Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven: Wherein we start to get down to the truth of things.

We rode in silence for most of the morning.  I don’t know precisely what the orphan was thinking, but I was thinking on him, or rather her.  I am well aware that one is just as likely to come upon a female orphan as a male one, but the more I thought on it, the more I realized that if my young friend had lied about being a boy, then it was just as likely that she had lied about being an orphan.

It was just about time for elevenses when I spied two snowshoe hares sitting beside the road munching on a few sprigs of green which poked out of the snow.

“Hop down,” I told the orphan.

“Why?”

“I want you to get a rock and bean one of those hares,” said I.  “If you can kill it, we can eat.”

“I don’t know that I can hit it.”

“It can’t be more than thirty feet away.  Any boy could hit it with a rock from this distance.”

“I don’t know…”

“Come on boy.”

The child slid to the ground and then picked up a likely looking stone from a small pile not too far from her feet and hefting it back, launched it in the general direction of the hares.  She didn’t have much heft, and with the lob she put on the rock, if it had hit the hare, it would have done nothing more than make it angry.  Of course there was no chance of that, since the course of the missile was off to the right by a good thirty degrees.  The hares started and took off over the snow, disappearing among the trees.

I dropped down to the ground and pointed my finger accusingly.  With my finger pointed and my back stiff, I cut an intimidating figure.  One can often get what one wants simply by being intimidating.  I know of a few warriors, warriors of great renown mind you, who in truth had never done much warrioring at all.  They simply struck an intimidating pose when the time was ripe and their reputations were made.  Now that I think about it, I quite possibly could have avoided fighting the goblins the previous night, by just striking my intimidating pose, finger out and back straight.  I mean of course, the first goblins, the ones on the road, as the second group of goblins, the ones in the cabin, were in quite a rush to get out the door and had I simply stood in an intimidating pose, they quite probably would have run me over.

“What are you doing now?” asked the orphan.

“I am thinking about intimidating poses.”

“Well, you certainly have managed an intimidating pose there.”

“Thank you.  I put a lot of work into it.”

“Well it shows.”

“Thank you.  It’s nice to have one’s work appreciated.”

“You’re welcome.”

“And don’t change the subject,” said I.

“And just what subject was that?”

“You are a girl.”

“Um, no.”

“Um yes.  And not only that, you are an elfish girl.”

“An elven girl.”

“So you admit it.”

“Um, no.”

“Um yes.  I saw you without your cap.”

“Oh.”

“Besides,” said I.  “You throw like a girl.”

“Well what do you expect?” the girl asked.  “I’ve never thrown a rock before.”

“Oh-ho!”

“Oh-ho yourself,” said she.  “All right I’m a girl.  That doesn’t change anything.  I still need your help to get home.”

“It changes quite a bit,” I said accusingly.  “For one thing, you are a liar.  You told me that you were a boy.  If you lied about that, what else have you lied about?”

“I never actually said I was a boy.”

“You most certainly did.  I said ‘I see that you are a sturdy boy, despite your condition…’ and you said ‘Yes, I am a sturdy boy…”

“Who would have guessed that you had such a perfect memory?” grumbled the child, folding her arms over her chest.

“So,” I said, again striking my intimidating pose.  “What else have you lied about?  I will wager your name is not really Orphan.”

“I never said my name was Orphan, you bloody great buffoon!  I said my name was Galfrid.  You just keep calling me orphan.”

“Is your name Galfrid?”

“No.”

“You see?  Liar!”

“It wasn’t a lie.  It was a disguise.”

“You were disguised as an orphan named Galfrid?”

“Yes.”

“Are you an orphan then?”

“Not really.”

“Liar!”

“I’m more of an orphan that you are,” she said sullenly.

“How can you be more of an orphan than I am?” I asked.

“Why couldn’t I be,” said she.  “If anyone could be, I could be.”

“I mean, what makes you more of an orphan than me.”

“My mother died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”  I was taken aback.  “My condolences on your loss.”

“That’s all right.  It happened a long time ago.”

“How long ago?” I wondered.

The girl looked up into the sky as she counted the years in her head.

“Sixty-five years ago.”

“Sixty-five years!  How old are you?”

“Seventy-nine.”

“An old woman and only half an orphan,” said I.

