tagNovels and NovellasMaragana Girl Ch. 03

Maragana Girl Ch. 03


Chapter 3 -- Kim's new life

Kim sullenly accompanied her Spokesman and his secretary across the plaza back to his office at the Central Police Station. Her body still was in considerable pain, not only from the searing welts, but also from her cramped muscles. The American walked stiffly and slowly, with Dukov and Tatiana slowing their own pace to allow her to keep up with them. The plaza was crowded with commuters and people relaxing in the afternoon sun. Kim, with her bare body, Asian features, metal collar, and marked backside, drew a lot of attention from the public as she walked by. They've turned me into a freak, she thought bitterly. And for two years I have to stay like this.

On the steps of the police station Dukov gave several short interviews to local television reporters, with Kim and the secretary standing behind him. His client felt deep bitterness at that moment, being forced to stand on the steps while the Spokesman cheerfully spoke to the cameras. The Spokesman was in very high spirits, having reduced his client's threatened 20-year sentence to just 2-years. Kim still did not fully appreciate how difficult an accomplishment this had been. She did not yet realize the reduction of her sentence by 90% in this very high-profile case had been one of the most significant victories of Dukov's career.

As the young criminal painfully followed Dukov up the steps, the cameras focused on her backside, filming the dark welts on her bottom and shoulders.

Finally the three were back in the Spokesman's office. The secretary who had stayed behind at the office had a recovery table set up; a massage table with lotion and disinfectant. Kim's body was stiffer than ever, and she was grateful for the opportunity to simply lie down. The secretary at the recovery table examined her to make sure her skin had not been broken anywhere, then she gently spread lotion on the welts to soften them. It was standard procedure following a judicial punishment. Six months from now Kim once again would be lying in this office following her second punishment.

Kim had no desire to move once she was on the table. Even the slightest movement hurt. The pain and stiffness were so overwhelming that she could barely imagine a time that she didn't feel such agony. She started to cry again, not only from the physical torment she was enduring, but also from the emotional suffering she had undergone that day and the overwhelming feeling that her life was ruined. She couldn't imagine that there could be any future for her after what she had endured. However, physical exhaustion finally overtook her and she fell asleep.

Kim did have a future in Upper Danubia, which Dukov spent the rest of the afternoon arranging. His first concern was making sure his client had a job. The court was dead serious about her needing to be gainfully employed within 48 hours. Kim would most definitely present a problem, given that she spoke no Danubian. Over time she would learn, but that did not resolve the issue of the moment.

Dukov decided that the best temporary position his new client could take would be to work as a courier. In a country where fax machines were still very rare, couriers were an important feature of Danubian business communications. Working as a courier would put Kim outdoors most of the time and keep her moving. Dukov suspected that the young criminal was a restless girl and needed movement to stay focused. At the end of September, when the weather started to get cold, she would have to change jobs and do something indoors, but that problem was still three months away.

Kim needed a place to live as well. A convicted criminal in Upper Danubia usually simply returned to live with his or her family. Kim, of course, had no relatives in Danube City, nor anyone else with whom she could live. Dukov had to get her a room, but that presented him with another problem. He knew from his professional experience that his client would be extremely depressed over the next few days, until she got used to her new life as a convicted criminal. That transition was difficult for anyone; with Kim it would be even more so because she had to get used to living in Danube City as well as get used to her new legal status. She had to live with someone who could watch over her, and yet leave her alone when necessary.

Finally, there was the issue of Kim's forfeited life in the US. Dukov needed to contact the US Embassy and arrange an interview with her. She needed to contact her parents and let them know that she would not be coming home for two years. Whatever college plans she had would have to wait. Dukov wondered if the hardest part of Kim's punishment was yet to come, having to explain to everyone in the US what happened.

Dukov spent the afternoon on the phone, first calling the US Embassy. The Spokesman had a rather unpleasant conversation with a consular official, who ripped into him about the barbarity of Upper Danubia's justice system. Dukov was a bit taken aback, given that he was the equivalent of a public defense attorney in the US and by Danubian standards he had successfully defended Kim in court. Finally his temper snapped.

