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Three-thirty in the morning, maybe closer to four.
A packed club in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, a place called Gypsy Tea. Trendy as hell, the velvet rope outside lorded over by a doorman with a shaved head and a name nobody could pronounce, and a girl in a leather skirt so short she could have worn it as a wristband. Two couch-strewn floors teeming with pretty people in designer clothes, their New York hip-factor ratified by the fact that it was past three in the morning on a Tuesday and that they'd somehow made it past the door-bitches and their mysterious and uniquely New York vetting practices. The music was dangerously loud, bouncing off the walls in ear-shattering waves, and the champagne was flowing freely, splashing down the sides of crystal flutes and splattering all over the thick faux-leather carpeting.
The VIP area took up most of the back corner of the first floor, separated from the rest of the club by another velvet rope. The bouncers at this rope were wearing headsets and holding clipboards, but the clipboards were really just for show. If you were going to get into the VIP, the bouncers wouldn't need to find your name on a list. The crowd beyond the rope was young—twenties and thirties—and obviously well-heeled. Bankers in tailored Brooks Brothers mingled with hip-hop execs in Armani and Sean John. Prime Time celebs swirled about like errant weather patterns, trailing wakes of PR flunkies, oversized bodyguards, and harried assistants. And of course, there were girls—there were always girls, models from Ford and Elite and Next, too tall and too thin and too angled, more giraffes than gazelles.
David Russo watched the circus from the safety of a corner banquette, his shoulders tense beneath the thin material of his charcoal-colored Zegna suit. The banquette was lodged behind a black marble table, which struggled beneath a glass metropolis of champagne and vodka bottles, ensconced by overflowing buckets of ice. David had a drink in his hand—something with vodka, he assumed—but he hadn't even taken a sip. Although he was not a stranger to places like this, he was definitely an outsider. At twenty-six, he had never made a hobby of decadence, and at this hour he was usually holed up in his office, preparing for the market's next opening, or home in bed with Serena, his girlfriend of two years. But tonight he hadn't had much of a choice. In less than a week, David's entire life was going to change—and he had to tread carefully. He had to keep up appearances, act as though nothing was out of the ordinary, no matter how far from ordinary things were about to become."Fucking awesome, isn't it?"
Michael Vitzioli winked at him from a thickly cushioned couch to his right, then high-fived the two young men sitting across the table from them. Joey Brunetti and Jim Rosa shouted something back, but their voices were lost in the noise of the club. David smiled and nodded, stifling his nervous energy as best he could. He had been watching the three traders decimate bottle after bottle of alcohol for the past few hours, and he was beginning to believe that the night would never end. For the hundredth time, he regretted accepting the invite from Vitzi and his trading partners—but really, David couldn't have turned them down. Over the last six months he had worked hard to win the trust of the traders—no small task, considering how different his background and theirs seemed to be. Even the way the three young men were dressed—Vitzi in a leather jacket and ripped jeans, Brunetti in a denim ensemble that would have given Serena a heart attack, and Rosa in what looked to be an overpriced sweat suit—betrayed the different paths they'd traveled to this chaotic, late-night moment. Even so, the three men had finally grown to accept David as one of their own. And if what David had planned was going to work, he needed to remain in their good graces. He needed to continue to play the part.
"Hell of a party," he shouted back to Vitzi. "You're gonna break a record tonight. That waitress nearly fainted when you ordered that twelfth bottle of Cristal."
Vitzi grinned. The excess of the evening was a point of pride to him, especially because he knew that word of the night's spending spree would move across the trading floor faster than he'd been spreading drinks around the VIP room. Vitzi certainly didn't care about the money; he had made five hundred thousand dollars' profit that morning. Half a million wasn't a record for the Merc Exchange, but it was a pretty damn impressive take. Especially considering that just two weeks earlier Vitzi had turned twenty-four.
"Can you fucking believe the girls in here?" Vitzi responded. Then he pointed at Rosa across the table. "Hey, maybe you can bring one of 'em to work with you tomorrow. Even the worst one here would be better than the shit you pulled yesterday."
Rosa's cheeks reddened as David and the others had a laugh at his expense. In truth, David knew that Rosa wasn't really embarrassed by the crack; his escapade of the day before was already fast becoming legend.
Yesterday morning, Rosa's clerk had called in sick just hours before the opening bell. The young trader had needed to find a replacement clerk, anyone at all—he had just needed a body on the floor. So he had brought along the woman who had happened to be in bed with him at the time—a prostitute he'd hired the night before. All morning the nineteen-year-old hooker had strolled up and down the trading floor in transparent, high-heeled shoes, her hair sprayed up to the ceiling.
"And nobody batted a fucking eye," David said out loud, shaking his head. Vitzi and Rosa high-fived again.Rigged
Excerpted from Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai by Ben Mezrich
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