Maragana Girl Ch. 11bycaligula97236©
Chapter 11 -- A partial reprieve for Eloisa
Kim spent the middle of March confronting the emotional turmoil that resulted from Cindy's trip. Without realizing what was happening until it was too late, she had long since passed a point of no return. She couldn't go back to her old life.
Kim expected the first crisis from her decision to hit about 48 hours after she said goodbye to Cindy. Sure enough, two nights after her sister left Kim's parents called her, in hysterics over the result of Cindy's trip. Cindy's decision to support Kim's desire to stay in Upper Danubia only made their parents more irate. Both girls had completely lost their senses. Why wouldn't she want to come home, even with the tough transition that awaited her?
Kim's father was adamant. "Well, we're filing, no matter what you want. You're coming home and I'm going to knock some sense into you."
Kim asked her Spokesman to call her parents. He seemed to have a better ability to reason with them than she did. Dukov decided to talk to Mrs. Lee, since she seemed to have a greater understanding of how messed up Kim was. Dukov spent nearly two hours carefully explaining why Kim thought staying in Upper Danubia was her only realistic option. He played on her drug use, knowing that her mother had been appalled when she found out what her daughter had been doing in Europe with Tiffany and Susan. At last Kim's mother agreed that if she wished to stay in Upper Danubia, perhaps it was best to not pursue the effort to overturn her sentence. If nothing else, it would keep her clean and off drugs for two years. With that both Kim's mother and Kim's sister worked to change her father's mind. In the end he decided to wait and not file anything for the time being.
Kim's decision ended up saving her parents a lot of money and heartbreak. Later that year her father's lawyer was arrested for fraud. It turned out he specialized in promising the parents of young American adults jailed overseas that he could get their convictions overturned. He collected vast amounts of money, but did not successfully pursue a single case. He finally was caught in Peru, relaxing at a beach resort when he was supposed to be in Lima working on securing the release of two Americans arrested for terrorism charges. The Peruvian government extradited him to the United States for trial. One result of the lawyer's arrest was that Kim's father never questioned her judgment again.
There was no question Criminal # 98945 had made the right decision in requesting that her sentence not be challenged. Still, it was a horrible feeling to think that she had burned a bridge in her life. There truly was no going back. The finality of what had happened frightened her.
Images drifted through Kim's mind, the most vivid of which was that of an enormous set of steel doors, far larger than anything that could have existed in real life, slamming shut behind her. That huge set of steel doors, now bolted and rusted solid, stood between Kim and everything she had ever known in the US. The only reality she could ever know from this point on would be her life in Upper Danubia.
Kim knew she was being overly dramatic. Of course, at the end of her sentence, she would be free to do what she wanted, whether that be to stay in Europe or return to the United States. Still, the feeling that the person she had been just a year before was completely dead continued to fill her thoughts. As March progressed and the trees started to bud out, she wrote at length about her feelings. She wrote actual poetry, not just essays, about the deep philosophical issues that surrounded her situation and what she thought about her life.
Kim shared her thoughts during the reading sessions at the Socrates Club. As she stood in front of her fellow criminals, reciting her emotional journey in her accented Danubian, she wondered what her friends from high school would have thought if they could have seen her. Here she was, in an old building standing on an old stage, naked and with a collar on her neck, talking about her philosophical view of the issues affecting her life. A year ago she had been sitting in the smoking area behind her school, drinking with Tiffany and Susan out of soda bottles spiked with ever-clear. Most definitely the Kimberly Lee of today was not the Kimberly Lee who appeared in her senior high school annual picture from the year before.
Dima ended up writing several songs for the group based on some of Kim's thoughts. One of those songs, titled "The Wall that Divides My Soul", later became extremely popular throughout Europe, and ultimately a signature song for the entire group.
