"I just got the strangest call." Wilson covered the distance between the door and House's desk in four steps. "Williams from ortho just called to congratulate me. Seems I'm in first place so far in their NCAA pool."

House glanced over the top of his glasses. "Mazel tov." He looked back down at the journal on his desk.

"Here's the strange part: I don't recall entering their NCAA pool."

House took off his glasses, leaned back. "Maybe you forgot."

"No," Wilson crossed his arms over his chest. "I think I'd remember that. After all I seem to remember you bitching that they banned you from their pool this year."

"For no good reason," House said.

"Right," Wilson nodded his head slightly, "for no good reason. Or because they're just jealous of your mad skills in picking teams, or maybe -- just maybe -- it's because you hacked into their database last year when you started losing."

House snorted, picked up the phone and held it out to Wilson. "First, the year 1998 called. They want their slang back. 'Mad skills?'" He shook his head. "Second, I didn't hack into anything."

Wilson didn't say anything, just raised his eyebrows.

"Some resident left a computer on. I just ..."

"Took advantage of that and erased all the names from the spread sheet so that they couldn't tell who won. Then you shredded all the original paper copies."

"Is it my fault that they didn't lock the filing cabinet?" House shrugged, put the phone back on the cradle. "OK, so nobody won, but nobody lost either. Besides, I was doing them a favor."

Wilson just stared at him.

"They needed to learn something about protecting confidential files. Anyone off the street could have walked in and accessed patient information."

"So what lesson are you teaching them this year, to check IDs before accepting anyone's money?"

"Why are you bitching? You're in first place."

"I'm not bitching, I'm just ..." Wilson uncrossed his arms, pulled over one of the chairs and sat, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Just tell me who I picked."

House pulled open a drawer and took out a folder, started flipping through the sheets until he came to one in the middle.

"North Carolina over UCLA," he said, and held it out to Wilson. "Very boring. Very safe. Very you."

Wilson ignored the paper in House's hand, grabbed the file from the desk instead. "What's wrong with betting on a sure thing?"

"Nothing, if you're a girl."

Wilson shook his head, looked over photocopied pages, one with Taub's name at the top, one with Thirteen's, one with Kutner's. He stared at another name for a moment before he recognized it. "You submitted one for Coma Guy?"

"It's a big hospital," House said. "They'll just figure it's some night shift nurse no one can remember."

Wilson put the page back, looked at the next one. "Cuddy?"

"Pffft. She picked USC to make it to the Elite Eight," House said. "No one's going to be calling to congratulate her." He looked at Wilson's sheet again. "You, on the other hand, somehow picked Siena over Vanderbilt. How'd you manage that?"

"Guess I got lucky." Wilson closed the file, tossed it onto House's desk. "Why not just enter someone else's pool? Chase would be glad to take your money."

"Betting with Chase is like betting for North Carolina over UCLA: boring."

"And getting past ortho's ban?"

House smiled. "Much more interesting."

"So what's to keep me from telling them that you forged my entry?"


Wilson shook his head.

"Revenge? Simpson voted with Vogler to kick you off the board."

Wilson leaned forward. "Cash," he said. "I hear there's nearly five hundred bucks in the pot. My entry wins, I keep half."

"I did all the work," House said. "Sixty-fourty."

"Fifty-fifty," Wilson said, "or I mention something in passing about how well the guy in a coma is doing."

House looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then at Wilson. "Give me ten bucks to cover your half of the bet, and you're in."

Wilson paused.

"Ten bucks for more than two hundred bucks," House said. He held out his hand.

Wilson nodded, reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. He fished out a bill and handed it over. "North Carolina," he said. "Sounds like a sure thing."

"Right." House took the bill, put it in his own pocket. He smiled. "Trust me. It'll be easy money."