tagNovels and NovellasMaragana Girl Ch. 19

Maragana Girl Ch. 19

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 19 -- Fame and Humility

Kim began her classes as a Danubian university student in the middle of January. She reduced her hours at the music store to her summer schedule, working only three days per week. She studied Danubian law, history, criminology, and the Danubian interpretation of sociology. Kim's self-confidence increased as she realized she was smart enough to master the somewhat difficult coursework in a foreign language. She was perfectly capable of studying hard and studying well, as long as she had a supportive environment and some help. Sergekt helped her with the history course, while Dukov and Tatiana helped her with the other classes.

Kim enjoyed the university environment, going three days per week with Sergekt on the trolley. She spent most of her non-class time studying in the university library with her fiancée and his friends, but she also spent time with Dukov's secretary or in study groups from her classes. When she was with her classmates, Kim was the only naked person in the group, but that seemed not to matter very much. Her notoriety as one of the lead singers from "Socrates Mistresses" helped her overcome some of the distrust her classmates might have had against a foreign criminal studying Danubian law in their midst. Her classmates expected her to pull her own weight in the study groups, but as long as she did, they accepted the participation of the "Maragana Girl".

One of Kim's first major projects was a comparative study of US and Danubian criminal law. Kim knew little about the US legal system and had to quickly learn, in part by spending hours on the phone with her sister Cindy. Kim had to learn enough about the US criminal justice system to be able to understand and explain it. As the research for her project unfolded, Kim realized the Danubian legal system was much more straightforward than the US legal system, and thus easier to understand.

The simplicity of the Danubian system partly resulted from the lack of institutionalized adversity between prosecutors and Spokespersons. A defense attorney in the US would not think twice about misrepresenting the facts to obtain an acquittal for his client, but in Upper Danubia it would be a serious violation of Danubian law for a Spokesperson to misrepresent the facts of a case or attempt to conceal evidence. Instead it was the Spokesman's duty to seek out mitigating factors that favored the criminal and present them in court. Kim's own case was an excellent example. Spokesman Dukov made no effort whatsoever to refute any facts or evidence, but instead concentrated on interpreting the information in a way that forced the court to give Kim a very light sentence.

Preparing the comparison project was a strange experience for Kim, because she had to study the US legal system from the perspective of a foreigner. However, to the US, Kim really had become a foreigner, because she no longer identified very much with the country of her origin. Kim's world was Danubian, and her perspective on life had become Danubian. Anyone who studied with Kim came to realize that, in spite of her foreign appearance, she really was not American anymore. She was a Danubian criminal, with an outlook that really was indistinguishable from that of any other female Danubian criminal.

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The push to pass Dukov's reforms in the Danubian Parliament intensified in February. As the moratorium against corporal punishments passed, the switchings were starting up again and there were increasing incidences of sexual humiliations and other abuses. Public support for the reform had peaked, so it was urgent that its supporters acted to pass the legislation as quickly as possible. Vladim Dukov had a secret motivation for passing the reform as well. Kim's friends were due to receive a final switching in April, and he wanted to ensure the excesses of the previous April's punishment were not repeated.

The officers of National Police Force were bitterly divided over the reform. Most of the older members of the police force, as well as some of the more religious younger officers, supported the reform. The majority of the younger officers, as well as most of the supervisors, did not. At first the proponents of the revisions had been afraid to speak out, but by February they were quite vocal and contemptuous of the reform's opponents. As a result the police split into two hostile camps that quit speaking to each other. During the final push to pass the reform Officer Vladik Dukov and his partner were under tremendous pressure from the younger officers, the ones who wanted to continue punishing criminals by humiliating them. They ended up spending their time with the older officers, ostracized by most of their academy classmates.

