"Whatta Man"

The best predators don't lie on the jungle floor with their teeth bared and claws out. The prey is going to avoid them. They approach the prey slowly and harmlessly, win its trust, and then attack.

At least, that's what Sin told me. He facetiously called it Sin Method.

Though Mystery had flown back to Toronto after the workshop, I stayed in touch with Sin. I'd watch as a woman came over to his house for the first time and he'd throw her against the wall by her neck, then release her just before he kissed her, shooting her adrenaline level through the roof with equal parts fear and arousal. Then he'd cook her dinner and never speak a word about it until dessert, when he'd stare at her like a tiger eying its prey and say, in a tone of restrained lust, "You don't even want to know the things I'm thinking of doing to you right now." That was generally the point when I'd excuse myself to go home.

Along with the sneakier Grimble, the more predatory Sin became a faithful wing. But our friendship didn't last long. One afternoon, after a sarging session at the Beverly Center mall, Sin informed me that he'd enrolled in the Air Force as an officer.

"The military is a steady paycheck," he explained as we sat in a mall cafe. "And I can live wherever I want. I've been an unemployed computer programmer for too long."

I tried to talk him out of it. Sin was into astral projection, goth rock, S and M, and pickup. He would have to hide all that if he joined the military. But his mind was made up. "I was talking to Mystery about you," he said, leaning low over the metal latticework of the table. His tone, as always, was deadly serious. "He wants to schedule his next workshop in December. Since I'm not going to be around to wing him, he wants you to do it."

As I thought of another weekend with Mystery and all his secrets, like the triple-stacked patterns he used to move girls to tears, I tried to control the excitement in my voice. "I think I'll be free," I said.

Out of all the potential pickup artists in the world, I couldn't believe that Mystery was choosing me. He must not know that many people.

There was just one small problem: I wasn't going to be fee in December. I'd booked a flight to Belgrade to visit Marko, the schoolmate who had introduced me to Dustin and his natural ways. It was too late to cancel on Marko, but there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to wing Mystery either.

There had to be a solution.

That night, I called Mystery in Toronto, where he was living with his parents, his two nieces, his sister, and her husband.

"Hey, buddy," Mystery said when he answered. "I'm bored out of my mind here."

"I find that hard to believe."

"Well, it's raining and I want to go out. But I have no one to go out with and no clue where to go." He paused to tell his nieces to shut up. "I'll probably just get some sushi alone."

I'd assumed that the great Mystery would have girls lined up every night of the week and a wait-list of sargers eager to take him out clubbing. Instead, he was stagnating at home. His father was sick. His mother was overburdened. And his sister was separating from her husband.

"Can't you go out with Patricia?" I asked. Patricia was Mystery's girlfriend, the one pictured in her negligee in his pickup resume.

"She's mad at me," he said. Mystery had met Patricia four years ago, when she was fresh off the boat from Romania. He tried to mold her into his ideal girl—he talked her into getting a boob job, giving him blow jobs (which she'd never done before), and taking a job as a stripper—but she drew the line at bisexuality. For Mystery, this was a dealbreaker.

Everyone has their own reason for getting into the game. Some, like Ex-tramask, are virgins who want to experience what it's like to be with a woman. Others, like Grimble and Twotimer, desire new girls every night. And a few, like Sweater, are searching for the perfect wife. Mystery had his own specific goal.

"I want to be loved by two women," he said. "I want a blonde 10 and an Asian 10, who will love each other as much as they love me. And Patricia's heterosexuality is affecting my sex life with her, because unless I imagine another girl there, I can't always keep my boner." He moved the phone to another room because his sister and her husband were arguing, and continued, "I'd just break up with Patricia, but there aren't any 10s in Toronto. No outrageous glitter girls. It's all 7s, at best."

"Move to LA," I urged. "This is where all the peacocky girls you like live."

"Yeah, I really need to get out of here," he sighed. "So I want to schedule a bunch of workshops. I've got people interested in Miami, Chicago, and New York."

"How about Belgrade?"

"What? Isn't there a war going on there?"

"No, the war's over. And I have to visit an old friend. He said it's safe. We can stay with him for free, and Slavic women are supposed to be the most beautiful in the world."

He hesitated.

"And I have a free companion ticket."

Silence. He was considering it.

I pushed further. "What the hell. It's an adventure. At the very worst, you'll have a new picture for your photo routine."

Mystery thought like a flowchart. And if he agreed to something, his assent was given instantly and always with the same word, which he spoke next: "Done."

"Great," I said. "I'll e-mail you the flight times." I couldn't wait for the six hour plane ride. I wanted to vacuum every piece of knowledge—every magic trick, every pickup line, every story—out of his head. I wanted to mimic exactly what I'd seen him do, word for word, trick for trick, simply because it worked.

"But wait," he said. "There's something else."


"If you're going to be my wing, you can't be Neil Strauss," he said with the same air of finality with which he had spoken the word done. "It's time for you to change, to just snap and become someone else. Think about it: Neil Strauss, writer. That isn't cool. Nobody wants to sleep with a writer. They're at the bottom of the social ladder. You must be a superstar. And not just with women. You are an artist in need of an art. And I think your art is actually the social skills you're learning. I watched you in the field; you adapted quickly. That's why Sin and I picked you. Hold on a minute."

I heard him rustling through some papers. "Listen," he said. "These are my personal development goals. I want to raise the money for a touring illusion show. I want to live in posh hotels. I want a limo to and from shows. I want specials on TV with big illusions. I want to levitate over Niagara

Falls. I want to travel to England and Australia. I want jewelry, games, a model airplane, a personal assistant, a stylist. And I want to act in Jesus Christ Superstar—as Jesus."

At least he knew what he wanted in life. "What I'm really after," he finally said, "is for people to be envious of me, for women to want me and men to want to be me."

"You never got much love as a child, did you?"

"No," he replied sheepishly.

At the end of the conversation, he said he was going to e-mail me the password to a secret online community called Mystery's Lounge. He had created Mystery's Lounge two years before, after an enterprising bartender he'd slept with in Los Angeles found an Internet post he'd written about her on a public seduction newsgroup. After spending a weekend poring through the rest of his online archive, she e-mailed Mystery's girlfriend, Patricia, and told her about her boyfriend's extracurricular activities. The fallout nearly destroyed his relationship, and in the process taught him that there was a downside to being a pickup artist: getting caught.

Unlike the other seduction boards I had been reading, where hundreds of newbies were constantly begging for advice from just a few experts, Mystery had cherry-picked the best pickup artists in the community for his private forum. Here they not only shared their secrets, stories, and techniques, but also posted pictures of themselves and their women—even, on occasion, video and audio recordings of their exploits in the field.

"But remember," Mystery said sternly. "You are no longer Neil Strauss. When I see you in there, I want you to be someone else. You need a seduction name," He paused and reflected: "Styles?"

"How about Style?" That was one thing I prided myself on: I may never have been socially comfortable, but at least I knew how to dress better than those who were.

"Style it is. Mystery and Style."

Yes, it was Mystery and Style giving a workshop. It had a nice ring to it. Style the pickup artist—teaching lovable losers how to meet the women of their dreams.

But as soon as I hung up, I realized something: First, Style needed to teach himself. After all, it had only been a month since my workshop with Mystery. I still had a long way to go.

It was time for a motherfucking change.


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