The young man swallowed visibly; and then acknowledged that there was no further point in pretending. Although official acceptance of the practice had been revoked, hazing was still very much alive in the Greek university system. All the fraternity pledge students of Omega house had to submit to various things to be considered for membership.
“Our initiations are very tame in comparison to other fraternities and sororities!”; Charles declared. “We make the ‘plebs’ streak across campus, or make them scrub the dining hall with a toothbrush. Piddly stuff like that. We do not hit or physically touch any of our pledges. Ever. I swear!”. Phil observed the young man intently for the longest moment in his life. “We have a reputation of being the easiest fraternity to join on campus. Just ask anyone.”; He added defensively.
“So you don’t make them wear costumes to jump out and scare people?”: Phil demanded.
Mr. Worth’s response was of immediate denial and confusion. “No sir. We’ve never done anything like that. We stick with the activities I mentioned earlier. Humiliating public nudity and manual labor are our initiation rites.”
Phil rose to leave. The reaction from the Omega fraternity representative ‘felt’ genuine but he knew a ‘feeling’ wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. “So you’ve never heard him called: ‘Chewy’ then?”
“No sir. He was a big dude! I don’t think he would ever hurt anyone but I certainly wouldn’t test it by calling him names.” He grinned at the young man’s whit and common sense. Silently, he had to agree.
With the interview over, Breckinridge almost felt like he was back at square one. It made perfect sense that they would make Pete ‘Chewy’ Mathews wear a ‘Chewbacca’ costume to scare people driving by. That’s the sort of wacky shenanigans that fraternities are known for but Charles Worth adamantly denied it. Phil realized that he might be wrong but he felt Charles was telling the truth. He phoned the department and instructed his partner to call costume shops in the area and see if any of them had a ‘Chewbacca’ or ‘ape man’ costume rented out. If so, to whom.
A half hour later his phone rang. His partner located a costume shop that reported two unreturned ‘Star Wars’ costumes. The night clerk didn’t know any details so he elected to drive to the store. ‘Party Pizzaz’ was about 15 minutes from the university campus. Phil wanted to speak to the store manager, as soon as possible.
“I understand you have two rented ‘Star Wars’ costumes that have not been returned.”; He asked.
“Yes, that is… correct. What is this all about? The customer who rented them has agreed to pay their full replacement value so we aren’t interesting in pressing charges.”
“I’m afraid financial compensation is not the reason that I am here. I’m investigating a mysterious death case that may be related to these missing costumes. I need to know which movie characters the lost costumes were of”; Breckenridge explained.
“Is this about the ‘Bigfoot’ case in the paper?”; The manager blurted out with a grin. His ‘knowing’ tone and the twinkle in his eye demonstrated that he saw where the investigation was going. “When I read that crazy headline, I wondered if someone mistook our ‘Chewbacca’ costume for ‘Bigfoot’ but at the time, the rental wasn’t late. Since then, I forgot all about it! How horrible. I just didn’t make the connection before. Was the customer…”
Phil cut him off mid-sentence. “I’m afraid I can’t get into specifics, or answer any questions. I just need to know the customer’s name and what character the other missing costume was.” The manager nodded and retrieved the ledger.
As soon as he saw the registry, Phil knew what character the other Star Wars costume was. He thanked the manager and asked him to keep quiet during the active investigation. “I guess I need to make another visit to the university”: He thought to himself.