Pump Buying

ALL THE GIRLS LINE UP HERE, ALL THE BOYS ON THE OTHER SIDE. I SEE YOUR RANKS ARE ADVANCING. I SEE MINE ARE LEFT BEHIND.

"The Story"

The first night, we all sat in the Jacuzzi from midnight until the skin hung loosely from our bodies, gazing at the palm trees of our new place and the lights of the Hollywood clubs we would soon descend upon. Mystery sang the entire soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar to the night sky. Papa told us about his plan to use the house for A-list Hollywood parties. And Herbal served watermelon drinks from his blender. There were no girls, and we didn't need any to validate us. Tonight, it was just the boys. We had done it. Project Hollywood was not just a fantasy anymore.

"We'll make the house famous with our public exploits," Mystery predicted as we all sat there with smiles plastered to our faces. "People will drive by and say, 'This was the home of the Hollywood celebrities Style, Mystery, Papa, and Herbal. They built their careers here and had parties that were the envy of the world.'"

Herbal was our fourth roommate. He was a tall, pale, even-tempered twenty-two-year-old PUA from Austin who peacocked by painting his nails silver and wearing all-white clothing. Like the rest of us, he was a reformed geek. But he owned a house in Texas, a Mercedes Benz S600, a Rolex, an office on Sunset Boulevard that he never went to, and a robot vacuum cleaner. They were impressive holdings for someone his age. He had earned them in some kind of shady casino operation, in which he hired others to gamble for him. In his spare time—which was basically all his time—he explored caves, recorded extremely catchy rap songs, and surfed the Internet for unusual items to buy and then never use.

Mystery insisted that everyone in the home have an identity—so we had a magician, a writer, a gambler, and a businessman. It was a combination that would prove more dramatic than the most sensationalist reality show.

A few days later, Papa moved a fifth roommate, Playboy, into the maid's room. Playboy was a party promoter from New York who earned my admiration when he told me he'd worked for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He was genetically good-looking—tall and slender with thick black hair—but he had a bad habit of wearing long artsy scarves and pants pulled up to his belly button. He had quit his job to move in with us, so Papa hired him to work for Real Social Dynamics in exchange for rent.

Then there was Xaneus. He lived in a tent in the backyard.

Xaneus was a short, stocky, fresh-faced college soccer player from Colorado who had begged to live in the house. He said he'd sleep anywhere and do anything. So Papa pitched a tent for him, asked him to pay for utilities and house cleaning, and brought him into the Real Social Dynamics fold as an intern.

For the first two weeks, all we did was marvel at the house. We'd done it; we had beaten the system. We had the most desirable location in West Hollywood. And we had lucked out with our roommates. Herbal had already scheduled a Pickup Artist Summit—the first annual—to take place in our house in a month.

At our initial house meeting, we established a structure for Project Hollywood, putting Papa in charge of social activities and Herbal in charge of finances. Then we laid down the rules: No unapproved house-guests for more than a month; anyone conducting a seminar in the living room has to give the house fund a ten percent kickback; and no sarging women another PUA has brought into the house. All these rules would soon be broken.

I initially enjoyed living with roommates, leaving my introverted writer's world and being part of a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts. Every morning, I'd wake up and see Herbal and Mystery pitching quarters into an ice bucket in the middle of the living room or jumping off a stepladder into a pile of pillows. They were like two kids in search of a playground.

"I have a feeling that you and I are going to become great friends," Mystery told Herbal one morning.

When Playboy threw our first house party, five hundred people showed up. We were setting a great example—maybe not to the neighbors, but at least to the community. Within a month, we had franchised.

A group of PUAs moved into Herbal's old house and christened it Project Austin.

Some of our former students in San Francisco rented a five-bedroom house in Chinatown and held pickup seminars in their living room, giving birth to Project San Francisco.

Several college students in Perth, Australia, found a house together and started Project Perth, approaching one hundred women in their first three days on campus.

And four PUAs Mystery and I had trained in Sydney rented a beach apartment with an elevator that opened directly into a club below them. This was Project Sydney.

Nobody had understood the potential of this whole pickup community, the bonding power of dudes talking about chicks. We had manicures, we had mansions, and we had game. We were ready to infect the world like a disease.

In my first month at Project Hollywood, entirely by accident, my sexual reality burst open. Just as Mystery's first workshop had opened my eyes to what was possible in a bar, this latest turn of events opened my eyes to what was possible in bed.

And it all happened because Herbal wouldn't let me sleep—for a week straight.

"Have you ever heard of a sleep diet?" Herbal asked as we sat at Mel's Diner one morning. "I discovered it on the Internet."

In his free time, Herbal discovered a lot of things on the Internet: a limousine on eBay he wanted to get for the house, dirt-cheap 1,000-thread-count sheets for our beds, a new and better way to fold shirts, and a business that sold penguins as pets (though when he ordered a penguin for the house, he learned that it was a joke website).

"Basically," he continued, "it's a way to train your body to survive on just two hours of sleep a day."

"How is that?"

"They did scientific research, and instead of sleeping for eight hours every night, what you do is nap for twenty minutes every four hours."

I was tempted. Having six extra hours in the day would give me time to write more, play more, read more, exercise more, go out more, and learn all the other PUA skills I never had time to.

"Is there a catch?"

"Well," Herbal said. "It takes about ten days to adjust to the schedule. And it's not easy. But once you make it over the hump, the naps become totally natural. People say they have more energy, though they also find themselves wanting to drink a lot of juice for some reason."

Just like when Marko suggested driving to Moldova, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I had nothing to lose if it didn't work, except ten days of sleep.

We stocked up on video games and DVDs, and instructed our housemates to help keep us disciplined. Oversleeping or missing even one nap would throw off the entire experiment, and we'd have to start over. As an extra incentive to stay awake, I invited girls to the house each day.

I was seeing about ten different girls now. They were what the PUAs call MLTRs—multiple long-term relationships. Unlike AFCs, I never lied to these girls. They all knew I was seeing other people. And, to my surprise, even if it didn't make all of them happy, none of them left me. One of the most important realizations I'd had in the game came from a Huna self-improvement book that Ross Jeffries had recommended, Mastering Your Hidden Self. It taught me the idea that, "The world is what you think it is." In other words, if you believe that you need to have a harem and having a harem is normal, women will agree to it. It's simply your reality. However, if you want a harem but secretly feel that it's cheating and unethical, you'll never have one.

