Saturday, September 26, 2015


Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


By R. Peterson

Facinated, Dolda Spindel gazed at her reflection in a gilded mirror as she stood on a landing above the ballroom. The raven-haired beauty looked magnificent in a white gown trimmed with thousands of diamonds and pearls. Each elegant stitch had been painstakingly attached to Attaby Silk with silver thread. The largest room in the palace was filled with attractive ladies and handsome gentlemen, all waiting for the prince of Nodnol.
Rising with magnificent fanfare, sixteen trumpeters heralded the arrival of King Astor’s only son. The Great Hall doors were flung open as Prince Dristig and a dozen mounted nobles galloped across a drawbridge and entered the castle.
Orchestrated minstrels played an elegant motet and all eyes were on the beautiful girl as she began to descend a marble staircase. Halfway down the steps Miss Spindel’s shoe caught on her lace petticoat, and she stumbled.  A servant holding a tray filled with champagne glasses, reached out a hand to steady her, and when he did … a single drop of wine fell onto Dolda’s slipper.
“You Dankish, Ill-bred, Pumpkin Butt!” the young woman screeched. “You’ve bloody ruined everything!”
And as Dolda’s rage against the terrified servant erupted … her beauty melted until she was once again a horrible prancing old witch … dressed in sooty sack-cloth and twisting in evil vapors … with two flea-infested goat-hoofs for feet.
                “Good heavens!” the crowd gasped as Prince Dristig stumbled away from his transformed bride-to-be. “Why such a reluctant heart?” the old witch cackled as she pranced onto the dance floor. One of her eyes was a blackened pit, the other a bulging, un-cracked goose egg. “Wanting to trade these warts and crumples for a bit of milk and honey-skin are you, my dear?”
            “I always feared your great outward beauty might hide something hideous and tainted,” the prince of Nodnol stammered. “I prayed that it wasn’t so … that you were merely in the foul grips of a monthly disorder.”
                “Hideous and tainted am I?” Dolda stalked the prince across Nodnol’s Greatest Hall. Her hair was like a nest of squirming vipers. Brutal rage flared from her single functioning eye. “These are words worthy of bloodletting … but alas!  … a prince’s opulent life is not to be taken by anyone … not even a bride of grimoire such as I.” She laughed as she held out a twisted hand and six dancers fell dead on the floor. “Not so with lesser lives … I fear.”
            “I order you to leave these walls at once,” the prince cried. “We’ve had enough terror and treachery on this night to last many lifetimes.”
            “Not without a kiss … will I depart,” Dolda said. “One tiny smooch in moonlight and all your attendants’ lives will be spared. Then shall I be gone forever … filled with dreams and dancing.”
Seven soldiers rushed the witch and with a simple blink of her eye she turned them all into blazing straw-men writhing on the dance floor. “Perhaps I should visit your sleepy village … visit all the villages in Nodnol,” she hissed.
Dolda wagged a bony finger at the prince and laughed as she capered from the palace and floated around the castle walls, hovering above fields and wetlands like an Irish banshee. “One kiss and you’ll be rid of me,” she promised.
            “Scorched lips and the eternal taste of sludge are a small price to pay for the ransom of many,’ the prince said as he met the frolicking witch on the drawbridge.
 A large conquering moon surveyed the castle as an army of wind and clouds whispered from behind and below their master. Hundreds of sleepy evening -birds jostled to the edge of leafy-beds competing to see which fowl had the best limb to witness the duplicitous kiss. The dark shadows of forest and marsh were all filled with bright hungry eyes appearing like stars. “Have your kiss and be done,” the prince said. “But no tongue! I’d rather thrust my patois into a pot of boiling goat-dung than lick your rotted snappers!”
            “One small peck … and this reluctant rooster may hop on his way,” Dolda promised.
Frowning, the prince’s lips had barely touched the witch’s when a bolt of lightning fell from the sky and blasted olive and yellow vapors where once the young monarch had stood. The crowd gasped as the greenish smoke swirled and then cleared. The prince had vanished. In his place, a stupefied frog trembled under the gaze of the horrified moon. Dolda swam in a fit of hysterical laughing.
            “A blood-pudding from a prince is too pricey for my poor widow’s pension,” the witch reasoned “Where is the mercy in Nodnol? … But a pair of spicy toad’s legs? They will be more than welcome in my cooking pot.” She drew a glimmering butcher’s knife from the musty folds of her dank skirts and bent low to secure her evening’s supper.
The frog avoided the slashing knife by inches as it flung itself off the bridge and into the clammy waters of the moat surrounding the castle. A crowd was forming. Someone shouted that a wizard from Scotland had been summoned.
Rocking back on her heels, Dolda whistled and a large wolf appeared slinking from a clearing in the fen. The witch used a length of her own matted hair for a bridle and mounted the beast. Dolda was almost to the swamp when a girl’s hopeful voice rang in the still night air. “True love’s kiss will restore the prince,” she cried. A girl named Sarah, who washed clothes at a nearby river, took off her shoes and waded into the stagnant water to retrieve the amphibian. “My dream lover’s freedom is just a smooch away,” she gushed.
Only a few feet from the forest, the witch reined in the scruffy wolf she was riding and whirled to face the gaping crowd. “Your enchanted prince will be but one of many in this kingdom,” she cackled. Dolda raised her arms in the air and a dark tornado appeared storming across a swamp. The sky blackened and it began to rain frogs … small ones, large ones, eager ones and lazy ones. Green squirming frogs filled the rivers, the streets, the roofs, barrels and the tops of trees. “Find your prince now,” Dolda screamed at Sarah. Then she turned and galloped the wolf across a marsh and into the forest.