Kim's life faced even more changes as April started and the Danubian springtime began in earnest. On April 1 Danube City's 2,200 criminals lined up in front of the Central Police Station to return their winter capes and boots. At the moment she turned over her clothing, Kim pulled off her criminal's number 98945 from the Velcro patch on the back of her cape and held it up to the clerk, who verified that Criminal # 98945 had returned the property lent to her by the government.
After the capes were turned in, the criminals bantered with each other and posed for group pictures in the main plaza. They joked and smiled as they held up their numbers for the cameras. For some reason the returning of the winter capes was a customary time criminals posed for group pictures, perhaps because it was a time of the year they all were gathered in one place. Kim posed over and over with Sergekt and his friends, all 28 of them, plus several girlfriends and boyfriends who had ended up as part of the group in the same way Kim had joined, by dating one of the members.
Kim had to resolve the dilemma about her work situation. She loved her job at the music store, but she also had promised Victor Dukov to return to his courier service as soon as the weather warmed up. Kim wanted to return to making deliveries for Victor, not just because of her promise, but also because she wanted to put her mountain bike to good use. It was Sergekt who came up with the best solution.
"Why not just keep both jobs? You can work each part time, for example, ride for Victor Dukov Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and work the rest of the week at the store. That would get you out on your bike exercising and at the same time make everyone happy."
Kim approached both her bosses with the idea, making each of them understand she had a commitment to the other. In the end Kim went with Sergekt's suggestion. She delivered messages for Victor Dukov on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She worked at the music store on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the days Eloisa usually liked to have rehearsals or performances after work. Kim's work-week thus was split between working outdoors and indoors. Because each day she did something different, Kim never was bored with either job.
Kim moved about quickly throughout Danube City on her mountain bike as she delivered Victor Dukov's messages. She went everywhere within the collar zone, now that her ability to speak Danubian allowed her to make deliveries and ask questions as easily as any other member of Victor Dukov's staff. She became a familiar sight in Danube City, the naked Maragana Girl on her fancy bicycle, yes, the same one who was singing with Eloisa and her group of ex-students.
Kim now spoke to Victor Dukov in Danubian instead of English. Over the winter she had become fluent in speaking Danubian and now spoke the country's language better than Victor spoke English. That was not entirely a good thing for Kim. She no longer could hide behind claiming that she did not understand something when her boss got unpleasant with her. Victor was his usual self, in spite of the fact Kim was doing him a favor by coming back to work for him. However, Kim understood Victor actually liked her a lot and that his unpleasantness was simply a part of his personality he couldn't change.
Kim enjoyed riding, a task made much easier now that she had a proper bicycle. She loved the feel of the cool spring breeze and the warm sun on her body. She loved the sight of the pleasant streets and parks of Danube City as she whizzed down the tree-lined avenues. She loved her mobility, and the fact that every so often she could drop in at Sergekt's café and say hello to him at work. On the days she delivered messages, Kim rode herself to exhaustion, knowing that the following day she would be at the music store and could rest her body. By the end of the spring, Kim was in great shape, with her muscles toned and her body evenly tanned from the hours spent outdoors on her bike.
April ended with the group becoming depressed again. Four months had passed since their last switching. They were due to be switched again on April 25, more than two years since their original crime. Once again they faced the prospect of being marched in chains to their old school and humiliated in front of the current students.
On April 24, the day before the switching, Eloisa showed up to work with her pubic hair shaved off, as did the other three members of the group of ex-students who were working at the music store. Of course the main purpose of shaving was to prevent the humiliation of being shaved by the police, but there was more to shaving than just that.
Over her time in Upper Danubia Kim had learned that it was customary for a criminal who faced being switched to shave the day before the punishment, instead of the day of the punishment itself. It was an unwritten part of the entire punishment ritual that a criminal announce to the world that he or she faced punishment by appearing in public shaved the day before. There was no formal requirement that criminals make such an announcement, nor even that they shave at all. However, the criminals of Danube City had their own subculture with its own traditions and protocol, which included proper behavior for those facing the switch. Part of that proper behavior was to be shaved 24 hours before the punishment itself.