There were several mass rallies in Rika Chorna Province and finally one rather large rally in Danube City itself. Vladim Dukov addressed a crowd of nearly 13,000 people in the bitter cold of Danube City's Central Plaza, exhorting his supporters to defend Upper Danubia's honor and morality by treating criminals with respect during their corporal punishments. He repeated his familiar argument concerning the need to re-establish harmony in the country's legal system.

The audience then was surprised by an unexpected speaker; the disgraced ex-officer Malka Chorno. Before she got on the speaker's platform, Malka stripped off her criminal's cape. As she stood shivering in the cold, her bare body distinctly white against the old Parliament building, the ex-officer reviewed her own career and her abusive behavior towards the criminals she had punished. She sought to make sense out of her own attitude by self-analyzing her misdirected thirst for revenge against the people who had kidnapped and killed her sister.

"I did things to criminals I should never have been allowed to do, and I think...had there been some restrictions in place, I would not have turned into what I became. I disgraced my profession, precisely because no one stopped me. I cannot change what I did, but I know that a standardized punishment regime will prevent other officers from following in my footsteps."

Malka Chorno's speech had more of an impact than anyone at the time realized. The sight of a frightened, shivering, naked ex-cop, repenting and pleading for legislation that would have kept her own behavior under control, persuaded several important deputies in the Parliament to change their votes in favor of the reform. As a result, the entire opposition party delegation voted in favor of revising the 1780 Corporal Punishment Code, as did about a third of the deputies from the ruling party. The reform passed on the first vote.

Vladim Dukov was the man of the hour. As he stood in front of his cheering supporters, he was awestruck at what he had accomplished. He had changed the course of Upper Danubia's history and forced the entire country to examine itself. Dukov was not an aggressive or proud man, but he had a strong vision for what his country should be and what it should not be. Part of that vision now had become law.

There would be celebrations among the country's Spokespersons and an apology from the assistant police doctor who had scoffed at the idea Dukov could change the country's legal system. There would be mandatory re-training for the National Police Force and a series of promotions and demotions. Now the others would have to treat Officer Vladik Dukov with respect, whether they wanted to or not.

In spite of everything else that would transpire as a result of his success, Dukov's most important task was to address the people who would be most affected by his reforms, the criminals of Danube City. The night after the reform passed, Spokesman Vladim Dukov returned to the Socrates Club for the first time in several years, along with his wife and his client Kimberly Lee. He warmly shook hands with the old owner of the club and looked around at a place where he had spent much of his youth. It had not changed much, to his satisfaction. The club was filled to capacity with criminals eager to understand what the reform actually would mean for their sentences.

Vladim and Maritza may have been respected public officials, but they also were ex-criminals in a club with strict protocol about equality among the people attending. Vladim and Maritza undressed and surrendered their clothing before entering the main area of the club.

It was a bit of a shock for Kim and her friends to see Vladim Dukov step in front of the club's microphone, as naked as anyone else in the room. At that moment Kim realized how deeply her Spokesman's experiences from own his sentence were ingrained in his brain. In the Socrates Club Dukov saw himself more as a fellow criminal than as a public official.

Dukov began by explaining what the reform would do and what it would not. He went down a list of changes, the most important being the prohibition against sexual fondling. There were other revisions, including a standardization of the severity of the strokes, more authority for Spokespersons to intervene to prevent injury, and a new restriction against switching a criminal more than once every 60 days. Other provisions included not allowing a punishment to take place outside a courthouse or police station. For example, criminals never again could be punished at a school. They could not be chained and forced to march down a street. Nor could they be struck prior to the formal switching, for example they could not be kicked or beaten on the shoulders while waiting to be punished. There would be no participation in court-ordered punishments by anyone other than police officers. The days of medical students and girlfriends toying with criminals were over. Finally, there would be a time limit placed on the length of a switching. No judicial punishment could last longer than 50 minutes, one minute for each stroke.

Dukov explained his goal to keep the Duchy's corporal punishment system intact, but remove the excesses. "My desire is that, from this point forward, any criminal will know exactly what to expect from his or her sentence. What the judge orders will be what you must endure. There will be no unpleasant surprises from the police, nor from anyone else. Anything not specified in your initial sentence is prohibited."