Great lakes of frogs sloshed through open windows and flooded cellars. Within minutes the enchanted prince was lost in a sea of hopping madness. “There is but one thing to do,” said the king when he arrived to look for his missing son. “Every maiden of unquestionable virtue, and even those with less than perfect conducts, must be summoned to the realm. All frogs in Nodnol must be captured, kissed, marked and released.” He had a scribe take down his words and he ordered placards printed and spread throughout the land.

Save my son from a life of soggy, fly-feasting squalor and you shall reign as his wife-queen and as my daughter.” Before the day had ended, riders had spread the word all over Britain and beyond.
In the weeks that followed, girls poured into the kingdom of Nodnol … young, old, pretty and pesty … nice, neat, naughty and nasty. They flowed into the city from everywhere by cart, by coach and by canal. They arrived anyway they could … by bridle, by boat, and by boot …
… and the kissing began!

Four-hundred wagonloads of frogs had been gathered. The line of girls vying to transform the prince back into human form and become his wife stretched for miles. Each frog was passed down the line and each girl kissed it. Then strange things began to happen …
Rocking from one leg to another, a plump maiden with fiery-red hair, a face sprayed with freckles, dressed in green and stuffing her mouth with jelly-tarts, kissed a frog who with a puff of glittery green changed into a young baker who looked exactly like she did … and he loved to create sticky confections. The couple were like two halves of a severed coin and they strolled happily away together.
One gangly girl with legs like stilts, wearing glasses and brandishing a nose like a pair of sissors, glittered her frog into a stork-like lad holding a fishing pole and they ran toward the river to do some wading. A woman with a field of hay found a horseman, while a girl who lived on an island found a young man with a boat.
Growing with suspicion, It didn’t take long for the citizens of Nodnol to realize that every frog was enchanted, just waiting for the kiss of  true love that would change it back into human form. The line of girls grew shorter and the wagons filled with frogs fewer until only Sarah the washer-maid remained … and all the frogs were gone.

Sarah walked down the dusty streets crying. “Why am I always the one left alone,” she bawled. “Isn’t there a frog out there waiting for my lips?” She had just cranked up a bucket of water from the town well to wash her face when she heard a croaking sound from deep inside the rock-lined cistern. “Aha! Here’s a hopper the lads in the wagons missed,” Sarah exclaimed happily as she hoisted her skirts and began to climb down a frayed-rope to rescue her prince. Halfway down, the old rope broke and Sarah fell. She splashed in the dark far below.

