TUESDAY, JUNE 6
The line for this abominable Hollywood nightclub is ten miles long. Twentysomethings crowd together, passing vape pens back and forth as bouncers survey the queue and beckon the prettiest people to the front. Good. For my purposes, the bigger the crowd and the more exclusive the venue, the better.
I bypass the line and give the bouncer a pretty smile. He looks me up and down and unclips the red velvet rope. It's not just my ass that's getting me inside; the last time I was here, I slipped him a Benjamin. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. "Have a nice time," he says.
"Thanks." I stroll through the darkened hallway, pay the cover charge, and present my ID to a woman behind a little glass window. Music thumps from within like a heartbeat.
My phone buzzes in my purse while my wrist is getting stamped. It's Leo. Going in. Wish me luck! The words are followed by a money bag emoji and a photo of the stairwell leading to the rooftop hotel bar we cased out together. She's downtown tonight, a handful of traffic-clogged miles away from me.
I reply, You got this. I think she's nervous. I've tried reassuring her; we all have unlucky streaks. She'll feel better when she has cash in hand, a feeling I relate to on a soul-deep level. Money is security. Money is doctor appointments, gas in the tank, food—and we're running low.
I take my ID back—I'm moonlighting as someone named Claire tonight— and stow it in my bra. My car key is a hard little lump beside the license. I never keep my key in my purse. You can't tell what might happen to the things you're carrying.
I pull the nightclub door open. Warm, steamy air blasts into my face along with an assault of "Smack That" by Akon. I cringe, remembering the theme tonight is early aughts. The club smells like booze, cologne, and sweat. I stroll through the room, getting oriented. On the left are bottle service tables, a series of booths partitioned off with velvet ropes. Ahead is the double-sided bar with bartenders working frantically, arms flashing. Cocktail waitresses dart back and forth, graceful little hummingbirds sipping from flowers.
On the right is the packed dance floor, a bearded DJ presiding over it like a cult leader. My eyes follow the walls out of habit, locating the restrooms and the door that leads to the back room and service exit. I bypass dancers and tuck myself into a corner to take stock. The crowd is mostly early twenties and stupid rich, which is of course why I chose this club. I was tipped off by some UCLA students, and I can see in a single glance that tonight will be worth my time.
A smile creeps across my face. I didn't realize how much I've been worrying about our little dry spell until now. All my energy had been used to reassure Leo.
I take fifteen minutes to select my people. It helps to nickname them—an old memory trick a veteran salesman taught me—so I work up a mental list that includes Yacht Chad (spiky blond hair, expensive boat shoes, drunk); Tennis Chad (looks like Yacht Chad but with brown hair); Fitness Amber, who's trying to twerk while drinking her weight in Long Islands; and Med Student Jen, who's going to be really bummed when she realizes she lost her ID but who looks enough like me to be my younger sister.
I move to a corner near the bar and stroll back and forth until I catch one of the cocktail waitresses logging in to the point-of-sale terminal. Heidi, employee number 120801. Perfect.
The DJ pivots to "Milkshake" with a vengeance. The crowd cheers drunkenly, and the college girls turn around so the boys can grind up on their L.A.-toned butts.
I slip along the perimeter of the club and let myself into the ladies' room. Inside, someone is vomiting in the handicapped stall. I lock myself into the smaller stall and pull off my black dress. Underneath, I'm wearing a crop top with a deep V-neck and a pair of butt-cheek-baring booty shorts. Two bras have my cleavage welling up to an almost comic degree. It's overkill; my chest is big enough. I can hear Leo's voice in my head, teasing me about it. But the more my boobs bust out of my shirt, the less anyone will look at my face. Speaking of which, I slide on a pair of nonprescription glasses, which will be another thing people notice instead of my features.
I pull my long hair into a tight bun to hide its length, which is distinctive—it falls thick and wavy to my waist. Anyone remembering me from tonight will recall four things: big butt, big boobs, glasses, brown hair in a bun.