tagNovels and NovellasMaragana Girl Ch. 29

Maragana Girl Ch. 29

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 29 -- The Summer of Life

In spite of all Dukov's efforts, the Party of the Duchy faced a huge obstacle countering the barrage of advertising on television. The TV ads were aimed at unsophisticated voters who were unaccustomed to seeing a well-organized television advertising campaign. As long as the ads stayed on track, it looked like the Greater Danubian Progressive Party would still win, although perhaps not by as large a margin as they would have liked.

At the end of the second week of November and only a week before the election, the foreign advisors of the Greater Danubian Progressive Party made a mistake that cost their candidates any chance whatsoever of winning. It was a miscalculation that political scientists would analyze for years as a case study for failed political consulting. The consultants decided to target Vladim Dukov's son in personal attacks, and in doing so turned a likely electoral victory into certain electoral defeat.

The foreign advisors were elated when they found out about Vladik Dukov's public penance. They abandoned their attacks against Vladim Dukov's past and instead decided to concentrate on humiliating Vladik. They filmed him as he walked naked around the music store complex with blueprints in his hand and a collar around his neck. There was public discussion of the shame he had brought upon Vladim Dukov and on the police department. There was an ugly incident at the music store, as a couple of reporters aggressively approached a terrified Tiffany Walker as she was working at a cash register. The store's owner, Vladik, and five naked male employees confronted the reporters, broke their cameras, and threw them out the door.

Reporters contracted by the foreign advisors then tracked down both Vladik's ex-fiancée and his ex-boss, demanding to know why he had resigned and why he no longer was engaged. Both the woman and the police official were incensed at having rogue reporters approach them about someone else's personal issues. Vladik's ex-fiancée, in particular, was furious that any reporter would be interested in what she considered a private matter. She was a hard and proud woman who would never forgive him for what he had done to their relationship, but she considered the matter closed when he resigned from the National Police. The use of their personal problems to further a political campaign was an attack on not just his honor, but also hers. It was a violation of the most basic Danubian value about the sanctity of personal relationships. Such people had no right to win an election.

She approached Vladik's ex-boss to discuss the inquiries. It turned out he was equally incensed, for very similar reasons. Officer Vladik Dukov had resigned to protect other people in the National Police. He had resigned honorably. The matter was closed as far as the National Police was concerned and not open to further discussion. Vladik's Section Chief suggested that he and the young woman jointly file an official complaint with the High Priest at the Temple of the Ancients.

The High Priest gladly accepted the complaint, because it gave him justification to take action. The clergy already had been offended that public penance, which was a personal matter between the priest and the sinner, would become a political campaign issue. Maybe such things are acceptable elsewhere, but not in Upper Danubia. As the sun set behind the National Cathedral, the High Priest, surrounded by other members of the Clergy, issued an official condemnation of the entire campaign of the Greater Danubian Progressive Party. He considered an attack on penance as an attack on the Church itself and on the fundamental concept of personal redemption.

The Church condemnation handed the election to Vladim Dukov and the Party of the Duchy. A condemnation was a very serious matter for many voters, especially among the rural constituents the Greater Danubian Progressive Party needed to win the election. It took the foreign advisors several days to understand how seriously their campaign targeting Vladik Dukov's penance had offended traditional Danubian values. The Danubian press also turned against the "Progressives", its traditional journalists angered by the strategy of using rogue reporters to promote personal attacks. Maybe such things were acceptable in other countries, but not in the Duchy.

Vladim Dukov already sounded like a Prime Minister in the final televised debate with his opponent. Rather than try to critique his opponent's campaign, the ex-Spokesman again took the opportunity to lay out his plans for the future. He made it clear the Party of the Duchy under him would be very different from the Party of the Duchy that had existed since World War II.

Following the debate, "Socrates' Mistresses" performed the final concert of the campaign in the Plaza of the Ancients. In spite of Dukov's likely victory the next day, the group was neither proud nor triumphant. Instead they were very reflective and somber, realizing the seriousness of the new phase in Dukov's life and the professional sacrifices they needed to make to assist his campaign. Eloisa sang in her usual forlorn manner. However, for the night's final song, she stepped back and turned the lead microphone over to Kim. To the surprise of the audience, Kim did not perform her favorite song, "The wall that divides my soul", but instead the English rendition of "A question I cannot answer".