Froggy … here froggy,” Sarah called as she swam in dark water lit by clouds of fire-flies. “So this is where you’re off to during the day,” she mused as she brushed the air with her hands. She had almost lost all hope of ever finding out what made the sound when she spotted a pair of green legs thrashing through a break in the cistern wall and into an underground stream. A girl who washes clothes at a river certainly knows how to swim for lost socks and other bits of clothing. Sarah soon caught the frog and dragged it onto a sandbar.

Reaching into her soggy apron for a tiny jar of bees-wax and honey, Sarah freshened her lips before she held the frog before her and then kissed it with all the hopeful passion she could muster. There was nothing … no puff of glittery green only the buzz of the fire-flies, the sound of dripping water, and the squelch of the underground stream as it lapped against the rock walls.
                Once again she kissed the squirming frog … then over and over she canoodled the poor creature until it lay on its back in the sand with its long tongue flapping in the water. “Either you’re not the real prince, I’m not your one true love, or you’re playing hard to get,” Sarah gasped as she crumpled exhausted onto the sand. Looking up, she noticed crude steps cut into the rock wall and a dim light far above her. After she had rested, she wrapped the frog in the folds of her apron and climbed the stairs.
                Gusts of wind ruffled Sarah’s blonde tresses as she spied the cave opening that led to the forest. There in the twilight space between light and dark loomed a tethered wolf and Dolda. The wretched witch stood next to a tiny fire, hunched over a cauldron filled with boiling water and floating pig’s eyes. A large wire cage with a terrified frog inside jutted from the rocks next to her. Dolda sprinkled bits of snake-grass, worm-root and chopped toad-stool into the vile steaming brew with her bony fingers as she chanted echoing incantations.
                Drink this soup … and have some tea.
          Shed your flippers … and marry me.
          I’m not fresh and delicate … as I once was.
A few warts and wrinkles … why all the fuss?”

“Dribble, drabble … rattle bone.
Capture love … and lead him home.
Just a drop … placed on his tongue.
Will restore a prince … and make me young.”

Sarah shrieked loudly as the old witch dipped a silver goblet cup into the hot liquid and then reached for the frog. Dolda was startled by the girl’s sudden intrusion and the cup slipped from her fingers and clattered onto the stone floor. “You!” the old witch screamed. “You’ve played with my plans for the last time!” Sarah turned and started to run but her feet were still wet and she slipped and fell on the rock floor. The scrambling witch seized the washing girl by her hair and dragged her to the cage, locking her inside with the frog.

Finding the empty silver goblet on the floor, the witch turned to refill it. Sarah used this opportunity to swap the frog in the cage with the one wrapped in her apron. Dolda turned around and smiled as she delicately lifted the switched frog from its prison … careful not to let Sarah escape. The excited witch pried open the frog’s mouth and pored the potion inside. The frog coughed and rolled its eyes. It wiped its tongue on the rocks and spit and gagged … but it remained a frog.

Rampaging from wall to wall in the cavern, a shrieking Dolda knocked over the cage and the lock on the door burst open. While the witch overturned the caldron and stomped the fire into ash in her rage, the poor washing girl from Nodnol took the opportunity to kiss the frog hidden in her apron. This time she knew she couldn’t fail … and she wasn’t wrong.

Only the sun at mid-day was brighter as the prince appeared in a puff of glittery green. The moment their eyes met Prince Dristig and Sarah both knew they were in love. They were almost out of the cave headed toward Nodnol and already making wedding plans when Sarah happened to look back. She felt sorry for the witch despite all the trouble the old crone had caused.

Grab that last frog in the kingdom before he gets away,” Sarah called to Dolda as the last frog in the kingdom was about to disappear into the darkness. “Try your kiss on him … this might be your final hope!”
Sarah’s words caused the witch to spout crude insults for almost a full minute before her cataract filled eye cleared and reason entered … then … “Why not,” Dolda cackled. “Why the bloody hell-at-the-end-of-a-story not?”