"You will listen to me now. I have been to your country. I have seen your jails. You choose to keep your criminals in useless confinement and your useless system does not work. Its failure is evident for all of us to see plainly. We conduct very speedy trials and return our criminals to society right away. They work, they contribute, they lead productive lives, they learn respect, and they do not re-offend. What is your preference, that Kimberly spend two years in a prison cell, or that she spend two years working?"

Dukov then called his brother Victor Dukov, who ran a courier service. Kim had to be trained and learn her way about the 10-kilometer circle in which she would be delivering messages. Dukov spent over an hour discussing the details with his brother.

Finally there was the issue of where Kim would live. Until she learned how to speak Danubian, the only workable solution would be for her to stay with Dukov and his family. Anyhow, it was getting late and Dukov needed to go home, and take his client with him. He woke her up.

"Kimberly, you will come with me. Tonight you will dine with my family and sleep at my house."

Once again Kim sadly accompanied her Spokesman out onto the street. Once again she had to contend with the constant barrage of curious glances. The sight of a naked young woman with welts on her backside and a collar on her neck normally was not something that drew an extraordinary amount of attention from passers-by. However, the site of a naked young Asian woman with welts on her backside and a collar on her neck was something completely new. Along the street, at the trolley stop, and on the trolley itself local residents shifted around and strained their necks to get a better view of Kim's badly marked body.

At first Kim looked at the ground to avoid the sight of all her on-lookers. However, when Dukov noticed what she was doing he admonished her. "Kimberly, you must keep your head up. You must show your face to the world. A convicted criminal in this country is not allowed to hide her face."

Sadly Kim complied and lifted her head. She had to ride to Dukov's place standing up, even though there were several empty seats on the trolley. Criminals could use public transportation for free, but they were not allowed to occupy a seat. Dukov, realizing how difficult all this was for his client, chose to stand next to her.

The commute took the Spokesman and his client to the outer edge of the Danube City collar-zone and almost into the countryside. Dukov's house was about the size of an average US tract home, but it was solidly made from cinderblocks and polished wooden paneling. It overlooked a beautiful valley of mixed forests and pastures, one of the places Kim and her friends had hoped to visit. However, a yellow sign, visible along the street only a block past Dukov's house, reminded her that valley was now off limits.

Dukov and Kim entered his house. She went to the kitchen and looked out the window, curious to see the back yard. The yard was small and enclosed with a wall, as were most back yards of Danubian houses. Danubians valued their privacy and no proper house lacked an enclosed back yard. Two teenaged girls were sunbathing nude and giggling together over a pop-music magazine. Dukov called out to one the girls, asking her a question. The girl heaved a deep sigh and answered "Negat, Papa.". With that both girls got up, put on sun dresses, and began packing up the things scattered in the yard.

"My daughter, Anyia. You see, she needed to start preparing our meal, and she neglected to do so. Teenagers are the same everywhere, is that not so?"

The girl's carefree behavior struck at Kim's soul. Just a short while ago she had been in high school, doing roughly the same thing with Tiffany and Susan.

As Anyia began cleaning and cutting vegetables in the kitchen, Dukov instructed Kim to go into the main bathroom and get cleaned up. She sadly sat in the bathtub as the rest of Dukov's family returned home and he explained the situation of his new house-guest.

An hour later the young criminal was eating dinner with her Spokesman and his family. Dukov's family was about as typical as a Danubian family could be. Besides the teenaged daughter, he had an older son called Vladik who had just graduated from the National Police Academy. Dukov's wife, a sharply-dressed professional woman who introduced herself as Maritza, also was present, as was Vladik's fiancé. Throughout the dinner Anyia and the fiancé constantly glanced at Kim, not being able to hide their curiosity about the first Asian woman and the first person from the US to ever eat at their table.

As the women cleaned up and his son attended to his revolver and police uniform, Dukov called Kim to accompany him to his home library. The library was full of books in various languages and had two large very comfortable chairs. There were various pictures of Dukov and his family around the room, but one in particular struck Kim. That picture was the reason Dukov had brought her into the library.

