Copyright 2008 by EC
EC's Erotic Art & Fiction - http://www.ecgraphicarts.com/
(warnings: erotic discipline, sex between adults, medical fetish, public nudity, harsh police interrogation)
The Courier – Introduction by EC
“The Courier” is my fifth book, which I began after more than a year of taking a break from writing. The story of Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres had its origins in a Poser picture series I did for my website shortly after finishing “The Pledge Mistress” during the summer of 2007. I was thinking of expanding the captions of that series into a novel, but at that time I was left mentally exhausted after finishing my previous novel “The Pledge Mistress”. The story was further delayed by several important changes in my personal life, which distracted my attention from writing another novel.
“The Courier” introduces a new main character, 19-year-old Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres. Unlike my previous characters, who are all either from the US or my fictional country of Danubia, Maria Elena comes from another country that exists in real life, Colombia. Lured by the promise of quick money and an escape out of her unpleasant life in South America, Maria Elena becomes a courier for a cocaine trafficking group. The story begins with her swallowing a kilogram of cocaine, with the expectation that she can take it to Europe, expel it, and turn it over to her trafficking group. With the money she expects to be paid, she hopes to start a new life in Spain. Her plans go horribly awry when her flight is diverted to Danubia and she ends up as a prisoner in the hands of the Danubian government.
In spite of the fact that “The Courier” takes place in an imaginary country, I tried to keep the details surrounding Maria Elena’s cocaine-smuggling effort as realistic as possible. As incredible as it may sound to someone unfamiliar with drug smuggling, large numbers of travelers, especially women, do indeed transport drugs such as cocaine and heroin by swallowing small wrapped plastic packages called “pellets”, or “ballons”. Typically the amount transported by a drug swallower is around one kilogram, which is divided up into 50-100 pellets. The purpose of swallowing drugs is to prevent detection at airports by ion scanners and drug-sniffing dogs. This practice can be extremely dangerous, because a pellet can break in the courier’s stomach, causing an immediate overdose, or the pellets can become blocked in the intestinal tract and require surgery for removal.
The fact that Maria Elena is from Colombia is not really a reflection on that particular country, because drug couriers come from every country in the world, including the US and Europe. I figured that Colombia was a good a country as any for my character’s place of birth, but for the purposes of my novel Maria Elena could have been from any country in Latin America. My purpose in creating a character who spoke only Spanish was to allow me, as a writer, to view Danubia and the characters from my previous novels from a different perspective.
While “The Courier” focuses on a new main character, it also continues the life stories of several other characters from previous novels, most notably, Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna, Criminal Adjunct Tiffany Walker-Dukovna, Cecilia Sanchez, Jason Schmidt, and the family of Danubian Prime Minister Vladim Dukov. Readers of my previous novels will notice that many of the characters have changed and behave somewhat differently than they did in the past. The reason for that is very simple: five years have gone by and characters who were introduced as university students now have careers and marriages, so of course they will act somewhat differently. Each of my characters has a life story that, in my imagination, extends beyond the confines of any particular novel. An important reason I chose to write “The Courier” was to relate more of that ongoing life story for several of my characters. The story also will allow readers of my previous novels to re-visit Danubia, which under the government of Vladim Dukov is rapidly changing. I also will explore some areas of Danubia and aspects of its society that I was not able to develop in previous works.
Chapter 1 – Flight 2298
International Flight 2298 already was an hour late to its destination in Frankfurt when the aircraft was rocked by a nasty band of turbulence. The plane dropped into a wind shear, shuttered upwards, and then dropped again. The pilot, who already had ordered all passengers to return to their seats, ominously ordered the fight attendants to immediately sit down as well. The passengers watched with increasing anxiety as the cabin crewmembers swayed in the aisles towards the dubious safely of their landing seats.
Again the plane shuttered upwards and dropped. Outside bands of thick clouds alternated with gray sky as the aircraft banked to avoid the worst of the storm. The worst of the storm, however, already had begun moving into northern Germany, which meant that a landing in Frankfurt was becoming increasingly unlikely.
Air travel that evening would be a mess throughout northwestern Europe, as flights had to be diverted away from a string of cities extending from Paris to Warsaw. The storm showed no promise of letting up, thus forcing controllers to make the difficult decision to land planes in airports far away from their intended destinations.
As alternate airports filled up, controllers decided to divert International Flight 2298 eastward to the King Vladik International Airport in Danúbikt Móskt, the Danubian Republic’s only international airport. Yes, that primitive airport was very far out of the way, but Flight 2298 still had enough fuel to make it, whereas many other planes competing for landing slots did not. So the crew and passengers, already exhausted from a grueling flight from Panama City to Europe, now would fly an extra hour to get to Danúbikt Móskt. Unless the weather cleared, the plane’s occupants could expect to stay well into the following day before they could fly out.
As the plane banked right to turn eastward, it was buffeted by still more sickening turbulence. The pilot announced that, regrettably, the flight would end in the Danubian Republic, not Germany. Not that it really mattered. Most of the passengers simply wanted to get on the ground and be done with the horrible journey. Anywhere, even Danúbikt Móskt, was just fine, as long it was out of that storm. They could deal with getting to Germany tomorrow, but now all that mattered was returning to solid ground.
As the plane began its final descent into Danubian airspace, Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres felt waves of nausea surging through her body. What the young Colombian felt was not simple air sickness, but rather the rebellion of her body against what she was carrying inside her stomach. A full kilo of cocaine, divided into grape-sized plastic packages, was the young woman’s reason for being on the flight. Now she knew those packages, (or “pellets”, as they were called in the world of drug traffickers) were not going to stay down much longer. Sweat poured down the passenger’s face as she tried to keep them down.
or favor…por favor…o Dios mio…por favor…que llegue al aeropuerto sin…
It was not to be. Maria Elena surged forward, covering her mouth as it filled with vomit and three round grape-sized objects. She flailed about with her free hand while the man in the seat next to her frantically pulled out an air sickness bag, opened it, and handed it to her. She vomited, and to her horror felt more pellets working their way up her esophagus in a desperate attempt to escape through her mouth. It seemed that not only was her body rejecting the presence of those unnatural objects inside her, but the pellets themselves did not want to be there either and were determined to get out.
Over and over Maria Elena threw up into the bag, as sweat and tears poured down her face. She rudely waved off the efforts of her neighbor to comfort her as pellets passed upwards and gagged her, making her want to throw up all that much more. Within seconds the bag was completely full of the contents of her stomach, which included nearly thirty bluish-gray ovals, about a third of the cocaine that her handler had entrusted to her for delivery to Germany.
Panic and total despair swept over the unhappy courier, because not only her freedom, but her very life now was in grave danger. Maria Elena knew that the cost of losing any of the cocaine that her handlers had entrusted to her would be her life. She had been given 100 pellets to swallow, and she would deliver 100 pellets to her contact in Frankfurt. In exchange for her efforts she would be given 15,000 Euros. To deliver anything less than 100 pellets would cost her life, or at the very least enslavement in a brothel to pay off her debt.
La plata o el plomo…as they always said. Silver for success…lead for failure.
The man sitting next to Maria Elena tried to take her air-sickness bag, but she violently snatched it away.
“Look, lady…I’m just gonna give it to the attendant. I’ll get you another bag.”
The young woman struggled with her very limited English.
“You no take…you no say me nothin’!”
“You need to get rid of that…come on now…hand it over…”
“You no take me!”
The man was bewildered, but suddenly became irritated and suspicious. OK…just what the hell was in that bag that she was so worried about?
With intense pain sweeping through her intestines and tears rolling down her cheeks, Maria Elena stared through the window as the plane finally dropped through the clouds and the lights below became visible. The aircraft was still shaking as it was buffeted by wind, but the rain had let up and the passengers could make out the lights of Danúbikt Móskt (or Danube City in English) the capitol of the Danubian Republic, as their flight made its final approach.
The pilots took a deep breath as they lined up their huge aircraft to a runway that was not designed for such a large plane. This airport was something else…not set up at all for night landings, a short runway, no decent radar system, no adequate lighting, and no modern gates. However, the Danubian Army was doing what it could to help diverted planes make safe landings; two rows of Danubian soldiers were waving flares and shining spotlights onto the runway in a feeble attempt to direct incoming flights to the ground and the terminal. The plane hit the ground with a violent jolt as the pilot immediately hit the reverse thrusters to avoid overshooting the runway. As soon as the plane slowed sufficiently a military jeep moved in front of the aircraft, with a soldier in the back wildly waving a flashlight to get the pilot to take his plane off the runway. The soldiers’ haste was quite justified, because other diverted flights were circling Danube City waiting to land, some of which were about to run out of fuel. The moment Flight 2298 turned off the main runway, another jumbo jet roared past and another flight was safely on the ground.
Led by its military escort, Flight 2298 approached the small terminal building and a stopped next to multitude of other planes that were parked very close together. Torrents of rain poured down and gusts continued to shake the aircraft, but now the danger of crashing was past. As the pilot cut the engines, yet another flight roared in…yet another safe landing in this woefully small airport.
The moment the engines were turned off, airport workers rolled two staircases to the front and back of the plane. As the doors opened the pilot announced that everyone was ordered to get off immediately. To highlight that point, Danubian police officers climbed into the plane and started yelling at the passengers to get out. No, there would be no leisurely checking to see if everyone had everything, and if anyone was caught struggling with a large bag and holding up other passengers a cop yelled: “You no take! You now move-move!”
The scene outside was surreal to anyone accustomed only to modern airports. As the rain continued to pour down on them, two lines of stranded travelers descended the staircases into darkness and ran between parked planes towards a large military hanger. Another hanger already was full to capacity and Danubian soldiers were erecting tents, presumably in anticipation of receiving yet more passengers. The entire area outside the terminal building was full of over-sized aircraft, the buildings were packed to capacity, and diverted flights continued to come in. The cops were frantic to empty the planes as quickly as possible to make room for more incoming passengers, which justified their rough treatment of anyone holding up the evacuation of an aircraft.
Maria Elena staggered out of her seat, clutching her air-sickness bag and a small backpack that was her only carry-on item. As she stepped into the rain she nearly lost her balance on the staircase, but she held on tightly to her cocaine. That bag was a matter of life and death. She would have to find a place where she could clean off those pellets and somehow get them back inside her body.
She struggled in the rain towards the hanger, but suddenly another wave of nausea swept over the unhappy girl. She retched yet again, separated from the other passengers, fell to her hands and knees, and lost another five pellets onto the wet pavement. She picked them up and stuffed them into the pocket of her sweatshirt. She recovered slightly and finished the arduous journey to the hanger.
The wind picked up and a loud clap of thunder announced that the storm had arrived full force to Danube City. A large military tent broke loose and flew across the tarmac, with several soldiers in desperate pursuit. The weather now prevented any more flights from coming in and it was obvious none would be taking off anytime soon. The roof of the hanger rattled from the wind and rain as Danubian cops holding up signs with flight numbers tried to re-organize the crowd of panicked and bewildered passengers.
Just as the Danubians had been determined to get everyone off the planes as quickly as possible, they also wanted to empty the airport. The police announced that the passengers would be taken by bus to several nearby schools and kept under guard until their flights could leave. There would be a place to sit down and dry off, bathrooms, showers, and clean drinking water.
Still gripping her airsickness bag and her wet backpack, Maria Elena boarded a very crowded bus and endured a short trip to a nearby elementary school. As the passengers entered the school and attempted to dry off, Danubian soldiers brought in a truckload of blankets, towels, and hot drinks; while a local baker unloaded a shipment of breakfast rolls and blackberry jam. It wasn’t much, but considering the thousands of stranded passengers flooding Danube City on such short notice, a lot of people would gratefully remember the Danubian government’s efforts to make their stay less onerous. The wind continued to howl outside and the city underwent two brief blackouts, but most of the passengers were satisfied to be safe, in a clean dry building where they could at least stretch their legs.
Her intestines still hurt, but the nausea had passed and Maria Elena was able to take an interest in her surroundings. The school was very clean, but the building looked like it was at least 100 years old. The walls were covered with children’s paintings of griffins, landscapes, kings, and medieval knights. The young Colombian also noticed some drawings of families relaxing on beaches or lakes, and what was interesting was that no one in the vacation pictures was wearing a swim suit. That detail struck her as very odd. Don’t people wear swimsuits in this country?
There were other pictures that caught her attention. It seemed that every classroom boasted anti-drug propaganda, graphic assaults on the world in which Maria Elena recently had immersed herself. There was no question the Danubians were totally intolerant of drugs, if what was on the walls of the school was any indication. The courier took a deep breath, thinking about her own reason for being on that wayward flight. The sooner she got out of this country, the better.
Maria Elena diverted her attention from the anti-drug pictures. She had a much more urgent matter to take care of. In that crowded school, she hoped to find a bathroom or sink private enough for her to clean off her pellets and get them back inside her body, either by re-swallowing them or by shoving them up her bottom. She had some Vaseline, so she calculated that shoving the cocaine up her bottom might be the easier way to go. 30 pellets was a lot, however, so she resigned herself to the fact she probably would have to re-swallow at least some. That meant yet another nauseating flight from Danube City to Frankfurt, but at least she had hope she could deliver her load after all and get her 15,000 Euros. She found a teacher’s bathroom with a door that locked, filled the sink with water, and proceeded to rinse off the pellets from her air-sickness bag and wrapped them into a paper towel. She would re-insert them upon finding out when her flight could leave for Germany. In the meantime she would have to dry off, get some rest, and hope that the pellets still in her intestines would stay there another day.