The only woman who wasn't entirely comfortable with this arrangement was a short, curvy, effervescent Spanish girl named Isabel, who had a habit of twitching her nose like a rat in search of cheese. "I only sleep with one person at a time," she constantly told me. "And I wish you'd do the same."

On the fourth day of the sleep experiment, I invited Hea, the indie-rocker I'd met at Highlands, over to keep me awake. She was tiny, like a Chihuahua, and wore large black spectacles. Yet there was something profoundly sexy about her, as if she were just one glass slipper away from becoming a princess. Potential for beauty is as attractive to most men as actual beauty. When women go out with their hair, makeup, nails, and clothing meticulously arranged, it's equally for the benefit of other women. Men, though they certainly enjoy it, don't require fashion-magazine grooming from a stranger: We have active imaginations. We are constantly stripping every woman naked as well as dressing her up to see if she meets our feminine ideal. Hea, then, was a girl who other women ignored yet every man desired. We saw her potential.

When Hea arrived, Herbal and I greeted her at the door with bloodshot eyes, unshaven faces, and dragging feet. The sleep diet was taking its toll. Our manners and maturity were the first to go. We brought her into Herbal's room, sat her down on the floor, and played video games on the Xbox for an hour to keep ourselves awake.

When the doorbell rang again, I trudged to answer it and found Isabel standing on the doorstep. "I was dancing with some friends at Barfly," she said, nose a-wiggle. "So since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd drop by."

"You know I hate drop-bys." I had always told my MLTRs to call before coming over, in case something like this happened. I sighed and let her in. It seemed rude to turn her away. "But good to see you, I guess."

I brought her into Herbal's room and introduced everyone. Isabel sat on the floor next to Hea. Her intuition tingled. She looked Hea up and down, then asked, "So how do you know Style?"

I had a feeling this wasn't a casual visit but a sneak attack. So I left them alone in the room and went to find Mystery. I was too tired for drama. "Dude," I said. "I'm screwed. Isabel and Hea are catfighting. How do I get rid of one of them?"

"I've got a better idea," he said. "You should threesome them."

"You're joking."

"No. One of my students was telling me about a technique he once used to get a threesome started. You should try it. Just suggest an innocent three-way massage. See what happens."

"Sounds like a gamble." I didn't want another disaster, like the Porcelain TwinZ bathtub incident.

"You're not gambling. You're taking a risk. Gambling is completely random; a risk is calculated. If two girls are at your house listening to you and giving you IOIs, the odds are in your favor that something will happen."

Mystery could be very persuasive. Throughout this whole pickup process, I'd been trying on clothes and behaviors I'd never thought were me. Some of them worked, so I kept them; others didn't, so I discarded them. I decided to take a chance. I was willing to risk losing them.

I dragged my feet back to Herbal's room. "Hey, guys," I told the girls between yawns. "I have to show you these home movies that Mystery and I made. They're hilarious." Inspired by our video of Carly and Caroline in Montreal, Mystery had started filming our trips and adventures, editing them into humorous ten-minute shorts.

I brought them up to my room. I had no chairs there, of course, just a bed. So we all lay on the comforter while I showed them a video Mystery had made of our trip to Australia.

As it ended, I steadied my nerves and took the risk. "I just experienced the most amazing thing," I told the girls. "I went to San Diego and hung out with my friend Steve P., who's a guru and a shaman. And he had two of his students perform what he called a dual-induction massage on me. Their hands were moving in perfect synchronization on my back. And because your conscious mind can't process all those movements, it discon nects and you feel like there are thousands of hands massaging you. It was amazing."

If you describe anything with enthusiasm and congruence, people will want to try it—especially if you don't give them the opportunity to say no.

"Get on your stomach," I told Isabel. Since she was the girl most likely to be jealous, I knew we'd need to massage her first. I kneeled on her right side and positioned Hea on the left, telling her to follow my movements exactly.

When we finished kneading her back, I pulled off my shirt and lay on my stomach. The girls positioned themselves on either side of my back and began massaging me—tentatively at first, then with more confidence. As the two of them leaned over me, their hands tracing circles around my shoulder blades, I could feel the energy in the room begin to charge. The sexual nature of the situation was beginning to dawn on them, if it hadn't already.

This was quite possibly going to work.

When it was Hea's turn, she took off her shirt and lay on her stomach. This time I made the massage more erotic, rubbing her inner thigh and the sides of her breasts.

After her massage, Hea remained on her stomach while Isabel and I kneeled over her. This was the deciding moment. I had to escalate.

I was so nervous my hand started shaking, just like at my humiliating high-school lunch with Elisa. I pulled Isabel's face close to mine and began making out with her. As we kissed, I lowered our bodies until we were practically lying on top of Hea, who was trapped under us. Then I turned Hea's face toward me and began kissing her. She responded. It was working.

I gently pulled Isabel into the kiss. Once Hea and Isabel's lips met, the spark of sexual tension that had hung in the room during the massage exploded. They were all over each other, as if they'd been wanting to do this all along. But they hadn't. They'd been bitter rivals less than an hour earlier. I didn't understand it—but then again I didn't need to.

Hea removed Isabel's shirt, and we both began sucking on her breasts. We pulled off her pants and began licking up her thighs until her back began to arch. I pulled off Isabel's panties while Hea crawled behind me and struggled with my pants.

As I helped her with the button-fly, I glanced at the clock. It was 2:00 AM My heart froze. It had been four hours since my last nap. I couldn't just go to sleep in the middle of the first threesome of my life. But if I didn't, the last four days of sleep deprivation would have been in vain.

"Hey," I told them. "I hate to do this, but I need to take my twenty-minute nap now. You can join me if you want."

With Isabel on one side and Hea on the other, I fell asleep instantly. I dreamed that the streets were water, and I was swimming through them. When the alarm went off, I pulled both girls into me, and we began fooling around again.

But this time Isabel pulled away. "This is weird," she said.

"It's totally weird," I replied. "I've been thinking the same thing. But it's a new experience, so I'm just going with it."

She nodded and smiled, and pulled my boxer briefs off. Both women put their hands around me, and I leaned back and watched. I wanted to keep the image in my head for future use.

However, when Hea began to give me a blowjob, Isabel's body tensed. I remembered something Rick H. had said about threesomes at David DeAn-gelo's seminar: The experience has to be about your girlfriend's pleasure, not yours. She has to be the lead sled dog—as he put it—and your main objective is to make sure she's always comfortable and feeling good.