“Hold on now,” said she.  “The natural life of an elf is close enough to a thousand years as not to matter. I’m only seventy-nine.  I’m scarce out of puberty.”

“So not-Galfrid, what is your story?”

“I don’t think I want to tell you,” said she.  “You won’t believe me anyway.  You think I’m a liar, so why bother explaining.”

“I don’t think you are a liar,” I replied.  “I know you are one.  And now that I think about it, maybe I don’t care to hear your story.  Maybe you’re more trouble than you’re worth.”

“Really?  What about Eaglethump Boxcrate, friend to those who are need of a friend and a protector to those who are in need of a protector and a guardian to those who are in need of a guardian?”

She had me there.  It is well known that Eaglethump… Eaglethorpe Buxton is a friend to the friendless and all those other things.  So I had little choice but to help the old lady out.

“Well,” I took a deep breath.  “What is your name?”

“Princess Jholeira.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter Four

Chapter Four: Wherein we make decisions about our supper.

When we were not two hundred yards down the road, I let Hysteria drop to a trot, for in truth I did not expect anyone to follow us into the night, daring wild animals, bandits, or hobgoblins, regardless of how fine a piesmith Mistress Gaston was reported to be.  A few hundred yards beyond that, my horse dropped of her own accord to a walk and I expect she was beginning to feel a bit mopey because of the slap the orphan had dealt her.  At that moment I was less interested in her mental condition than my own physical one though, because I was holding a cast pie pan in each hand and they were both heavy and still quite warm.

“Here.”  I turned in the saddle and handed one pie to the orphan.  “We can eat while we ride.  If we wait until we find a campsite, the pies will be cold.”

“Do you have a fork?” the boy asked.

I mused that this seemed an unlikely request from any boy, most of whom I have found uninterested in tableware on the best occasion, and especially from an orphan whom one might have supposed to have been forced by necessity to dig into all manner of food scraps with his hands.  However it was not a question to which I needed reply in the negative, for I always carry my fork in the inner left breast pocket of my coat, which I call my fork pocket.  I gave the orphan my fork and pulled my knife from my boot to use on the remaining pie.

“This is a very nice fork,” said the orphan.

“Of course it is,” said I.  “That fork came from the table of the Queen of Aerithraine herself.”

“You stole this fork from a Queen?”

“Impudent whelp!” cried I.  “That fine fork was a gift from the queen, with whom I once had the pleasure of spending a fortnight.”

“What kind of queen gives a man a fork?”

“A kind and gracious one.”

That apparently satisfied the boy’s curiosity for the moment and for the next few minutes we concentrated upon the pies.  I am not one to mourn a lost pie and that is well, for the pie that was lost to me on that night, as I have previously mentioned, was a pie for the ages.  A fine pie.  A beautiful pie.  A wonderful pie.  This new pie was almost as good though.  It was a crabapple pie, which was a common pie to come upon in winter in those parts, which is to say Brest, as cooks used the crabapples they had put up the previous fall.  This pie was an uncommonly good pie, with nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves and butter.  I had more than a few bites by the time the boy spoke again.

“What kind of pie is that?”

“Crabapple,” I replied.  “What pie do you have?”

“It is a meat pie.”

“A meat pie,” I mused, as I thought back upon how long it had been since I had eaten any other meat than venison.  I had eaten a sausage a week before, but it had been a fortnight and half again since I had eaten mutton stew with potatoes and black bread in Hammlintown.  That had been a fine stew and the serving wench who brought it to me had been nice and plump with the top two buttons of her blouse undone, and she had smiled quite fetchingly when she had set down the tray.  Stew is a wonderful food and even when it is not served by a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone.  It always seems to give me the same feeling when I eat it that a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone gives me when I see her.

“What are you doing now?” asked the orphan.

“Pondering stew,” said I.

“Well stop it.  Rather ponder this instead.  You eat half of your crabapple pie and I will eat half of my meat pie.  Then we can trade and eat the other halves of each others pies.”

“All right,” I agreed.  “But this will mean that I have to eat my dessert first and my supper after.”

“Just pretend that the meat pie is your dessert and the crabapple pie is your supper.”

“A crabapple pie could be a fine supper.  In fact I have been to countries where the most common part of a supper is crabapple pie.”