Dukov went on to discuss the only realistic alternative to Upper Danubia's judicial system, which would be implementing a system of jails similar to what existed in the rest of the world. Dukov explained why he thought jails were a bad idea, an opinion shared by everyone else in the crowded room.

Upon the conclusion of the Spokesman's presentation, there was a shout of "DOC-DOC VLADIM!" With that Vladim Dukov and his wife joined Kim and her friends at their table, along with the owner of the club and a couple of other older professionals. It was still a bit of a shock seeing Vladim Dukov as an equal in the Socrates Club. It was even more of a shock for Kim to see Vladim and Maritza dance together later in the evening. They were reliving their time spent as criminals, a full generation ago. Their bodies were aged and no longer attractive, but Vladim and Maritza Dukov looked perfectly at home on the dance floor of the old Socrates Club. They had returned to a world their hearts really never had left.

In time Kim would follow in Vladim Dukov's footsteps and take over his responsibilities. She would be a Spokeswoman herself, and hang her collar under a picture of herself and her future husband. Kim also knew that 20 years from now she and Sergekt, their bodies weathered by age, occasionally would return to this club and dance among a new generation of criminals.

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The members of "Socrates' Mistresses", along with 12 song writers who contributed music on a regular basis and 6 others who contributed sporadically, found themselves increasingly wrapped up in their music as March and April passed. They had been performing so much at the Socrates Club that they were well practiced. Recording sessions were not that big of a challenge, since everything the group sang they already had sung in public several times over.

The group's first CD sold out quickly after it was released. The company scrambled to produce additional CD's and speed up the release of "Socrates' Mistresses" second CD. The music became popular throughout Europe and parts of Asia. For some odd reason the CD became particularly popular in Japan and Taiwan. Slowly, very slowly at first, the music began to make headway in the United States among people looking for something relaxing to listen to that was different.

At first the group's music was classified as "New Age", although that description was not really accurate. When a music scene reporter asked Kim about how she thought her group's music should be described, Kim simply responded, "The music is Danubian, that's how you would place it. It's not New Age, or Folk, or 'traditional'...it's Danubian."

Eloisa tasked Kim to re-write five new songs in English. The task of translating the five new songs proved somewhat harder for Kim than doing the first four songs. Kim had provided the ideas for the lyrics of the first songs she sang in English, but the themes for the new songs had come from other band members. Still, Kim realized that Eloisa had picked songs that had universal appeal and would reach out past the cultural and language barriers that separated Danubian criminal society from the rest of the world. In the end Kim translated the five songs, practiced them late at night in her room, and presented the translations to Eloisa.

Once again Eloisa's sharp ears listened to the sounds coming from Kim's throat and assessed how well they sounded with the group's backup singers and musicians. In the end she dropped one of the translations and kept the other four, thus giving the band more songs with which they could appeal to English-speaking audiences.

Kim called the group's recording company to tell them the band had an additional 2 CD's worth of songs they would be able to record. The company responded by sending a team of recording studio employees and renting the best recording studio Danube City had to offer. The group's members spent the final weeks of March and nearly all of April recording one high-quality song after another, including the four English translations. Finally, one of the company representatives suggested that Kim sing a couple of very old English love songs that were hundreds of years old. The old English songs added two more non-Danubian songs to the music collection.

At the end of April the company's studio employees left Upper Danubia with enough recorded music to fill the two CD's Kim had promised. Later that year, a Hollywood producer making a movie about the fall of Gaul to the Romans was looking for music with a sad, haunting feel for the movie's score heard Kim's version of "That's all I'll ever be" on the radio. Intrigued with the song, he had a copy of the CD delivered to his office. As soon as he heard Eloisa's voice, he was hooked. He had found precisely the music he wanted for his movie.

