Copyright 1997 to <halfhisage@earthlink.net> Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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Written when we lived in Vegas. Before I met Mija in RL. :)

Tasha

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[Image of Little Miss Somersault] Brats Wild, Bottoms High
by Tasha

Tasha sat in her father's office surrounded by snowdrifts of paper - trial transcripts, depositions, court motions, phone bills, credit card bills, account ledgers, a myriad of Italian names, and other miscellaneous things she didn't have a clue about. All she knew was that Daddy was working day and night on some huge trial and she was helping him file things. She was only twelve and the Las Vegas sun was calling. Childhood was calling. Mija was calling. She'd only been back from school for half an hour, but she felt like her life was slipping away with the sun. She should be outside playing, not shut up inside her father's dingy old office doing this stuff!

She heaved an exasperated sigh and spun 360 degrees in her swivel chair. Her father looked up at her, then back down at what he was writing. She spun around again, twice this time. Again he gave her a cursory glance, then dismissed her attempts to get his attention.

Frustrated, Tasha slammed shut the huge file with a dusty THUMP! Now she could not be ignored.

"What is it, little one?" Daddy asked, his voice edged with his own frustration.

"I'm hungry!"

"So why don't you simply ask me for something to eat?" he offered calmly.

"Because I'm bored, too!" She cast her eyes around the room, around the mountains of work left to be done. "How long is this gonna take?"

Daddy calmly closed the file he was poring over and beckoned his daughter to him. He sat her on his knee and tousled her shaggy mop of black hair. He smiled. "I know this is hard work, little one, but you're really helping Daddy."

She pouted in response.

"What can I do for you, baby girl?" he asked kindly.

She brightened a little. "Let me play with Mija?"

"Would that make you happy?"

She nodded enthusiastically.

He looked at the files she had already organized for him in her careful schoolgirl way. "Well, I think maybe you've earned a recess. Sure, you can play with your little friend."

Tasha threw her arms around Daddy's neck. "Thank you, Daddy!" she gushed, and was bounding out the door within seconds of her reprieve, leaving her father to shake his head indulgently in her wake.

"Mija!" Tasha cried. "MIJA!"

There was no answer from the window above.

Tasha stamped her foot in frustration. She looked around for a pebble and finding one, threw it up to her friend's window. Either the rock was slightly larger than she had thought or she didn't know her own strength. Whichever the case, Mija couldn't possibly have missed the sickening CRASH of shattering glass. Tasha squealed in fright and dove to the ground, covering her head with her arms as broken glass rained down on her. The silence that followed was too quiet. She looked up to see Mija's face in the now-open window, wearing a mask of shock and horror like that of an imprisoned fairy tale princess on hearing the news that her brave and chivalrous rescuer is to be put to death.

Tasha dusted herself off and stood up, unable to stop smiling. "Sorry," she giggled.

Mija's face melted into a mischievous grin as well and she laughed. "Damn, girl! Your daddy should have you pitching for the Yankees, not practicing to be the world's youngest lawyer!"

Mija climbed through the window and out onto the trellis, sliding easily down to the ground. She hugged her friend, helping her brush remnants of broken glass from her hair.

They giggled as only schoolgirls can, and were off, Mija still in her parochial school uniform and patent leather shoes, Tasha in faded bluejeans cut off at the knee and her Dennis Rodman jersey.

"Where are we going?" Mija finally had to ask.

"Shhh!" Tasha clapped a hand over her friend's mouth. "Do you want us to get busted?"

Mija's eyes widened as she shook her head. Tasha led the way through the alley and over and around smelly dumpsters, cringing as her friend's shiny black shoes clicked and clattered noisily.

They came to a door behind one of the buildings and Tasha pushed it open easily. "Come on!"

"Is it safe?" Mija asked, peering inside, her eyes adjusting to the darkness.

"I hope so," Tasha giggled. "Don't be such a fraidy-cat!"

"Hey!" Mija shoved Tasha, hard, and the two girls spilled out into a utility closet, where they crouched in fearful silence until they were sure no one was there. Beyond the door they could hear the cacophony of buzzers, bells, and jackpots from the casino.

Instantly fascinated, Mija moved to the door and poked her head out, drinking in the sight of slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette wheels, and a keno board. "Wow. . ." she intoned.

"Told ya!" Tasha exclaimed. "Isn't it cool?"

"It's WAY cool!" Mija said. "Let's go inside!"

"Wait! Mija!" But before Tasha could stop her, she was in the casino. Tasha had no choice but to follow. No big, she thought. No one would even notice them. They'd be in and out just like that.

For the past month, Tasha had begged and pleaded with Daddy to take her to a casino. He said it was illegal for her to even be inside. She insisted she could pass for 21 and he merely laughed tolerantly and said she'd have to wait until she was a little older. Mija was the one who had offhandedly dared them to just sneak inside one. She never knew Tasha would actually do it.