Shooting stars of glittery green bounced off every wall in the cavern as a handsome woodcarver Dolda had known in her youth appeared in a puff of smoke at her lingering kiss. His adoring eyes, and a smile like the gleaming pearls Dolda had worn around her neck in the castle, caused the crone he gazed lovingly at, to transform into the simple seamstress he had always loved.
The two lost lovers were dancing together as Sarah and Prince Dristig untied and released the wolf even though they knew it was big and bad. They entered the forest arm in arm and began the long journey toward his father’s castle.
And they all … each and every person in the magical kingdom of Nodnol … lived happily   … forever and for after … all except the wolf … I wonder about the wolf!

The End


Sunday, September 20, 2015


Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

Ride you to the bone without a saddle-blanket …
By R. Peterson

Doris was at the safe-from-dings end of the Red Rooster’s parking lot, scratching dirty-words all over Renny Wilson’s new Dodge Ram. The screech of her belt buckle as it dug through lacquer paint filled her ears, almost blotting out the sloppy bar-band playing a cover of Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party. But then gravel splattered across her shoes as a familiar jeep skidded to a stop inches from Renny's truck, and raucous laughter rang out. The cavalry had arrived in the shape of Doris's three friends.
“Hey Lady! You misspelled cheater,” Gwen laughed as she jumped from Sarah’s Chevy Pickup.
“No she didn’t,” Sarah argued as their friend stretched to write I CAN’T GET IT UP! across the hood of the shiny truck. Sarah pointed to block letters scratched in the driver’s door: CHATEHER! “Every time she c’s them together she hates her.”
“Then why not scratch a few words in Boom Boom’s car?” Euphoria said as she climbed carefully from the Silverado.
“Becca Branson wouldn’t notice if you scratched a whole erotic novel on the side of that beat-to-hell Ford Fiesta she drives,” Gwen declared as she twisted the truck’s custom radio antenna into a pretzel shape.

Sarah used a pair of broken nail-clippers on the truck’s front tires and smiled as air hissed out. “I wonder if Renny’s little whore grew them big-boobs herself, or if she bought them from that plastic surgeon in Butte?”
            “Doctor Water-Wings must have sewed a spring made of silicone inside each one,” Gwen snickered, “The way they bounce off the walls when she’s on the dance floor.”
Doris’s belt-buckle broke in half. She tossed it, belt and all into some tall weeds and began to cry. “That was the buckle I won for barrel-racing at the Comanche County Rodeo,’ she sobbed.
Sarah handed Doris her nail clippers and then began to break the truck glass with the post-hole digger she kept behind the Chevy’s driver’s seat. “Renny told me his mother was sick,” Doris bawled as she continued her scratching, “and that he’d call from Missoula when he got there.”
            “More likely he’ll call you from that Motel-6 just outside of town,” Sarah said and then wished she hadn’t. It took three blows to break out the windshield.
            “Renny and Becca are headed for the bar’s exit!” Charisa’s brown eyes (a legacy from her Sioux Indian mother) had a far-away look as she gazed toward the bar. “We have about three minutes.”
            “Do you want to ask him how his mother’s doing while we’re here, or do you want to get the hell out of Dodge before the cops show up?” Gwen looked at the forty-thousand dollar truck … it was a wreck.
            “Let’s get this thing started,” Doris told them wiping her eyes, “so it’ll be over quicker.”
The music got louder as the door to the bar banged open. Renny Wilson staggered out dragging Becca Branson. She fell to the ground when he released her from under his arm and began to run. “What the hell are you doing to my truck?” Renny screamed. Three-hundred and twenty pounds of fury wearing a cowboy hat, thundered across the gravel parking lot blowing steam like a locomotive.
Doris stood defiantly in front of the truck with tears still rolling from her eyes. “How is your momma, Renny? How is your momma?” she bawled.
            “She ain’t dead, but you’re gonna be!” Renny raised both ham-sized fists over his head.
Gwen had the good sense to stick out her leg and trip the runaway freight train. Renny went sprawling in the gravel. Sarah clobbered him with the post-hole digger just as he started to get up. A crowd was spilling from the bar most were holding drinks, a few were still dancing. In the far-off distance a siren could be heard.
            “Boom Boom’s brother called the sheriff,” Euphoria stared toward the lights of Cloverdale.
            “You want to kiss him goodbye, or do we just leave?” Gwen addressed Doris.
            “I think I’ll go for the kiss,” Doris said. Renny was rising to his knees when she kicked him hard with the toe of her boot. He slumped back in the gravel, moaned and then a moment later began to snore.