It was a medium sized picture of the Spokesman, much younger than he was now, standing arm-in-arm with his future wife. Both Dukov and his fiancé were naked, and both were wearing collars. Beneath the picture two open collars hung on the wall.

Kim gasped. "Mr. Dukov...you...?"

"Yes, Kimberly. I wore the collar for five years, as did my wife Maritza. We keep this picture to remind ourselves, and our children, of who we are and where we came from. I brought you here so that you can understand something very important. Your life has not ended. Nor has it been suspended for two years. On this date, two years from now, you will be a free woman, but you cannot think about that too much; you cannot live in the future. Between now and then you must live from day to day and enjoy life's momentary small pleasures. That was how Maritza and I endured our sentences, and how we found love in each other."

Kim wondered what Dukov and his wife had done to be convicted as criminals, but she decided not to ask. Dukov had not volunteered that information. Out of respect for her Spokesman she decided not to pursue the question.

Kim slept deeply that night. She did not wake up until 10:00 the following morning. Her body was unbelievably stiff and the pain from her welts was still very much present. She would have a very hard time sitting normally for at least another day. Kim looked at herself in the guest bedroom mirror. The welts had darkened and looked ugly.

The house was completely silent. Apparently everyone had left for work. Kim looked around and finally went to the kitchen, where she peeked out the window and saw Anyia asleep nude on a towel in the back yard. As much as she hated doing it, she forced herself to wake up the girl and ask her where her father was. As Kim had feared, Anyia was none too pleasant about having been woken up. She gave a disgusted sigh, walked into the kitchen to retrieve a note and a Danubian-English dictionary, passed both items to Kim, and then plopped back down on her towel.

Kim couldn't say anything; a couple of years before she had been just as rude.

Dukov's note told Kim to ask Anyia to prepare breakfast for her and then gave instructions for taking a trolley downtown. She got her own breakfast, having no desire to bother the sullen girl on the towel a second time. Then she stepped outside to face the world alone as a Danubian convicted criminal. She carried the dictionary with her and walked up the hill to the trolley stop.

Yet again Kim had to endure all those stares as she rode the trolley into town. She wished she could sit down and cover her welts from her audience, but of course that was impossible due to the rule against criminals taking any seats on public transportation. She arrived at the Central Police Station and again endured the barrage of stares as she went up to Dukov's office. By now it was after 11:00. Dukov's two secretaries were in the front room. Upon seeing Kim enter, one of them immediately ushered her back to Dukov's main office. Dukov got right to the point. There were three problems she needed to resolve that day: find work, call her parents, and figure out where she was going to live.

The work issue was the most pressing, given that by the end of the next day Kim had to be employed. Dukov suggested the courier job with his brother. She agreed, really having no choice. Upon getting Kim's agreement Dukov took her to an old office building three kilometers away to meet Victor Dukov.

Victor Dukov spoke much less English then did his brother Vladim, but he still could make himself understood to Kim. She learned what her working life would be like over the next several months. She would be working with four other couriers, all of whom were recent high school graduates. One was close to completing a year-long sentence of wearing a collar for fighting at his school, but the other three were just average graduates. Victor issued his newest employee a cheap Danubian-made bicycle and handed her three terry-cloth bicycle seat covers designed especially for naked riders. He emphasized that she had to change her seat cover every day as a health precaution. Another item Kim was issued was a pair of bright orange courier shoes to protect her feet. Criminals who worked as couriers were expected to wear standard courier shoes while riding their bicycles, but had to take them off when not riding. Once she was outfitted with her seat covers and shoes, the two brothers filled out some papers and then Victor gave Kim her first assignment as a courier:

"You take this document of work to judge who sentenced you yesterday. You retrieve his signature. You take this paper with signature to office of my brother. You leave paper there with him. Then you return here with bicycle and receipt from my brother. And remember, you are criminal in court. You act like criminal. You show respect to judge."