“Fine then.”

“But a meat pie is in no country a dessert.”

“Then trade me now.”

“How much have you eaten?” I asked.

“About a fourth.  How much have you eaten?”

“About a fifth.”

“Then eat another twentieth,” said he.  “Then we will trade pies and each eat two thirds of what remains and then trade them back.  At that point, we will each eat what remains of the pie we originally started with.  That way you can think of the first portion of the crabapple pie as an appetizer, the portion you eat of the meat pie as your supper, and the final portion of the crabapple pie as your dessert.”

“You are a fine mathematician for an orphan,” said I, “but it suits me.  Will it not bother you that your appetizer and your dessert are of meat pie and your supper is of crabapple pie?”

“I have decided that I will make this sacrifice,” said he, “since it was you that provided the meal.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Wherein I escape and lay my retribution upon my captors.

I pulled the boy out through the hole that I had created and into the deep snow that had formed in a drift beside the shack.  He almost disappeared, as he couldn’t have been more than four foot ten.

“Grab the back of my belt,” said I.  “I will guide you.  The first thing we must do is find my noble steed.”

“The stable is on the other side of the inn, just beyond the cart path.”

“Very good.  Come along.  I am sure that the noise of our escape was heard and any moment I may have to fight off a dozen or so angry villagers with pitchforks and such.”

“Do you have a weapon?” asked the boy.

“I have a knife in my boot, but I would be loath to stick it into a person over such a thing as this.”

“They deserve it,” said the boy, now trailing along behind me as I negotiated my way around the buildings in the gloomy night.  “If my father was here, he’d lay waste to this town.”

“Quite the fierce cobbler was he?”

“Um… yes.  Before he died…leaving me an orphan.”

I trudged through the snow, around the large building that I now knew was the inn, and crossed the cart path, distinguishable from the rest of the landscape by two parallel ruts in which the snow was not quite as deep as everywhere else.  I perceived no danger from any direction and indeed could still hear the voices of men and women singing in the inn.  The stable, which I would have recognized even without the orphan’s help, was dark and silent.  The pleasant aroma of horse dung enveloped me as the slight breeze turned in my direction.  I crept up to the large double door and pulled one side open slightly.

“Hysteria,” I called in a whisper and was answered by a gentle knicker, which is to say the sound that horses make when they are neither angry nor excited nor otherwise engaged.

Inside the stable was pitch black, and I cast around for a lantern, but the lad needed no such artifice.

“I see your horse in the last stall,” said he.

“You have very good night vision, orphan,” said I.

The little ragamuffin guided me by the hand to the far stall and by the time we arrived there I could make out the more prominent shapes, including that of Hysteria, which is to say my horse, who tossed her head in greeting.

“Poor girl,” said I, running my hands over her.  “They didn’t even bother to unsaddle you or remove your bit and bridle.”

“All the better for us and our escape,” said the boy.

I led Hysteria out of the stall, through the dark of the stable, and into the lesser dark of the night.  It was in fact, quite a good night for traveling, at least as far as light was concerned.  The moon was reflected off the white snow, and though the ghostly illumination created monsters of the many gaunt and gnarled trees, they were easily negotiated through.  This put me in mind of a number of similar nights, when the moon was shining upon the snow.  It seems somehow unfair that I more than most find myself sneaking in or out of town on cold, dark nights.  I am not one to complain about my lot in life though.  Then at that moment, as if to remind me that the lot of others was worse than my own, the boy tugged at my sleeve.

“What are you doing?” said he.

“I am pondering life,” I replied.

“Can you ponder life once we’ve made our escape from this wretched town?”

“Quite so,” said I, placing my foot in the stirrup.  Once I was in the saddle, I reached down for my charge.  “Come along orphan.”

“In some circles it might be considered rude to keep calling me an orphan,” he opined.

“Your parents are dead and so you are an orphan,” said I, lifting him up to sit behind me.  “If I call you something else, your parents will still be dead.”

“Even so,” he agreed.  “Let us get out of here.”

“Not until we make this town pay for its injustice and our indignities,” said I.