Gwen and Euphoria helped Sarah stuff Doris into her truck. The Chevy Silverado spun three circles in the center of the lot, spraying gravel at the throngs of onlookers moving in to watch a fight that was over before it began. Sarah headed south away from town. Doris was still hysterical; Sarah tried to comfort her. “The worst is over Doris. You’re a whole lot better off without that man in your life.”
“Renny isn’t the worst of my problems right now,” Doris sobbed. “I’m pregnant.”
“She was pregnant,” Gwen pointed to the pool of blood spreading from between Doris’s legs.
Sarah hit the brakes and the pickup skidded sideways before she turned around and headed back toward town. “Where are you going?” Gwen said in a quiet voice … she knew the answer.
            “Cloverdale General Hospital,” Sarah said. “There’s still a chance we can stop the miscarriage.”
            “You know if we go back into town Sheriff Walker will arrest us for sure don’t you?”  Gwen told her.
            “I’ve heard those county cells are cold,” Euphoria said. “Looks like we’re gonna find out.”
Flashing red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror made all the women except Doris look behind; Doris was bent over in pain.
“Let the sheriff chase us to the hospital,” Sarah said as she stomped on the gas pedal. “Sheriff Walker can help carry Doris inside.”


Euphoria and Sarah were playing cards in the cell, while Gwen pounded a tattooed woman’s head against the solid concrete. “No, I won’t give you my shoes and no I don’t want my throat cut!” Gwen punctuated each no with a bang against the wall and succeeded in making the woman drop a crudely-sharpened butter-knife on the floor. Gwen kicked the illegal dinnerware clattering under the iron-rod doors and into the hallway just as Sheriff Walker appeared with a set of keys.
“How is Doris, John?” Sarah dropped a three-of-a-kind poker hand on the thin mattress and stood up. Gwen released the tattooed woman and tried to look innocent.
“She’ll be fine,” Sheriff Walker said. “She lost the baby though.” John Walker looked at the three women and smiled. “Doris signed over her ranch to Alfonzo Hicks at the Gold Strike Bank and got enough equity to pay Renny Wilson’s restitution and hospital bills and also to make all of your bail.” The sheriff unlocked the cell. “That looks good enough for Judge Carson. As long as you ladies don’t beat the hell out of any more Dodge pickups … I think we’ll part company.”
“That ranch was all Doris had,” Sarah lamented.
“Wrong! She has us …” Gwen said.
Sheriff Walker held the door wide while the three exited the cell, but put a hand out to stop the tattooed woman when she tried to slip through, then deftly relocked the cell door. “Where are you ladies headed?” the sheriff asked.
            “We’re gonna pick up Doris and then we’re leaving Cloverdale,” Euphoria said with a smirk. “Crime doesn’t pay in this town.”
            “But I hear it does in New York,” Sarah laughed. “Are we really going there?”
“We all know Euphoria’s psychic Indian powers are never wrong,” Gwen said. “If she says something will be, then it will be.”
 “Then I guess we’ll find out,” Sarah said.
            “Good luck,” the sheriff said as he shook his head. “God help New York City!”