Kim planned to spend the evening with Sergekt. They would go to the Socrates Club and rent an "intimacy room", since tonight probably would be the last night for several days that Sergekt would want to have sex with her. She already had told Dukov she would not be home until very late.
In the early afternoon Kim was surprised to see Vladik Dukov enter the music store. He was in his police uniform, which meant that his behavior around her had to be different than it normally would be at home. In spite of living under the same roof, when Officer Vladik Dukov was in uniform, Criminal # 98945 had to treat him like she would treat any other public official. As Vladik approached the information counter, Kim dropped to her hands and knees. She touched her head to the floor, feeling very strange having to do this to a person with whom she lived. However, to have not greeted Vladik in the formal manner would have caused a scandal in the store and have been a direct challenge to his authority.
As Kim prostrated herself at his feet, Vladik asked to speak to the store manager. Eloisa knelt, received the order, and got up to find the manager. Once he showed up, Vladik explained he needed to speak with Criminal # 98945 and that she needed to be excused from work for an hour or two. Kim left the store in the custody of the young police officer.
Kim nervously accompanied Vladik, not having a clue about what the police officer wanted from her nor why the conversation could not wait until the evening when they both would be back home.
A police officer and a criminal could not talk normally on the street, so Vladik took Kim to his father's office at the Central Police Station. Only when they entered the reception area could Vladik converse in a more normal manner towards his father's client.
"Kimberly, I apologize for having to pull you out of the store like that, but I need to talk to you and then you have get back to work as soon as you can."
"OK, so what's up?"
"Well, you know that your music friends are all getting punished tomorrow, at their old school?"
"Yes, Vladik, I'm well aware of that."
"Well, it turns out that I have to stand in for one of the arresting officers. He got into a motorcycle accident a couple of days ago and won't be out of the hospital for several weeks. So, I end up with the 'honor' of punishing some of your friends."
"You?...you mean...you're going to punish Sergekt?"
"No, not him. I can't punish him because he's eaten at my father's table. That's strictly forbidden, you know, to avoid conflicts of interest and trouble within our household. Someone else will get him. But I'm in charge of punishing a couple of the women. Right now your singing partner Eloisa is on my list. I have to switch her, and that's what I need to talk to you about."
"What's there to talk about Vladik? She doesn't deserve any of this. It's not her fault she got molested and I don't see why..." Vladik held up his hand.
"Kimberly stop...just stop. I'm not here to argue the merits of her case. My partner and I were ordered to participate in this punishment and that's the end of it. Whether or not she deserves what's happening to her is a decision that's beyond my authority. She and the others will be punished tomorrow, and I will be responsible for some of the punishments. Nothing can change that. What concerns me is that your friends are punished fairly and appropriately. I intend to respect their dignity as best I can and will ensure the blows they receive fall within the guidelines set by the Corporal Punishment Code."
Kim looked at Vladik with a bitter expression, not understanding what he was driving at. "So why are you telling me this? Do you think it'll clear your conscience?"
Vladik sighed. "I don't think you fully understand the situation. What my partner and I plan to do is stay just within the guidelines of the required punishment."
Vladik paused and then continued. "I will make a confession to you. The fact is, I do think what happened to your friends is unfair. A lot of us think the same about that case, in the police department, that is. But we can't say anything about it. To question a sentence is not our place, nor our authority. Now about my situation. I try to respect the people I punish. I punish with force, but I do not fondle the criminals like a lot of the officers do. I find that practice disgusting and there are some of us in the police department who are trying to put a stop to it. Another thing. The judge who will sign the punishment certificates for my group is an old professor of mine from the police academy. We know each other and he is of the same mindset I am, and that Father is; that we need to have some reforms in the system. Things are going to change, Kimberly, but that's not going to help your friends right now. What will help your friends, or at least the ones turned over to me, is that I plan to switch them to the absolute minimum of the legal standard. They'll get their 50 strokes, but my partner and I want to go easy on them."