"This is your dad's club, huh? I mean his client?" Mija asked.

"Yeah - the guy he's defending, Luige Squeegy something - he's like the big boss and he owns this place."

"Is that how you knew about the back door?"

Tasha smiled proudly. "The hitman I told you about the other day - this was where he came in the night he killed that senator. He said where it was in his trial. I'm not supposed to be reading it, but Daddy's too busy to notice."

Mija's gaze swept the room in awe. "Wanna play the slots?" she asked in her best nonchalant grownup voice.

Tasha shrugged. "Sure." She dug in her pockets and brought forth three quarters and a ball of lint.

Mija's pockets turned out slightly more. At least three dollars in mint condition coins. She blushed. "I found it in the desk drawer," she explained.

The girls pooled their money and set about the adventure of facing the one-armed bandits. They lost most of their money before Mija spotted what she said would be the winning machine. It was standing in a corner of the room and was a little more battered than the others. There was a bright red lipstick kiss on the front. "Someone had to win here," she said. "Why else would you kiss a slot machine?"

Tasha agreed and they fed the hungry creature a quarter. Pulled the handle. Busted. They had one quarter left. "You do it," she urged her friend.

Mija took a deep breath and closed her eyes, holding the quarter tightly, superstitiously, before feeding it in.

Suddenly, the machine leapt to life. The siren on top began to wail, signaling the entire casino that they had won. Brilliant red and blue flashing lights swept the room, and the unmistakable sound of the cascade of money drew the attention of everyone within earshot. Tasha and Mija exchanged looks of elation and horror all at once. They jumped aside to make way for the waterfall of quarters piling at their feet, eyes darting around fearfully.

Mija began sweeping the money into one of the plastic winner's cups. "Tash!" she hissed. "Come on!"

Tasha dropped to her knees and helped, scooping as much as she could into her pockets, and looking up just in time to see two men in suits running towards them. She rose slowly and stood there, frozen, like a hypnotized bunny.

"What are you doing? We've got to -" Mija froze as well, her heart clattering into the pit of her stomach as she saw the men.

The girls were immediately seized by the arms and their loot confiscated. They were hauled unceremoniously into the back room, where they stood, trembling and holding hands, in front of Rico Gellieri, the owner of the hotel.

"I want the names and numbers of your fathers, right now," he said, eyeing them coldly.

Tasha opened her mouth to speak, then lost the courage and took a step back.

Mija likewise found her throat full of sawdust.

The Sicilian simply stared at them, waiting.

Tasha opened her mouth again, this time to oblige, then gasped in horror as the vision of Daddy and Mr. Gellieri exchanging "what are YOU doing here"s hit her. How could she explain how they came to be here, of all places? She suddenly felt sick.

She was spared the torture of confession, however, by her friend's meek surrender.

"Um, sir?" Mija began. "I'm really sorry." She bowed her head and gave up her information, a bashful, apologetic sidelong glance at Tasha, whose eyes were filling with tears.

The Boss picked up the phone and dialed the number. He explained the situation to Paul, who was apparently taking it rather calmly. Tasha wished she could imagine Daddy so calm. Mija had already begun to cry, her hand gripping Tasha's tightly, clammy and sweaty.

Tasha swallowed, knowing she was next, but she didn't have to incriminate herself. Mr. Gellieri asked Paul the name of Mija's friend's father. He nodded and repeated the name to himself, and Tasha thought she would faint. His steely eyes panned slowly to her as recognition dawned and he said a pleasant farewell to Paul. He hung up the phone and steepled his fingers.

"So. You're my attorney's daughter. Well, I certainly don't need you to supply his number for me." He dialed the number from memory. Tasha closed her eyes as she listened to the exchange. There was no way out of this one. She couldn't even look at Mija now - her friend would hate her forever for this!

Unfortunately, Daddy took it far less calmly than Paul had. She could hear his voice through the phone from where she stood five feet away. Mr. Gellieri gave him very little information, cryptically stating only that his daughter was in trouble. He said he would explain in more detail when they met in his office at the hotel. Then he smiled and hung up the phone.

"The two of you are in serious trouble," he said. "With your legal guardians, with the law, and with me."

Tasha's father arrived first, and she hung her head as she listened to the ensuing dialogue. Mr. Gellieri explained to him that he could be disbarred for his daughter's indiscretion, as well as fined by the Gaming Commission for allowing his minor child into a casino. He took this news with much-too-calm nods of his head and serious looks at his wayward daughter.

Paul arrived midway through the speech and Mija clung to him, crying and asking to go home. "Not yet, I'm afraid," he said. "There is a little matter to settle here first."

