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|A day in the life of Ted Clark, business and tax lawyer. Part of the law series, though this isn't based on any particular cases. Rather, this started as a way of exploring some of the stranger sides of tax law. Believe or not, everything in here is good law. Note: this is an altered version of the original story. Unfortunately, in updating all the old comments were lost. I'm sorry!||
It was one of those nights when the mist comes up out of the sewers and mixes with fog in the streets and the low clouds to smother the city like a bowl of split pea soup. It was a Tuesday night and I still hadn’t gotten over my hangover from the Halloween party on Sunday. I staggered through the streets to my office, its neon sign pulling me in like moth to a flame. Tripping over a wino, I steadied myself on a lamp-post. The lamps illuminated the fog, creating little balls of light like Christmas ornaments. I walked the rest of the block, then headed up to my office.
“Theodore Clark, Business and Tax Attorney.” That’s my name on the door. Looks just like any other white collar shmuck in this town, until you notice the little sign on the bottom: “Licensed since 1925. Office hours 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM. All species welcome.”
I walked in and lit the gas lamps. Most of my clients prefer the ambiance and besides, it keeps the electric bill down. I could hear the sound of the vote-mobiles trying to bribe the winos into re-electing the mayor and councilmen. I smiled. I pride myself on being the one dead man in this town who actually gets to choose who I vote for. Thankfully absentee balloting had made the process easier and less scary for the poor poll workers who had to look at my decaying corpse.
I poured myself a glass of water to help dilute the alcohol in my system. I had just gotten settled in when I heard a knock on my door. “Come on in!” I hollered. The advantage of being dead is that you don’t really worry about personal safety. The client stepped into the office.
He was short and wiry, with thick glasses and acid eaten clothes. “Uhh, Ted?” he asked, his voice a nasally whine.
“Yes, Jeremy?” I replied. Jeremy Higgins was a mad scientist wannabe. To pay the bills until he figured out a way to take over the world, he sold drugs. He had managed to turn common household chemicals into a narcotic that was not only ten times more potent than cocaine but also was technically legal. However, he was certain that the minute his drug was publicized it would get banned, so he was trying to keep out of the spotlight as much as possible.
“Ted, I brought my receipts. I forgot to file my quarterly return. Can you help me out?”
I sighed. “Jeremy, those were due on the fifteenth.” I grabbed the pack of paper in his hand. “Keep this up and you’re going to get audited,” I muttered.
I flipped through the stack of papers. Store receipts mingled with the strange scribbles of the dealer. “Drug sale, material purchase, drug sale, drug sale, rent, hand guns, electric bill, guard dog expenses . . .” I looked the kid in the eye. “Jeremy, how many times have I told you that you need to diversify?”
The wannabe sighed. “Lots.”
“Jeremy, I’m serious. If you just had a roulette wheel, a hooker, anything else, I could deduct all your expenses. As long as you’re just in the drug business, I can only deduct the cost of your drugs from your profits. You’re losing thousands of dollars to the government.”
“Yes, Ted.” The little man looked pensive. “I suppose I could rent out rooms to my customers.”
“Hospitality?” I mumbled as I thought. “That would work. Get me the paperwork and we’ll do that for next quarter.” I paused for a moment. “By the way, have you been keeping up with your sales taxes?”
The kid rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he said, utterly exasperated.
“Look, kid, in this state, you gotta pay sales on everything, including your street drugs. They bust you without your tax stamps, you’re going to jail and you gotta cough up the money.” I sighed. “In the meantime, I’ll fill these out. I’ll call you tonight for the amount you owe, and if you can drop off a check this morning I’ll get this sent off tomorrow.”
“Sure Teddy. How much do I owe you?”
“Same as always. Fifty bucks for prepping the forms, fifty bucks for trying to decipher your chicken scratch.”
Jeremy handed over five badly crumpled twenties, pouting a bit at the name calling. He walked out, slamming the door.
Little punk! I thought as I started delving into filling out the forms.
I had lost track of time when I heard my bell ring. I looked up at the clock, noticed that the clock said half past midnight. “Come in Hans!” I called and smiled as the vampire strode in. Hans Retchsanwalt was a German immigrant and my oldest friend. We preferred working independently, but we referred cases back and forth. I stuck with the tax and finance stuff, and he handled the rest.
“You know, Hans, you can just come in anytime you want.”
“Theodore, I am a vampire. I may not enter where I hef not been invited.”
“Hans, you have a standing invitation. My office is your office,” I added in my horrible Spanish accent.