The election held the following day was a rout for the "Progressives". Not even their most pessimistic advisors for could have dreamt the party would come in third, losing not only to the Party of the Duchy, but also to the coalition of dissidents. Vladim Dukov's party won 58% of the popular vote, leaving him in complete control of the next Cabinet. The humiliation for the foreign political consultants was absolute. They quickly checked out of their hotel rooms and were out of the country even before the official vote was completely counted.

Dukov's victory speech was low-key. He gave thanks to his supporters, to the members of "Socrates' Mistresses", and to the owners of the Socrates Club and the city's various music stores. He then thanked the people he had worked with over the years: Spokesman Havlakt and his other co-workers, various judges and top police officials, and the leaders of the Party of the Duchy who had placed faith in him. Finally, he thanked his own Spokesman and university professors from many years before, the people who had helped him focus his frustrated political energies into his future career with the Danubian court system.

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Tiffany viewed Dukov's victory with very mixed emotions. On the one hand she was glad to see him elected, but on the other hand Dukov's win frightened her because she couldn't see how Vladik would want to stay with her now that he was the son of the country's Prime Minister. However, the morning after the election Vladik Dukov had a huge surprise for Tiffany. He invited her to go with him to see his father's swearing in ceremony.

In spite of their friendship, Tiffany was stunned that Vladik wanted to be seen with her at such a public event. At first he justified the invitation by arguing he felt very uneasy having to appear collared and naked in public by himself, and her presence would make him look not so much out of place. Vladik then checked himself. That wasn't the reason. He wanted her to go with him...well, because he wanted her to go with him. Maybe this time, with Tiffany, he could simply tell the truth. He struggled to express himself in English:

"Deevonay, I say you come with me, because I want. That why you come. I feel myself good when you with me, so you come please?"

"You...like...really want me to come? You're really not...like...ashamed to be with me?"

"Why I shame, Deevonay? I no better you." Vladik struggled to find the words to express himself, a task twice as hard because of his limited English vocabulary. Finally he faced her with the truth "Deevonay, you, me, we...we two start new. You no drug no more, I no police no more. We live life new. That what priest say, that why I wear collar. Kimberly, she say, maybe good thing I no police no more, because I no worry no more...no worry about the other people. Only think me happy, no other people. And Kimberly say, and I know true, I look at woman...I look at you, Deevonay...and I think...maybe you the right woman...."

Tiffany became quiet as tears started flowing down her cheeks.

"I...I don't know what to say, but...you can't fall in love with me...I mean... your father...he's now Prime Minister...and...people would laugh at you...and I...I'm...I mean...that 'honor' thing you guys have here...I don't have it..."

"Deevonay, I now ask, what you think me? What YOU think me?"

"Vladik, if it was just me...I mean, I really like you...you're the best guy I've ever gone out with. That's not it. It's just..."

"You, me, we got time, much time. I no worry people laugh. I worry you come with me see Father in Parliament. Very important you come. I need you come."

Finally Tiffany nodded. She gave Vladik a teary smile and hugged him hard. Time...yes, she and Vladik did have time. Maybe time would heal her after all. Perhaps there really was something to Kim's promise of "maybe even a family".

Vladik Dukov and Tiffany Walker stood together with the owner of Danube City's main music store and his other employees during his father's victory speech. Their bare bodies and collars totally made them look out of place in the otherwise well-dressed crowd. While everyone else saluted they had to drop to their knees. There was no real shame in that, however. He was performing penance and his companions were convicted criminals. It was the way things were done in the Duchy. The naked men and women standing in the crowd of Dukov's supporters simply were fulfilling the protocol and duties of their positions in life.