Sarah rolled-down her window and yelled at the heavy traffic, honking her horn and trying to blend-in with the natives. They had just crossed Coster Street going the wrong way on East Bay Avenue, when the radiator exploded and blew hissing steam from all sides of the hood. The engine died and the battered pickup rolled to a stop in front of the Bronx Junk Car Depot.
            “Three hundred bucks,” the man wiping his hands on a dirty rag said, “and only because scrap metal is up to fifteen cents a pound.”
Twenty minutes later, the ladies were walking north on Bryant Avenue headed for a restaurant. Euphoria was a half a block ahead complaining about how hungry she was. A man driving a sleek black BMW pulled to the curb and unrolled his window. “How much?” he asked a startled Euphoria. Instinct told her this was a rich man with lots of secrets.
            “How much for what?” she stammered.
            “To show me a wild ride,” the man blurted. His leering eyes were already undressing her.
The guy was cheating on his wife and owed $200,000 to the mob in gambling debt.
            “I’m real hungry, so it’s gonna be five-hundred dollars and real quick,” Euphoria said. She blinked three times and became irresistible.
The man hesitated, but for only a moment, thinking Euphoria had to be the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen. “You got it Baby! Hop in,” he ordered.
Euphoria was barely inside the expensive car and he’d just pulled away from the curb when she entwined one long leg over his and forced the gas-pedal all the way to the floor. “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” The richly dressed gentleman struggled to fight her off and steer at the same time as the car began to accelerate.
“Giving you your money’s worth, Baby!” Euphoria told him. The black BMW slid sideways through a red light at Oak Point Avenue and nearly collided with two careening taxis.
“Stop right now before you kill us both! You bitch!” the furious man screamed.
The expensive German built car was going over ninety when Euphoria stomped on the brake so hard the man banged his head on the dashboard as the car spun three times before it skidded to a stop on the sidewalk in front of a seafood store called The Lobster Place. Euphoria slipped the man’s wallet from the pocket of his Armani trousers as he did a dazed backstroke against the bench-seat.
            “Two-hundred and twenty bucks!” Euphoria screamed as she emptied out elven twenties and a few ones. “What were you looking to do … screw me?”
            “That was my plan,” the man moaned.
Euphoria opened the driver’s and kicked the man onto the cement. “You’ll get your car back when I get the rest of my money,” Euphoria told him.
            “You bitch!” the man screamed. “I’m C. P. Wentwood and I’m running for congress in District Eleven. I have lots of powerful friends in this city.”
            “I’m sorry but I’m from out of town and I don’t know who you are,” Euphoria told him. “Call one of those friends and ask if they’ll give you a ride.” She slid behind the wheel, closed the door and sped away.
Clarence “Charley” Wentwood stomped both feet on the sidewalk threw his hands in the air and screamed like a spoiled child.


            Gwen, Sarah and Doris were just about ready to go inside the Oak Restaurant and Grill when Euphoria pulled up driving the BMW. She unrolled the window and held up the two-hundred she’d gotten from Wentwood. “How about we go for a ride and find a classier place to eat?” she said. “This place looks like it warms TV dinners in a microwave.”

A block away the Eleventh District Congressional candidate was furious; as he watched three more women climb into his car and drive away. He started to call the police and then quickly shut off his cell phone. Wentwood didn’t know how he could explain getting robbed by a prostitute to the voters of New York. If the press ever got wind of what happened, his run for office would be over before it started. He punched in the number for someone more discreet instead.
            Louis Costalano answered on the second ring. The tough Italian was nothing if not focused. “We got a problem, Lou!”
Wentwood told Costalano how he’d lost his expensive car, his guap and his identification. He was manic when he heard his campaign manager laughing. “We don’t have a problem,” Louis reassured him. “I’ve got a dozen fists who’d love nothing better than to spaz a few Hoowahs into the East River … after they’ve had some fun with them.”
Clarence Wentwood smiled as his slid his cellphone back into his pocket. A car would be by to pick him up in ten minutes. Costalano had men who could fix anything. If these women from out of town wanted to take it there he would be more than willing to oblige.


            Euphoria spotted a policewoman writing a parking-ticket so she pulled the BMW to the curb to ask for directions. The meter-maid looked at the expensive car and told them. “If money is no object, I’d go to Le Bernardin. I love sea food … that’s on 155 W. 51st. St.”
Sarah was already punching the address into the GPS.
            “She said if money is no object,” Doris mused as they drove into the center of the city. “How expensive is this place?”
            “Who cares?” Sarah had been rummaging through Wentwood’s wallet and held up an American Express platinum card. “Men are only good for one thing …” She looked at Doris and laughed. “Well … two things!”


