Nathan Tauger | Oxford, England | Post 2

Nathan Tauger | Oxford, England | Post 2

The Usual Suspects

For the short of mind, allow me to sum up the story thus far. I’m a PI—hard-boiled, etc—in a bad spot in a foreign country with limited options to crack the case, get the dame, and save my skin. How’d I get there? Like I said in my last brief reflection, I had just arrived in Oxford, England to retrieve some kind of treasure stolen from my home turf of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I got to work immediately and found out that a few suspects were traveling to the Ashmolean museum…


I knew my fair share of memorable characters back in Poughkeepsie—the sort that make you wish you were born with eyes behind your back, and maybe an extra nose, too. I once had to cool down a nearly spicy situation between the Bacio’s boys and a rugby gorilla; I’ve fallen out of love and into heartbreak on the floor of Matthew’s Mug with the sweetest siren that side of the Atlantic; hell, I’ve had some close calls with Noyes Wellness. The Vassar folk that escaped to the Queen’s country are something else, though; from the start, there was something shady about each of them—a jewel-thief kind of shady.

‘Til one of them slipped up, I had to ease my way into their world. First, I had to make them all comfortable. I knew they were heavy into the brains, but I never met an owner of a medulla oblongata who snubs the day of rest at a museum. My first week here and I leave the Friday night pub dames to the Brits. What can I say? Sacrifice is part of the package when you’re a PI.


A step through the door of this place and it’s like I fell into some movie-esque time machine. We weren’t in Poughkeepsie anymore, but the Ashmolean didn’t feel too unlike the Villard room after one too many berry rumbas—a lot of uncomfortable-looking folk dressed in bed sheets with underbrush in their hair.

Bas-Relief commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Insanity Extreme Home Workout ®, estimated 250 B.C.E.
Bas-Relief commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Insanity Extreme Home Workout ®, estimated 250 B.C.E.

Around all these brawny stone fellas that made a PI want to stop deleting his “In the Pink” emails and cut down on Julie’s blueberry crumble, I chatted up the first suspect.

Jessie Classic ‘14 majored in Economics and GRST back in Poughkeepsie. She acted relaxed and friendly, especially when it came up that I was also a Vassar expat. She couldn’t play it coy enough for me, though; I could tell she was ruthless, trying to size me up for the quick con. Forty-five seconds into that conversation, my hand found my wallet and didn’t leave it ’til she was more than a javelin’s throw away. Her alibi for skipping the pond was to meet the stone gents surrounding us. She yapped on for a while about some ancient history, Cuneiform B, but I kept the conversation going like I knew my stuff. I told her that I learned a bit of Latin growing up, and she wanted to converse. I said, “isthay tupidsay idkay,” and she stormed off like I had offended her or something. Some stuffed head at Vassar used to greet me with the phrase—probably has something to do with good looks.

Jess Classic posing in front of the labors of Hercules.
Jess posing in front of the labors of Hercules.

Lady luck finally threw me a break: I found the next suspect eyeing up some porcelain.


Oriental Eddie says he spent last semester in China and knows nothing about jewels or Vassar. Likely story. This character has a bit of a reputation as a Jewett, a drifter, a wanderer—that sort who would easily turn to the jewel-thieving kind of life if the price was right. He looked the part of a European. Had a scarf and a jacket that screamed, “Condescend on Uncle Sam”. His clothes couldn’t keep the rest of the body cool, though—the look on his mug eyeing up the museum’s hard earned treasures was a bit too hungry for me. I began to introduce both myself and my good friend, Mr. Clenched Knuckles.


Before I had the chance to make the acquaintance of my soon-to-be dear friend Edward, I saw a glint of pink-and-grey out of the corner of my eye. Hey, I didn’t get this far in the PI business by tripping over the best clues that fall in my lap, and I followed the hunch. I don’t know how for long or how far, but I was on that light’s trail like white on rice. Next thing I know, I’m waking up bruised and cold in a real seedy Underground. My vision’s all blurry, but I still make out a few shapes—most of which make me wish I were still unconscious.


In a pinch, my wits never let me down, so I followed my intuition (and a green “Exit” sign) to freedom. The pink-and-grey light was nowhere to be seen, nor were the two characters I met earlier. Shaken and upset, I shuffled back to Oxford, stopping at a few pubs in between. After making it back to my home-base, I calmed my nerves and devised a plan.

I remembered the oldest PI trick in the book: imagine yourself as the jewel thief and ask, “I’m the jewel thief. What would I do right now?” One obvious answer appeared: tour Europe. I grabbed my travel necessities, suitcase, and a book of stogies, and made my way to the first streetcar I saw. Next thing I know, I hear, “Fasten seatbelts, please,” and I’m half asleep—always with one eye open—40,000 feet above the old country.

I had slipped up big-time.

Next time: Europe, revelations, and the hidden in plain sites.

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