“Yes, but . . .” the vampire flustered. “It is my hebit,” he said, a touch of his German accent creeping in. “Shall ve be off to our luncheon?”
“Sure.” I blew out the lamps and after we left, I locked the door. We took the stairs and headed out into the soupy streets. We walked side by side in silence, the vampire and the zombie. We were a study in contrasts: tall and skinny against medium and stout, his elegant stride versus my lurching steps, his bespoke suiting and my decaying clothes.
“So Hans, how’s business?”
“Theodore, it has been horrible. I hef been hard pressed to find enough clients to fill my nights. Also, the clients I find are less than forthcoming in providing payment.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I hef been forced to collect in blood. Fortunately, it does save me the cost of hiring prostitutes to sate my hunger.”
We walked along in silence. One of the many great things about being dead—you’re no longer vampire food. We arrived at our lunch spot: the Grateful Undead bar. The neon wasn’t properly lighting up the “Un,” however, so the doorman was sending the misguided drunk rock fans away.
We slipped through the crowd, passing the doorman. “Yo, wut up, Mr. R and Mr. C?” the black wolfman asked, his do-rag pinning back his ears and baggy pants being held up by the crook in his tail.
We ignored him. Both Hans and I can’t stand ghetto punks. We could have just found another bar, but there weren’t many options for people like us. We walked in and sat at our table in the corner.
Our waitress came up. Elva was a succubus who, after having contracted every STD known to mankind schlepping about as a lady of the night, had decided to move into a safer line of work. Not for her safety mind you—as a demon, she was immune to human diseases. She had decided out of the goodness of her heart that sleeping with her shouldn’t be a death sentence. Her fashion sense hadn’t changed from her nights as a street walker though, and she was laced up into a tight leather corset and a plaid miniskirt that went well with the black leather roller-skates.
“Hello sweethearts, what can I bring ya?”
“The usual, Elva,” I replied.
“All right. One full strength Bloody Mary and one Walking Dead.” She turned and skated off, her skirt barely reaching the fold between her ass and her thigh. I stalked her with my eyes as she vanished to the bar.
“Theodore, I hef never understood your attraction to thet woman. What possible appeal could such a trollop hef?”
“Hans, I’m dead. My libido isn’t. I’ve lusted after that woman for seventy years. I’m not going to stop simply because my heart went kaput. Besides, enough about me. What are you going to do about work?”
“I hef considered joining Chaney Karloff.”
“Chaney Karloff? Are you serious?”
“I vould greatly prefer not to join them. I do not vish to start verk at seven o’clock every night and verk until noon. Billing three thousand hours a year is an abomination. The firm simply does not belief in a verk/unlife balance.”
“No kidding, Hans. I worked for them as my first job out of law school. They worked me to death. Literally. And then they took my still warm corpse over to the College of Mad Science to get me reanimated so I could finish the due diligence for the merger I was working on. You don’t want to go that route, my friend.”
“I know, Theodore. I greatly hope business vill improve. The situation hess been depressing me greatly.”
“Hans, buddy, if you’re that hard up for cash, I can make you a loan until something comes up. Hell, I’d even be willing to set up a formal partnership. The money isn’t that important to me.”
Elva skated up, Hans’s Bloody Mary in one hand and my liquid filled vase in the other. “Here y’all are. The Bloody Mary is top shelf, AB+. And Teddy, I mixed this Walking Dead special for you. Vodka, Scotch, two types of Bourbon, Irish whisky, melon liquor, lager, Jaeger, and absinthe.” “Oh, Elva, you are a dear,” I smiled as I took the first sip. She smiled then returned to wherever waitresses go when they aren’t serving you.
Hans frowned and cocked an eyebrow. “Oh hush you!” I said to him. “My taste buds haven’t worked since becoming post mort, and the only way for alcohol to get to my brain is water pressure. If it’s not a suicider, I won’t even notice it.”
“Still, Theodore, a professional drinking so much is uncouth. I remember your boorish behavior at the Halloween party.”
I felt my face get a little warm. Must be the alcohol. “Well, I don’t remember, and it sounds like I’m a better zombie for it.” I paused. “I can hold my liquor just fine, thank you.”
I drank some more, the alcohol soaking my dead tissues and creeping up to my brain. Hans delicately sipped his cocktail.
“So Hans, did you vote yesterday?” I said, just to break the awkward silence.
“No, I did not. I carefully considered the candidates. They are all deeply flawed. I could not bring myself to support any of them, even if only to oppose the other.”