Maria Elena re-counted 30 pellets in the paper towel and hid them in her backpack, which would add to the 70 still in her intestinal tract. 100 pellets…which hopefully she could get rid of within another 24 hours. Her problem was that she only had 65 pellets still inside her body, because she had forgotten about the five pellets that she had put in her pocket.
A few hours later the sky lightened outside. Representatives from the Danubian Ministry of Tourism showed up at the school and assembled the passengers in the gym to announce that three aircraft, which included Flight 2298, would be ready to depart Danube City later that morning. A line of buses was ready to take the more fortunate passengers back to the airport. Maria Elena panicked, realizing that she wouldn’t have time to re-insert her pellets before leaving the school. Still, she quickly boarded the bus. She just had to make her flight. The sooner she got on that plane, the sooner she would be in Frankfurt with her cocaine safely delivered.
She promised herself…never again…I am never doing this again…it just isn’t worth it…
Upon getting to the airport, the courier immediately found a women’s bathroom and an open stall. She had to have her cocaine completely concealed before going through security. She took out the paper towel with 30 pellets, opened up the tube of Vaseline, pulled down her panties, and lifted up her skirt. She lubricated the first pellet and worked it into her rectum…
After only 12 pellets it was obvious Maria Elena’s intestine couldn’t hold any more. Already she felt an overwhelming need to go to the bathroom. Shit. That meant she would have to swallow the rest. With every bit of willpower left in her, the desperate courier forced 18 pellets down her throat. She gagged twice, but finally all 18 pellets were back in her stomach.
Pain surged through the young woman’s guts as she approached the security checkpoint. She began to sweat as she stood in line. She sent her backpack through the X-ray machine, and of course it was clean. Nothing in her clothing either…if she could keep her body under control then she would make it…she would make it…
YES! The Danubian cop at the checkpoint waved her through. She put on her shoes and grabbed her backpack.
She sighed with huge relief as she noticed several dogs running around the terminal, sniffing passengers and carry-on luggage. The dogs wouldn’t be a problem for her, because she didn’t have any cocaine on her person, just inside, where they couldn’t smell it. Or…so she thought…
Suddenly a large brown mixed breed dog ran up to the Colombian, sniffed her sweatshirt, and started barking. Maria Elena froze with shock but desperately whispered:
“Cállate, estúpido animal…cállate!”
The dog sat down and continued to bark loudly. The animal’s handler and his partner ran up to the courier, who quickly learned that there was no subtlety about the way Danubian cops handled themselves. In front of hundreds of passengers and airport employees, the female cop pulled out her pistol and pointed it at the Colombian’s head while the dog handler screamed at her in Danubian. He grabbed her hands and cuffed them behind her back. A second later Maria Elena felt his hands digging through her pockets and pulling out items as the dog continued barking.
Maria Elena was just starting to get over the shock of being detained when she was hit with a much worse shock. The male cop stuck his hand into the pocket of her sweatshirt and removed five grape-sized objects. He examined them and handed a couple to his partner. The dog became agitated, barking vigorously, jumping, and wagging his tail. Despair swept over Maria Elena. Now she knew why that dog had caught her. She had completely forgotten about those extra five pellets.
The female cop kicked Maria Elena in the backs of her knees to force her to kneel, all the while keeping her pistol aimed at the unfortunate courier’s head. The male showed the pellets to the dog, and the animal went wild with excitement.
“Harásh sobáckt. Doc-doc hárash sobáckt.” The handler petted the dog and then pulled out a couple of pieces of beef jerky and fed them to the animal. Meanwhile, the cops’ section chief showed up with a photographer who immediately began taking pictures of the kneeling captive, in front of hundreds of spectators. Maria Elena was horrified, but there was much worse to come.
The next picture was a trophy shot. The two cops stood next to their prisoner. Maria Elena tried to avoid looking into the camera, but the cops would have none of that. The female grabbed her hair and forced her to raise her head so the camera could get her face. There was another trophy shot, this time with the male cop smiling, holding the pellets in his hand. As an afterthought the section chief told the handler to include his dog in the picture as well.
Pulling Maria Elena by the hair, the female cop forced her to stand up. Again she tried looking down, hoping to keep her face hidden as much as possible. The section chief nodded at the female cop, who again pulled hard on the detainee’s hair to force her head back. He slapped her hard across the face, put his finger under her chin, and addressed her in English.
“In this country, criminals do not hide their shame. You will show your dishonored face.”
“I…please…I no speak English…I…”
Another vicious slap exploded on Maria Elena’s cheek.
“Silence! Who gave you permission to speak?”
Maria Elena began shaking with terror. The female cop and the photographer grabbed her arms and led her out of the waiting area past the huge crowd of other travelers. Those unfamiliar with Danubian law looked on in horror at the mistreatment of a prisoner, but the spectacle would be a harsh lesson for several hundred foreigners. There was no tolerance, none whatsoever, for drugs in the Danubian Republic.
Chapter 2 – The Interrogation Room
The four Danubian police officers hustled their captive through a locked door and into a small hallway. The cops and the prisoner then descended down a long flight of stairs to the terminal building’s basement, turned a corner and entered a large room. It was in this room where Maria Elena would have her initial interrogation. It also was where she was destined to make several critical mistakes that would make her legal situation considerably worse. As the group entered the room the drug dog continued to bark happily, knowing that he had a couple more pieces of beef jerky coming his way before he had to go back to work.
The interrogation room was a large, windowless space with a row of chairs lined up along the back wall. To the right side of the entrance there was a white backdrop and a camera mounted on a tripod, which Maria Elena correctly assumed was used to take mugshots. Next to the photography backdrop there was another camera on a tripod and a video camera. To her left were shelves full of medical supplies and drug testing kits. Also in the room were an examination table and a gynecological chair. Both the examination table and the gynecological chair had straps and cuffs that could be used to immobilize uncooperative prisoners. Maria Elena saw two enema bottles hanging from special stands. She noticed that one of the bottles was full.
The room also boasted more sinister-looking items. Several cruel-looking police switches hung on the wall near the enema bottles. There was an electric cattle prod plugged into a charger. There were several leather harnesses and restraints hanging on the wall, as well as metal bars with cuffs designed to force apart a prisoner’s arms or legs. Several additional sets of cuffs hung from chains attached to the ceiling.
There was more. In the center of the room was a medical cart loaded with yet more restraints and punishment implements such as paddles, a riding crop, and a cane. There were examination implements and a couple of flashlights. Also on the cart were lubricating gel, a vibrator, and a dildo.
Several more police officers and airport officials entered the room, along with three men and a woman in doctors’ smocks. The man leading the medical group was a lecherous-looking old man, but what was more unsettling was the cruel, hungry expression on the face of the woman.
Maria Elena was so terrified that she was unable to think straight. In spite of the hopelessness of her situation, her instincts told her to do what she could to deceive the Danubians and hide the criminals for whom she was working. She had been instructed that if she was caught, under no circumstances was she to reveal the identities of her handlers or the owners of the cocaine she was carrying. She was to offer no cooperation to the police, unless she wanted to be killed in prison.
The medical staff took up their positions near the examination table, while most of the other officials sat down along the wall. The cops uncuffed Maria Elena, but then the dog handler’s partner stepped back and again pointed her gun directly at the prisoner’s head.
A stern-looking middle-aged man in an immaculate dark suit approached the prisoner along with a cop holding a cloth bag. The man in the suit addressed her in English.
“You will undress. You will remove all your clothing piece by piece and hand each item to my assistant.”
“I…I no understand…I no speak English…I…”
The man tightened his lips. “Do you understand ‘naked’, or ‘nude’?”
Maria Elena gave a terrified nod. To emphasize his point the man reached forward and undid a button on the prisoner’s blouse. He spoke in a very slow, deliberate tone, making sure that even if the Colombian did not understand his words, his meaning would be quite clear to her.
“Excellent. So you do understand. You are now a prisoner, and in this country prisoners are always naked. Now, you will take off your clothing and you will put it in the bag.” The man pointed at the bag; “…and if you don’t, I will order my officer to shoot you.”
He pointed at the female officer, who responded by cocking her revolver.
“Now, do you understand me?”
Maria Elena began trembling violently, her knees shaking so badly that she barely could stand up. She struggled to catch her breath, but managed to nod. With unsteady hands she fumbled with the buttons on her blouse. The cop with the bag opened it slightly, letting her know that she did indeed comprehend what the Danubians wanted from her…that she was expected to surrender her clothing.
She took off her blouse and sweatshirt together and reluctantly handed them over to the cop with the bag. As he pushed them out of sight she began unbuckling the belt on her mini-skirt. She handed over the belt and very reluctantly unzipped the side of her skirt. She forced herself to let go and the skirt fell at her feet with a slight clump. She stepped out of the skirt and passed it to the cop. Now she was naked except for her bra, panties, and shoes. The shoes were next, followed by her bra.
The prisoner covered her breasts and started crying, unable to proceed any further. With a disgusted sigh the man in the suit reached forward to jerk her panties to her knees. Maria Elena let out an anguished cry, immediately trying to cover herself. Finally the man in the suit had enough. He pulled out his own service revolver and pointed it at the captive.
“If you do not want to die in this room, you will step out of those panties, you will pick them up, and you will put them in the bag.”
With two loaded guns pointed at their prisoner, the Danubians overcame the language barrier and established their will over the terrified Latin American. She did as she was told, stepping out of the fallen panties, picking them up, and handing them to the cop. Maria Elena still was wearing various rings, earrings, and a couple of necklaces, which she had to take off as well. Once those items were off her body, she finally was in compliance with Danubian law. As a criminal she would not be allowed to have anything covering her body; neither jewelry nor clothing.
Normally the next step would be to have her pose for her mugshots, which in the Danubian Republic comprised not only photographs of the criminal’s face taken from various angles, but also detailed photos of the criminal’s uncovered body taken from various directions and positions.
However, the supervisor decided to wait on the mugshots. He knew that the prisoner was in such shock and terror that getting her to pose correctly would take all afternoon, even if he continued to threaten to shoot her. However, he had a more important reason for waiting on the mugshots. Under Danubian law, once a detainee is photographed she also is immediately assigned a prisoner number, which formalizes her arrest. From the moment a person is formally arrested, the Danubian penal code establishes limited rights, which include some restrictions on the way she can be treated under interrogation. If Maria Elena was not yet formally arrested, she did not yet have any legal protection and the interrogation team could do with her as they saw fit. She would be interrogated first, and only later would she pose for the mugshots and receive her prisoner number.
Instead, the man in the suit ordered the female cop to put away her revolver and handcuff Maria Elena’s hands behind her back. Her modesty now would make no difference, because she was completely unable to cover herself. The female cop again kicked her in the backs of her knees to force her to return to a kneeling position.
Now, properly naked and kneeling with her hands cuffed behind her back, trembling with terror and humiliation, and with tears running down her cheeks, Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres was ready to face interrogation by the officers of the Airport Division of the National Police of the Republic of Danubia. The man in the suit picked up a leather switch and tapped the tip against the prisoner’s right breast.
“Do you understand why you are in our custody, young lady?”
“Please…I…I don’t know nothin’…I…tourist…I…”
In his had he held the five pellets and held them out in front of her.
“Oh really? You don’t know what these are?”
“No…I don’t know…I…”
“So, these were in your pocket…but you don’t know what they are?”
“I…I don’t know…I…please…no English…”
The man in the suit smiled slightly.
“I believe that we’ve established that you can understand English when you need to. So let’s try this again…” he held out the five pellets. “DO…YOU…KNOW…WHAT…THESE…ARE?
Maria Elena started crying. “cocaína…” she mumbled.
“Very good. Smart girl. Cocaína. Now, why…did…you…have…COCAÍNA…in…your…pocket?
“I…don’t know…I just tourist…I no have cocaína…”
The Danubians looked at each other in disgust. It was obvious that Maria Elena was lying. Of course she knew about the cocaine she was carrying. What the young criminal did not realize at the time was that she was violating a fundamental rule of the society that was holding her captive, that lying under any circumstances is not tolerated, and certainly not to a public official. She was dishonoring herself with her lies, and the Danubians consider that a person who is dishonored is a grave danger to everyone around her. Everyone in that room agreed that the young criminal’s spirit would have to be broken, that she would have to tell the truth before the interrogation ended.
Both the leader of the interrogation group and the chief doctor knew that it was highly unlikely that Maria Elena was only carrying five pellets. That didn’t make any sense, because couriers usually carry around 100. Now that she was naked, the officials could see that her stomach was bloated. They realized that the distressed look on her face not only came from the shock of being arrested and stripped, but also from physical discomfort. The answer was obvious; the rest of the cocaine was still inside her body.
The interrogation team had several options at this point. The crudest and quickest way would have been for the chief investigator to simply point his gun at Maria Elena and tell her that if she did not start talking, he would indeed blow her brains out. However, he figured that he had pushed that option far enough as it was, because in truth he had no intention of shooting her and did not want to risk her calling his bluff.
The interrogators knew that the proper option would have been for them to call the Ministry of Justice and have a Spokesperson-for-the-Criminal come over to the airport. In the Danubian justice system Spokespersons were placed in charge of all criminal detainees and acted as a combination of defense attorney, counselor, and parole officer. Upon being officially arrested a detainee was officially assigned to a Spokesperson, who assumed formal custody for the duration of that person’s sentence.
