Maragana Girl Ch. 27bycaligula97236©
Chapter 27 -- Vladik Dukov's "Proper Partner"
Kim spent the afternoon making arrangements for Tiffany's future. There really were only two issues that needed to be addressed; where Tiffany was going to live and where she was going to work. Kim already had both details partly settled, so her calls that afternoon simply were to confirm her previous arrangements. Tiffany would start at the music store the next day. As for living arrangements, Victor Dukov reluctantly agreed to rent her a room, with the understanding she would move to Vladim's house following Kim's marriage.
Tiffany was up within just a couple of hours. She struggled off the table, wincing at the pain from her badly marked up backside. Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she again thought about the grim chain of events that brought her to her current state in this office. For a few minutes she stood with her hands on the recovery table, trying to steady herself.
Kim ordered Tiffany to go into the back office and quickly explained her job and living arrangements. Tiffany dried her eyes and partially recovered after drinking some tea. Her next statement hugely surprised Kim.
"I was curious...could you take me to the store, you know, so I would see it...maybe meet some people there?"
"Well...uh...sure...except you don't have to report in until tomorrow."
"No. I want to do it today. I want to get started, or at least know what it's gonna be like."
"Alright, I'll take you over. You really think you can make it over there with your butt like it is?"
"It's not that bad, at least if I don't sit down."
The two women left the Central Police station. In spite of Tiffany's assurance she was fine, she did have some trouble getting down the stairs. Once they were out on the street Tiffany was able to walk fairly normally, although she had to walk more slowly than usual.
At first Kim was surprised that Tiffany didn't seem to be bothered by being out on the street wearing nothing but her collar. At this stage in her sentence Kim had been mortified at the thought of being so completely exposed to the world, and thus was surprised by Tiffany's acceptance of her situation. However, during their walk Kim remembered that Tiffany already had spent nearly six weeks in the nude in the National Hospital rehab program, and before that she had worked as a stripper. Any modesty about her body had long since been purged from Tiffany's mind.
Tiffany, in fact, wanted to be exposed, and have her punished backside exposed, to the view of the population of Danube City. The punishment and her collaring marked the final break from her past. She no longer was a stripper, no longer a prostitute, no longer Raymond Stark's girlfriend, no longer an active meth and heroin user. She now was a Danubian criminal and eager to move ahead with her life as quickly as possible. Subconsciously Tiffany actually was proud of her collar and welts because of what they symbolized, a new beginning for her.
Once they arrived, Kim, following store protocol for employees, stripped off her dress and hung it up in the employees' break room. She then led Tiffany around the store and introduced her to the owner and everyone working the afternoon shift. Kim then explained how Tiffany would start out. She would begin by doing manual chores such as window washing and cleaning up until her Danubian was good enough for her to train as a cashier. Over time she would start at the information counter, to provide an English-speaking presence when Kim was not working. It was possible that later on Tiffany might be promoted to a job at the studio and recording complex, perhaps as a guide or information assistant.
Kim was amazed at how happy Tiffany was upon hearing the explanation about the routine she needed to follow and the steps she would go through to get promoted. Tiffany now knew she had escaped, really, truly escaped. Her life in Danube City hardly would be exciting, but after two years of squalid drug-addled adventures, she felt she needed a routine life and a break from "excitement".
There was another surprise for Kim coming from Tiffany that afternoon. Before they left the store Kim's client noticed disposable cameras for sale and asked Kim to buy her one. Kim then shot the entire roll on Tiffany posing in front of the store, in the store, and later in the Central Plaza. Once they got back to Dukov's office Tiffany did something that struck Kim as extremely odd; she placed her hands on the recovery table and looked back at Kim over her shoulder. The pose emphasized her welt-covered bottom. Kim took two pictures of Tiffany in that position and finished out the roll of film. Once the film was used up Kim handed the camera back to Tiffany. The criminal then got on her knees and thanked the Apprentice for doing her the favor.