            Four burly men who worked for Costalano were cruising the streets of the Bronx in a non-descript Ford looking for Wentwood’s BMW when they got a call from their boss. “I put a watch on Westwood’s credit cards and the bank just called,” he sounded furious. “The bitches are stuffing their faces at Le Bernardin’s that sea-food place that charges the same amount NASA does for a space launch for just a lobster tail and a slice of lemon!
            “How do you want to handle this?” Jerry “Lucky” Lestroni asked the man driving.
Butch Costner opened his window and blew a mouth-full of sunflower seeds into oncoming traffic. “We take it real easy on the sluts until we get them back to Micky’s … then the fun starts!”
Micky “The Moose” Mastronadi sat in the back seat sliding a pair of brass knuckles on and off of his pudgy fingers. “There ain’t a rachet in the world who won’t start begging once the pain starts,” he giggled.


            “This place has some nerve,” Doris complained. “Asking for our credit card before we even ordered!” They all sat on a long beige couch against which small individual round-tables had been placed. Sarah stared at the artfully decorated dining area and at the exquisitely dressed French waiters rushing from table to table. “Maybe the figured we couldn’t afford to eat in this place. This isn’t exactly Skippers Fish ‘n Chips.”
            “They serve the fish here three ways,” Gwen laughed slapping down her menu. “Almost Raw, Barely Touched or Lightly Cooked.”
            “I’ll have the Striped Bass and make sure that stripe is charred-off before you bring him to the table,” Gwen told the waiter who magically appeared beside her table.
            “Il y aura autre chose, Madame ?” The waiter raised one eyebrow as Gwen tapped her finger on the photograph and shook her head.
            “We’ll all have the same,” Sarah said.
Très bon, je vais devoir le chef préparer votre déjeuner plus fabuleux.” The waiter told them. He picked up the menus and walked away with a sneer on his face.
            “Danger approaches us,” Euphoria mumbled. Her dark eyes stared at the dining room wall looking at nothing.
            “You mean the next waiter to approach our table will be speaking Chinese?” Gwen muttered.
            “She talks about danger coming our way, but she’s smiling!” Doris looked at her clairvoyant friend and shook her head.
            “It’s a Lakota Sioux warrior thing,” Sarah said. “Euphoria believes like her ancestors did that you are only as strong as your enemies.”
            “That’s right,” Gwen said, slopping their glasses full from a bottle of Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien the waiter had just placed reverently on their table. “That’s why she was so hip to get out of Montana … she figured nobody there is worth fighting since Custer bit the dust in 1876.”

They were on their second bottle of wine when a waiter appeared balancing all four plates in his two upraised hands.
            “Good God!” Gwen said as the waiter placed the plate before her. “Borrow me your fork, Sarah; I swear this striped-bass is still flopping!”
Doris handed the plates back to the waiter. “Take these plates back to the cook and tell him to turn up the heat,” she said. “We want them almost burned, barely burned and lightly burned.”
            “That won’t be necessary,” a voice behind the waiter said. “These ladies have another appointment.”
Gwen, Sarah, Doris and Euphoria stared at the bulky men surrounding their table.
            “You wanted strong enemies,” Gwen stared at the scowling men and then at Euphoria. “Let’s just hope we’re as tough as they are!”