The airport cops knew that the person they needed to contact was Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna, a naturalized Danubian citizen and the one person within the Ministry of Justice considered a “specialist” in dealing with foreigners. Calling Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna would have been especially appropriate in the case of Maria Elena, because it was likely that she knew someone who spoke Spanish and thus could arrange for a proper interview in the detainee’s native language.
However, no one in the room seriously considered calling Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna any sooner than was necessary. The male cops were looking forward to having the attractive naked young woman at their mercy for several hours, while the senior officials figured they could handle Maria Elena better than any Spokesperson, regardless of the fact that none of them spoke Spanish.
The leader of the interrogation team had another reason for not calling the Spokeswoman any sooner than necessary. Given that Maria Elena had already shown herself willing to lie, he decided to get her to formally perjure herself. He would make her declare that she had no more cocaine on her, and then, in front of cameras and multiple witnesses, force her to expel the remaining pellets. If he could get that on film, there was no way that Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna could refute the perjury charge during trial. Holding out the pellets he again asked:
“How…many…of…these…do…you…have? The number…how…many?”
“No cocaine…in…your…clothes?” He tugged at his jacket to make sure she understood.
“No cloth…no cocaína…”
The man patted his stomach and glanced at the video camera to make sure it was turned on.
Maria Elena paused. Even as she was speaking she knew that she was giving the wrong answer, an answer sure to make her situation worse.
“No…I no cocaine in stomach…”
“No cocaine in stomach? Are you sure?”
“No cocaine in stomach.”
The man then addressed the medical team in Danubian. They were standing by, ready with a vial of a foul smelling chemical that would make a person retch upon sniffing it. The two attendants immediately approached Maria Elena and grabbed her arms. The female grabbed her hair to immobilize her head. The old lecherous doctor then walked up to the detainee and waved the vial under her nose.
The chemical’s effect on the captive was immediate. She gagged instantly, leaning forward and giving a tremendous heave that expelled the 18 pellets she had swallowed only an hour before. The man in the suit snapped his fingers at the cameraman to direct him to focus in on the cocaine now lying on the floor. The doctor continued to wave the vial under the girl’s nose. She tried desperately tried to resist breathing, but within a few seconds another whiff of that horrible concoction caused her to vomit yet again. Maria Elena was convinced that her stomach was turning itself inside out as she threw up several more times, leaving a total of about 40 pellets on the floor. The cops smiled coldly. Now they had her on the perjury charge. There was no refuting that fact, it was on videotape.
While the female medical assistant held Maria Elena’s hair, the man in the suit slapped her hard across the face.
“No cocaine in stomach? ISN’T THAT WHAT YOU SAID? No cocaine in stomach? Then what’s THIS?”
He picked up one of the newly expelled pellets and held it in front of the mortified prisoner. He threw it onto the floor and then he addressed the others in the room in Danubian.
“Clean her up. Give her some water and make sure she can stand. When she’s ready, put her in the leg spreader and we shall continue.”
The old doctor spoke next.
“Do you want her to have a rectal exam, Inspector?”
“Yes, Doctor. Most definitely I want her to have a rectal exam. I suspect we’ll find the rest of the drugs when you conduct the exam.” He turned to the cameraman. “And make sure that exam is properly filmed.”
Maria Elena’s “bath” was the next part of her ordeal. She would be bathed alright, by two male cops who would fondle every part of her body while they soaped her. The cops uncuffed her, only to restrain her wrists from two cuffs hanging from the ceiling. The cuffs were about a meter apart, forcing the captive to stand with her arms spread. The cops sprayed her face and body with cold water before thoroughly covering her with soap. They sensuously ran their hands up and down her body, concentrating, of course, on her breasts, her bottom, and the sensitive area between her legs. Another dose of cold spray cleaned off the soap, but the cops were not done with her. One of them held a toothbrush to her face and told her in Danubian to open her mouth. Tears ran down Maria Elena’s face while she faced the humiliation of having her teeth brushed by the cop in that crowded room. When finished the cop forced her to open her mouth and sprayed cold water inside.
The cops dried off the young woman, fondled her a bit more, and finally let her down. Before the bath Maria Elena seemed close to fainting, but the cold water had revived her. She now was ready for the leg spreader and the rectal exam.
The leg spreader was a relatively simple device, metal bar with U-shaped pieces facing outward on both sides and leather cuffs in the middle. Facing away from the row of chairs, the prisoner was forced to stand with her legs spread while the cops placed the restraint between her thighs underneath. She then was forced to bend over so her hands could be cuffed. Once the buckles where tightened around her wrists, she was unable to move. Her legs were spread widely and her bottom and vagina were lewdly displayed to everyone standing behind her. The doctor walked up behind the prisoner and lovingly stroked her tightly stretched bottom before putting on a pair of medical gloves. The cop with the camera began snapping pictures while everyone else took a seat to enjoy the spectacle.
The doctor lubricated his index finger and unceremoniously shoved it up Maria Elena’s bottom. She winced upon feeling the pressure in her intestines. With his free hand the doctor spread the young woman’s bottom-hole. Then he pulled out a grape-sized oval, identical to the ones that she had just thrown up. He held it up for the benefit of the spectators and the camera, before holding it to the prisoner’s nose, forcing her to smell the odor of her own abused intestines. The camera continued to click as Maria Elena let out an anguished sob. The humiliation she was enduring was overwhelming, but there was still much worse to come.
The doctor dug out two additional pellets in front of nearly 20 witnesses, but then asked for a small pair of tongs to reach in and extract more of the pellets. Time and again Maria Elena felt the tongs slide into her bottom, only to slide out with yet another portion of the cocaine she was carrying. The doctor then pushed in a small speculum and shined a flashlight into her anus, before issuing an order in Danubian to one of the male assistants. The younger man immediately brought over the full enema bottle and a large metal bowl. The doctor removed the speculum, and then, moving in front of his captive so she could see what he was doing, lubricated the tip of the enema nozzle. Yes, in front of all those men, Maria Elena would be administered an enema.
Click…click…click…the camera continued documenting the young woman’s ongoing torment as the doctor slowly, very slowly, inserted the enema tube. He waited for what seemed an eternity before releasing the water.
Maria Elena felt an overwhelming need to go to the bathroom the instant he unlatched the clip holding the tube shut. Her intestines ached as the warm water expanded in her guts and dislodged the remaining pellets. She would be spared nothing. She would pay for her lie many times over. She would be totally broken before any Spokesperson got a chance to talk to her. From her there would be no criminal code of silence; before she left that room she would confess and give up everything she knew about her handlers.
The female cop once again pointed her revolver at Maria Elena’s head while the doctor removed the enema tube and unbuckled her wrists from the leg spreader. The device dropped to the floor with a loud clang as the prisoner put her hands over her stomach and gasped with pain. She was desperate to make it to the bathroom, but the Danubians were not about to allow her even that tiny shred of dignity. Two cops grabbed the young woman’s wrists and forced her to squat over the large bowl. A spasm of pain finally forced her to give up. She released the contents of her intestines in full view of her spectators, filling the bowl with noxious brown liquid punctuated with yet more pellets. As her bowels expelled the last of the enema and the final pellets she had concealed in her intestines, the man in the suit stood in front of her watching, his arms crossed and his lips tightened. The photographer continued to take pictures non-stop, documenting the courier’s on-going torment.
Once she was finished, the two cops lifted Maria Elena and stood her before the man in the suit. He lifted her chin and moved his face just a few centimeters in front of hers. Using a tone of suppressed rage, he spoke to her. She did not understand much of his English, but she understood very clearly the emotion in his voice:
“’No cocaína in stomach.’ Those were the words you used, dishonored liar. Your own words have condemned you.”
Deeply offended that she had lied to him, a public official, he was tempted to hit her across the face yet again, but resisted that urge. Instead he snapped his fingers and pointed at the hose lying on the floor. The two cops holding her arms guided her to the cuffs hanging from the ceiling for a second hosing with cold water. They paid special attention to the girl’s sore bottom-hole, rubbing it with soap and massaging the opening with their fingertips before rinsing. Maria Elena sobbed with despair as she hung helplessly and the frigid spray cleaned off the last remnants of the soap.
For a second time, the two male cops dried her body with towels and fondled her. Meanwhile, the man in the suit looked over the collection of pellets now laid out on a metal hospital tray. He consulted with the doctor, who seemed satisfied they had managed to remove all of the drugs from their prisoner. A full kilo of cocaine, which had been destined for a nightclub in Hamburg, now had been taken off the street.
The two cops cuffed the prisoner’s hands behind her back and led her to the doctor. The old man showed her the tray of pellets. He said nothing. He just stood in front of the young Colombian, silently holding the tray and enjoying her terrified expression. She was trembling and her bare breasts were jiggling slightly. He reached forward and gently traced one of her nipples, terrifying the poor girl even more. Good. The whole idea was to break her before she had to be turned over to a Spokesperson.
The two cops put Maria Elena back into the leg spreader, leaving her bent over, helpless, and lewdly exposed. Several cops stood around the prisoner, patting her bottom and admiring her figure, while they waited for their boss to issue another command. The inspector picked up a paddle from the table and held it up for the benefit of his subordinates and the horrified naked captive. He turned to the youngest cop in the room, a recent graduate of the National Police Academy.
“Have you ever had the opportunity to use one of these? It is called a ‘paddle’. It is a punishment implement used by the Americans.”
“No, Inspector, I’ve only seen them. I’ve never had the chance to use one on a criminal.”
“Well, Officer, we’ll need to change that, now won’t we? Would you like to try it on our little Colombian friend here?”
“Very well then. I am giving you the honor, Officer.”
“Thank you, Inspector!”
With that the director handed the cruel-looking implement over to his subordinate, who tapped it against his palm to test how it felt.
Using a paddle was a new experience for the cop, because paddles only recently had been introduced in Danubia as an alternative to traditional leather switches. The advantage of using a paddle was that the American implement was less dangerous and required considerably less training than a police switch. As a result, paddles were beginning to show up in schools and interrogation rooms around the Danubian Republic, although it remained doubtful they ever would replace switches during formal judicial punishments.
Maria Elena gasped in horror and disbelief as the young cop showed her the paddle, then moved behind her and began teasing her with it, gently rubbing her vulnerable bottom with the implement and tapping her with the end. She desperately struggled to stand up, but the cuffs held tight and she could barely move, let alone escape.
The officer smiled coldly, tapped the paddle against her left bottom-cheek one final time, and struck hard with a cruel blow. A loud POP and an anguished cry of pain announced the beginning of what would be a long and very painful afternoon for the captured courier.
Slowly and methodically the cop struck his victim, on the left side, then on the right side, then across both agonized bottom-cheeks. Like all cops in the Danubian Republic, the young man had received formal training in administering physical discipline and had been certified to use a police switch to flog criminals. However, he had never used a paddle and was thoroughly enjoying the new experience. The loud pops and the evenly spreading reddish marks on the girl’s bottom fascinated him. He had no desire to stop anytime soon. Quite to the contrary, he was hoping to prove himself to the others in the room by completely breaking any hint of resistance from the young Colombian. He was determined that by the time he was finished with her, she would be so terrified that she would be completely compliant with anything his boss told her to do.
“AIEEEEE!!!! No…no…por favor…piedad…no mas…AIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!...por-fa…por favor…tenga piedad…”
Maria Elena’s anguished cries and desperate pleas in Spanish filled the room as the paddle continued to belabor her tormented backside. The only pause came when she pitched forward and started to fall, but fortunately the cop’s partner was standing next to the detainee, fully anticipating that she might lose her balance. The police woman caught the prisoner before she hit the floor, but then brutally grabbed her hair and righted her. She held on tight to Maria Elena’s hair while her partner struck hard with a series of particularly vicious swats.
Maria Elena continued to scream for “piedad”. However from the Danubians there would be no “piedad” for a proven drug trafficker and perjurer. A woman as disgusting and dishonored as this Latin American deserved no pity whatsoever. The cop did not quit paddling Maria Elena until he was convinced that just a few more swats would break her skin. Her bottom was painfully swollen and deep red in color. He could tell that she was very weak. Were it not for his partner holding her up by viciously gripping her hair, she would have fallen onto her face a long time ago. The cop handed the paddle to one of his fellow officers and asked for one of the leather switches hanging on the wall. With the new implement he viciously struck the detainee across her shoulders and was rewarded with an ear-piercing scream. As soon as the scream died down he struck hard again. He waited for her second scream to die down, before addressing his boss in Danubian.
“Inspector, I believe she’s ready. Should we release her?”
“As you see fit, Officer. If you feel she is ready, then release her and we shall see if your assessment of the prisoner’s condition is accurate.”
As his partner continued to pull hard on the courier’s hair, the young cop unbuckled the cuffs holding Maria Elena’s hands. Once again the leg spreader fell to the ground with a loud clank. The two cops grabbed the sobbing prisoner’s arms and led her to the man in the suit. The female kicked the naked Colombian in the backs of the knees to force her to kneel.
Now the Danubians would have to test whether or not Maria Elena needed any further punishment. With taps of the switch the young cop directed her to kneel forward and put her elbows on the ground. Maria Elena did as she was directed and did not resist. She remained in that position, sobbing, for several long minutes before the Inspector spoke to her.
“The cocaine…who does it belong to? Who is the owner of the cocaine? What is the name…the name…the identity…of the person you planned to give it to?”