"Is this making you uncomfortable?" I asked the lead sled dog.

"A little," she said.

I guided Hea's head back up, and we lay together, talking and fooling around, until my next nap. I didn't have sex with Hea that night; I knew Isabel wouldn't be able to handle seeing me inside another woman. This had already been a big step for her.

The next night, I was even more exhausted. Herbal and I sat in the living room watching Dangerous Liaisons to stay awake, but we kept drifting into daydreams that lasted fractions of a second. These are called mi-crosleeps: Our bodies needed rest so badly that they were sneaking naps whenever we weren't paying attention.

"This sleep diet thing was a terrible idea," I told Herbal.

"Just stick with it," he said. "It'll pay off in the long run."

I'd bought several bottles of vitamins to help bolster my immune system, but I kept forgetting which ones I had taken and when. Fortunately, Nadia was coming over soon. She was another one of my MLTRs, the sexy librarian I had met during my personals experiment. She showed up after a Suicide Girls burlesque show at the Knitting Factory, accompanied by a girl named Barbara whose black bangs reminded me of Bettie Page.

I poured them a drink and we sat on a couch together. Though Barbara had a boyfriend, I noticed that she was very touchy-feely with Nadia. She seemed to have a crush on her. So I thought I'd give her the opportunity to act on it.

I excused myself for my much-needed nap—I dreamed I was stranded naked in an endless snow-covered field—and then called them up to my room to watch my home movies. Afterward, I initiated the dual-induction massage. And, to my surprise, it worked again. The moment they started kissing, the girls devoured each other just like Isabel and Hea had. So it hadn't just been a lucky accident the night before.

Unlike Isabel, Nadia was a lead sled dog with no jealousy issues. When I fucked Nadia, Barbara knelt behind me and licked my balls. I wanted to wait and fuck Barbara too, but there would be no waiting. What was occurring was so far beyond my wildest expectations when I'd first joined the community that I just lost it. I couldn't hold out any longer. And I never got to have sex with Barbara.

This is what the PUAs call a quality problem.

Over the last year and a half, I'd spent a lot of time working on my appearance, my energy, my attitude, and my state. Yet now, when all those qualities were at their lowest—when I looked and felt like shit—I'd had the most sexually decadent two days of my life. There was a lesson here: The less you appear to be trying, the better you do.

The next day, Herbal and I sat in the living room with a bowl of ice cubes, which we rubbed on ourselves every few minutes to shock our systems into staying awake. The sleep adjustment process was proving to be more difficult than we had imagined. I began to worry that we were wasting our time. After all, this whole sleep diet hadn't even been scientifically proven.

"There better be a rainbow at the end of this tunnel," I babbled to Herbal. "I mean, we're chasing after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And we don't even know if it's there, or if the rainbow even has an end."

Herbal looked startled; I'd snapped him out of a microsleep. "I had a dream about gummy worms," he slurred. "Someone was chopping up gummy bears to make gummy worms."

After another two nap cycles, my head began to hurt and my eyes refused to raise any higher than half-mast. We bathed in cold water, we slapped ourselves in the face, we ran around the living room chasing each other with brooms. But nothing worked.

When I felt my teeth to check my braces, I knew I'd passed over the edge of reason. I hadn't worn braces since junior high.

"I'm going to sleep," Herbal finally said.

"We can't," I told him. "If you go to sleep, I won't make it by myself."

"Watch out for the toothpicks," he said.

We both started cracking up. He'd just had a microsleep. Dreams and reality were blurring.

"Just try to make it through one more sleep cycle," I told him.

But after the next twenty-minute nap, I couldn't get Herbal out of bed. He refused to even open his eyes. I couldn't continue on my own, so I dragged my feet upstairs and drifted into the sweetest slumber of my life. And though I had failed the sleep experiment, I'd reached a new plateau in my game.

I know I should be humble about the dual-induction massage and pretend like it was another step down a degrading path. But discovering the secret to threesomes was like finding the Rosetta Stone of pickup. Once the dual-induction massage routine was developed and shared, PUAs all over the world started having threesomes. It was like breaking the three-minute mile. The dual-induction massage would ultimately ensure my ranking as the number one PUA on Thundercat's list for a second year running.

Project Hollywood was already a success.

And then Tyler Durden arrived.

He looked like he'd been spray-tanning. "I know I didn't make a good impression in L.A.," he said. He shook my hand. He even looked me in the eye for a microsecond.

He wore a trendy black-and-white shirt with ropes hanging from the rib cage area like a corset. It wasn't peacocky; it was the kind of shirt I would have bought. "Social intelligence is something that hasn't come easy for me," he continued. I think he was apologizing. "I'm still working at it. I can come across as self-centered when I slip. Not cool. I suppose I should be more equipped to, as Mystery always tells me, learn how to sarge guys."

It was humble of him. He'd done dozens of workshops since we'd met, and I'd been watching his progress online. His students said he now rivaled Mystery in his pickup prowess. I was willing to give him a second chance: maybe he really had done some serious work on himself. That's the idea This community was predicated on, after all. Since we would both be going to Las Vegas to wing one of Mystery's workshops that weekend, I was looking forward to seeing if the stories about his prowess in the field were true.

Tyler slung his bag over his shoulder and walked up to Papa's room. Between Papa's newfound passion for business and Tyler Durden's quest to be the community's best pickup artist, they made a perfect team.

Our house now had the most admired PUAs in the game. Of course, to the best of my recollection, Tyler Durden had never been approved as a resident. There wasn't room for anyone else. However, Papa had taken it upon himself to invite him, converting one of his bathroom closets into an extra bedroom by putting a mattress on the floor.

We didn't have furniture yet. Just a collection of fifty throw pillows we'd bought to cover the sunken dance floor. That night, Playboy rigged his movie projector to show films on the ceiling, and we all lay in the pillow pit and watched Carnal Knowledge.

Afterward, Tyler Durden turned to me. "Your archive has been really influential in my game," he said. My collected posts on the seduction news groups had been compiled into a large text file and posted online along with the archives of Mystery and Ross Jeffries. "A lot of my best shit I took from there."

It was hard to get out of a conversation with Tyler Durden. Whenever he wasn't playing the game, he was talking about it.

"I've been experimenting with telling people I'm you in the field," Tyler said.

