When it comes to putting food on the table in the PI business, a good reputation is like a good fedora: absolutely indispensable. It’s not good investigator etiquette to sling mud. But I would be making a grave mistake to avoid the blame here. It was me. Let the papers—Misc, Weekly Squat, Chronicle, Helicon—know. I bit the bullet and chipped my tooth; I ran the race and tripped halfway; I made huge mistakes.
My first mistake: I followed a false lead.
I figured out I was being led on during my flight. There I was on yet another plane, ticket courtesy of The Oxford Surf Team. I told them I needed funding for a flight and would sail the ocean blue on my surfboard. They weren’t sure where I was going, but seeing as how they’re a Surfing Society in the middle of England, they didn’t hang their hat on knowing which geographies were conducive to water sports. I told their exec board I was about to make it big as a pro-surfer in the states, in surf-central Poughkeepsie, New York. They wanted an affiliation before I became a world-famous wave-rider. Surf’s up.
My real plan was to follow the jewel to Europe. I got this intelligence from some hack in the Diogenes Club in London who always smoked a pipe and reminded his friend about elementary school or something like that. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Anyways, he said I should check out Europe before I went back to the States. Since he seemed to be a pretty serious detective—and I respect serious, hard-hitting investigation (after all, that’s why I send these updates to The Miscellany News)—I took his advice. He must’ve been talking about that jewel, right?
Just in case you forgot, that jewel was the reason I left my Poughkeepsie home (my office, my permanent Thursday evening Bacio’s reservation, my Tai Chi class that meets in front of Jewett). The Vassar bigwigs wanted it back, and they were blackmailing me to get it. Read my first letter to know that story.
But back to me screwing up. I had my Oxford Surfing Society ticket booked to the Czech Republic. That was the country this detective from London told me to check out for jewels. I would get off the plane, ask some Europeans about any jewels they’ve heard about, maybe if any of them had ever picked their feet in Poughkeepsie—my usual PI shtick. Ten minutes after reaching cruising altitude, I realized that Holmes hack wanted to get his claws on the jewel. He must’ve sent me off to Europe to take it himself!
I got off the plane and tried to ask for a return ticket to England. This flight was an accident and I wanted a do-over. The Czech ticket salespersons were incredibly rude and suggested that I buy another ticket. Another ticket! I wanted a do-over; it wasn’t fair.
This was my second mistake. A good PI never lets their emotions get the best of them. I threw a teeny tiny temper tantrum and ended up in a Czech jail for the night. I could write about that jail for pages and pages, but I’ll save that for the memoirs. On the plus side, no hotel fees.
Upon leaving the jail I was accosted by people speaking an unfamiliar language. I had no idea what was going on, and I wanted out.
I wandered around Prague until my extremities almost froze off. I rested in the lobby of a hostel advertising very strong absinthe, where I found three costumed kids that looked pretty familiar. A bit too familiar.
These were some of the Vassar “study-abroad” students that had been snooping around Oxford, looking for the same jewel as me. I had a heavy beard from my brief stint in jail, so I accosted them with a greeting that would prove I shared an institutional affiliation.
“Your costumes are heteronormative.”
They looked at each other and told me that I used the term incorrectly. This was proof that I spent time around the Vassar campus. I told them to spill the beans. Why were they here? What were they doing in costume?
They decided to come clean to avoid my feared interrogation techniques. They traveled in costume to avoid suspicion. (It hadn’t worked well; immigration and customs did not take kindly to masks.) They did not know where they were. But they had a few hidden gems of information about this jewel. Word from sources around Rockefeller Hall said there might be a connection with Cappy’s absence and the jewel. The agents I had just encountered were searching for her across Europe. But they had just received notice that the Capster was on her way to Oxford.
All the pieces were coming together. Vassar loses a valuable jewel. The current Vassar President goes on “sabbatical.” Six Vassar “students” (espionage majors) happen to “study abroad” at the same city and institution as her. Instead of taking classes they “write essays” where they meet alone with “tutors” (Vassar informants) once a week.
If this ain’t clear as daylight, I’ll spell it out real slow. Vassar spies were stalking the President who stole the jewel. Yet things weren’t how they wanted them to be. Besides the news about Cappy, their bets were coming up short—no progress on the jewel location front.
They needed a PI’s help. So for the price of a ticket from the Czech Republic to England, I set a trap. Everyone who knows anything about Vassar knows that Cappy has a weakness for scones, clotted cream, and finger sandwiches. Just think about it. Why do we have none of those things at the Deece? It’s obviously because Cappy takes them all (this is why I’m a PI). What’s more than that, we were in England living under English law—if she refused an invitation to tea, that would be impolite, which is a felony in England. We set the bait: fancy high tea at a hotel.
The afternoon started. Everything was going to plan. The cream was clotted, the scones baked, the jam strawberry.
I started thinking more about the case.
Maybe the jewel wasn’t some shmancy diamond. Maybe it was more metaphorical. Maybe the jewel of Vassar was a person. A person who just recently left Poughkeepsie. A person who was traveling to Oxford for a semester. A person who some people at the college wanted back. Maybe the jewel of Vassar was Cappy.
“No, wait, that’s stupid,” I thought to myself as I snatched Cappy’s purse, making my third mistake. It had been my plan all along to strike when those other Vassar “students” weren’t suspecting it so I could bring back the jewel alone. Everyone was paying attention to the clot of the cream and I made one quick swipe. I ran out of the hotel with six Vassar flunkies and their President chasing me and yelling for the police.
As I ran, I reached into the purse to find the jewel. I found a nail file as sharp as a dagger, $14,000 in cash, electric-blue lipstick, and a small gold-plated revolver. And no jewel. Cappy had never stolen the jewel. Maybe Holmes had gotten ahold of it? I wasn’t sure, but I was out of luck and time now. No one wants to be on the bad side of a College President who packs heat. I knew I had to get out of the country, and fast. Cappy was not the forgiving sort. I can only imagine what sort of fate befalls dissenters in administrative meetings.
Which brings me to my last mistake: sending an update to the college whose President and minions are chasing me. This will be my last blog post. Whether I end up in Poughkeepsie again, and under what circumstances, is only for the big PI in the sky to know. I might never find that jewel—at this point I barely care. I’m running now. I can’t say where. The only thing I can say is that I won’t be back in Oxford—the city that never sleeps (because it’s up studying)—for a long time.