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Dukov took the Prime Minister's sash from the caretaker Prime Minister. The Temple's High Priest gave a brief benediction, and then the Chief Justice of the Danubian Supreme Court saluted the new Prime Minister. Dukov saluted back, then turned to salute the thousands of spectators.

"DOC-DOC DANUBE!"

The crowd saluted back and roared its support:

"DOC-DOC DUKOV! DOC-DOC DUKOV! DOC-DOC DUKOV!"

Prime Minister Dukov lost no time getting down to business. He left the stage to enter the National Parliament with his hands full of folders, legislation he planned to present as soon as his cabinet was sworn in.

However, as he stood at the Prime Minister's podium, the vision of the collapsed dam from the Rika Chorna Reservoir filled his mind. Protecting the lake's watershed was the first priority of his government. Even before his cabinet was sworn in, the new Prime Minister issued several emergency edicts to safeguard the forested hills overlooking the lake. He spoke with anger and force, making it very clear that any foreign business wishing to exploit Upper Danubia's natural resources or its people would have to look elsewhere.

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Dukov's election removed an immediate financial threat to "Socrates' Mistresses", by placing them out of reach from anyone wanting to sue them for breach of contract. Kim's old sentencing judge became the new Minister of Justice. One of his first announcements was to declare that no lawsuit against any Danubian entertainer by a foreign company would be permitted in a Danubian court. During his first press conference he stated: "I will personally prosecute any foreigner entering our territory to harass our citizens under Item 2, article 3 of the 1968 Professional Harassment Decree. That law carries a minimum five-year sentence. Furthermore, I will personally issue an arrest warrant for any foreigner who attempts to harass one of our entertainers in a foreign court."

The Minister of Justice made good on his word. The following week Danubian embassies infuriated some of the world's most influential music executives by sending official letters to their corporate attorneys. The letters contained arrest warrants and extradition requests for the members of the legal team who had confronted Kim for violations of Item 2, article 3 of Upper Danubia's 1968 Professional Harassment Decree.

A couple of nights after the election Eloisa's old high school group decided to have dinner at the Socrates Club. Everyone, with the exception of Tuko, who still was at the National Police Academy, was present. For the first time, Tiffany and Vladik sat at the table at the invitation of Kim. There was much good cheer that evening, the band members happier than they had been at any time since the euphoric day their sentences ended. Later in the evening Eloisa reflected to the group that it felt good to have her clothes off again and just relax in a familiar setting, a comment to which many band members agreed. Sergekt then made a comment that it looked like the band was starting over, their foreign contract breached and the group unable to perform outside Upper Danubia.

"I've been thinking, maybe the foreign contract wasn't such a good thing for us. Did we really need all that money? Kim and I already have enough to build a very nice house and still plenty left over to put our kids though school. Do we need even more? Now we have the chance to go back to who we really are. We can return to our roots and do what we want to do, not what anyone else wants us to do. We can sing what we want to sing, and chose where and when our concerts are going to be. We're going to do it right this time, as Danubians."

There was a toast, as Kim mulled over the statements of both Eloisa and Sergekt. Finally an idea came into her head. She addressed the group.

"Does everyone still have their criminal's collar?"

The question surprised her friends, because it seemed to come from nowhere, but everyone in the group still had their collars. Danubian ex-criminals rarely got rid of their collars, given the importance of the device in their lives and in forming their characters. Kim's purpose became clear with her next statement.

"Then I want to go back too, completely back. We started performing as criminals. Our first listeners were criminals. That's how we got our inspiration. Now here's what I want. I want our next concert to be in this club, where we started. Then, we'll perform just like we did last year, wearing our collars and nothing else. I want us to practice that way as well, wearing our collars and nothing else. Whenever we get together to do any band business, we'll wear our collars and nothing else. Whenever we get interviewed, we'll wear our collars and nothing else. Who we really are is not a bunch of rich kids performing in Barcelona and Paris. Who we really are...is Danubian criminals. I want to make that our trademark."