"What do you mean?"

"I tell them I'm Neil Strauss, and that I write for Rolling Stone."

"And does it get results?" The idea of this pasty little freak running around telling people he was me turned my stomach, but I tried to act nonchalant.

"It depends. Sometimes they think I'm lying. Sometimes girls instantly say, Oh my God, we should hang out'. And other girls, if you tell them that shit, you're blown out because it looks like you're bragging."

"Let me tell you something. I've been writing for over a decade, and it hasn't gotten me laid once. Writers aren't cool or sexy. There's no social proof to be gained by hanging out with a writer. At least, that's been my experience. Why do you think I joined the community? But I'm flattered that you tried."

That weekend, Tyler Durden, Mystery, and I went to Las Vegas. Papa had booked ten students for Mystery, which was pretty good for a six person workshop. We took them to the Hard Rock Casino. Generally, on the first night, the students watch the instructors work.

As a PUA, Tyler Durden had improved drastically since I'd last seen him in Los Angeles, where he didn't talk to any women. When I noticed him sarging a bachelorette party, I inched closer to listen. He was talking about Mystery.

"See that tall guy in the top hat?" he was telling them. "He needs a lot of attention, so he'll say hurtful things to people just to make them like him. So humor him, because he needs help."

He was giving away Mystery's game—neutralizing his negs.

"He likes doing magic tricks to get people to accept him," he continued. "So just be nice and pretend like you're excited. He does a lot of children's birthday parties."

Now he was neutralizing Mystery's value-demonstrating routines.

After Tyler Durden left the set, I asked him what he was doing. "Papa and I have developed a lot of new techniques to blow you and Mystery out," he said.

"So what do you say about me?" I asked, trying to pretend I wasn't disturbed.

Tyler Durden started laughing. "We say, 'There's Style. He's actually forty-five years old, but he looks pretty young to me. He's so cute. He's like a little Elmer Fudd."

I stared at him in disbelief. He was AMOGing his fellow PUAs. It was diabolical.

"You can get me," Tyler said. "You can say I look like the Pillsbury Doughboy."

I choked back my disgust and thought, "What would Tom Cruise do?"

"But I don't want to get you, man," I replied, keeping my own counsel and giving him a big smile like I thought it was all very funny. "Here\ the difference between you and me: I like to surround myself with people who are better than me because I enjoy being pushed and challenged. You, on the other hand, like to become the best person in the room by eliminating anyone who's better than you."

"Yeah, maybe you're right," he said.

Later, I would realize I was only half right. Tyler Durden did like to eliminate competition. But not before he'd squeezed every piece of useful information out of them.

For the rest of the weekend, whenever I talked to a person, male or female, Tyler Durden was hovering behind me, listening to every word. I could see him thinking, trying to figure out the rules and patterns behind everything I said that kept me dominant in a group. He had studied my archive. He was studying my personality. Soon, he would no doubt know more about me than I did. And then, as with the AMOGs in Leicester Square, he'd turn my own words and mannerisms against me.

At the end of the night, I saw a two-set sitting at the bar in the Peacock Lounge: a tall, creepy, bespectacled brunette with incongruously large fake breasts and a short blonde tomboy with a white beret and a small, thick, curvy body.

"That blonde girl's a porn star," Mystery said. He was the expert. "Her name's Faith. That's your set."

Despite the year and a half I'd spent in the community, despite being supposedly the best, I was still intimidated when I saw a beautiful woman.

My old AFC self was always threatening to snap back, whispering that everything I'd learned was wrong, that I was bowing before false gods, that all this game talk was just mental masturbation.

But I pushed myself to enter the set anyway, just to prove that little AFC voice in the back of my head wrong. As soon as I opened my mouth, I went into autopilot.

I opened with jealous girlfriend.

I gave myself a time constraint.

I negged the target about her hoarse voice.

I did the best friends test.

C-shaped smiles versus U-shaped smiles.

ESP experiment.

"There's so much I can learn from you," Faith said.

"We love you," gushed her creepy friend.

They were eating out of my hands. I'm a nerdy Elmer Fudd spouting bullshit tests I made up, and these two girls whose collective breasts weigh more than me were staring at me rapt. I had nothing to be afraid of. No guy out there had the tools we did.

I must kill off that inner AFC. When will he die?

I signaled to Mystery to wing the obstacle. As he sat next to the creepy girl, I went back on autopilot.

Evolution phase-shift.

Smell.

Pull hair.

Bite arm.

Bite neck.

"How do you rate yourself as a kisser on a scale of one to ten?"

Suddenly, Faith jumped out of her seat. "I'm getting too turned on," she said. "I have to leave."

I couldn't figure out if she was just giving me an excuse because I had made a mistake at some point in the sarge, or if I was really that good.

I approached a nearby set—two hippie girls on a bender—and was in with them instantly. Ten minutes into our conversation, however, Faith returned, grabbed my hand, and said, "Let's go to the bathroom."

We walked into the restroom on the side of the Peacock Lounge, and she lowered the toilet seat and sat me down on it. As she unbuttoned my pants, she said, "You so turn me on, intellectually and sexually."

"I felt our connection all night. Even when I was talking to those two other girls, I saw you looking at me."

She kneeled on the floor, circled her hand around my limp father of thousands, and lowered her mouth over it. But I couldn't get hard. I was overwhelmed.

I stood up and pushed her roughly against the wall. I circled my hands around her throat and made out with her, as I'd seen Sin do to women in his house when I was still an AFC. Then I pulled her pants down, sat her on the toilet seat, fingered her, and went down on her. She arched her back, fluttered her eyelids, and moaned, as if she were about to cum; but instead she suddenly switched positions and went down on me again.

"I want you to cum in my mouth," she said.

I still couldn't get hard. This had never happened to me before. I mean, I'm hard right now as I'm remembering this.

"I want to be inside you," I told her, in a last-ditch effort to get my blood flowing to the right place.

She stood up and turned around. I pulled a condom out of my pocket and thought about every beautiful woman I had approached that night. I started to get a little harder. She sat down on me, her back against my stomach, which was the worst position for a semi-erect dick to reach around. As soon as I was partway inside her, I went soft again. I couldn't figure out if it was the two Jack and Cokes I drank that night, the lack of foreplay, the intimidation factor of being with a porn star, or the fact that I'd masturbated earlier that day.