Officer Vólkchiatk touched the switch to the young woman’s back, letting her know the consequences of not answering.
At that moment Maria Elena wanted only one thing in life. She wanted the whipping to stop. She wanted the pain and the humiliation to stop. It was at that point she realized that she needed to give up. Whatever her handler had threatened to do to her, and whatever her organization was capable of doing, no longer had any relevance in her life. Everything that she had wanted and hoped for prior to getting on Flight 2298 had ended, and none of it was ever going to come back. Her life, her body, and her future now belonged to the Danubians, cruel men in uniform who had proven themselves every bit as ruthless as any drug trafficker.
She let out a final sob, and gave her answer.
“Alex Mejia-Silva. Se llama Alex Mejia-Silva.”
“Alex Mejia-Silva in Frankfurt, or Alex Mejia-Silva in Panama?”
“Alex Mejia en Panamá.”
“What about Frankfurt? Germany? I want the name in Frankfurt.”
“No conozco el hombre en Alemania, pero me dijieron que se llama ‘el Flaco’. El Flaco me iba a llamar.”
The Danubians recorded Maria Elena’s answers, knowing that they could follow up the information once they found someone who could translate her Spanish into Danubian. The inspector knew that it was highly unlikely that a mere one-kilo courier had much information that would be of any use to the Danubian National Police, but to him that really didn’t matter. What mattered was that Maria Elena was willing to do what she was told, willing to talk, and willing to give up whatever names she knew.
The inspector nodded approvingly at his subordinate. The young officer had passed his first real-life test interrogating a detainee.
For the next half hour the Inspector questioned Maria Elena about her drug trafficking group, her initial trip from Colombia to Panama, her plans once she got to Germany, where she got her passport and forged visa, and, above all, names and addresses. He understood very little of what she was saying, but her voice was being recorded and whatever information was lacking could be supplemented once a Spanish-speaker was located. The names would be turned over to the INTERPOL, although the Inspector knew, through experience, that it was unlikely anything would happen to anyone else in Maria Elena’s trafficking group. They had lost a kilo and a courier, no big deal. Maria Elena’s life would be forever changed, but of course, to her trafficking group she was expendable.
Not that the Inspector or anyone else in the room had any sympathy for Maria Elena. To the Danubians, the poverty and personal situation that led her to the desperate decision to risk her life for 15,000 Euros and a fake visa were irrelevant. The fact that she had no intention of taking the cocaine to Danubia and only had landed there by accident was irrelevant. To the officials in that basement she was a drug trafficker, a liar, a perjurer, and a person who had violated the sanctity of her body by using it to smuggle cocaine. Because she was so thoroughly dishonored, she had no rights and deserved no mercy.
Throughout the interrogation Maria Elena remained on her elbows and knees, her muscles cramping and her bottom aching, her stomach still in pain from the forced vomiting and her intestines still sore from the pellets and the enema that finally forced her to expel them. Between her answers, she sobbed from despair, fright, and discomfort. However, above all she was sobbing from the utter humiliation she was experiencing, from her exposure and all the fondling she had endured.
The interrogation team let her stand up and gave her a short respite. One of the doctor’s assistants handed her a glass of water, which she drank greedily. She was dehydrated, but had not realized it until she had the chance to drink. Next she was ordered to sit down and given a glass of blackberry punch, which further restored her senses and made her feel considerably better. The pallor in her skin and her sick expression faded after a few minutes. She now was ready for the next part of her ordeal. The Danubians had something far more degrading planned for her. Before she posed for her mugshots and received her criminal number, she faced a final humiliation, one that served no other purpose than to provide her tormentors with entertainment.
The Inspector nodded at the old doctor, who pointed at the gynecological chair and snapped his fingers at his two male assistants. Immediately the medical assistants grabbed Maria Elena, lifted her up, and forced her into the examination chair. Before she realized what was happening, they tightly buckled her ankles and wrists. The assistants spread the leg supports and locked them open, leaving her immobilized and thoroughly exposed.
She gasped with despair, terrified that the cops were planning to gang-rape her. The cops knew that was what she was thinking, but what they had in mind was not something as simple as rape. They wanted to further humiliate her, but were not about to dishonor their own bodies in doing so. Instead they planned to insult her in the worst way a woman could be insulted in Danubia.
The female medical assistant approached the terrified Colombian. Using a stethoscope she listened to the criminal’s pounding heart and nervous breathing, then held her wrist and measured her very rapid pulse. Then she began stroking the young woman’s limbs, checking the joints and making sure her bones were not broken. She began stroking the girl’s skin, making sure her skin was healthy and had no injuries or lumps. From there she moved to Maria Elena’s breasts, examining them for lumps or other imperfections. Maria Elena’s nipples hardened slightly, and hardened even more when the medical assistant gently began stroking them with her fingertips. The assistant turned her attention to the courier’s face, gently stroking her cheeks and making sure her temperature was normal.
“You pretty girl. So pretty…Hmmmm...”
Maria Elena’s body began reacting to the soft touches and gentle speech of her examiner. The Danubian woman coldly observed her subject’s reactions, astutely gauging what was working and what wasn’t. As she gently stroked Maria Elena’s neck and shoulders, again she spoke to her in a soft, comforting tone of voice.
“Nice girl…pretty girl…hmmmm…so lovely…
Maria Elena had no clue what was going on. She was relieved that for the moment she was not being beaten, she was not being questioned, and she was not being raped. None of those horrid men were touching her. Instead she was being caressed by another female who seemed to have no ill intent towards her. Involuntarily she was relaxing, her body slowly surrendering to the touches of that Danubian woman in the white doctor’s smock.
The woman gently ran her fingers along Maria Elena’s stomach, before returning to her breasts and shoulders.
“You poor girl…I no hurt you…”
Maria Elena gasped and began to let down her guard. The first hint of erotic excitement swept through her body. The Danubian gently began stroking the insides of her legs. She then moved close to the subject’s face and with a gentle, reassuring tone of voice commented:
“I need see you…but I no hurt you. You be good girl for me? You please be good girl?”
“Yes…I be good…I…”
The Danubian woman gently stroked Maria Elena’s cheek, gave her an almost sad look, and diverted her attention to the courier’s very exposed vulva.
She put on a medical glove on her right hand, then with her left hand continued to stroke her subject’s thighs and stomach. Expertly she touched the hapless foreigner, having figured out the vulnerabilities of the girl’s body and what touches were most effective for arousing her. She lubricated her gloved hand, and gently began stroking Maria Elena’s vulnerable labia. She teased and barely brushed that secret area, making her victim want to be touched all that much more. Gradually Maria Elena’s awareness of her surroundings and her situation began to fade, as her attention focused more and more on the pleasurable sensations that her body was experiencing.
“You good girl? You kiss my cheek?”
Maria Elena complied, kissing the cheek of her tormentor. She now was under the other woman’s control, wanting nothing more than to experience the sexual gratification that was to be her reward for pleasing that Danubian.
The male cops observing what was going on smiled at each other at the sight of their captive debasing herself so blatantly. The medical assistant was coming through for them once again. The woman’s specialty was humiliating female captives by bringing them to orgasm in the interrogation room and she was an expert in what she was doing. She had tormented and debased dozens of female detainees, Danubian and foreign alike. She knew the vulnerabilities of the female body, and was skilled at determining the individual weaknesses of a woman with just a few words and gentle strokes of her fingers. Even Danubian women, who were well aware of her true intentions, found it hard to resist her touches and caresses. Foreign women, who were mostly unaware that to be sexually touched by another person of the same sex was a supreme insult in Danubian society, almost always fell victim to having a forced orgasm in the interrogation room.
Maria Elena began to get wet as the Danubian gently stroked her clitoris.
“Uuuuuy…Uy sí….Aieeee….Uy….Aí sí…o que bueno…sí…uy sí….”
The medical assistant turned on the vibrator and gently worked it into her victim. Oh it felt so good…
Maria Elena gasped and perspired as the orgasm swept over her. She ignored the click-click-click of the camera and the fact she was being watched and videotaped. It felt so good at the moment…so good…
“aieee…uy sí…sí…o más…más…por-fa…sí…uy…uy…”
Once the orgasm passed, Maria Elena quickly came to her senses. She noted the cold smiles on the faces of the men who had watched the spectacle that she had made out of herself. Then she noticed the very cruel look on the face of the woman who had just seduced her. As a gesture of contempt, the Danubian took off her medical glove and dropped it on the detainee’s face.
The medical assistant smiled triumphantly at the Inspector, who bowed slightly as a gesture of respect. Once again the woman’s expertise had allowed her to disgrace and humiliate a detainee. Maria Elena had been seduced by another woman, and in the mindset of the Danubians she was now completely dishonored. She looked with horror at the cameras, which obviously had recorded everything.
There was another humiliation awaiting her, but it paled in comparison with what had just been done to her by that Danubian medical assistant. She was pulled out of the gynecological chair and chained to the ceiling for a third frigid spray-bath to wash off the remnants of her orgasm. As two sets of hands worked the soap between her legs and fondled her vulva, she quietly cried. She struggled to keep her face up, because she knew that as a criminal in Danubia she had no right to hide her shame. She also knew that if she lowered her head, she could expect a vicious slap from that inspector in the suit.
The dog handler and his partner cuffed Maria Elena and led her out of the interrogation into the basement hallway. Across from the large room was a row of small doorways. The two police officers opened the door into a small, dark, unfurnished cell. They uncuffed their prisoner, pushed her into the room, closed the door, and left her to go back to work. On their way out they picked up the dog. Maria Elena could hear the animal barking happily as the trio went back up the stairs into the main concourse. She vaguely wondered if they would catch anyone else that day, and then wondered how many couriers they had caught altogether.
Maria Elena sat in silence. The cell was cold and she curled up to try to keep warm. As she sat in the darkness, completely naked in the small dismal room, a despair and anguish unlike anything she had ever experienced swept over her. Her bottom continued to ache from the cruel paddling she had received, but what had followed tormented her soul even more. Even though she was unfamiliar with Danubian culture and spoke nothing of the country’s language, she fully understood the extent to which they had humiliated her in that room.
Oh, to be lost in this horrible place in Central Europe, in a country she never had heard of before her plane landed and where no one spoke Spanish…would she even make it out alive? No one knew she was here, so, what was to prevent the Danubians from simply killing her? Was that possible? But then again, did it matter if she died in Danube City? Even assuming she would be released within a few months, she didn’t see how she could return to Colombia and face her family, not after that experience in the interrogation room. But then, even if she wanted to return to Colombia, that option was no longer open to her. She had lost her cocaine load due to her own negligence and probably would be killed by her trafficking group. If she wasn’t killed for that, she would be killed for having given up what she knew about her handlers. God knows what the Danubians would do with that information once they translated it…give it to the Colombian National Police, most likely. No, she couldn’t go home…better that she simply die here and be forgotten…
So this was it for Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres. At age 19, her life was over. There was no future for her; she never would amount to anything. All those wrong choices, wrong people, quitting school, quitting her job, leaving her boyfriend for that guy with the flashy car, not listening to her mother…this is what it had led to. Sitting alone and naked in a dark holding cell in Eastern Europe, waiting to die…
She did not cry. She was past crying. She thought that she could actually feel Death creeping into the cell, cloaking her with darkness and preparing to take her into Hell…
As soon as his dog handler returned upstairs to the main boarding area to resume the search for drugs and couriers, the Inspector glanced at the cloth bag that contained Maria Elena’s clothing and jewelry. He removed her passport, Colombian ID card, her plane ticket, cell phone, and a small address book. He would have to take a look at the cell phone and copy whatever information it contained, but the other items he could put away and study when he had more time. As for her clothing and jewelry, those would stay in the bag and go into cold storage. Considering the charges she was facing, it would be a very long time before Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres would be permitted to wear any clothing.
As he filled out a label and sealed the bag, the official reflected with cold satisfaction that the criminal had a very nasty surprise waiting for her when she went before the arraignment panel. The perjury charge would add 20 years to her sentence. Perjury (which under Danubian law constituted making any false statement in an effort to deceive a law enforcement or judicial official during a trial or investigation) was considered one of the most serious non-capital crimes that a criminal could commit. There was no question that the Colombian would be convicted and sentenced for perjury. The evidence on that video tape was irrefutable. To make sure the perjury charge would stick, the inspector ordered the photographer to make a copy of interrogation to forward to the arraignment committee.
The inspector decided it was time to call Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna and see if she could bring someone who spoke Spanish to the airport. He knew that whatever information the detainee had given him was time-sensitive, so getting her recorded answers translated and conducting a follow-up interview were his next priorities.
Calling a Spokesperson meant that the Colombian girl now would have to be photographed and formally arrested. It was certain that Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna would assume formal custody and presumably take her to the Central Police Station where she would be arraigned and kept until trial. Upon being assigned a criminal number she no longer would be at the mercy of the Airport Unit, but that didn’t matter. The Inspector and his subordinates already had their fun and were ready to get rid of her. She had confessed, and now would become someone else’s problem.
Chapter 3 – Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna
Upon receiving the call from the chief inspector, Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna wrote down the pertinent information: that a Colombian drug courier had been arrested with a kilo of cocaine in pellets concealed in her stomach, that she had undergone an initial interview, and that a Spanish-speaker needed to go to the airport to translate the suspect’s recorded statements and conduct a follow-up interview. The Spokeswoman cringed at the words “undergone an initial interview”, because she was well-aware what that actually meant.