Shortly afterwards Kim took her client by trolley to Victor Dukov's house. She met his family and partially ingratiated herself by kneeling when she greeted him. With that Kim got ready to leave, with the weird sensation of seeing her former boss and her former best friend standing next to each other. Tiffany knelt and in heavily accented Danubian said "Goodbye, Apprentice Lee, until we meet again."
"Goodnight Tiffany. I'll be here at 7:00 tomorrow to take you to work. I'm scheduled to be there all day, so I'll be helping you train."
With that, Kim departed to return to the other part of her life, rehearsal with Eloisa and the other singers of "Socrates' Mistresses" for the upcoming Day of the Dead Equinox ceremony.
Kim and Sergekt returned to their classes at the National University two days after Tiffany's sentencing. For the first time they entered classes as free citizens, but the euphoria of entering the university in their new status quickly wore off. Kim and Sergekt realized their second year of classes would be extremely demanding for both of them. Sergekt, in particular, faced a rough year, studying chemistry, engineering, and geology, with the promise of a third year that would be just as difficult.
Kim did have one pleasant surprise on campus when she ran into Anyia's friend Jennifer. It turned out Jennifer had decided to stay in Upper Danubia to go to college for at least a year. Upper Danubia had grown on Jennifer during her year in high school as an exchange student. She now felt comfortable in the country and was not ready to give up her friendships with Anyia and some of her other classmates. More importantly, she was not ready to give up her relationship with her naked boyfriend. At the university café he was by her side, in his usual subdued manner, with his bottom pink from constantly being slapped. While they were talking Jennifer ordered her boyfriend to get her and Kim some fruit punch. The order, as every other command she gave him, was accompanied with two sharp slaps on the bottom as he left, and two more when he came back with the drinks.
Kim was surprised to find out where Jennifer was living. She was staying with her exchange-program counselor, the same woman who had punished her in high school. It turned out that her counselor had helped her enroll at the university and complete the paperwork needed to extend her student visa. Obviously Jennifer needed to behave with proper protocol at all times in the woman's house, but in public she rebelled by wearing jeans and keeping her non-Danubian hairstyle.
The grim and politically charged atmosphere on campus worried Kim and her fiancée. The campus was bitterly divided between students coming in from the eastern provinces who supported the Greater Danubian Progressive Party, and the ones from the capitol and the surrounding Central Valley, who mostly supported the Party of the Duchy. That afternoon Kim, Sergekt, Eloisa, Dima, and Valia sat down to afternoon tea at a university café to discuss the country's future. Sergekt, the most politically aware of the group, explained the Duchy's political situation to his increasingly dismayed friends. He concluded:
"This country is going to be in a lot of trouble, no matter who wins the next election. Our choices are just terrible. The "Nobility" doesn't have a viable candidate and they think it's still 1945. The "Progressives" have been bought out and want to hand us over to foreign companies. The "Dissidents" couldn't organize making a pot of tea. Who will we vote for? Or maybe we'll just have election after election..."
Sergekt looked at Dima, who sighed and buried his hands in his hair. The three women had no clue what to say.
Officer Vladik Dukov invited his partner to his father's house a couple of weeks after Kim and her friends started classes at the university. Vladik thought it would be a perfect afternoon for a quiet tryst with his lover, with Anyia in school, his fiancée and Kimberly Lee at the university, and his parents at work.
The couple turned off their police radios and parked their bicycles near the front door of the Dukov residence. There would be a nice three hours to have some wine, a small meal, and a pleasant session of lovemaking under the sun in the back yard. The two cops had done this plenty of times before. There was no reason to suspect today's adventure would end any differently.
The two officers finished their meal and went into the back yard. Their uniforms came off and Vladik caressed his partner's lean, muscular figure, enjoying the feel of the hot sun on his backside and his lover's hardened sweaty body underneath. Maybe he was engaged, and maybe she was married, but it seemed...
The kitchen door swung open and banged loudly against the back wall. The two naked cops looked up to see Vladik's fiancée, holding a camera. The camera clicked twice before the young interloper dropped it down her blouse. The photographer addressed the policewoman with a tone of quiet rage in her voice that frightened both cops.