I spurred Hysteria forward, though truth be told I did not spur her precisely because I do not wear spurs.  Spurs seem unnecessarily mean and pointed and Hysteria is possessed of something of a fragile ego.  If one speaks harshly too her, she is likely to go into a mope for weeks on end, and jabbing her haunches or belly with pointy metal objects could send her into a serious downward spiral of depression.  It would be a sad thing to see.  So I encouraged her forward.  I urged her forward.  I coaxed her forward.  I asked her to go forward and she went forward, which now that I think about it, is the direction that she is usually most likely to go.

I guided her through the snow, across the cart path, and around the corner of the inn to the spot where upon I had first been laid hold of.  I fully expected that the pie I had originally seen would, by now, be gone.  As cold as the weather was, the pie would have gone from hot to warm to cool to quite cold in the time that I had spent escaping from the shack and rescuing my valiant steed, which is to say Hysteria.  I was not wrong.  The pie was gone.  But Ho!  There were now two new pies sitting on the very same window ledge.

Sitting astride Hysteria as I was, the pies were now at a level between my shoulder and my waist, and I could easily look inside the window.  A fat woman with red cheeks and red hair and wearing a white apron was rolling out dough with a rolling pin.  She was too busy to notice me.  That was not the case with the stout fellow who at that moment entered from the common room beyond.  He caught sight of me and let out a yell that could have, and in fact did, summon everyone in the place.  The sounds of singing stopped as others rushed to see the source of his consternation.

“Let this be a lesson to you not to waylay innocent travelers!” I shouted, scooping up the pies, one in each hand.  I urged Hysteria onward, but no doubt feeling the warm air exiting the window, she was loath to move.  The orphan fixed that by slapping her on the backside, her fragile ego notwithstanding.  She jumped and shot around to the front of the inn just as the gang of toughs from inside came out the front door.  They were just in time to watch us race off into the darkness with two warm and steamy pies.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Wherein I become the sole guardian and protector of an orphan.

“I am not a pie thief,” said I, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the limited light of the little room.  “If anything, I am a procurer of pies to be paid for at a later time, which is to say an eater of pies on account.”

“I don’t judge you,” said the little voice from the dark corner.  “After all, am I not incarcerated for the same crime?  It may well have been the same pie that I attempted to steal earlier in the evening that you tried to…”

“Check for doneness,” I interrupted.

“Steal.”

“Taste test.”

“Steal.”

“Borrow.”

“Steal.”

“For someone who doesn’t judge, you seem quite judgmental to me,” I opined.  “And if self control did escape me for a moment, could I be blamed?  Here am I, a cold and weary traveler from a far land, cold to the bone and hungry.  And there sits a pie, and not just any pie, but a pie for the ages, sitting as if waiting especially for me, on the window ledge.”

“Mistress Gaston is an excellent piesmith.”

“I shall have to take your word for that,” said I, starting to make out the form of a child.  “And what is it they call you, lad?”

“I am called Galfrid.”

“Come out of the corner and let me have a look at you.”

“Promise me that you won’t hurt me,” said he.

“All the country knows the name of Eaglethorpe Buxton and it knows that he is not one to harm children or ladies, nor old people or the infirm.  Rather he is a friend to those who are in need of a friend and a protector to those who are in need of a protector and a guardian to those who are in need of a guardian.”

“So long as it is not a pie that needs guarding,” said he.

“Pies are something altogether unique.  Pies are special, which is to say they are wonderful, but not rare.  No, indeed they are common, but that does not make them worthless.  Quite the contrary.  Life is quite like a pie, at least in-so-much-as a life lived well is like a pie—warm and delicious on the inside with a protective crust on the outside.  There are places in the world where pies are worshiped.”

“No.”

“No what?”

“There is no place in the world where pies are worshipped.”

“That is not worshipped, but revered as one might revere the saints.”

“No.”

“Far to the east of here, in the city of Bertold, in the land of Holland, they revere pies.”

“No.  There is no city of Bertold in Holland and nowhere east of here do they revere pies.”

“You are a saucy child,” said I.  “And if they do not revere pies east of here, then I should not like to travel in that direction.”

“So are you implying that you are this Englethorpe Boxcar and that I therefore have nothing to fear from you?”

“Eaglethorpe, with an A instead of an N, and Buxton, with an X and a ton, and yes, I am he and you have nothing to fear.  Though to be sure there are plenty who would claim the name of Eaglethorpe Buxton, with and E not an N and an X and a ton, because greatness will ever have its imitators.”