When we walked out of the bathroom, half the workshop students were standing there waiting for a lay report. One of the hippies I had been talking to before went to the bathroom and emerged afterward with my condom wrapper in a Kleenex. Evidently, I had left it on the floor, and she felt obliged to show it around. Everyone was celebrating a feat that hadn't actually happened.

I couldn't look Faith in the eye afterward. I had built myself up as such a mysterious, fascinating, sexually powerful guy. And then, in the moment of truth, the lies had come crashing down, revealing a skinny bald guy with a limp dick.

On the last night of the Las Vegas workshop, Tyler Durden picked up a hostess named Stacy at the Hard Rock Cafe. She was a vampirish blonde who listened to new metal. When her shift ended, Stacy met us at the casino and brought along her roommate, Tammy, a quiet beauty with a touch of baby fat and a scent of grape Bubblicious.

I was wearing a ridiculous snakeskin suit; Mystery was dressed in a top hat, flight goggles, six-inch platform boots, black latex pants, and a black T-shirt with a scrolling red digital sign that said "Mystery" on it. Even for Vegas, he looked like a freak.

Within minutes, Tyler Durden was AMOGing him to Stacy. "He wears these weird signs and people laugh at him," he told her. "I always tell him he doesn't need to do that for people to accept him."

The students fanned the room to talk to women as I leaned against the bar and watched them. After awhile, Stacy sidled up next to me. She had been watching me lead the workshop and, from sheer social proof (lead the men and you lead the women), she had become interested. As we talked, she held eye contact with me. She played with her hair. She looked for excuses to touch my arm. She leaned in when I leaned back. All the IOIs were there. I could feel the air around us tingle, as it always does when a potential kiss is accumulating energy.

I knew it was wrong. She was Tyler Durden's girl. There's a PUA code of ethics: The first one to approach a set gets to game the target, until either she submits or he gives up. But a PUA also doesn't AMOG his wing. If Tyler Durden was going to tell girls I was Elmer Fudd, then Elmer Fudd was going to hunt his rabbit.

I stroked her hair. She smiled.

Would she like to kiss me?

She would.

We did.

Then a shock of orangey blonde hair appeared in the periphery of my vision. It was Mr. Heat Miser. And he was pissed.

"Come with me," Tyler Durden said, grabbing her arm.

I started to apologize. What I had done was wrong, and I knew it logically. But when that bubble of connection and passion builds around you and a girl, logic goes out the window and instinct takes over. I had fucked up. Sure, he'd been AMOGing me. But two wrongs don't make a right. I felt like shit.

However, consolation was only a few steps away. Tyler took Stacy to our hotel room, leaving her roommate, Tammy, behind. We were making out within five minutes. I couldn't believe how easy this was. She was the sixth girl I'd made out with that weekend.

Mystery, in the meantime, had picked up a scantily clad stripper named Angela who, in his estimation, was a 10.5. So we decided to ditch the workshop—it was 2:00 A.M. and they'd gotten their money's worth—and take our dates to an after hours club called Dre's.

As we walked to the cab stand, Mystery paused and looked at himself in the casino mirror. "Winning feels good," he said, grinning to his reflection, which grinned right back at him.

In the taxi, Angela sat on Mystery's lap, facing him, with her skirt spread over his knees. Before we were even out of the parking lot, they were making out. She bit her lip before they kissed. She softly moaned every time their lips separated. She sucked his index finger in and out of her mouth. She was performing for him, for us, for the less attractive masses outside, for God above. Everyone we drove past yelled and whistled at the lip-locked pair. In response, she arched her back and pulled her white panties to the side, revealing a patch of pubic hair shaved into a perfect teardrop. Mystery put a finger inside her. He was validated. She was validated. They validated each other. They were a perfect pair, each completely unaware of the other.

At 5:00 A.M., when Angela left to drive back to Los Angeles, Mystery, Tammy, and I took a cab to the hotel room we were sharing with Tyler Dur-den at the Luxor. I collapsed onto the bed with Tammy, and we started making out. Mystery was on the other bed. Tyler was in a chair, with Stacy in his lap.

Tammy took off her top and bra, and then lowered my pants. She wrapped her hand around me, and started working it up and down while twisting her wrist. Her mouth joined her hand. This time my equipment worked, no problem. I guess something about the combination of whisky, porn stars, and public bathrooms was too cliche even for me.

Tammy took her pants off, and I reached into my jeans pocket and put a condom on. But after having sex with her for a minute, I stopped. The boys were there. They were watching, or maybe they were trying not to watch. I had no idea; I was too scared to look at them. I've never had sex with other guys in the room, let alone PUAs.

Tammy didn't seem to have any qualms about it. I admired her for that. Nonetheless, I picked her up, brought her into the shower, and turned on the water. I pressed her against the shower door, smashing her breasts against the glass, and took her from behind. After five minutes of thrusting, the bathroom door burst open and a flash went off. Mystery, Tyler Durden, and Stacy were standing there, taking photos.

All I could think was, "They have dirt on me now." I didn't realize until later that to them it was just a souvenir of good times in Las Vegas. Just as with the New York Times article, I was the only one worried about being exposed. Everyone else was simply having fun at a friends' expense. I had to get it through my head that these guys didn't care about the writer Neil Strauss. They were so entrenched in the community that nothing outside of it mattered or seemed real. Newspapers only came across their radar if they happened to run a science article about animal mating habits. If a disaster struck somewhere in the world, it was just material for a pattern about taking advantage of the moment because you never know what will happen tomorrow.

Afterward, the girls invited us to their place for breakfast. We packed our bags, drove to their apartment, and ate the best bacon and eggs of our lives. Tyler Durden and Mystery sat on the couch and talked openly about their pickup business: I could see they were squaring off. Mystery kept calling him a former student; Tyler Durden felt like he had surpassed his master and was offering an entirely new and original method of seduction.

The sun was up, and I didn't feel like talking about pickup when I had a real live girl I could be sleeping with. So Tammy took me to her room and gave me a blowjob, and then I slept for two hours before my flight home.

There was something about her bed—the way it filled the room, the immaculate whiteness, the softness of the sheets, the thickness of the comforter, the tightness of the tucked-in bedding—that was intoxicating. I've always loved women's bedrooms: They're soft and sweet-smelling, like heaven must be.