“Well, I can definitely understand that, considering the options always seem to be morons, criminals, or the borderline megalomaniacs. Lately I’ve been going with the intelligent criminals, but I switched to the morons I mostly agree with for this round. It’s all the same really, but I started voting back when . . .”
A small man came up to our table. “Excuse me,” he interrupted. His voice had the precise clip I associated with doctors. “Are you Mr. Rick San Walt?”
I pointed to my friend. “He’s Mr. Retchsanwalt,” correcting the pronunciation. Feeling pendantic, I added “Say it with me: Wretch zan valt.”
Hans shot me a look. “I am Hans Retchsanwalt,” he told the man. “Do you require my legal services?”
“Oh yes, sir. You see, I’m a doctor and I’m getting sued by a former patient of mine. I transplanted his hands, but it went wrong . . .”
I stood up. “Looks like you’re going to be busy, Hans. I’ll catch you later.” I downed the rest of my drink, tossed one of the crumple twenties from Jeremy on the table, and headed back to my office.
The alcohol was giving me quite a buzz by the time I got back. I fumbled with the lock, then staggered in, lurching more than normal. I collapsed on the couch, rethinking the wisdom of my bravado over lunch. After a few minutes, the alcohol started seeping through my ears and evaporating, clearing my head enough to get some water and get back to work.
I went back to preparing Jeremy’s self employment form. The work mostly just involved updating the last quarter’s statement, which I had retrieved from my files. I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to depreciate Jeremy’s Dobermans when the doorbell rang.
“Come on in,” I said, having lost my train of thought. I looked up to see the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Wait, no—she was some kind of anthropomorphic mink. She was covered in blond fur with a gorgeous mane and a long fluffy tail. Her hunter green suit matched her eyes perfectly and showed off her curves like no man’s business. She also had a pert green hat and a veil that matched her handbag. In short, she was some kind of furry forties pinup.
“Mr. Clark,” she called, her voice soft and breathy. “I’m in a spot of difficulty. Can you help me?” She sat down beside my desk.
Oh, yes. Anything you want honey. “I, or . . .” I thought about mentioning Hans, but she was just so gorgeous. “I can help you out. What’s your problem?”
Please let it be a necrophilia fetish, please let it be a necrophilia fetish . . .
“I’m in a bit of a . . . situation with my husband, Mr. Clark.” She paused and seemed to blush. “He uh, passed away recently. He left everything to me.”
She’s rich, single, and gorgeous? When did I die again and get to heaven? “I’m sorry to hear that you’re all alone in this world.” I reached out, placing my decaying grey-green hand on hers. “So what can I help you with? The name’s Teddy, by the way.”
Her face pulled up into a tight embarrassed smile. “I’m Gigi Fitch,” she smiled as she pulled her hand out from under mine. I retracted my hand. “My problem is that he is hasn’t quite passed on. His spirit has been haunting our house.”
“Post-mortem relations can get a bit tricky. I should know.”
“Oh, I hoped you would understand. I just feel that my vow was ‘until death do us part.’ And well, he thinks that just because he’s still around I have to be the good wife and not spend our money or find someone more corporeal to start life over with.”
“Okay. What do you want me to do?”
“Well, Mr. Teddy, I was wondering if there is any way for me to seize control of the assets legally. I mean, I’m the rightful owner, right? He’s legally dead.”
“Ms. Gigi, post-mortem property assignments can be very tricky. American law wasn’t written to deal with dead people still capable of action. The law is generally in your favor, as dead hand rules are frowned upon.” I looked down and started searching through my business card deck. Finding what I was looking for, I started copying the information on a scratch sheet of paper.
“This is the contact info for a friend of mine. She’s a licensed medium and exorcist. I think your best bet is to just send your former husband’s soul on his merry way.”
Gigi slipped the note in her bag. “Oh, thank you Mr. Teddy.” She leaned over and kissed my cheek, thrilling me both from the touch and the nice view of her cleavage. I tried not to drool.
She walked to the door. “Gigi,” I called, “Would you like to join me for dinner?”
She turned and smiled. “I would like that. Meet you here at five?”
“You know where to find me,” I smiled back. She closed the door and headed down the stairs. I peeked through my windows, watched her vanish into the mist, and checked the clock.
Let’s see, it’s 3:00 now. If I get Jeremy’s form finished in the next half hour, I have time to run home, get cleaned up, and be back. I can do that.
Ah, the life of a tax zombie.
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