“So you might well be an imposter,” said he.

“You may rest assured that I am not,” said I.

“But if you were an imposter, would you not insist that you were not an imposter?”

“You may be sure that I would.”

“Then how can I trust that you are the real Englethorpe Boxcar?”

“Just look at me!” I exclaimed, throwing my arms out and giving him a good look.

“Swear that you will not harm me,” said he.  “And furthermore, swear that you will be my protector and guardian until I can return to my home?”

“How far away do you live?”

“Not far.”

“I swear to be your protector and guardian until you reach your home, though it be on the far side of creation,” said I.  “Now come closer and let me get the measure of you.”

The lad crept forward until he stepped into a beam of moonlight shining through a space between the boards of the shack wall.  He was a slight little ragamuffin, with a build that suggested he had not eaten in some time.  He had a dirty face and wool cap pulled down to his eyes.  His clothes were dirty and torn, but I immediately noticed that his shoes while dirty, seemed too fine for a ragamuffin such as this.  I asked upon them.

“You see, Sir Boxcar, my parents were, um… cobblers… but they died, leaving me a destitute and lonely orphan child.  These shoes were the only things they left me.”

“May they rest in peace,” said I, whipping off my cap, which is only proper courtesy to offer, even if one is only offering it to an orphan.  “But on to the situation at hand.  I see that you are a sturdy boy, despite your condition.  Why did you not bust out of this shack?  It looks as though it would take no more than a couple of kicks.”

The lad stared at me with his mouth open, obviously chagrined that he had not thought of this means of escape himself.  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I am a sturdy… boy…. but I think you will find the shack is better built than it looks.  It is hammered together with iron nails.”

I turned and leveled a kick at the side wall through which crack I had but a moment before been peering.  One of the boards flew off, landing in the snow six or seven feet away and leaving an opening almost big enough for the boy to pass through.  I kicked a second board off the side of the structure and I was outside in a jiffy.  Turning around, I reached through to aid my companion’s escape.

“Come along, orphan,” said I.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter One

Chapter One: Wherein I do not steal a pie, but pay a price nonetheless.

There was a pie.  There was a pie cooling on the window ledge.  Steam was rising up into the frosty air, illuminated by the flickering candlelight coming from within the building.  Is there a more welcoming sight?  Is there a more welcoming sight for a traveler from a far land, trudging through the cold, dark forest on a cold, dark night, waist deep in snow, frozen to the bone, than the sight of a pie cooling on the window ledge with steam rising up into the frosty air?  You don’t have to wonder.  I can tell you.  There is no more welcoming sight than such a pie.  On this night there were sights and sounds and smells, all nearly as welcoming, and they were arrayed around this particular pie like the elements of a fine meal might be arrayed around a very nicely roasted chicken breast.  Candlelight flickering through the shutters casting shadows on the snow, smoke rising from the chimneys in a quaint small town, the smell of burning wood and the smell horses just overpowering the smell of pine, the sounds of men and women singing; all welcoming but not as welcoming as pie.  I was as happy to see that pie as I was to see the little town in which it cooled on the window ledge.

I should stop and introduce myself.  I am Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed world traveler and storyteller.  Of course you have heard of me, for my tales of the great heroes and their adventures have been repeated far and wide across the land.  Yes, I am sad to say that many of my stories have been told without the benefit of my name being attached to them.  This is unfortunate as my appellation, which is to say the name of Buxton and of Eaglethorpe would add a certain something to the verisimilitude of a story, which is to say the truthfulness or the believability of the story.  But such is the jealousy of other storytellers that they cannot bear to have my name overshadow theirs.  In truth I am probably better known in any case as an adventurer in my own right than as a teller of the adventures of others.  But in any case, there was a pie.

I had been traveling for days through the snowy forests of Brest, which of course one might associate with a nicely roasted breast of chicken, but that is not necessarily the case.  To be sure I have had one or two nicely roasted chickens during my travels in this dark, cold country, as I traveled from one little hamlet to the next.  I would say though that I’ve eaten far more mutton and beef stew than roasted chicken breast.  I suppose this has to do with the fact that eggs are dear, though I’ve seldom found an inn that didn’t offer a scrambled egg on porridge of morning.  In fact, in distant Aerithraine, where I was once privileged to spend a fortnight with the Queen, I have had some of the finest breast of chicken dinners that any man has ever enjoyed.  But notwithstanding this, there was a pie.