Kim called the one person she knew who spoke Spanish, her friend Cecilia Sanchez, who was a US citizen studying at the National University in Danube City. She asked Cecilia to go directly to the airport, where they would meet and see how badly the hapless courier had been treated. Once she hung up, she went the arraignment room to pick up a temporary criminal’s collar, which would allow Maria Elena to be transported around Danube City without a police escort. Kim’s new client would have to wear the temporary collar until her trial. Upon being sentenced she would be issued a permanent collar by the Ministry of Justice.
Knowing the reputation of the Airport Unit, the Spokeswoman was certain that what awaited her would not be pleasant. Undoubtedly Maria Elena already had undergone physical punishment as part of the interrogation. Hopefully she had not attempted to lie to the Inspector, because Kim knew that he was notorious for nailing suspects with perjury. Furthermore, she figured that if the Colombian did not speak any English, she probably did not have a clue what was going on and would be scared out of her wits. Just getting her calmed down and explaining what was happening was going to take a lot of effort, and then there was the issue of teaching the suspect basic criminal protocol before taking her out on the street. Kim knew that Maria Elena already had been stripped and was sitting naked in a holding cell, but probably she was not yet aware that, as a criminal, she would be prohibited from wearing clothing at any time. No doubt she would face a rough afternoon dealing with her newest client.
The Spokeswoman took an express trolley from the Central Plaza to the airport, where her friend already was waiting for her. Cecilia had been born in New Jersey, but she was fluent in Spanish because she had spoken it in her Dominican household while growing up. Although she was only 24 years old, she held a fairly important position at the National University; as the exchange program coordinator for 60 US college students studying abroad in the Danubian Republic. Cecilia already had spent four years in Danube City and clearly had “gone native”. Her black hair was done up in elaborate braids and she always dressed immaculately in fine Danubian linen. Apart from her elaborate hair and fine clothing she wore three pieces of silver jewelry, a necklace, a hairpiece, and a silver ring, engagement gifts from her boyfriend. To her program’s exchange students she struck a severe and oddly foreign image, but one that was necessary for them to understand what they faced studying in Danube City.
The two women went into the airport chatting about the previous night’s storm and Cecilia’s students. Kim exchanged salutes with several airport officials on her way to the interrogation room by touching her right fist to her left shoulder. The two women descended the staircase that led to the interrogation room, knocked, and were let in by the Inspector.
The two officials, even though they did not like each other, exchanged courtesies and salutes before addressing why Kim and Cecilia had been summoned to the airport. The case itself was fairly routine; the only detail that complicated it was the fact that the suspect did not speak a language commonly taught in Danubian schools. Kim introduced Cecilia to the Inspector, before promptly having her sit down to listen to the recording of Maria Elena’s confession. The Dominican translated the most important points to Danubian and passed her notes to Kim, who looked them over and handed them to the airport official.
“Inspector, have you formerly arrested the Colombian citizen Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres?”
“No, Spokeswoman, we haven’t. We figured that it would be proper for you to be present during her arrest and the assigning of her criminal number. So we chose to wait for you to come.”
Bullshit, thought Kim to herself. You waited so you could play around with her, you fucking pervert.
However, to the Inspector she said nothing. Her duty was not to worry about what already had happened, but instead to take custody of Maria Elena, convince her that she needed to cooperate with the police, and get her out of the airport.
“May I see the suspect, Inspector?”
“Of course, Spokeswoman.”
Kim whispered to Cecilia in English: “She’s gonna be in bad shape, so don’t be shocked when you see her. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just do what I tell you and keep your mouth shut unless you’re translating.”
The Inspector flipped a light switch next to the cell door to illuminate the tiny room. He drew his gun and opened the door. Immediately Maria Elena crouched in the corner, trying to cover herself. She made a truly pitiful sight. Her hair was disheveled from being grabbed, her bottom was badly bruised, two switch marks crossed her back, and the left side of her face was swollen from having been slapped multiple times. However, those details paled in comparison with the raw terror and absolute despair in her expression.
“You can close the door, Inspector. I would like to speak to my client alone, please.”
“As you wish, Spokeswoman.”
As soon as the door closed, Kimberly spoke in English, which Cecilia translated:
“Your name is Maria Elena? You are from Colombia?”
Maria Elena nodded.
“Maria Elena, my name is Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna. Later I will need to explain to you what exactly that means, but for now you can consider me your public defense attorney. It will be my duty to represent you in court. Do you understand me?”
Again Maria Elena nodded, but she remained crouched in the corner. Kim’s next words shocked Cecilia, who thought she was being very cold-hearted, given the Colombian’s traumatic situation. However she dutifully translated:
“I want you to understand that I will do what I can to ease your situation and protect you from those who wish to harm you. That is my position, my path in life. However, I also want you to understand that I am a public official, and at all times you will treat me with the respect that is due to my status under Danubian law. When I speak to you, I do not consider nodding an appropriate response to my questions. When I am in your presence, I do not consider you crouching in the corner appropriate. Do you understand me?”
“I…sí, señora…entiendo…lo siento…”
“Very well. I expect you to get on your knees in front of me. You are not permitted to speak to me or any other public official unless you are on your knees. You will kneel straight, you will look straight at me, and you will place your hands on your thighs. You will not hunch over or try to cover yourself. Covering yourself is forbidden.”
Reluctantly Cecilia translated, adding: “I’m really sorry about this, but you have to do what she says. That’s the rule in this country, you gotta kneel when you’re talking to anyone from the government, and if you don’t do it, they’ll whip you.”
Tears ran down Maria Elena’s cheeks as she knelt in front of her Spokeswoman. As directed, she knelt straight, forcing herself to put her hands on her thighs instead of using them to cover her breasts.
Once her client was properly positioned, Kim commented:
“The path of your life is to behave properly as a criminal, just as the path of my life is to protect your well-being and serve as your mentor.”
Cecilia was distressed that instead of comforting her new client, Kim was treating her in such a cold-blooded manner. However, Kim knew what she was doing, because protocol was a vital part of her relationship with all of the criminals in her custody. She was her clients’ mentor, not their friend. When they had problems they would come to her for help and advice, and she would consol and comfort them, but never as an equal. Very early in her career Kim learned why protocol was so important for the relationship between a criminal and a Spokesperson, because without protocol she could not have properly done her job.
There was another important reason why Maria Elena needed to know how to display proper protocol before leaving the holding cell, one that Kim did explain to both her translator and the detainee. The Spokeswoman was formally assuming custody over her client, which meant that the Inspector and the other members of the Airport Unit no longer had any right to abuse her. As Kim put it:
“As your Spokeswoman, I now exercise custody over your life and I will determine how other public officials can interact with you. Anyone who has anything to ask from you or say to you must go through me. I must approve anything that happens to you. You are to listen to no one except me. You are not to take orders from anyone except me. When we go into that other room and you kneel in front of me, you are letting them know that they can’t hurt you anymore, because I won’t let it happen.”
Maria Elena’s mood changed upon hearing Cecilia’s translation. She realized that, as bad as her situation might be, apparently those awful cops no longer could do anything to her. She was frightened of the young Asian woman who claimed to have “custody” over her, but if the Spokeswoman could protect her from that Inspector and his crew of sadists, Maria Elena was willing to do anything to please her.
With the prisoner still kneeling and Cecilia nervously translating, Kim asked her about the arrest and the interrogation that followed. The Spokewoman’s expression changed slightly when Cecilia translated the description of her effort to convince the Inspector she had just five pellets, only to be proven to be lying. Kim asked for a detailed description of that part of the interrogation. She tightened her lips and sighed upon learning that, like so many others, Maria Elena had committed perjury. That simple act of lying in the wrong place at the wrong time would add 20 years to her formal sentence. The Spokeswoman would have to break the bad news later, when she could talk to her client alone in her office.
Maria Elena realized that something was wrong, but before she had time to react, Kim continued:
“I’m not going to be able to do anything about the length of your sentence, but what I can do is argue for better conditions. Some of that will depend on how much you are willing to cooperate with the Inspector. When you go on trial, he and I will have to work out the details of your sentence with the trial judge. If you cooperate with the Inspector, he will cooperate with me in court.”
When Cecilia translated, Maria Elena responded:
“But…I did…talk to them…I…”
“He’s going to want to re-interview you and get your full story. He’ll ask you all those questions again, this time with a translator. Basically he’s going to want to make sure he has everything straight before he does his report. You’re going to have to give up whatever you know about your former drug group. Also, the Inspector is gonna want a recording of your voice that doesn’t have a bunch of your crying mixed in with your information. Once that interview is done, you’ll be coming with me.”
Noting the fear in Maria Elena’s eyes, Kim commented:
“I’m sure you’re still afraid of what your drug group can do to you. Right now that doesn’t matter because they can’t do anything to you. What you need to worry about is us, not them. Under our laws, the Danubian government now owns you. You are property of the Republic of Danubia.”
Kim waited for the translation, fully expecting a shocked reaction and having to elaborate her last point. She had to do that with almost all of her foreign clients.
“According to our laws, you have proven yourself incapable of exercising free will. So, that portion of your life has ended. You now have an owner, the government of the Republic of Danubia. Whatever information that is in your head belongs to the Danubian government as well, so you will discuss, in detail, what you know.”
Kim paused, waiting for the translation. Then she finished with:
“As for your former employer, if they’re stupid enough to send anyone into this country to come after you, the Danubian Secret Police will catch that person and they will execute him. The drug groups know that, and we’re the one country in Europe they won’t mess with.”
Cecilia finished with Kim’s final statement, totally taken aback by her friend’s blunt words.
“Your drug group is no longer in charge of what happens to you. Do you understand me?”
“Sí, señora. Entiendo.”
“And one more thing I expect from you. When you answer me, you need to answer in Danubian. When you say ‘yes’, it will be: ‘doc-doc, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna’. Repeat, please… doc-doc, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna.”
Maria Elena repeated several times; until the Spokeswoman was satisfied her client could be understood by other Danubians.
“That’ll work for the time being. When you say ‘no’, it will be: ‘negát, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna’. Repeat, please… negát, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna.”
Once again Maria Elena repeated until Kim was satisfied she had it right.
“Congratulations, Maria Elena, you’ve just learned your first three words in Danubian: doc-doc, negát, and Advodkátna.”
Cecila felt very uneasy about seeing her friend’s domineering behavior up close. Although she had known Kim for years, she had never seen the Spokeswoman introduce herself to a client. With her clients there was no room for doubt, no question that she was in complete control.
Cecilia noticed a change in the prisoner. Like most of Kim’s other foreign clients, Maria Elena’s situation would force her to be emotionally dependent on the Spokeswoman, at least during the first several months of her sentence. Trapped alone in a country where she could not even communicate properly, surrounded by hostile individuals, and stripped of her clothing, she knew that the only person she could turn to was Kim. The Spokeswoman already had shown herself as strict and intolerant, and Maria Elena was afraid of her. However, she offered the criminal some hope in her life and the promise of protection. More importantly, she clearly explained what her client needed to do and what was expected of her, which gave Maria Elena a sense of direction and made her desperate to please her. Only a few minutes after meeting Kim, Maria Elena already was adapting to her new life as a Danubian criminal.
The next task was collaring the detainee. Like every other criminal in Danubia, Maria Elena would be required to wear a metal collar and would be prohibited from wearing anything else, with the exception of orange boots during the winter. There were no jails in Danubia, no such thing as incarceration. There were a few holding cells, like the one Maria Elena was sitting in now, but a holding cell was just that, a very temporary place where a criminal was kept until she could be collared.
“When I mentioned that you will be serving a sentence, you will understand you won’t be serving any of that time in jail. We don’t have jails in this country. Instead you will spend your sentence serving the people around you, and you will live your life in humility. And the mark of a criminal’s humility is the collar…”
She held up the temporary collar…
“…which you’ll have to put on before we leave this room. The collar shows you to the world for what you are, a criminal. However, it gives you some legal status, which is something you didn’t have when you were being interrogated. Once I put this on you, the Inspector and his subordinates cannot touch you. That’s why they waited. They didn’t want you collared because that would have given you rights under our laws. Before you talk to the Inspector again, you’ll need to put this on…unless…you want to risk being treated like you were the first time. Do you understand me?”
Maria Elena looked at the collar in Kim’s hand with a very worried expression as she listened to Cecilia’s translation. The thought of having that thing around her neck terrified her, because she suspected, quite rightly, that once she put on the collar it would not be coming off anytime soon. However, the thought of being tormented by the interrogation team a second time horrified her. Her only choice was to trust the Spokeswoman and hope she was telling the truth. She took a deep breath and replied:
“Doc-doc, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna.”
Kim directed Cecilia to hold up the detainee’s hair while she positioned the collar around her neck. She locked the collar with a key, which she then put in her pocket. Finally she pulled out a small receiver and tested it against the collar’s transmitter to make sure it worked. Maria Elena’s collar not only marked her as a criminal, but also allowed the Ministry of Justice to know where she was at all times.
“Alright, Maria Elena, let’s go back and talk to the Inspector, and then I can get you out of the airport. Remember, how quickly our conversation ends depends on how thoroughly you answer his questions. If you try to hide anything, he’ll keep at you until you answer, and it will affect what happens at your trial.”
“Doc-doc, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna.”
Kim banged on the cell door to let the guard know she, her translator, and her client were ready to come out. The three women crossed the hallway and entered the interrogation room. Upon entering the Spokeswoman ordered Maria Elena to kneel and Cecilia to stand at attention. Then she crisply saluted the Inspector and the other cops in the room by touching her right fist to her left shoulder. The Inspector and the cops saluted back.