"I expect you to put on your uniform and be off this property within a minute. If you take any longer than 60 seconds your section chief sees these pictures tomorrow morning, and your husband will see them tomorrow afternoon."
The policewoman jumped up to grab her uniform and quickly got dressed in the living room. As soon as she had her tunic and boots on she scrambled out the door and sped off on her bicycle. Vladik reached for his uniform as well. His fiancée snatched away the clothes before he could reach them.
"You will not put this on. You have proven yourself unworthy to be a police officer, just like you have proven yourself unworthy to be my husband."
She reached back and pulled her silver hairpiece out of her hair, and then quickly tore off her necklace and her ring. She threw the items at Vladik's feet.
"Your father had no right to call you Vladik. You are a disgrace to our King's name, and you're a disgrace to your family's name."
Vladik had nothing to say. There was nothing for him to deny, she had seen everything with her own eyes and it was on film. There was no point in trying to persuade her to give him a second chance, in Upper Danubia a dishonored engagement never got a second chance. Finally he choked out a question:
"How did you know?"
"I could see it in your eyes, Vladik. I could see it in your eyes for more than a year, but I kept deluding myself it was my imagination. Anyhow, I have a classmate whose younger sister is a friend of Anyia. Last week she mentioned your partner's little visits to this house, and I became more suspicious. But, what I want you to know is that it was not your sister who gave you away. You gave yourself away."
"I suppose I did..."
"You made a final mistake today. I saw the bicycles and let myself in. You were very foolish to have left those bicycles there and not to have locked your front door."
"I...I don't know what to say."
"Well, I do know what to say, you dishonored liar. Your life is ruined. I will see to that. It's up to you to decide whether you want me to ruin your partner's life."
"No...you can ruin my life, but not hers."
"That's up to you. If you wish to spare your partner you will resign from the National Police, effective immediately. If you wish to spare your family and those two Americans, you will resign. That will be my revenge, destroying your career. Next Monday I will check the National Police roster. If your badge number is still active, your section chief, your partner's section chief, your partner's husband, and your father will get copies of the pictures. If your badge number is removed, then I will send the pictures and the negatives to you, after I'm absolutely sure your resignation is finalized."
With that she threw Vladik's uniform on the ground and walked out. As she went through the front door, the woman's controlled rage became a bit less controlled. She picked up Vladik's police bicycle and with all her strength flung it at Dukov's front window. It shattered several panes and broke part of the window frame. It was a very un-Danubian display of temper, but one Vladik realized he deserved.
Vladik lost no time putting on civilian clothes and folding up his uniform. He got on his bicycle and rode back to the Central Police Station. He knew his ex-fiancée would be true to her word, whether he chose to resign or attempt to keep his job. She wanted revenge against him, not anyone else, not even his partner. However, she was perfectly willing to destroy the other people in Vladik's life if he did not accept the punishment she had laid out for him. Vladik's concern was to protect his father and his lover from his mistakes, not himself, so there was no question his police career had ended.
Vladik went up to his father's office and typed out a letter of resignation on one of the secretary's computers. He printed several copies and then went downstairs to present them to his stunned section chief. He handed his folded uniform to his chief along with the letters.
"I dishonored myself, my uniform, and my father's house. I am unfit to wear this uniform and am returning it to you."
"Have you lost your mind?! You're one of our best officers! You're up for promotion! You could be a section chief within two years!"
"No, that would never happen. I...did something that if you knew, you'd understand. It's not just my life that's involved, but also several others. It is best...for everyone...that I resign. That'll spare the honor of several innocent people, including you."
Vladik's dumbfounded boss reluctantly signed his resignation letters, realizing his star employee apparently was resigning to prevent a scandal. The section chief was torn between wondering what on earth Officer Dukov had done that was so terrible and hoping not to find out.
With that Vladik went back upstairs to his father's office. Kim was at her desk, researching some of Dukov's old cases for an upcoming class project. Kim, upon seeing Vladik in civilian clothes and with a stricken look on his face, realized something was very wrong. He sat down and buried his forehead in his hands.