I had trudged through the snow for days, forced to lead my poor horse Hysteria who had taken lame with a stone, through drifts as high as my belt.  So I was cold and I was tired.  More than this though, I was hungry.  And above the smell of pine and frost and people and horses and smoke, there was the smell of that pie.  It smelled so very good.  It smelled of warmth and happiness and home and my dear old mother.  It was a pie for the ages.

I would not steal a pie.  I did not steal this pie.  Though I have been most unfairly accused of being a thief on one or two or sixteen occasions, I have never been convicted of such a heinous crime, except in Theen where the courts are most unfairly in control of the guilds, and in Breeria which is ruled by a tyrant, and one time in Aerithraine when the witnesses were all liars.  So as you can see, I am not one to steal a pie.  But being concerned that the pie might be getting too cold, I reached up to check the temperature.  It was at this moment that I was laid upon by at least two pairs of rough hands.

“This is a fine welcome for a stranger to your town,” said I.

They called me varlet and scoundrel and dastard and pie thief and tossed me bodily into the confines of a small shack just out behind the structure in which the pie had rested on the window ledge.  I looked around in the darkness.  It was not true darkness to be sure, because the shack was poorly put together, with wide gaps through which the cold and frosty air entered with impunity.  It struck me immediately that it would not be too hard work to bust out of this prison, but I waited and put my eye to one of the cracks to see if my attackers had left and to see if I could spot what they intended for Hysteria my valiant steed, which is to say my horse.

The two ruffians who had attacked me were making their way back to the front of the nearest building and just beyond them I could see one short fellow attempting to lead Hysteria away, though she tossed her head unhappily and pulled at the reigns.  I sighed, and could see the steam from my breath forming a little cloud just beyond the confines of the little shack.

“So,” said a small voice, and I turned to peer into the darkened corner of the shack.  “They have caught another pie thief.”

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Tesla's Stepdaughters“So, Piffy told me your name is John,” she said, while they were waiting for their food. “May I call you John?”

“Of course. What else did she tell you?”

“Oh, everything. Women tell each other everything. We talk all the time, the four of us even more so.”

“Really? I was not aware of that.” He rubbed his chin. “I really don’t know about this. I mean about today. You seem very nice and all. I had this connection with Piffy and I was looking forward to finding out where it led. I wasn’t planning to sex my way through the entire tour company.”

“Of course you weren’t. And maybe we won’t even like each other. But maybe we will and maybe you’ll like Penny and Steffie too. We’re all really close, closer than we were back when we were starting out. Maybe we needed a few years apart to mature. I know Penny’s already planning on moving back to Thatch Cay, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Steffie brought her boy to live with her there too at least part of the year.”

“That’s great, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

“Sure it does. Since we’re all so close, it would be much easier to have the four of us as wives rather than trying to make it work with strangers.”

“Wives? I don’t want wives. I’m not sure I want even one wife.”

“You told Steffie that she could be a poster child for mothering a boy. Well, for better or worse, multi-marriage is going to be the type of marriage that most women have for the foreseeable future.”

“Polygamy. You think most women will approve of that?”

“With one man on Earth for every two hundred fifty women? I would imagine so.”

“Well that’s fine for women everywhere, but I don’t know that it’s for me.”

They stopped talking while the waitress set their food on the table, then continued between bites.

“You seem like you’re all ready to get married and aren’t too picky about to whom.”

“I’m thirty-one next month,” said Ruth. “So I can’t afford to wait too long unless I want a vat baby, and none of us can afford to be too picky. But you are a very pretty man. And I remember how happy my parents were.”

After breakfast, Andrews ordered a

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Tesla's Stepdaughters“Agent Andrews…” two of the women started at once, and then looked at each other.

“If you’re not doing anything for dinner…” one of them continued.

“I’m sorry ladies, but my partner has a meeting,” said Wright. “I however, would be happy to escort any or all of you to dinner.”

“I have a meeting?” Andrews leaned over and asked.

“In the lobby.”