Butch Costner slammed down the phone inside Micky Mastronadi’s Brooklyn hotel room and glanced at the four women sitting on the floor together in the corner. “Costalano says not to touch them … and he don’t want no guns in case the cops show. You can’t trust anybody in this town. I told him we brought them up here unarmed just like he wanted. He wants to find out who sent them and how much they know before we take a ride to the river.”
            “Until our friend gets here, maybe you girls would like to entertain us?” Jerry Lestroni nudged Euphoria with the point of his shoe.
            “And just how are we supposed to entertain you?” Gwen said with a grimace.
            “By dancing!” Lestroni giggled.
            “Sorry but I left my dancing shoes home.” Doris sneered.
            “You won’t need shoes,” Lestroni told her. ‘In fact you won’t need any clothes!” He grabbed Euphoria by the hair and began to pull her to her feet.
            “You can’t do this … you have a phone call,” Euphoria told him seconds before the cell phone in his coat played the opening notes from the movie The Godfather.
Lestroni dropped her to the floor and took the call.
 “Costalano says he’s going to be late.” Lestroni grumbled. “Until then, the girls aren’t to be touched!”  He looked at Euphoria warily. “How come you knows I was getting a phone call?”
“Our friend has clairvoyant powers beyond anything you big rotten apples have ever seen,” Sarah said checking her fingernails for cracks.
Lestroni laughed. “I’ve heard that knows the future crap before,” he sneered. “You got to do better than that baby!”
            “The beer you ordered has just arrived,” Euphoria said as she pointed toward the locked hotel room door. A minute later, a delivery man pushing a cart loaded with a pizza and two cases of Michelob Light arrived and knocked loudly.
            “This is getting kind of spooky,” Micky Mastronadi said. “How did she know about the phone call … and the delivery man?”
            “It’s all lucky guessing,” Lestroni said as she tugged a large slice of pizza from the box.
            “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you,” Euphoria told him.
            “Why the hell not?” Lestroni stopped just before he took a bite.
            “The kid kneading the dough lost an earring just before he popped your New York Deluxe in the oven,” Euphoria told him. “Look there under the cheese.”

Lestroni poked a fat finger into the pizza slice and pulled out two silver wires bent and soldered into the shape of a smiling face.
            “I’ll kill that punk!” Lestroni thundered. “I could have broken a tooth.”
            ‘You’ll be dead long before you get a chance,” Euphoria told him. “That phone call you just got from Costalano? That was him making sure you boys were sitting here un-armed. He’s sending up a few men to reward you for all the skimming you guys have done with the Dock Workers Union.”
            “Costalano’s rewards are all made of lead instead of gold!” Micky Mastronadi shrieked. “How did he know we were playing the Micks?”
            “I don’t care how he found out, I’m getting out of here!” All four men headed toward the door.
            “Costalano’s men are already inside the building,” Euphoria said. “They have the elevator and the stairs covered.”
            “We’ll be shot like monkeys in a barrel!” Jerry Lestroni blubbered.
            “Quick,” Euphoria told the men. “Out the window and onto the ledge. You can edge your way around the building and into another room. I’ll tell Costalano you left an hour ago.”
Micky Mastronadi moaned as the four men stepped out onto the ledge. “Pigeons!” he wailed. “The ledge is covered with pigeons and we’re nine floors up!”
            “Just don’t make em fly!” Gwen yelled as she stood up to close the window. “That many wings flapping at the same time could beat a man to death.”
The old wood-cased window frame came down with a bang. Hundreds of birds taking to the air followed by four screams, sounded from outside.
            “How long before Costalano’s men get here?” Sarah asked Euphoria.
            “They won’t,” Euphoria said with a smile. “I lied!”
            “Honest Indian?” Sarah stammered with wide eyes.
            “Honest Indian,” Euphoria told her. “About the only thing Indians learned from the white-man … was how to lie.”


Sarah, Euphoria, Doris and Gwen all stood on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Eight Street. “I think you came up with a pretty good idea about how to make money in the Big Apple,” Sarah told Euphoria as several cars drove by; the male occupants gaping at the four attractive women.  “Do you think we’ve seen the last of Louis Costalano and that sorry piece of work he’s trying to put in Congress?” Sarah asked Euphoria.
            “Costalano doesn’t know how four of his best men ended up splattered all over a hotel sidewalk … and he’s praying he’ll never see us again,” Euphoria said. “So I’m still looking for that strong enemy.”

A moment later a big pink Cadillac skidded to a stop with two wheels up on the sidewalk. Tupac rappin’ an extra filthy version of All Eyes on Me blasted from huge car speakers as the door was flung open. A skinny black man wearing enough gold chains to ransom a king leaped from the vehicle spouting four-letter gibberish and strutting like a rooster with extra-long legs. “Wha’s dis? Unescorted white womans movin’ the #@%$ in on Little Jim’s territory? No way … No how this here #%!& be goin down … not on my slice o’ the #%&@$! Big Apple!”
The four women from Montana looked at each other and laughed. “Men!” Doris chortled. “They never learn do they?”