Kim sighed. Her new boss did not seem all that friendly, and certainly had no qualms about putting her in her place.

Kim set out on her bicycle on her first assignment as a courier. As she eased herself on her bicycle seat her body protested in pain. However, she gritted her teeth and began peddling, merging into a cluster of other bicyclists headed in the direction of the city's main plaza.

As she cruised among the other commuters on her cheap bicycle, with her welts throbbing against the seat and the collar's feel on her neck as a constant reminder that she was no longer a free woman, Kim had a chance to reflect on her life. It was the first time in a while she had thought about anything other than partying and where Tiffany could score the best pot. All that was now behind her now. Tiffany was no longer her friend, there was no pot to be had in Danube City, and Kim doubted there would be any partying in her life for two years. She couldn't imagine this quiet city having much of a nightlife, and certainly not for someone like her.

Kim's first regret was simple and rather strange, considering all the other problems she faced. She wished that she could have her mountain bike from the US with her. The mountain bike had been a gift for her 16th birthday, but she probably had not ridden it more than 10 times altogether. Now that she would be spending her days on a bicycle, she wished fervently it could have been her own, the gift from her parents she never appreciated.

Kim's thoughts drifted to more urgent topics. She still needed to tell her parents and her sister what happened. She realized that she had so much to tell them. She had no idea where to begin. First, they had not been aware that Kim was using marijuana. That information alone would be a terrible shock to them. Once they knew she was in Danube City they would want to see her, but how could they? Kim's family was very conservative and no member of Lee family had ever seen any other member undressed. If her family were to visit they would have a horrible shock, seeing her naked in public with a metal collar on her neck. And yet, at the very least her sister would come to Danube City, and would see her. The full shame of Kim's situation would descend on the entire family, which, of course, was exactly the reason why she was being punished in this manner by the Danubian government.

Kim now regretted not having respected her family more in high school, and not having listened more to her parents. She had done all kinds of things behind their backs; lied, stolen, cheated on her classwork in her private school, played her sister and her parents against each other, and sacrificed everything at home to spend more time with Tiffany and Susan. She had always told herself that she had to treat her family badly, because Tiffany and Susan were the only people in the world who understood her. And yet...and yet, when she needed her friends to stand up for her, they instead betrayed her. What a waste...what a total waste!

Kim's bitterness towards Tiffany was only now starting to build. The shock from Tiffany's betrayal was giving way to an intense hatred. Because of Tiffany and Susan, Kim had been facing a 20-year sentence with monthly whippings for drug trafficking. She had only avoided the maximum charges thanks to the dedication of a complete stranger, not thanks to two people she had known for over five years. She now understood and could appreciate what Spokesman Vladim Dukov had done for her. Thanks to Tiffany, Kim faced losing 20 years of her life. Thanks to Dukov, 18 of those years had been given back to her.

It was true that Tiffany had panicked, but Kim was convinced had the situation been reversed she would not have turned on Tiffany, and also was convinced that Susan would not have turned on her had it not been for Tiffany's insistence. It was only natural that she should now hate Tiffany and disrespect Susan, but she also realized that she had to keep those feelings under control or they would consume her soul and force her to do something stupid upon being released and returning to the United States.

Kim looked around her. People were still staring at her, although now that she was on a bicycle with a courier's package and wearing courier's shoes, a lot of the mystery about this young Asian was resolved. People now saw her as simply another criminal who had been punished and was serving a sentence. The punishment of foreigners in Upper Danubia was not very common, but it happened occasionally. The only thing that really made Criminal # 98945 stand out from the others was that she was not European.

Kim parked her bicycle in the couriers' area of the courthouse. She winced as she dismounted. As instructed by Dukov's brother, she took off her courier's shoes and hung them on the handlebars before going in. She went upstairs to the judge's office and knelt at the secretary's desk, holding the papers out in front of her. With a very heavy English accent she repeated the phrase she had memorized: "Tutik ya mauk listok derjavnik na htre," which was Danubian for "I have an official document for the judge."

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