The idea was a bit unusual; to return to performing in the nude when it was neither necessary nor expected, but the other members of the group liked it. Yes, go back to the very beginning, start over, write new songs, perform for the Duchy. The group's foreign fans would be welcome to travel to Upper Danubia to see the band's new concerts, but would see them as naked ex-criminals. The most important part of Kim's proposal would be frequently returning to the Socrates Club for the inspiration needed to write new songs.

"Socrates' Mistresses" had come home.

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Two days later Tiffany became an important asset to Dukov's Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Health. Dukov called Kim into the Prime Minister's office in the National Parliament Building to ask about Tiffany's knowledge of methamphetamine. Kim stood at attention in her formal white dress and saluted the new Prime Minister; in spite of the fact she still was living in his house and having dinner with his family every night. Once her formal gesture of respect was finished, she answered his question in Danubian.

"Prime Minster, I believe Criminal # 98946 has extensive knowledge about the production of methamphetamine, as well as knowledge of other drugs such as heroin, pharmaceuticals, and on-line prescription drugs."

"Another question, Apprentice: do you think she knows how to obtain these items on the Internet?"

"Yes, Prime Minister Dukov, I believe she does."

"Very well, Apprentice Lee. Then you and Criminal # 98946 will be able perform an important service to our country. Please bring Criminal # 98946 to this office at 15:00 this afternoon. I will have the head doctor from the National Hospital Chemical Addiction Rehabilitation Program present, and also the Vice-Minister of Health and two court recorders. I would like Criminal # 98946 to share whatever knowledge she has about methamphetamine with us. Once we have completed interviewing her, I will ask that she go on-line in our presence and instruct us about the availability of drugs through the Internet. I plan to use the information to update our drug laws."

Kim saluted. "I will obey your command, Prime Minister. I will bring my client to this office at 15:00 today and ask her to assist you to the best of her ability."

Kim and Tiffany showed up at the National Parliament Building at 3:00 in the afternoon. Tiffany felt very uneasy as she walked naked among Upper Danubia's most important leaders, but she was a criminal performing a public service and that was what was expected of her. As she and Kim entered the Prime Minister's office, Tiffany dropped to her knees and nervously put her forehead to the ground while Kim stood at attention and saluted. Tiffany was scared being pulled out of her regular life, even more so because the Prime Minister was her lover's father.

Once Kim had saluted, Dukov ordered Tiffany to stand up and take a seat. He offered her some tea and poured it for her himself. Once he passed her the cup he got down to business, asking her what information she could provide him about methamphetamine and any other drugs she had used. The debriefing of Kim's client was the beginning of Dukov's plan to mount a huge anti-drug effort, before the problem had a chance to take hold in his country.

It turned out Tiffany knew three separate recipes for making methamphetamine. She knew about several on-line suppliers of psuedoephdrine, iodine, and glassware. She knew about suppliers of ecstasy and LSD. She knew about concealment methods. She was familiar with on-line chat groups. Finally, she was able to analyze herself and her friends in the US, giving her listeners a perspective on why persons like herself started using drugs in the first place. The scope of Tiffany's knowledge on the topic was impressive. Both Kim and the Prime Minister realized she was precisely the source of information Dukov's government needed to begin comprehending the scale of the threat facing the country.

Tiffany spent two weeks in the Prime Minister's office, being de-briefed and teaching investigators from the Health Ministry and National Police how to look up Internet suppliers. The Danubian officials were taken aback by the scale of the challenge facing them. In the end, the naked criminal sat next to the Prime Minister at his computer and taught him how to access the chat sites. After a very short time Prime Minister Dukov and several of his Vice-Ministers had acquired a working knowledge of the world that had destroyed so many young people in other countries. Finally, at the end of her debriefing, Tiffany returned to her job at the music store, but with the expectation she would come back every so often to answer additional questions or give advice.

Over the next several months Dukov and his Ministers used the information from taken from Tiffany and several other drug addicts to grill police officials, pharmacy workers, and customs agents about the measures they were taking to protect Upper Danubia. By the end of the year the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education had an effective drug education program in place for high schools, while new laws and customs screening procedures targeted imported pharmaceuticals. The entire process began because of the contribution of Criminal # 98946.

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