As their music's popularity exploded across Europe, Kim's friends continued to live their modest lives in Danube City. The money from their efforts built up in their bank accounts, but the only person who was aware of that was Kim. Between their studies, their jobs, their personal relationships, and the restrictions of their sentences, Kim and her friends lived lives that were barely distinguishable from the lives of over 2,000 other criminals serving sentences in Danube City. They worked, they studied, and they fulfilled their social responsibilities to their families and future in-laws. They gathered at their usual tables at the Socrates Club in the evenings they were not recording, and they made love upstairs in the intimacy rooms. As criminals, they knelt in front of police officers and public officials, they shivered naked at the trolley stops, and they dreamt about July, when they finally could return to living normal lives. They were very humble, and very ordinary, people.

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Ex-officer Malka Chorno shaved her pubic hair on April 5, as she prepared to receive her second punishment with her own police belt. She announced to her exercise classes that she probably would be unable to lead the sessions until Monday of the following week. That night she sat quietly with Tuko at the Socrates Club, after repeating her announcement concerning the cancellation of her exercise classes to the entire club.

Malka had one last night of aggressive love-making with Tuko, and then cleaned up and took a trolley to the Central Police Station. It was quite cold outside, but Malka was naked except for her collar and winter boots. Like most other criminals she treated the criminal's cape with contempt, wearing it only when she expected to stand outside for long periods of time.

Malka Chorno was not scared in the same way that Kim or Eloisa were scared the nights before they faced being punished. Instead she was quietly resigned to her upcoming suffering. She had violated her responsibilities as a police officer, and now she had to pay for it. Malka did not see what was about to happen to her as unfair. She had inflicted suffering on plenty of people herself, and now it was her turn.

Deep down Malka had felt guilty about the way she had been treating criminals prior to her arrest. However, as she struggled with her internal conflicts, she became all that much more vicious to the criminals she punished. In a way Malka was relieved to no longer have that continuing internal emotional conflict within her soul.

The former police officer also was relieved that her life's punishment was happening now instead of taking place in the Afterlife. Danubians had a vague idea of heaven and hell, but their Church hierarchy taught them that the Afterlife was neither. Instead, Danubian priests taught their congregations that a dead person's soul endured the results of both good and bad actions he or she had committed while still alive. For a Danubian the Afterlife was a mirror image of a person's life. Malka had grown up with that idea embedded in her brain, and thus as a cop she had been very scared of what might happen to her spirit after she died. Now that she was a criminal herself, she was paying her debt during this life instead of later. She could die with her soul at least partially redeemed.

Malka arrived at Spokesman Dukov's office and knelt in the reception area, waiting for him to arrive. The secretaries came in and asked Malka if she wanted any tea. She shook her head and asked for a small glass of water instead. When Vladim Dukov arrived, Malka knelt at his feet and kissed his shoes. Following the normal procedure for a routine punishment, Dukov retrieved Malka's police folder and prepared several punishment certificates.

One of Malka's ex-coworkers entered Dukov's office to handcuff her and take her downstairs to the punishment room. Malka quietly walked downstairs, passing several of her former colleagues on the way down. Some of her ex-coworkers glanced at her with contempt. Others gave her sad looks, thinking that what had happened to her was not fair.

Malka, her escort, and her Spokesman entered the punishment room. Malka's escort locked the door and then un-handcuffed the criminal. The chief of the Danube City Police Department, along with most of the section chiefs, were present and waiting to punish their former employee. Dukov took a quick look at their faces, trying to gauge their mood and attitude about their upcoming task. However, the stern, weathered faces of the commanders were inscrutable.

Because Malka was not a common criminal, some of Vladim Dukov's reforms did not apply to her. The police officials in charge of punishing her would not have dreamt of touching Malka sexually. However, there was no strict time limit placed on her punishment, nor any limit on the number of strokes she would receive. Malka's sentence stipulated that she would be beaten to the limit of her endurance.

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