Mr. Gellieri took the cue from him and stood up. "Yes, you, young ladies, have to face the consequences of your impropriety." He walked around the desk to stand in front of Tasha. "If you're not entirely aware of the seriousness of what you've done, I'm sure your father will educate you later. Now, I want to know whose idea this was."

The girls exchanged looks of shame and dread, both terrified the other would rat, and each knowing they were equally to blame. Mija had masterminded the plan, but Tasha had carried it through. And of course, individually, they were also guilty of other infractions - Tasha had compromised her father's job, as well as Mr. Gellieri's, and Mija was supposed to be grounded and in her room doing her homework. And no one yet knew about the broken window.

"Well?"

As usual, Mija was the first to speak. She was so slick - she always managed to make things easier for herself by speaking up and facing the music bravely. Tasha usually had to be dragged, kicking and protesting to the guillotine before she would own up. "Sir, I'm sorry for my part," she said softly, eyes lowered demurely.

All eyes turned expectantly to Tasha, who felt instantly guilty for thinking Mija would rat her out. She took a deep breath and mustered all the courage she had for her own minimalist confession: "Me too."

"Very well, then. Counselor, you've heard their admission of guilt," Mr. Gellieri said, addressing Tasha's father, who nodded solemnly. "I don't think there's any question of sentencing."

"None," said Daddy, taking Tasha by the ear and propping his foot up on a chair. He hauled her easily over his knee and began to spank her, hard, on the faded seat of her jeans.

"Daddy!" she protested, kicking her legs frantically. "Not here! Please! I'm sorry! Daddeeeeee!"

He didn't stop until he had given her some 50 swats, and then he set her on her feet, blushing and hiding her face.

Paul was less dramatic. He had been quietly scolding his young ward while she watched her friend's punishment and now he seated himself on the straight-backed chair against the wall, pulling Mija gently down over his knee. She saw Tasha rubbing her bottom as her own was spanked by Paul over her skirt. She whimpered and struggled and burned with shame as Mr. Gellieri watched the proceedings with stern detachment.

When Mija was let up, Mr. Gellieri gave Paul a meaningful look, and Paul steered Mija to the center of the room to stand next to her friend. They pressed close to each other, trembling, shoulder to shoulder, fingers searching behind their backs for each other, intertwining for comfort. They both knew from Tasha's unauthorized disclosure what this man was allegedly guilty of, at least capable of, and they shook with wide-eyed schoolgirl fright as they wondered what they were in for.

"Do you know what would happen to you both if I were to call the authorities?"

They shook their heads.

"You could end up in reform school." He crossed his arms and leaned back against the desk. "However, I could well do without that kind of publicity, as I'm sure you're both aware," he added caustically. "So I've made a decision. You're both gamblers. I'm going to give you a chance to really get lucky. You can either take your medicine from the authorities or you can take it from me."

Mija gasped. "But - but -"

"No buts, Mija," Paul told her sternly. "Just understand that whatever you decide, you will still have to deal with me afterwards."

"The same goes for you, young lady," Daddy said. Tasha sensed that being strung up with piano wire and planted in the Mojave would be a slap on the wrist compared to what Daddy would give her later. Her bottom already stung.

Mija kept on like a broken record. "But - but what are you going to do?" she finally blurted out.

Mr. Gellieri shook his head. "That's the gamble. You in or out?"

Mija looked at Tasha and they were both thinking the same thing. The disgrace of going to juvenile hall and reform school would be terrible, but Daddy and Paul would suffer even more. And they would be ashamed of them. THAT was unbearable. Nothing this Wiseguy could do would be as painful as hurting the men who loved them and took care of them. Such irony that the ones with sore backsides were worrying about hurting THEM. This time, Tasha was the first to speak.

"We're - um, in," she mumbled. How much worse could it get?

"Very good. Your spirit is something to be proud of, girls." He reached behind him and opened the desk drawer, withdrawing a thick wooden hairbrush. He laid it on the desk and watched their eyes widen. Then he pulled a deck of cards from his inside jacket pocket and shuffled it in front of them, setting it next to the hairbrush. "This is how my own little girl used to learn her lessons," he said. "She's a student at Berkeley now, and she thanks me every time I see her for loving her enough to discipline her so firmly. I trust you two will be as appreciative when this is all over."

He cut the deck and motioned to Mija to come forward. She hesitated, crushing Tasha's fingers in her own, before stepping up. "Take the top card," he said. "That's how many strokes you're both going to get."

Mija swallowed and slowly lifted the card, peering underneath to be sure she saw it first. Her face lit up. An ace! She held it up for Tasha to see and she sighed with relief. She showed it to Mr. Gellieri, smiling shyly.

"I don't know what you're smiling about," he said. "The ace is worth eleven in this hand."

Her smile vanished at once and she began to sniffle.

"Come on now," he said, not unkindly. "Be a brave girl." He took her by the hand and pushed her down gently over the desk. He raised her tartan skirt and she started to cry. He gave her a fatherly pat on the head before tugging down her panties. Mija buried her head in her arms, whimpering and trembling.