"Well...I mean...I appreciate that Vladik, but what can I do to help?"
"Well, here's my idea. My partner and I will punish eight of your group. There are eight women, including your singing partner, right?"
"Alright, here's where you can help me help them. Your group usually has the women all go first. If they do it that way tomorrow, my partner and I will only punish two of the women and six guys. What I want is to have all the women sent to my room, basically to keep them away from a couple of the other officers who, I know for a fact, will mistreat them. They'll mistreat the guys as well, but it won't be as bad as the women. Now, here's what I want. I want you to very quietly approach the leaders of your group, and tell them to re-organize so that all the women come to me and my partner. The judge will go along with it, but it has to be done quietly or we will all get in trouble."
"But why just the women? Why can't you try to help the guys also?"
"Because my partner and I are only in charge of eight of the punishments. I can help eight out of your group. The reason why it's the women I'm worried about, is because...well, if you knew the other officers you'd understand. I don't believe that criminals should be our playthings, and they very much disagree with me."
"So, with those other officers, it'd be like what happened to me in January?"
"Worse. I know those other officers, and, let's just say there's two of them who I don't think have the right to be wearing badges."
"Alright, I'll talk to them, see if they'll go along with it. I don't know if they will because..."
"No! You will not talk to the whole group about this! Nor will you tell any of the women what I'm trying to do! I want you to go directly to your singing partner's boyfriend and have him make the arrangements with the group's Spokesman. You can tell Sergekt as well, he seems trustworthy. But that's it. I don't want this to get out. I'm taking a real risk here, not just for myself, but also the presiding judge."
"But why are you going through me? Couldn't you just tell Spokesman Havlakt?"
"That's illegal. I am not allowed to make any such arrangements with a Spokesman. That's for a very good reason, because it helps prevent corruption. Nor am I allowed to talk directly to any of the criminals involved in tomorrow's punishment. I'm going through you because you're a member of my household and I can legally talk to you, even though you're a criminal."
"OK, I'll talk to Dima about this, and I'm sure he'll do what he can to help out. I won't tell anyone else except Sergekt."
Vladik let out a nervous sigh. "Thanks. I have to take care of some paperwork and I'll be downstairs while you're gone. Once you get back, have Father's secretaries call me and I'll escort you back to work."
With that Kim rode her bicycle to Sergekt's cafe near the Temple of the Ancients. Kim was relieved to see Sergekt and Dima working there alone. Several of the guys from the group had jobs at the café, but the others were not working the mid-day shift. Sergekt was surprised to see Kim show up on her bicycle, knowing that she was supposed to be at the music store.
Kim quickly and quietly talked to Dima about Vladik's plans. She then explained that Officer Vladik Dukov was the son of Spokesman Vladim Dukov and she lived with him. Dima's face lit up with relief.
"So there really are human beings among all those cops! I was starting to wonder!"
Dima promised to re-organize the group to accommodate Vladik. He would talk to the group's Spokesman, who would make the arrangement. He would not say anything to any of the group's other members, including Sergekt. The group's de facto leader fully understood the need to keep everything as secret as possible. The women would go in wondering about the change, and come out wondering why their switching was not quite as severe as it had been during previous punishments. The guys would know nothing, at least not until the day was over.
With that both Kim and Dima returned to the Central Police Station. They parted as Dima disappeared into the doorway of Spokesman Havlakt's office. With that Kim slipped into Dukov's office and called Vladik to escort her back to work.
A half hour later Kim was back at the music store, kneeling in front of Officer Vladik Dukov as he dismissed her. Kim's feelings about Vladik had been neutral until just a couple of hours ago. He was Vladim Dukov's son, but he was also a cop. Because of his profession, Kim always felt very uncomfortable around him. And yet, working within the restrictions of his position, he was willing to take risks to try to ease the burden of a group of criminals he felt had been treated unfairly. That small act of rebellion on his part totally changed how Kim felt about him.