The lobby of the Grace Coolidge international building, though Spartan, was large. It took a minute for Andrews to find his appointment waiting by feet of the statue of Justice. He almost didn’t recognize Ep!phanee. She was dressed in faded jeans and a Nehi Blue Cream Soda tee shirt. Her hair was tucked up under a black military cap.

“Is somebody here with you?” he asked.

“Nope. I ditched the cops back at the hotel. Buy me a hotdog.”

“You shouldn’t be running around town without an escort.”

“Well I have one now. Besides, I just want a hotdog. There’s a hotdog cart just down on the corner. I saw it on the cab ride over here.”

She took him by the arm and led him to the glass enclosed front of the building, holding the door open for him. The hotdog vendor was stationed just where she had described, a chubby little woman with a striped shirt, a large stain covering most of the front.

“Two dogs,” Ep!phanee ordered, then turned to Andrews. “What do you want on yours?”

“I don’t know; whatever’s customary.”

“Haven’t you ever had a hotdog before?”

He shook his head. “German food’s not very popular in the enclaves.”

“Hotdogs are as American as apple pie. All right. Bacon, beans, avocado, catsup, and mayonnaise. Do you want jalapenos?”

“Yes please.”

“So you don’t have street food in the enclaves?”

“Sure. Tacos– usually fish tacos, but sometimes grilled shrimp.”

The vendor handed Piffy the hotdogs, already loaded with beans and avocado. Stepping to the end of the cart, she scooped on the jalapenos and then squirted on squiggly lines of red catsup and white mayonnaise. Handing one of the dogs to Andrews, she watched as he took a tentative bite. She then opened her mouth wide and shoved in about a third of hers.

“Good huh?” she asked, her mouth full.

He nodded and then took another bite. Ep!phanee began strolling down the sidewalk and even though she was moving slowly Andrews had to take a few quick steps to keep up. He was still eating his hotdog as they walked, being careful not to spill the condiments on his jacket. She finished first and dropped the little paper hotdog caddie in a trashcan beside the street.

“I should get you back to the hotel.”

“I’m staying in this hotel now.”

Andrews looked skyward to find that they were in front of the Palmer House. When he looked back down, Ep!phanee was already going through the revolving door. He stuffed the last bit of hotdog into his mouth and dropped the paper waste in a can beside the door, following her. The lobby was huge, with a tiled vaulted ceiling that looked like it belonged in a cathedral. Andrews felt self-conscious even walking on the rugs.

“Why are you staying here?”

“We have two more days in Chicago. I’ll go crazy if I’m cooped up with the girls the whole time.”

“You have two entire suites at the American. And it’s under complete police protection.”

“I’ve got my own suite here.” She twirled around a few times but kept on course for the elevator. “It’s the same one Ulysses S. Grant stayed in. He used to be on money, you know.”

She skipped into the elevator and he followed. An attendant, a small woman in a tight red uniform, was waiting inside.

“Twenty-fifth floor,” said Ep!phanee.

The attendant nodded, and then turned the lever sending the car gliding swiftly upwards.

“Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885,” said Andrews. “There weren’t any twenty-five story buildings in Chicago then.”

“I think I feel his presence though.”

“Uh-huh.”

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Ruth De Molay

Ruth De MolayRuth is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Ruth is Ringo. She’s the drummer. She’s written one really famous song, although she sings some written by her bandmates. Everyone thinks she’s nice.

Ruth is a native of the Virgin Islands.

Read about her and the other Ladybugs in Tesla’s Stepdaughters.

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Steffie Sin

Steffie SinSteffie Sin is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Steffie is a mixture of Harrison and McCartney. Like Harrison, she has her songs pushed aside on albums because of the prolific songwriting of Piffy and Penny.  Like McCartney, she can play just about any instrument.  She spends her off time in seclusion.

She has a little boy.

Read about her and the other Ladybugs in Tesla’s Stepdaughters.

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Penny Dreadful

Penny DreadfulPenny Dreadful is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Penny is a mixture of Lennon and McCartney, with a bit of Harrison. She’s a hard rocker and a large woman, a bit like Ann Wilson of Heart.

She’s the greatest guitar player of all time, and oh yeah, she’s a clone.

Read about her and the other Ladybugs in Tesla’s Stepdaughters.