In spite of the strict protocol and professional courtesies, Kim and the Inspector intensely disliked each other. Kim felt that the Inspector was a sadist and sexual pervert, while he resented the fact she was foreign-born but still held a position in the Danubian government. However, their mutual dislike did not prevent the two officials from cooperating and working together. Their understanding was that, in exchange for convincing her clients that they needed to share whatever information they had, Kim could expect him to ask for lenient sentence terms during trial. The Inspector was always true to his word in court. As long as Kim’s client cooperated with providing information, he tried to convince the trial judge to impose the minimum number of judicial switchings during sentencing.
Maria Elena trembled as she knelt upright. She was terrified of the Inspector and very worried about displeasing her Spokeswoman. Her nakedness left her feeling very vulnerable, while the pain in her bottom, her burning intestines, and her sore stomach reminded her of the consequences of lying.
However, more than anything else, it was the sinister feeling of cold metal around Maria Elena’s neck that convinced her that her old life was completely gone. She had lost her free will, and now was nothing more than property of a foreign government. The unforgiving feel of the hard object around her neck drove home that point more than anything else that had happened to her that morning. Over and over her Spokeswoman’s words repeated themselves in her mind: “the Danubian government now owns you”.
Maria Elena’s new understanding of her path in life had an immediate effect on her behavior. As soon as she started talking, it was obvious that she would cooperate completely. She found it surprisingly easy to speak honestly about her life as a drug courier. Not that she had all that much useful to tell the interrogation team, but it was clear that she would tell them whatever she knew about her group.
Later Maria Elena would share her personal life with her Spokeswoman, but for the moment the Inspector’s only interest was the story of her ill-fated trafficking venture. Armed with her cell phone and address book, the Inspector pushed the prisoner for names, contacts, and addresses: in Pereira, in Bogota, in Panama City, and in Frankfurt. As he expected, she didn’t know anything about her trafficking group that was not related to her own experience. It was obvious that the trip was her first effort at drug trafficking and that she really did not know what she was doing or understood what she had gotten herself into.
Maria Elena’s story took her from her hometown of Pereira to Bogota, where her boyfriend introduced her to his boss. After a couple of nights of partying she went from the Colombian capital to Panama City, where she met a very sinister-looking subject called Alex Mejia-Silva. Alex’s girlfriend spent a couple of days training Maria Elena to swallow pellets by having her swallow grapes without chewing them. Once she was satisfied that the courier could ingest pellets without gagging, she turned her back over to Alex. Alex put Maria Elena in a cheap hotel room and booked a ticket on Flight 2298, which flew directly from Panama City to Frankfurt. He went over to the hotel and gave the courier the cocaine, divided into 100 small tight ovals wrapped in bluish-gray plastic. Upon arriving in Germany, Maria Elena was to call a number programmed into her cell-phone and ask for “El Flaco”. She then would go to a hotel room and expel the pellets. Assuming she expelled 100 pellets, supposedly she would get her 15,000 Euros and be allowed to leave. Because the only language she spoke was Spanish, Maria Elena’s plan was to travel to Spain immediately after receiving her money, where she would attempt to find a job and settle. In spite of what she had told people in Colombia, her plan had been to establish herself in Spain and permanently escape from her old life.
The Inspector briefly pondered what really would have happened to his prisoner had she successfully completed her trip. It was quite possible that her first venture into drug trafficking would have been her last, even if she had successfully delivered all of her pellets. It just sounded too good to be true: 15,000 Euros and a visa…for delivering a kilo of cocaine? Yeah, right…
The Inspector pushed that thought aside. He needed to finish his report and deliver it to INTERPOL. Whatever might have happened to Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres in Germany was irrelevant, because she now belonged to the Danubian government.
Before leaving the airport, the Inspector had to formally arrest the detainee and take her mugshots. The photographer turned on the lighting for the blank backdrop and set up his camera. The Spokeswoman unlocked Maria Elena’s temporary collar and ordered her to stand up. The photographer snapped his fingers to tell the prisoner that she needed to position herself to be photographed. She glanced at her Spokeswoman with a pleading expression, but Kim tightened her lips and pointed at the camera. Yes, Maria Elena would pose completely naked for her official arrest photos.
Cecilia translated the photographer’s commands to turn around and assume various poses to the mortified prisoner. The first shots were of her face; one from the front, one from the back, one from above her head looking down, one from each side, and two taken from different angles.
Next came the full-body shots: hands at her side…facing the camera, facing away from the camera, facing left, facing right. Then another series of shots, this time with her hands behind her head and her legs spread: front, back, left, right.
As soon as the prisoner was released from the photo session, the Spokeswoman ordered her to kneel to allow her to put the collar back on. Once again the collar clicked shut around Maria Elena’s neck.
Finally, the Inspector handed the Spokeswoman a small facial photograph of the prisoner which included her full name and her arrest number. Cecilia explained to Maria Elena that, at the moment the photo was generated with the arrest number, her legal name had been changed by the Ministry of Justice. Instead of Maria Elena Rodriguez-Torres, she would be known as, and listed in official Danubian documents as, Prisoner # 101025.
“You can have your friends call you Maria Elena if you want, but that’s not your name anymore. As far as the Danubian Ministry of Justice is concerned, your name is Prisoner # 101025. After your trial it’ll change to Criminal # 101025. You’ll have to get used to it, because that’s what everyone’s gonna call you.”
Maria Elena gasped with horror at this latest piece of bad news. The Danubians truly were planning to take everything away from her, her freedom, her clothing, her dignity, and even her name.
The Spokeswoman asked for her client’s arrest report and copies of her mugshot photos, which she put in a briefcase to later start a criminal file. She and the Inspector saluted each other before the three women turned to go out of the interrogation room. As she stepped into the hallway, Maria Elena instinctively covered herself. Yes indeed, she was about to be taken into the main terminal completely naked. It would only get worse, because her Spokeswoman then would take her into Danube City. How could she do this horrible thing, forcing her client to walk naked on the street? Maria Elena gave Cecilia a pleading look, but the Dominican ignored her and pointed at the staircase leading out of the basement.
Suddenly Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna spun around and snapped at her client to kneel. When the order was translated Maria sank to her knees, but still tried to cover herself.
“Listen, Prisoner # 101025, you will remove your hands from your body this instant! I already told you that you are violating your status as a prisoner by doing that. Now, uncover yourself, immediately!”
Tears ran down the prisoner’s cheeks as she struggled to obey the order by lowering her hands. She turned to Cecilia and begged her in Spanish:
“Please…for the love of God…don’t make me go out naked…I’d rather die than go out naked…please…”
“It’s the way they do things here. You’re a prisoner and you can’t cover your body.”
“Please…I’d rather die.”
“It’s not that big of a deal, Maria Elena. You’ll see that it really isn’t. We’re not in Colombia.”
Kim commented to Cecilia in English:
“Look: just tell her that if she tries covering herself again, I will request a police escort and she will have to go downtown with her hands cuffed behind her back. People won’t pay that much attention to her if she’s simply walking with us, but they will want to have a better look at her if she’s cuffed.”
Cecilia, still taken aback by Kim’s harsh treatment of her new client, reluctantly translated the Spokeswoman’s last statement. She concluded with:
“We have to get out of the airport and get you downtown. Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna’s really not that bad, she isn’t. But you have to do what she says.”
Maria Elena took a deep breath, looked up the stairs, and then glanced at her two escorts. She realized that there was no point in any further resistance. Her old life had ended and there was no point in holding on to values that apparently had no relevance in the life she was about to begin. She would have to uncover herself, walk up those stairs, and accept whatever her new life demanded of her.
She took a deep breath, wiped away her tears, and responded:
“Doc-doc, Advodkátna Lee-Dolkivna”
The three women emerged onto the main terminal building floor. Maria Elena, with every bit of will-power left in her, forced herself to keep her hands at her sides. She tried to ignore the stares of hundreds of startled passengers as she walked past the security checkpoint, away from the boarding area and away from any hope of escape. She cast one last look at the passenger waiting area, thinking about her flight, which had long since departed for Germany.
Kim tapped her on the shoulder and pointed at the front entrance of the terminal building. Maria-Elena worked up the courage to go outdoors in the nude. She hoped that outside would be less crowded than the terminal building itself, but the thought of being outdoors with no clothing mortified her. She never had been naked in a public location in her life, and almost never had been naked, even alone, except when taking a shower. The only two people who had ever seen her uncovered body had been her two lovers: the boyfriend who had loved her, and the other boyfriend who had betrayed her.
With Kim leading the way, the three women stepped out through the main entrance. It was a hot sunny August afternoon, with the air still damp and muggy from the previous night’s storm. In front of the airport there was not a parking lot, but instead a small park with a statue of a king holding a sword. Later Maria Elena would learn the statue was of the airport’s namesake, the country’s national hero King Vladik the Defender. On the other side of the park was a large trolley stop that was full of commuters and luggage.
The sidewalk felt hot on the prisoner’s unprotected feet as she and her escorts made their way to the trolley stop. Maria Elena gave her companions a look of total despair, because she had been under the impression that “going downtown” meant getting into a car. She looked around at the front of the airport and realized there was not a private car in sight: only a couple of police vans.
Cecilia commented: “I know this is all new to you, but the only way to get downtown is in a trolley, unless you want to walk. This place doesn’t have cars ‘cause there’s no room for them.”
So, Maria Elena’s body had to face a new round of public exposure as she lined up with hundreds of Danubian airplane passengers, family members, foreign tourists, airport employees, and police officers. The foreigners stared at her with wide eyes, but the Danubians only gave her fleeting glances.
Among the throng of clothed people she noticed several that were naked, all of whom, just like herself, had collars around their necks. She noticed two naked young men moving suitcases onto the trolley for several older couples who couldn’t move baggage themselves.
An old man tapped the prisoner on the shoulder and started speaking to her in Danubian. Cecilia translated:
“He needs you to put his wife’s stuff in the trolley. Her suitcases are over there.”
Noticing the puzzled look on the prisoner’s face, Cecilia continued: “If someone asks you to do something, as long as it’s reasonable, you gotta help them out. Criminals have to make themselves available to serve the public. Just move the suitcases next to where the old lady is sitting. If they get off before we get downtown, we might have to get off too, so you can help them get their suitcases to their house.”
Exasperated, Maria Elena struggled to carry two enormously heavy suitcases onto the trolley while the old man followed carrying a much smaller bag. Her feet ached on the hard cement and the suitcases scraped her bare legs. Her bottom still throbbed from the paddling and her stomach and throat burned from the forced vomiting she had endured during the interrogation. She was sick, exhausted, frightened, and mortified with embarrassment. Nevertheless, even in her condition she was expected to exert herself carrying someone else’s belongings onto a trolley, and the only reward she could expect might be to have to carry the luggage to the old couple’s house.
The trolley’s seats were full by the time Maria Elena had the suitcases in place next to the old lady. Noticing that all the seats already had been taken, she reluctantly grabbed a handrail, thus exposing herself even more to the crowd in the trolley. Cecilia stood next to her, but decided not to say anything unless Maria Elena spoke first.
The old man took the seat next to his wife, as the pair looked at the three young women with total curiosity. Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna, Cecilia Sanchez, and Criminal # 101025 were the only non-Europeans in the packed trolley. Added to that detail was the fact that Maria Elena was naked, collared, and her bottom covered with welts and bruises. However the detail that most disturbed the old couple was the fact that the Colombian’s thick black hair was disheveled and not properly braided. At least the other two had the decency to braid their hair. Kim, noting the old couple’s look of disapproval, explained in Danubian:
“I apologize about the dishonorable condition of my client’s hair, sir. She was arrested just this morning and I need to get her to the Central Police Station. I assure you I won’t let her go back out like this.”
The old couple’s disapproving expression relaxed as they responded: “Doc-doc, Advodkátna.”
Cecilia sighed, feeling very sorry for her naked companion. In this harsh and restrictive society, there were many things Prisoner # 101025 would have to learn very quickly. She would face many hardships; struggles that she would have to endure that she was not even aware of yet.
Chapter 4 – The Arraignment Committee
Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna was determined to escort her client downtown as quickly as possible, so Maria Elena was spared the hassle of having to take the older couple’s suitcases off the trolley. Kim enlisted a male criminal and ordered him to help out instead. Ordinarily he would have knelt while receiving her command, but in the crowded trolley kneeling was impractical and she excused him from doing so. He bowed his head and replied “Doc-doc, Advodkátna” as he positioned himself to take Maria Elena’s place.
Apart from her two lovers, of whom she had only caught fleeting glimpses in a darkened room, Maria Elena had never seen a naked man, and certainly had never seen a naked man in broad daylight in a public location. She stared at his body with fascination. When he tried to return her glance, Kim snapped at him in Danubian and he immediately turned away. Maria Elena studied his backside, which was covered with the fading marks of a whipping that he must have endured about a week before. She shuddered, wondering about those marks and what the young man had done to be so severely punished.
The trolley was an express trolley, only stopping at transfer stations and bypassing everything else as it made its way downtown. There were only four transfer stations along the route, and as airport passengers got off, they were replaced by other commuters going to the government district in the center of the city. As the trolley approached the third transfer station, the older couple got off, along with Maria Elena’s fellow criminal and their oversized luggage. She was very grateful she did not have to do anything more with those suitcases, because she was starting to feel sick again.