Mystery and Tyler Durden weren't leaving Vegas until the evening, so they stayed with the girls and I took a cab to the airport alone. On the flight home, I had a dream:

I pick up a woman and go back to her house. She takes me to her room, and I struggle with last minute resistance for hours. All night long, it's push-pull, submit-resist. Finally, I give up and go to sleep.

In the morning, I'm sitting on a couch in her living room. Her roommate, a Latin woman with bright red lipstick, saunters up to me and says, "I'm sorry my roommate isn't putting out, but you can be with me instead if you want."

She sits on the couch and spreads her legs in the air. She isn't wearing anything below the waist. She repeats her offer. I accept.

Her lipstick smears across my face as we make out. But when it comes time to have sex, though my dick looks hard, it isn't rigid. I feel like I'm trying to stuff a Twinkie inside her.

Afterward, my original target walks in. That's what I call her in my dream: my target. I try to hide my lipstick-stained mouth as we talk. I can hear her roommate laughing from somewhere behind me. And I know I've just failed a planned test by cheating on the girl who brought me home. Now she'll never like me, because she knows what I'm really like.

That night, the girls have a party. Mystery is hitting on my target. He gives her a garage-door opener as a gift. When no one is looking, I grab it and walk outside. I keep pressing it, figuring that a door will open somewhere with a spectacular present for her.

While I am investigating, Mystery comes outside, looking for the girl. It turns out that the gift was part of a routine—a way to get her outside in private. By pressing the button, I had paged him. I run down the street at top speed, but within seconds Mystery catches up to me. His legs are so long it isn't even a challenge for him.

"I'm pissed at you for hitting on my target," I say.

"You had your chance with her and nothing happened," he replies. "The window closed and now it's my turn."

When I woke up, I understood the part of the dream about the test right away. I'd failed it by making out with Tyler Durden's target. And after my disaster with the porn star, the impotence was self-explanatory. But I couldn't understand the part about Mystery hitting on my target—that is, until I returned home and Mystery called.

"I hope you don't mind," he said, "but Tammy just gave me a blowjob. She swallowed my load."

Somewhere in her stomach, my sperm was mingling with Mystery's.

"I don't mind," I said. And I didn't. It was part of being friends—a playful competition between PUAs. "Just remember that I was there first."

Tyler Durden, however, didn't see it that way. It wasn't playful competition to him. It was his life.

He would never forgive me for making out with his target.

The point was women; the result was men.

Instead of models in bikinis lounging by the Project Hollywood pool all day, we had pimply teenagers, bespectacled businessmen, tubby students, lonely millionaires, struggling actors, frustrated taxi drivers, and computer programmers—lots of computer programmers. They walked in our door AFCs; they came out players.

Every Friday when they arrived, Mystery or Tyler Durden stood in front of the pillow pit and taught them pretty much the same openers, body language tips, and value-demonstrating routines. On Saturday afternoon, they all went shopping on Melrose. They bought the same four-inch-platform New Rock boots and black-and-white striped shirt with bits of rope hanging from the sides. They bought the same rings, necklaces, hats, and sunglasses. They went to the tanning salon.

We were breeding an army.

At night they descended on the Sunset Strip, a swarm of player bees. Even when the seminar and workshop ended, students lingered in the clubs on Sunset for months afterward, working on their game. You could spot them from behind by the matching boots and the rope dangling from their shirts. They clustered in groups, prowling for open sets and sending in emissaries to say, "Hey, I need to get a female opinion on something."

Even on nights when there weren't workshops, badly peacocked guys from a hundred-mile radius gathered in our living room before going out. At 2:30 A.M., they reconvened at the house—either accompanied by drunk, giggling girls from Orange County, who they brought to the Jacuzzi, the terrace, the closets, and the pillow pit, or empty-handed and breaking down their approaches until dawn. They couldn't stop talking about this stuff.

"Do you know why my skill set is better than all my friends?" Tyler Durden said one afternoon, as he plopped down in the booth at Mel's next to me. "There is only one fucking reason."

"You're more sensitive?" I asked.

"No, because I plow!" he said with a triumphant flourish. By "plowing," he meant blitzing a girl with line after line, routine after routine, without even waiting for a response. "The other night, this girl was running away, and I screamed the routine at her. She came back like a fucking tractor beam. I have no regard for social conventions: I'll pummel their asses down. You have to plow it. No situation can't be plowed."

"I don't plow," I told him. There were guys who won girlfriends by chasing them until they relented and agreed to meet. But I wasn't a chaser. I wasn't a plower. All I did was give her the opportunity to like me, and either she did or didn't. Usually she did.

"You just fucking push push push, and it can't not work," Tyler Dur-den went on. "If the girls get mad at me, I'll change my voice tone and apologize and tell them I'm not well socially calibrated."

I watched Tyler Durden as he spoke. For all his talk about women, I rarely saw him in the company of one.

"Maybe the reason I'm not getting into a lot of relationships," he said as we left the diner, "is that I don't like oral sex."

"Giving or receiving?"

"Both."

That's when I realized that Tyler Durden wasn't in the community to get laid. He wasn't motivated by sex. He was motivated by power.

Papa's motivations were harder to determine. Originally, he was in the game for the girls. When we moved into Project Hollywood, he envisioned turning his room into a high-tech sultan's lair, with a harem just a phone call away. He talked about getting a bed like a throne, a high-end home entertainment center, a bar next to the fireplace, and drapery hanging from the ceiling.

But that's not what his room became. When I returned from Mel's with Tyler, Mystery was in Papa's room, arguing.

"You're giving Tyler Durden more students than you're giving me," Mystery was saying.

"I'm trying to make this win-win for everyone," Papa protested. The expression seemed hollower every time he used it.

As I looked around his room, I was appalled. There was hardly any furniture, just sleeping bags and pillows strewn across the floor. Women have one word for bedrooms like this: dealbreaker.

"Who's living here?" I asked.

"How many people?"

"Well, right now, Tyler Durden and Sickboy are in the closets in my bathroom. And I have three boot camp students sleeping in the room."

"If anyone's staying more than a month, they need to be approved, like we agreed at the house meeting. There are enough guys in the house as it is."

"Outstanding," Papa said.

"If they're using the resources of the house, they should be paying," Mystery said.

Papa looked at him blankly.

"I can't talk to that guy," Mystery complained to me. "He just sits there and stares at you and says, 'Outstanding.' He's so fucking passive."

"That's not true," Papa said. "You think you can push me around because I was a former student." I'd never seen Papa upset before. He didn't get loud, like most people; instead, his voice became very stuffy. Somewhere inside, there was a living, breathing, emotional person waiting to be set free.

