Somewhere between Crystal’s pole routine and me drizzling her body with my Kettle Tonic, I started writing down the names of everyone firm-related actually at the Hustler Club that night. It was me, an eighth-year associate we’ll call Josh, and a pretty awesome first-year we’ll call Maurice. Then, I added our client’s name to the list, who we’ll call David Faustino—because why not use one of my childhood heroes as an alias? He obviously had to be in attendance for the kind of shenanigans I was about to pull.
Except David wasn’t.
Sadly, he went home immediately after dinner, even though he had sworn up and down that he was up for a big night when the evening began. Maybe David A) ate some bad eel, B) is a major wuss who can’t handle a few sake bombs, or C) recognized what kind of scum he was dealing with and knew that there was a good chance he’d be arrested for solicitation and written up in The Wall Street Journal.
The only respectable answer is A. You really can’t fuck with rank seafood.
In any case, his early departure royally screwed up our plan to bill a kickass night to his company. We went over budget at the sushi joint. Not crazy over budget, but we were in the red. Then, despite missing our sucker client, we decided that we needed a private room at the Hustler Club.
As Crystal rubbed her lubricated tits in my grill, I thought back to the list of people that I would have to pretend were also in attendance.
“Hey baby, what do you do?”
Not now, Sweet Tits, I’m trying to do math.
I jotted the figures on my handy legal pad. (Yes, I had a legal pad in a strip club.) With the total tab nearing $1,300 and a budget of $100 per person, I knew I needed 13 names of warm bodies. (That math isn’t easy when you’re drunk, which is precisely why I bring the legal pad.) Sketching out my roster, I knew that 13 would bring me in slightly over budget, and that’s just about perfect if you don’t want to arouse any suspicion. Nothing looks shadier than listing $999.99 dollars when your budget is $1,000. You may as well show up at McCarren Airport with your entire bachelor party each carrying $9,999 to avoid the taxman.
Normally, I have my regular friends who I can count on, no questions asked, to vouch for my expenses. Me, Noah, Zachary, Allison and three other similarly shady associates. In a crazy-for-Swayze homage, we all call it “Ghost-ing.” And we give each other a heads up by saying, “You’re on Sam Wheat’s tab.”
This time, however, I needed to come up with quite a few more people who wouldn’t be as reliable as the regular ghosting crew—which officially became my problem after we determined who would submit the bill by bouncing a coin off a stripper’s ass. Since Maurice was a lowly first-year who probably maxed out his credit cards trying to keep up with us, it was me vs. Josh. I called heads, and Josh aimed the quarter at Crystal’s posterior. Then fate and the gyrations of her bottom conspired against me.
It used to be that best thing about working at a law firm was the limited oversight of our purse strings. Though I guess that depends on the firm. I imagine this kind of tomfoolery never flies if you went to a third-tier law school and work at your uncle’s ambulance-chasing shop. But in BigLaw, it’s a rite of passage, which is why I busted my ass to get here.
If you had the brains—and the game—to flirt a little with the Billing Chick, you pretty much had a license to print money. I know guys who got the firm to pay for everything from pet food to dry cleaning. Hell, if Asian massage parlors gave receipts, I might have got reimbursed.
Of course, that was all pre-meltdown. Things are changing. And a game of chance off a stripper’s ass can now have real career consequences. (WTF?)
Luckily, our Billing Chick is a pretty cool, thirty-something, single girl with pretty large bosoms and an addiction to Netflix. I talk movies with her for an amount of time proportionate to the dubious-ness of the bill I’m submitting.
But as Crystal removed her g-string, I saw the prospect of my biggest fraud to date. Would Kung Fu Panda chatter be enough for Billing Chick in this tough economy?
The next day, I submitted my expenses to Billing Chick and made some chitchat about how much I was looking forward to seeing the next Pixar movie. (What is it with chicks and cartoons?) Then, I went back to my office and feverishly sent out a Sam Wheat email alert, since there’s nothing worse than having your alibi blown because one of your ghosts was in California the day you took a “client” to Nobu.
Weeks passed. Josh landed a cushy job with our client and moved on. I told him to have fun with my favorite buzz kill, David Faustino.
Then I got a call from Billing Chick.
“Matt, you remember that bill you submitted a few weeks back for that sushi restaurant and bar that you went to afterwards?” Billing Chick asked.
Oh shit! Did I not call everyone on my list? Did one of them sell me out? No way. Everyone knows what a vengeful prick I can be. Nah, I’m just being paranoid. Maybe Billing Chick is just using this as an excuse to try to ask me out on a date.
“Umm, I think so.” As if I could easily forget perpetuating a massive fraud.
“I just spoke to [David Faustino’s company], and apparently they check their invoices pretty thoroughly,” Billing Chick said. “I think you may have made a mistake.”
Of course I did, Billing Bitch. My mistake was thinking I was buddy-buddy with you. But when push comes to shove, you shove me right under the bus.
“Do you remember who was there?”
Yeah, let’s see. It was me, Josh, Maurice and two raging coke whores who needed to pay for grad school.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I need to get this straight, Matthew. It was you, Josh, Maurice, David Faustino, and nine other people who were out all night drinking?”
I tried to think of a way to pin this all on Josh or Maurice, but I knew I was sunk. And looking guiltier by the second.
“Here’s the deal,” she interrupted. “Mr. Faustino only claimed $500 of the $1,389 bill.”
Shit! I stared at my door waiting for security to barge in and lead me to the street.
“I’ll reimburse you the $500, but as for the remaining $889, normally it would be flagged, and I would have to reconcile this by auditing the expense reports of the other people you listed as being with you on that date. But, thinking about it, if you’re willing to let that $889 amount go un-expensed, I don’t see any need in making an issue out of it.”
“That works for me.”
“Oh, and one more thing, Matthew. I hope I won’t see your name on any more questionable bills. I don’t like apologizing to clients. Nor do I want a nice guy like you to get in trouble.”
Was that a wrist slap or an invitation to slap handcuffs on her in my apartment?
Sadly aroused, I had no choice but to bite.
“When it comes out, let’s go see that new Pixar cartoon you were talking about,” I suggest. “What was the name?”
“Monsters vs Aliens?!”
“It’s a date.”
Sweet. An un-recouped $900 and an appointment to wear 3D glasses just saved my career. It’s not great, but I think those are the desperate measures called for in these desperate times.
Though the lingering question remains: When the time comes, do I dare submit that evening’s expenses?
I don’t see why not.