The trolley passed through an opening in an enormous ancient stone wall and entered into a district of elaborate Baroque-style buildings. A few blocks later it stopped behind a large Gothic cathedral. Cecilia tapped Maria Elena on the shoulder to let her know that was where they needed to get off. She explained in Spanish:
“The Spokeswoman needs to take you to her office to finish your in-processing, and then we need to figure out what we’re gonna do with you.”
“Do with me?”
“Yes. Under Danubian law you’re supposed to be locked up until you go on trial, but I think Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna is gonna try to get a medical waiver for you so you don’t have to go to court tomorrow. If that happens, you won’t have to be locked up and you won’t go before the judge until next week.”
Cecilia pointed at a large compound-style building that was partly visible up the street in front of the cathedral.
“That’s the Central Police Station, where Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna has her office. That’s where we’re going right now.”
The three women walked alongside the church as they approached the police station. Maria Elena instinctively crossed herself when they passed the entrance. Cecilia commented:
“Stop that. They don’t do that here. Their church is different from what you’re used to.”
Maria Elena looked at the front door of the cathedral and noticed a Priest wearing a simple black robe and a tall black hat. Alongside him were two women wearing black dresses. However, what shocked her was the sight of a group of naked men and women kneeling in front of the three Clergy members. The naked worshippers knelt forward in unison, touching their foreheads to the ground.
“Public Penance. They’re big on that here. That’s what those people are doing.”
“And…they…they do it naked?”
“Yes. I’ll explain later, but in this country if you’re doing Public Penance, you do it naked.”
Maria Elena shuddered at the idea of appearing naked in front of a Priest because, of course, in the Western Hemisphere something like that was unheard of.
The prisoner and her escort walked along a large plaza as they approached the main entrance of the Central Police Station. Although it was late afternoon, the doorway was full of people going in and out: cops, lawyers, civilians, and a few naked criminals.
As they ascended the steps, Maria Elena was greeted by a terrifying sight. Three naked criminals were descending, two very young men and a woman who looked about 30. The youngest male in the group looked barely 18. He was walking supported by his two companions, his face contorted with agony and tears flowing down his face. When Maria Elena and her escort passed the naked trio she saw why. The young man’s bottom and upper thighs were covered with welts; dark painful-looking lines that criss-crossed his backside and extended to his shoulders. The Colombian was horrified. Then she noticed something that frightened her even more; that her two companions seemed not to think there was anything unusual about what had happened to that young criminal. Was that normal?
“Cecilia…I…that young guy…what…?”
“Probably he just received one of his scheduled switchings.”
“Yes…I’d imagine it was part of his sentence.”
A very sick feeling swept over Maria Elena. Scheduled switchings…part of his sentence… She turned back to look again at the punished criminal and his two companions. Then she noticed the unchanged expressions of Kim and Cecilia. She had one more question to ask, but couldn’t bring herself to voice it. She didn’t dare, because she feared that she already knew the answer…
The three women passed through the main door of the Central Police Station into a huge entryway topped by a dome. Elegant but very weathered marble staircases led off the ground floor to offices on the second and third stories. Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna’s office was located on the third floor; one of 20 such offices on a back wall opposite the main entrance. The hallway outside was full of people: naked criminals moving about alone or in pairs, Spokespersons walking with their assistants, mail couriers delivering legal documents, and cops escorting a couple of recently-arrested prisoners. However strange and frightening the scene may have been to Maria Elena, it was obvious there was nothing unusual going on as far as the Danubians were concerned.
As soon as Kim, Cecilia, and Maria Elena entered the Spokeswoman’s office, a tall, attractive, naked pregnant woman immediately got up out of her chair and sank to her knees. She knelt forward, touching her forehead to the ground, and addressed her mentor in English:
“Good Afternoon, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna. I am pleased you have returned safely.”
“Good Afternoon, Criminal # 98946. Please rise, so we may fulfill our paths in life.”
Criminal # 98946 immediately stood up. Cecilia introduced her to Maria Elena, explaining that she was yet another fellow US Citizen and the Spokeswoman’s legal assistant. The pregnant criminal quietly opened a door leading into a back office.
The back room was dominated by a large desk. In front of the desk were two small chairs and an end-table. The naked pregnant woman entered with a tray of food and placed it on the table. She then spread a small towel on one of the chairs. Cecilia pointed at the covered chair and addressed Maria Elena in Spanish:
“Stand over there until she gives you permission to sit down. Then you will be permitted to eat.”
Cecilia took a position next to the other chair, quietly standing at attention. Although she was Kim’s friend, she fully understood that for the moment she was working under official capacity and was very careful to observe proper protocol. Kim took her position at her desk.
“Please sit down, Cecilia Sanchez and Prisoner # 101025.”
Once seated, Kim told Cecilia to tell Maria Elena to eat. Maria Elena did not feel hungry, instead she felt nauseated. However, she forced herself to sip some blackberry punch and took a bite out of a roll. That first morsel of food, the first thing she had in her stomach other than cocaine for nearly three days, re-awakened her appetite. She ate and drank ravenously, completely emptying what was on the tray. Her stomach still hurt, but now she realized that part of her discomfort simply was the result of being hungry.
Kim moved on to Maria Elena’s immediate legal situation and the circumstances of her arrest. She already knew the details from the Inspector’s point of view, but now wanted to hear the same details from her client’s perspective. She also wanted to gage how honest her client was in telling her story and how well she remembered what had happened at the airport. She called in her assistant to take notes, before asking the prisoner for a detailed re-telling of her smuggling venture, the diverted flight, her arrest, and her interrogation. Maria Elena spoke honestly, which was good news for Kim, but her story differed very little from the Inspector’s report. She had committed two very serious crimes and several other lesser offenses. There would be very little Kim could do in the courtroom to help her because under Danubian law there were no mitigating factors. There was no question Maria Elena was guilty of both drug trafficking and perjury…no doubt whatsoever. There was no doubt that she would be spending most of the rest of her life, if not all of it, wearing a collar and serving the Danubian government as a convicted criminal.
Once her client finished talking, the Spokeswoman had to break the bad news:
“I hate to tell you this, but you might as well know right away. What you did in the interrogation room was commit perjury. That’s a 20-year offense. From the way you’re describing what happened, I’m not going to be able to get that reduced, especially if it’s recorded.”
Maria Elena went white when she heard Cecilia’s translation.
“That’s just for the perjury. You’re getting at least five more on the possession charge, probably more than that. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to go for trafficking, which is indeed what you were doing.”
The prisoner was left speechless. Kim continued, convinced that it was important that her client knew how bad her legal situation was from the outset. She would go to trial fully aware of what to expect.
“Trafficking at your level carries a 20-year sentence. That’s on top of 20 years for perjury, and at least five for possession. In Danubia there’s no such thing as serving time concurrently, so you’ll be wearing a collar for 45 years, minimum. And I can tell you that you face certain conviction, because there is no way I can contest the evidence the Inspector has against you. I can’t refute what he has on that videotape.”
Cecilia translated as Kim watched the Colombian’s expression become increasingly anguished.
“But Spokeswoman…I didn’t want to bring any cocaine here. I only came to Danubia because my flight got diverted. I was going to Germany…”
“The fact remains that you did bring cocaine into this country. Why that happened doesn’t matter, as far as the government is concerned. All that matters is the fact you entered Danubia with a kilo of cocaine in your stomach, and the fact you repeatedly lied about what you were doing. I can’t change any of that. I can’t change what you did. All I can do is help you come to terms with what happened and help you begin your new life here in Danubia.”
Kim paused to allow Cecilia to translate and continued: “Your old life in Colombia is gone. The only life you have left to live is the one you will lead as a criminal in Danubia.”
Maria Elena sat quietly for several minutes, as tears rolled down her cheeks. Finally she managed to respond:
“Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna…I wasn’t planning to go back to Colombia anyway…I wanted to go to Spain, and start a new life there. That was my plan…to get out of Colombia and start over in Spain. The money they were going to pay me was going to be what I lived off of until I got a job.”
Maria Elena sat silent while Cecilia translated. She continued:
“After what I did at home, I was ashamed to face any of my family…so I was just going to leave. Go as far away from Pereira as I could.”
“Well, if you think about it, the Creator gave you what you wanted. Right now you are about as far from Colombia as you can get, and I can tell you there’s a very good chance you’ll never see it again.”
Maria Elena didn’t know how to respond. Yes, her dream had always been to get out of Colombia, but this was not how she wanted to do it. To listen to the Spokeswoman, her departure from her home turned out to be much more final than she ever could have anticipated.
The Spokeswoman stood up and ordered her client to stand up as well.
“Turn around and stand still.”
Maria Elena complied, allowing her mentor to study her backside. Her bottom still was badly bruised from the cruel paddling and two painful switch marks crossed her shoulders. Kim also was worried about the condition of her client’s intestines and her over-all mental health. There was no question that Prisoner # 101025 was not ready to go to court, so arranging a delayed trial was the next issue she needed to address.
Kim called the arraignment committee to submit the request for a delay. The response was that Prisoner # 101025 would have to be arraigned that afternoon, and it would be up to the committee to determine when she should go to trial, not her Spokeswoman.
Four women, two of them dressed in fine linen, and the other two collared and naked, descended three flights of stairs and entered a large room where Maria Elena would be arraigned. Kim’s legal assistant accompanied the Spokeswoman, carrying Prisoner # 101025’s case file. The fact there was another naked member of the group made the situation slightly less daunting for Kim’s newest client.
Cecilia whispered in Spanish: “The arraignment committee has had the same members forever…I think every criminal in Danube City has gone before those three for arraignment.”
Kim and her party entered a large room dominated by a table with three very stern-looking officials seated behind it. There were two men who looked about 60 years old, and a woman who appeared to be in her 70’s. Kim saluted the committee, while Cecilia stood at attention and Criminal # 98946 knelt, placing her forehead on the ground. Following her fellow criminal’s lead, Maria Elena reluctantly knelt as well. She stayed in that position until she heard Cecilia’s voice:
“OK, Maria Elena. You need to stand up and present yourself. What you need to do is stand on that small rug with your legs spread and your hands clasped behind your head. They call that ‘the prisoner’s stance’. Unless they tell you to move, you have to stay like that. Whenever any of them speaks, you need to look straight at them. And do NOT say anything unless you are asked a question. I’ll translate and tell you what to do.”
Prisoner # 101025 did as she was told. With every bit of willpower she possessed, she managed to spread her legs and put her hands behind her head. She desperately wanted to cover herself, to flee, to escape from her latest humiliation; but she knew that escape was hopeless. Even if she could somehow get past the cops standing at the door and somehow get out of the Central Police Station, she would be easy enough to catch because of her collar. It was at that moment she realized that she was every bit as trapped as if she were sitting in a high security jail cell. There was no escape, and there would never be an escape.
The man sitting in the middle spoke to Cecilia in Danubian, who in turn translated for the prisoner:
“He wants to know if you understand the charges against you. ‘Doc’ means ‘yes’ and ‘negat’ means ‘no’. You need to answer in Danubian.”
Maria Elena responded in Danubian: “Doc.”
“He wants you to repeat the charges. You can tell me in Spanish and I’ll translate.”
“Drug trafficking, perjury, and possession of cocaine.”
When Cecilia translated, the man spoke to her for a minute, every so often casting an angry look at the prisoner. Kim tightened her lips, but said nothing. Cecilia looked at Kim, who nodded for her to translate:
“There’s another charge they’re gonna add: violating the sanctity of your body. That’s another 10 years.”
The prisoner gasped with despair. Cecilia explained:
“The Danubian Church makes a big deal out of stuff like this. According to their religion, the body is sacred, because it is a gift to your soul from the Creator. You can’t do anything to abuse or mutilate your body. In your case you used your body as a place to store cocaine, and you insulted the Creator when you did that. So, you’re gonna have to be punished for it.”
“But…I’m not from this country. It’s not my religion…what they think…It’s not what I believe…”
Cecilia thought for a moment before posing a question:
“Fair enough. But do you think God is happy with what you did with your body?”
“No…I suppose not.”
“Well, the Creator isn’t either. So you have to be punished for it. That’s their logic. Doesn’t matter that you’re a foreigner. Doesn’t matter that you’re Catholic. What matters is that you dishonored your body.”
The next concern was making sure Prisoner # 101025 understood the charges and the sentence each one would bring. Cecilia repeated the arraignment committee’s declaration that drug trafficking and perjury carried 20 years each, possession 5 years, and the body abuse charge 10 years. Maria Elena did the math in her head. She was facing 55 years. She would not be released until she was 74 years old. Essentially she was facing a life sentence. However, the next item that Cecilia translated terrified her even more.
“Apart from the time wearing your collar, the committee is gonna recommend that you get the maximum sentence for perjury, which is a switching every three months. The trafficking charge is gonna get you a switching every four months. Since you’ll be 59 years old when the perjury and trafficking sentences end, they’ll wave the switchings on the other two charges.”
“Remember that young guy on the steps?”
“He was switched. If the committee gets their way during your sentencing, that’s what’s gonna happen to you every three months, the same as what happened to that criminal on the stairs.”
Maria Elena gasped and started shaking badly.
“Be quiet! Remember what I told you. Don’t argue with the committee members or they’ll also charge you with insurrection. Now, it’s not gonna be that bad, because you won’t get the maximum sentence as far as the switchings are concerned; it’ll be less. That’ll be worked out in your trial; Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna’s gonna try to get the total number reduced. Usually the Inspector helps her out when the client has cooperated, which you did.”
