followed them right into Firestone. They headed downstairs to a classroom that should’ve been empty. Instead, the room was full of people hooking up. I was hiding behind a shelf, trying to come up with a plan, when I heard a familiar voice whisper in my ear. “We were bored.” I turned around, but whoever it was had already run off. I locked eyes with a student who had apparently seen me. It was all over. Time to go. I know when I’m outnumbered. I sprinted back to my room.
A Final Meeting
That Sunday night, I got a call. “McCosh 10. Now.” Click. My heart dropped. He sounded concerned, and when your boss is concerned you oughta be concerned too.
I got to McCosh 10, and I could sense right away things were tense. Well, not right away, because they were all wearing hoods that concealed their faces, but, you know, quickly.
The leader said, “Chuck, we appreciate the work you’ve done for the society, but some things must be left alone.” I was at a loss. “Chuck, what you have seen in Firestone, what you discovered there—you must never speak of this. We are buying you out of your contract and you are hereby dismissed. Good evening.”
Figures. This one went right to the top. But I didn’t question it. Chuck Barriano doesn’t question things like that, because Chuck Barriano knows who butters the bread. My stint for Anscombe was over, and that was that. I walked back to my room and hung my hat and coat up by the door. Time for some How It’s Made.
– MSS ’17. Illustrated by AZ ’16.