After that day, Papa stopped entering the house through the front door. Instead, in order to avoid Mystery, he walked all the way around the back to the patio and climbed a staircase that led to a door in his bathroom. All his guests did the same.

An acronym for Real Social Dynamics. See glossary.

My father died when I was forty And I couldn 't find a way to cry Not because I didn't love him Not because he didn't try I'd cried for every lesser thing Whiskey, pain, and beauty But he deserved a better tear And I was not quite ready

The lyrics boomed through the living room. Mystery was lying in the pillow pit with his computer on his chest. He was playing the song "The Randall Knife" by Guy Clark over and over.

He seemed to be in need of attention. So I walked over and gave him some.

"My dad died," he said. His voice was flat and even. It was hard to tell if he was sad or not. "It's about time. It happened very quickly. He had another stroke, and then he died at 10:00 A.M. today."

I sat down next to him and listened to him talk. He was a passive observer of himself, analytically deconstructing his emotions as he felt them.

"Even though I was ready for it, it's strange. It's like when Johnny Cash died. You knew it was going to happen, but it was still a shock."

Mystery had hated his dad his whole life and wished death on him countless times. But now that it had happened, he didn't know how to feel. He seemed confused that he felt a little sad, despite himself.

"The only times we ever bonded were when a hot woman came on TV," he said. " Then he'd look at me and I'd look at him, and we'd quietly appreciate it together."

A few days later, we hosted the first annual Pickup Artist Summit at our house. PUAs from around the world flew in to speak, and several hundred rAFCs (recovering average frustrated chumps) gathered in our living room to hear them. Our housemates Playboy and Xaneus, who Papa and

Tyler Durden had been training to become instructors, opened the proceedings.

As Playboy discussed body language, I thought back to Belgrade and the first workshop I'd taught with Mystery. I remembered too-cool Exoti-coption, Sasha skipping down the street with his first e-mail-close, and Jerry's sense of humor. I loved those guys. I cared about them. I wanted them to get laid. I e-mailed them for months afterward, checking on their progress.

Now I looked around the living room and saw neediness and hunger and desperation. Bald guys with goatees—miniature and super-sized versions of myself—asked me to pose for photos with them. Good-looking guys who could have been models clamored for advice on hairstyles and clothes to buy, and then asked me to pose for photos with them.

Two gangly brothers at the convention—both virgins—brought their sister along. She was a quiet nineteen-year-old imp with large eyes, gum-drop breasts, and a hip-hop fashion sense. Thanks to her brothers, she knew everything about the game. When guys approached her with cocky funny lines, she told them, "Don't try that David DeAngelo stuff on me. I've read it all." She introduced herself as Min, and then asked me to pose for a photo with her.

"I'm a big fan of your posts," she said.

"You've read them?" I asked, shocked.

"Yeah." She bit her lip.

For my presentation, I brought in five of the girls I was dating. I ran routines on them, and then used them as a panel of experts to critique the clothing and body language of various wanna-be players in the audience. I received a standing ovation.

Afterward, I sat on our newly purchased blood-red couches surrounded by Papa, Tyler Durden, and a few of their students. They were discussing the video of Mystery and I picking up Caroline and Carry. Somehow, Gun-witch had gotten hold of it and put it on the Internet, shattering what was left of my anonymity.

"It's so genius," Papa was saying. "Tyler Durden has broken down everything Style does to a science. He calls it Stylemogging."

"What's that?" one of the students asked.

"It's a type of frame control," Tyler Durden replied. A frame is an NLP term: It is the perspective through which one sees the world. Whoever's frame—or subjective reality—is the strongest tends to dominate an interaction. "Style has all these really subtle ways of keeping control of the frame and getting people to qualify themselves to him. He makes sure that the focus is always on him. I'm writing a post about it."

"That's awesome," I said.

Suddenly, Papa, Tyler Durden, and the students laughed. "That's one of the things you do," Papa said. "Tyler's writing about that."

"What? I just said 'awesome.' That's because I think it's hilarious. Seriously, I can't wait to read it."

They all laughed again. Evidently I was Stylemogging them.

"See," Tyler Durden said. "You'll use curiosity as a frame to get rapport and make the other person lose social value. When you show approval like that, it makes you the authority and makes other people want to seek your validation. We're teaching that."

"Shit," I replied. "Now, every time I say something, people are going to think I'm running a Real Social Dynamics routine."

They all laughed again. And that's when I realized that I was fucked: Everything Tyler Durden was writing about wasn't anything I had learned in the community. That was all part of me and who I really was. And even though he had my intentions wrong—that was his frame, his way of looking at the world—he had my mannerisms down. He was taking the building blocks of my personality, giving them names, and turning them into routines. He was going to take my soul and spread it all over the Sunset Strip.

Cfatpish

On the last day of the summit, Mystery had a brainstorm: He was going to raise the price of his workshop from six hundred dollars to fifteen hundred. He wanted Papa to change the website to reflect the increase.

"That doesn't make sense," Papa protested. "The market won't support that." Papa rarely went out anymore. Instead, he spent his nights working on the Real Social Dynamics website and Internet affiliate program. Since we'd moved into the house, I'd seen him with a woman exactly once.

"It's my method," Mystery said. "People will pay. I've worked it all out."

"It's not practical." Papa stared straight through Mystery's chest. He didn't like confrontation.

"This is unacceptable!"

Mystery stomped through the living room, where Extramask was giving a presentation. Extramask had arrived in town a week before the seminar and was sleeping somewhere in the house—I wasn't sure exactly where, since Papa had run out of closets to stuff people into. I had hardly talked to Extramask since he'd arrived. He was always either in Papa's room working for Real Social Dynamics, winging a workshop with Tyler Durden, or working out.

I watched him for a few minutes. He was buff now, wearing a torn T-shirt and a loosely knotted tie. He was telling the students that he hadn't lost his virginity—or even held a girl's hand—until he was twenty-six-and-a-half It was a gimmick now, part of his routine for guys. He had become a guru too. And, along the way, he'd lost the innocence he had when we first met.

"I do a lot of things with this cell phone, and it doesn't even work," he said, holding it up. "I just like to talk into it and pretend that I'm the man, especially if I feel uncomfortable at a club. Your cell phone is your best wingman."