Mr. Gellieri laid the hairbrush against her bottom and brought it down without ceremony - hard. Mija squealed and instantly reached behind to protect herself. Paul's warmup, while far from mild, had not prepared her for this. "Hands forward," Mr. Gellieri said firmly. When Mija hesitated, he addressed Tasha: "Come here and hold your accomplice's hands down. If she reaches back again, you'll get the extra strokes."

Tasha gasped, but, fearing worse, she did as she was told. Mija clutched Tasha's hands as she knelt in front of her friend. She held her tightly while the hairbrush found its mark and Mija yelped and whimpered. Tasha whispered childish encouragement as the punishment went on. She glanced up once to see Paul's concerned expression. He was practically in tears, too. She looked away before she could see the same disappointed look on Daddy's face. She wouldn't be able to endure it.

The final strokes were the hardest, and Mija was crying freely. Tasha pressed her forehead to Mija's, telling her it was almost over, that she would be all right. She sobbed gratefully, clinging to Tasha, not wanting to make it worse for her friend by letting go.

Her sentence up, Mr. Gellieri helped Mija adjust her dress. He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and tilted her head up to look him in the eye. "You're going to be a good girl from now on, aren't you?" he asked.

Teary-eyed, she nodded, rubbing her backside. "Yes, sir. I will."

"Good girl." He turned to Tasha, who was squirming and fidgeting. Why couldn't she have been first? Then it would have been all over by now. "Your turn, young lady," he said, gesturing to the desk. Tasha came around to the front and thought better of begging for mercy. "Take your pants down." With a shudder, she managed to make her quaking fingers work the zipper and she pulled her jeans down to her knees. She allowed herself to be forced into the same position Mija had just been in, covering her head with her arms, burning with shame.

Mr. Gellieri said something she couldn't hear and then Mija was in front of her, holding her wrists the way her own had just been held. Tasha's panties were lowered as well and she felt the now-warm wood of the hairbrush against her flesh. She cringed, anticipating the first stroke. It was hard, and she yelped. Without Mija to hold her down, she would definitely not have been able to stay put. She was crying by the fifth stroke and Mija held her tightly, offering the same encouragement Tasha had.

She took it as bravely as she could, tears streaming down her face and falling on the desk. She couldn't remember Daddy ever having spanked her this hard before. She had thought eleven strokes couldn't be that bad - but Mr. Gellieri had proven her wrong. His daughter must be the most angelic child on the face of the earth if this was HER routine!

"You're almost there, Tash," Mija whispered, and she braced herself for the last two strokes, which made her cry out in pain. She longed to rub the sting out of her bottom, but she didn't want to make it worse for Mija, and Mija, likewise, kept a tight grip on Tasha's wrists, Indian style.

Tasha was allowed up, dazed and sniffling, and Mr. Gellieri offered her the same dispassionate praise as he helped her adjust her clothes. The girls flew into the arms of their respective guardians, who held them while they sobbed and apologized. All they wanted was to go home.

Mr. Gellieri spoke to someone through the intercom and then the door opened. One of the men who had grabbed them came in and he handed an envelope to Mr. Gellieri, then left. The hotel owner opened the envelope and took out two checks, which he handed to Daddy and Paul. "I'm going to allow them to keep their winnings," he explained. "Provided they do something responsible - and legal - with it."

Mija and Tasha met each other's eyes, pleasantly surprised in the midst of their sorrow.

"And now you're free to go," he said. "And the next time I find either of you two in my casino, I hope you'll be ten years older." He smiled fondly at them, his harsh demeanor vanishing as he opened the door for them. The girls blushed and returned his smile with shy mumbles of gratitude.

"Do you need a ride?" Tasha's father asked Paul.

"Yes, in fact. I took a cab from the office."

"Come on, then."

Tasha felt sick. It had, of course, crossed her mind that Daddy wouldn't see the broken window at all, nor even find out about it until the next day. Now he would know as soon as he pulled up to drop them off. Mija only shook her head, wishing she had never gotten up this morning.

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In the end, Tasha and Mija DID learn their lesson. They both spent their evenings in a similar fashion, upended, crying, and finally comforted, forgiven, and put to bed. After being made to copy all the definitions of 'attorney-client privilege', 'nondisclosure', 'ethics', and a few other things from Daddy's Columbia textbooks, Tasha thought her hand would fall off. Mija's hand was sore as well from writing 'I will not succumb to peer pressure, and I will not break the law' 500 times.

Their money paid for Paul's new window, and they decided to give the rest to the local animal shelter, where they were given a plaque with their names on it and the honor of naming the shelter's mascot, an Italian greyhound who had been found in an alley behind Caesar's Palace. They named him Rico.

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