"You will need to find someone else to punish your client Tiffany next year. I'm not...I'm not an officer with the National Police anymore. I'm dishonored, and I have only myself to blame."
For a moment Kim stared in silence at Vladik, who didn't even look like the same person with his broken expression. She decided it would be a good idea to get him out of the police station and then get him to talk about what happened. She told him to accompany her to the nearby river park. He listlessly complied and walked with her down several city blocks to the spot where Danube City gave way to the strip of parkland that lined the Danube River.
Kim knew, because she was not Danubian, Vladik would be able to speak to her and not have to be afraid of being judged according to the harsh standards of the Duchy's morality. Vladik did what he most needed to do, talk. In a single afternoon he had lost his fiancée, his mistress, his job, and his self-esteem. The fallout from his mistakes would continue that evening when he would have to face his irate parents and uncle.
"I don't know myself what was wrong with me. She was perfect: smart, determined, educated, pretty, from a good family. Her parents liked me and Mother certainly liked her. She got along with Anyia...she's a woman with honor. And what did I give her up for? I gave her up for sex with a woman I preferred, but one who I knew could never be mine."
"Vladik, did you love your fiancée at all?"
"No. The woman I love is my partner. I respect my fiancée, but I don't love her. I don't know why. She's everything a man could possibly want, but in my heart I never appreciated her. That is why I'm so dishonored."
"Well, I'm going to be honest and tell you that, from my point of view, I think you got what you deserved. I never said anything, but I knew what was going on because it was a bit obvious. I think what you did to both those women, especially your fiancée, was totally wrong. The only thing I can say is I do admire you for taking the blame yourself and trying to protect everyone else."
Vladik said nothing. Kim thought for a moment and then continued with a statement that over time would change how he saw himself and what he wanted from life.
"I was wondering...you know, about how you Danubians see love. Maybe you're all a bit too logical about it. It's always 'good family' and 'honor' and 'logical partner', and never 'how do you actually feel about this person'. Maybe she was too perfect for you. Maybe what you need is a woman with flaws and problems, someone you can love for who she is and how she feels about you, not for what she is. If your parents approve, that's great. If they don't..." Kim shrugged her shoulders, "that's their problem, not yours."
"That's not how we think, Kimberly. A proper partner is necessary to have tranquility in life."
"Really? You had a 'proper partner', and how tranquil was your life? You deceived and lied to everyone you knew, and you wasted four years of her life because you didn't love her. To me that's not how you should live. It's definitely not living with honor."
"Very well, Kimberly, since you seem to have the answers, let me ask you this. What do you think I should do next? What advice can you give me?"
"Really there's only two things. First, start over. Get another job, or maybe go to college. Maybe with the end of your career with the National Police Force you've been blessed instead of cursed. Think about it. Maybe now you can just enjoy yourself instead of worrying all the time about your responsibilities and what other people think about you. Then, you'll be free to find a woman who you actually like being with, instead of a 'proper partner'."
"You make it sound so easy."
"Well it's not. It's easier to do things the way you've been doing them, because everything was laid out for you. But it's obvious to me that you can't live an easy life. You need a life where you have to make your own choices and suffer the consequences. If you can accept that about yourself, then you have the chance to be happy."
Kim and Vladik came up to the grounds behind the Temple of the Ancients. Suddenly Vladik decided to go in and talk to a priest. He knelt and confessed what had happened while Kim stood nervously watching. The priest repeated much of what Kim had told Vladik, that he needed to start his life over with a better understanding of what he really wanted. The priest then suggested Vladik undergo a purification ritual and perform public penance during the week leading up to the Day of the Dead Ceremony. Public penance would allow Vladik time to divide his life between who he had been up until that day and who he would become after the Day of the Dead. Vladik agreed, nodded, and stood up.
Two female attendants dressed in black robes took Vladik by the hands to a stone platform behind the main Temple building. There was a fire-pit with an active fire at one end, and a small prayer stand at the other end.