Extramask had great stage presence and an oddball sense of humor. I wished he'd spend more time working on his stand-up comedy career than teaching seduction. Unlike Mystery and Tyler Durden, he wasn't born for this.

I followed Mystery into the kitchen. He was leaning against a counter, waiting for me. "Papa's been doing workshops behind my back," he fumed. "Someone told me they saw him at the Highlands with six guys last weekend."

I hopped onto the counter and sat at eye level with him.

"Let me catch you up to speed on what else has been going on," he said. I assumed he was going to complain about Papa, but instead he wanted to talk about Patricia. She had started dating an African-American jock she'd met at her strip club, and now she was pregnant with his baby. Though she had no plans to marry him, she wanted to keep the child. Her biological alarm clock was still ringing.

"I'm trying to look at this objectively," Mystery said, straddling a chair at the breakfast table that no one used. "I'm not angry. But I am hurt. It makes me want to kill the baby and kill him."

Among the required reading for all PUAs were books on evolutionary theory: The Red Queen by Matt Ridley, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, Sperm Wars by Robin Baker. You read them, and you understand why women tend to like jerks, why men want so many sexual partners, and why so many people cheat on their spouses. At the same time, however, you understand that the violent impulses most of us successfully repress are actually normal and natural. For Mystery, a Darwinist by nature, these books gave him an intellectual justification for his antisocial emotions and his desire to harm the organism that had mated with his woman. It was not a healthy thing.

Tyler Durden walked into the kitchen and saw Mystery moping at the table.

"You know what you need to do?" he told Mystery. "You need to sarge."

Sarging was Tyler Durden's solution for everything: He truly believed in it. Picking up women could cure all problems—depression, inertia, animosity, colitis, lice. Though I'd moved into the house to build a lifestyle, for Tyler Durden sarging was the only way to live. He never went on dates. Instead he brought women to the clubs on Sunset, and then usually ditched them to pick up more girls.

"You need to get out of the house," Tyler continued. "Go out with Style tonight. You guys have super-tight game. You can find a new girlfriend twice as hot as Patricia."

Next, the virgin brothers came into the kitchen, with their sister Min and a shaven-headed PUA in tow. It seemed like wherever I was during the convention, a small group gathered, and I wound up holding court.

"You had the best presentation of the day," the bald PUA said. "You were so gentle and elegant with those girls. It was like watching a beautifully choreographed dance."

"Thanks, man. What's your name?"

"I'm Stylechild."

For the first time in months, I was speechless.

"I named myself after you."

As he told me about his luckless life and his discovery of the community and my posts, I saw Min looking at me with her impish eyes. And I made the conscious decision not to game her, because that's what all the other guys at the seminar were doing. Besides the girls I had used in my presentation, she had been the only woman in the house all weekend.

That night at the Saddle Ranch, Min's eyes were still burning a hole in my head. I had to say something—but it couldn't be anything she'd read online or heard from her brothers.

"Listen," I finally told her. "I'm about to sign up to ride the mechanical bull. Why don't you join me?"

It wasn't a line: I still had designs on that mechanical bull. In many ways, it reminded me of the game. It had eleven settings, from ridiculously easy to fiendishly difficult. And ever since I'd first set eyes on the bull, it had been my goal to get to the top setting—the mythical eleven. So far, I'd only made it to ten.

It was a completely pointless ambition, with no practical application whatsoever. But if you sit the average male down in front of anything halfway intriguing and explain to him that it has a system of rankings that he can get better at over time, he'll become obsessed. Hence the popularity of video games, martial arts, Dungeons and Dragons, and the seduction community.

I asked the bull-wrangler to set the machine to eleven, gave him a five-dollar tip to make sure he went easy on me, then climbed through the gate and mounted the bull. I was wearing leather pants—not to peacock, but to help me stick to the sides of the machine. The first time I rode it, my thighs were black-and-blue the next day, and I could hardly walk. I understood then what a woman must feel like after sex with a three-hundred-pound guy.

I pressed my crotch firmly against the front of the saddle, clamped my legs against the flank of the bull, and raised my hand to signal I was ready. In an instant the machine shuddered to life, vibrating me so quickly that my eyes lost focus. I remember feeling my brain about to fall out of my skull, my hips rocking faster than they'd ever moved before, my legs losing their grip, and my crotch jackhammering into the saddle handle in time with the bull. But just as I was about to slide off the side, the bull stopped. I had lasted seven seconds.

At first, I was elated. I felt like I had accomplished something—even though it was really nothing. It wouldn't change my life, or the life of anyone around me in the least. I began to wonder why I had cared so much. Within minutes, I already had buyer's remorse.

Afterward, Min said she was tired and asked me to walk her back to Project Hollywood.

I understood the subtext.

As we ambled back to the mansion arm-in-arm, she talked about her older brothers and their difficulty learning the game. "They're real protective and get mad when I go on dates," she said. "But I think they're jealous because they're not going on dates themselves."

When we returned to Project Hollywood, I brought her to the Jacuzzi.

"My last boyfriend was the sweetest guy, and he did everything for me," she went on. "But I didn't like him. He got on my nerves. After I started reading my brothers' pickup stuff, I understood why I wasn't attracted to him or any of the other guys at school. They're all so boring. They don't understand cocky funny."

I stripped down to my boxers and jumped in the water, soothing my bull-bucked wounds. She joined me in her bra and panties. She was thin and delicate, like a marionette. I took her hands and pulled her toward me. She straddled my legs, and we began making out. I took her bra off and put her gumdrops in my mouth. Then I carried her naked and dripping to my bedroom, put on a condom, and slowly entered her. There was no LMR. By looking up to me so much, her brothers had driven her into my arms.

She was my first groupie. And she would not be my last. This whole PUA thing was getting too big. With so many new competing seduction businesses aggressively marketing their services online, the community was growing exponentially, especially in Southern California, where the Sunset Strip was transforming before our eyes.

No woman was safe. Workshops of fifteen people wandered the street like gangs. Bands of former students patrolled every club—the Standard, Dublin's, the Saddle Ranch, Miyagi's. When the bars closed at 2:00 A.M., they'd invade Mel's, walking up and down the aisles, seating themselves at any table with a female. They carted women into the house by the truckload.

And they were all using my material. They were running around Style-mogging and delivering the best-friends test like they were Spanish flys. In every club, I saw their shaven heads, their diabolical goatees, their shoes that looked like the pair I'd

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