Cecilia paused, contemplating her companion’s terrified expression.
“By the way, if there’s anything else you can remember about your drug group, now’s the time to come clean about it, because it would help you at trial.”
Before Maria Elena had a chance to respond, the committee chairman addressed her again. Cecilia translated:
“He wants you to turn around and present your butt. They’re gonna to decide whether or not to postpone your trial.”
As much as she hated what was happening to her, Maria Elena had absolutely no desire to go on trial any sooner than was necessary. She turned around, showing the committee her badly bruised bottom and the two painful switch marks on her back. The committee members talked among themselves and finally addressed Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna. She stood at attention while being spoken to, but as soon as the committee chairman finished talking, her expression relaxed and she saluted. Cecilia told Maria Elena to face the committee and resume the prisoner’s stance. She explained what had just happened:
“OK, you’re in luck. They’re gonna delay your trial for two weeks…give you a chance to recover. Everything else will be the same…for example you’re gonna have to get a job within three days and all the rules of behavior for a criminal will apply to you.”
Maria Elena’s emotions were in turmoil. As much as she dreaded going on trial and was happy about the delay, she also was dumbstruck that, even without a trial, automatically she was considered a criminal. Essentially it meant that she already had been convicted, and the trial would be nothing more than a formality confirming her status. There was no hope, none whatsoever, that she could get out of her situation. She continued to stand, trembling, and quietly cried while she listened to her Spokeswoman and the committee chairman converse in Danubian.
Suddenly Cecilia came to attention and replied “Doc” several times in response to a series of questions from the committee. She saluted the officials before turning to the Spokeswoman to salute her. She touched Maria Elena on the shoulder but told her to remain in the prisoner’s stance.
“Here’s what’s going on…the committee has formally awarded provisional custody of you to Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna. That custody will become permanent after you go on trial. Whatever your Spokewoman tells you to do, you will do. No arguing with her, ever. If you don’t like something, talk to me and I’ll get you an explanation.”
Cecilia paused while the committee chairman signed several documents to give to Kim. Once the Spokeswoman and the committee members saluted each other, she quietly continued speaking to the prisoner in Spanish:
“There’s a problem, and that is that your Spokeswoman doesn’t speak any Spanish and you don’t speak any Danubian or English. That leaves me to do all the translating. So, they’re gonna allow her to delegate custody to me, whenever it’s necessary, so I can take you around the capitol and show you what you need to do. Once you learn Danubian, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna will to talk to you directly.”
The director of the committee suddenly stood up and drew his fist across his chest, indicating that the arraignment hearing was over. Cecilia ordered Maria Elena to kneel. Criminal # 98946 quickly moved forward and knelt next to her. Once her wards were properly kneeling, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna saluted the committee members, who in turn saluted back.
“Criminal # 98946 and Prisoner # 101025, please stand so we can fulfill our paths in life.”
The two naked women stood up, and with that Maria Elena’s arraignment hearing came to an end.
Chapter 5 – Victor Dukov’s house
Once Kim and her group had returned to her office, she began finalizing the details of Maria Elena’s immediate future. The prisoner needed a place to sleep that night, she needed to begin Danubian language lessons as quickly as possible, and she needed to find work within three days.
Cecilia dispatched the language problem first. There was a new group of US exchange students at the National University who were enrolled in intensive Danubian language training to prepare for taking classes alongside local university students. Among Cecilia’s students there were two language groups: slow and advanced. The easiest and cheapest solution would be to have Maria Elena attend class along with in the slow group.
The next problem was where Maria Elena would work. She had to take a job that kept her body as exposed as possible, preferably something outside. A quick question determined that she did not know how to ride a bicycle, which eliminated the option of her being a document courier. Another option, the record store where Kim used to work when she was a criminal herself, was not available either. At any other time Kim could have called the owner and started Maria Elena as a window washer, but the previous week she had sent over two clients and the store definitely did not need any more. Any other customer service job was out of the question until she could speak Danubian.
Kim shrugged her shoulders: “We have another day to think about that one. Let’s see what we’re gonna do about where she’s gonna sleep.”
It was getting late, so the only viable solution was for Cecilia to take Maria Elena home with her. She explained to the prisoner that she was living in the house of Victor Dukov, who was the brother of the country’s Prime Minister, Vladim Dukov. Victor was a recent widower whose sons were grown and had moved out, so he had made his house available for Cecilia and her nephew. There also would be a spare room for Maria Elena, at least for a few nights, until Kim could arrange long-term housing. Cecilia called Victor explaining the situation and getting permission to bring Maria Elena to the house. Then she turned to the prisoner and wryly asked:
“Well, right now you get to make your first decision as a criminal. Either you can come home with me, sleep in a comfortable bed, and have a decent meal; or you can be locked up in a holding cell and sleep there and wait until tomorrow morning to have something to eat. So what’s your choice?”
“I…I’ll go with you…”
“Good answer. Now, you understand that means you’re going back outside?”
Maria Elena nodded. Kim interjected:
“Tell her to stop nodding. You know that criminals are not allowed to nod, they have to answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when spoken to by someone who’s not a criminal. Tell her that.”
Cecilia translated, eliciting a very sad glance from the prisoner towards her Spokeswoman. The Dominican felt enormously sorry for her and was increasingly annoyed with Kim’s unsympathetic behavior towards her client. However, she held her tongue, having learned never to challenge protocol in Danubia, especially from a public official. She knew that it didn’t matter that Kim was her friend, because the Spokeswoman was a public official first; and a friend second.
At that moment a naked, very well-built young man showed up at the office. Upon entering he fell to his knees and placed his forehead on the floor.
“Good evening, Jason Schmidt. Please rise so you can fulfill your commitment to the Creator.”
Jason immediately stood up and kissed Cecilia. Noting the shocked expression on the prisoner’s face, Cecilia introduced him with the following explanation:
“This is my fiancé, Jason. He’s performing Public Penance for the Danubian Church, which is why he’s collared. Jason’s not a criminal, but he has to follow a lot of the same protocol.”
Maria Elena looked over Jason’s attractive body. He was deeply tanned from having spent the last four years of his life never touching any clothing. He had a very lean and muscular figure from constantly running and working out. By far he was the most attractive man she had ever seen close up. She noticed his collar was different from hers; it was smooth and rounded, had no ring, and had a key-hole that allowed it to be unlocked.
Jason’s expression was rather shy, and right away Maria Elena could tell that Cecilia was the one who controlled their relationship. A quick glance sent an unspoken message to the prisoner: don’t even think about trying anything with him; he’s mine. Maria Elena was unnerved by how quickly her translator had picked up on her attraction to Jason, and how, without saying anything, she had issued a warning.
A few minutes later Cecilia, Jason, and Maria Elena exited the Central Police Station. Kim had issued some final instructions to Cecilia, telling her that she needed to have Maria Elena back in her office early the next morning. There was one final detail to take care of; the prisoner’s hair. As best she could, Kim quickly tied her hair in loose braids, telling her that she would need to have her hair properly braided before returning the next day. It was up to Cecilia to make sure Maria Elena’s hair was decent before she went out again.
Cecilia clearly was the one in the lead as her two naked companions followed her onto a large plaza that was dominated on each side by an important building. Directly in front of the police station was the city’s main courthouse, where Maria Elena would go on trial later that month. To the left was the Gothic cathedral she had passed earlier in the day. Opposite the cathedral was the National Parliament Building. The Courthouse and the National Parliament were attractive late 18th Century buildings; the Cathedral clearly was much older than that. The plaza itself was full of people walking to catch trolleys or sitting and conversing.
Maria Elena still was horrified at having to be naked outside, but that feeling was starting to diminish. For the first time since her arrest, she was able to resist the temptation to cover herself. The fact that she was not the only naked person in her group helped her tremendously to accept her situation. The hot summer evening helped as well. She could tell that Cecilia was uncomfortable in her clothing, while Jason seemed perfectly relaxed and enjoying himself.
They walked behind the cathedral and returned to the trolley stop. The first trolley that passed was an express returning to the airport. Maria Elena looked longingly as a few travelers got on with suitcases, presumably to fly out of the country. That trolley departed, only to be followed by another trolley going directly north towards the National University. Cecilia and Jason got on, followed my Maria Elena.
Cecilia handed a coin to the fare-taker, but Jason and Maria Elena, because they were collared, did not have to pay anything. However, that also meant that Cecilia could take a seat, while Jason had to remain standing. Maria Elena, exhausted and still somewhat sick from her earlier ordeal, was looking forward to sitting down. The moment she approached an empty seat Cecilia admonished her:
“Stand up! You can’t sit!”
“You’re collared! You’re not allowed to sit on public transportation. You have to remain standing so people can see you. Don’t you see Jason? He’s not sitting either.”
Maria Elena felt true despair as she took her place standing next to Cecilia’s naked fiancé. The trolley was about half-full, and it seemed everyone was staring at her. Part of the reason was that both she and Jason had attractive bodies that were pleasant to look at, but also the other passengers had overheard the two women conversing in Spanish, a language completely unknown in that part of Europe.
The trolley passed through an opening in the Old City Wall and into a neighborhood with elegant 19th Century architecture. A few stops later it entered a residential district of solidly-built 2-story houses along a pleasant tree-lined street. Cecilia put out her hand to allow Jason to help her stand up. Once she was standing, she gave him a quick slap on the bottom. Immediately he got out of the trolley and again offered his hand to assist her as she exited. To Maria Elena that scene was totally bizarre, because never had she seen a man appear to be so thoroughly under the control of a woman.
The trio walked along a very narrow street before arriving at a 2-story brick house. By Danubian standards the house was very nice, but it was not any larger than a typical upper-middle class home in Colombia. There were two large trees in front, several large windows, a solid wooden door, and another door on the side that led directly into the kitchen. The back yard had a wall around it, as was true for most houses in Danube City. Unlike most Colombian houses, however, the wall was not topped with barbed wire and there were no bars on the windows. Maria Elena noticed another significant difference. Not a single house on the street had a garage, none of the houses even had a driveway, and not a single car was parked anywhere in sight. The neighborhood, because of the absence of vehicles, was incredibly quiet.
When Cecilia knocked, a middle-aged man with a rather unpleasant expression opened the front door. Jason immediate went to his knees and touched his forehead to the ground. Maria Elena correctly assumed that she needed to follow Jason’s lead and sank to her knees as well. The man ordered Jason to stand up in Danubian and shook his hand. The young man turned to Ceclia and kissed her goodbye. It was clear that he wanted to take her in his arms, but it was equally clear that under the staring eyes of her host father he was not about to take such a risk. Instead he departed, his uncovered body standing out among the green trees and the brick houses as he walked away in the late summer dusk.
Cecilia explained that Jason lived with a different family, in the house of a retired Spokesman called Alexi Havlakt, who was an advisor and personal friend of the Prime Minister. It turned out the only reason Cecilia’s fiancé had accompanied the two women was to escort her back to her residence.
“You’ll see that we’re all connected here. I live with the Prime Minister’s brother, Jason’s living with the Prime Minister’s best friend, Criminal # 98946 is married to the Prime Minister’s son, and Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna used to live with Prime Minister Dukov.”
Maria Elena thought that detail was very strange; why should these North Americans be living with such important people? She wanted to press Cecilia for an answer, but held her tongue, assuming she would find out soon enough.
Cecilia told her companion to kneel upright so she could properly introduce her to Victor Dukov. The man gave his kneeling guest a quick nod of acknowledgement, listened to Cecilia’s explanation of her situation, and gave her another quick nod. He spoke in Danubian, as Cecilia translated.
“Victor is granting you permission to enter his house and sit at his table. You need to thank him by saying ‘Spakeebo dek’.
Victor nodded yet again and let out a quick whistle. Cecilia explained that was his signal that he had accepted her as a guest and that she was to enter his house.
“People communicate a lot in this country, not just with words, but also with whistles and hisses. A quick high-pitched whistle means ‘come along with me’. A long low-pitched whistle means the person disapproves of you or something you’ve done. A hiss is much stronger than that, almost an insult. There’s a lot more, but those are what you’ll need to know to get you started.”
Maria Elena got up and followed Victor and Cecilia into the house. Cecilia offered her the use of a bathroom, which she desperately needed, followed by a summons to have dinner. Seated at the table along with the elder Dukov was a married son and his very pregnant wife, Cecilia, and a seven-year-old boy she introduced as her nephew Pedro. Maria Elena expected Pedro to speak Spanish, but unlike his aunt, the only languages he knew were Danubian and English. Cecilia barely had time to eat because she was translating questions and comments for four other people, plus trying to listen to her nephew’s chatter about the day he had spent with some friends.
By the time dinner was finished Maria Elena knew considerably more about both her host and about Danubia in general. Victor Dukov was the owner of a successful business communications company that offered services ranging from bicycle couriers, overnight package delivery, fax machine sales and servicing, and various Internet services. He employed 25 bicycle couriers, owned two stores, and operated an Internet café. His couriers were criminals that always started out riding bicycles and then, upon finishing their sentences, had the option of working in one of the stores. He openly admitted that having his brother as Prime Minister had helped his business tremendously because his employees spent most of their time moving documents between the government’s various ministries.
Victor talked about his earlier life when he had only five couriers and that Kimberly Lee had worked for him. It was clear that he was very fond of her, remembering her as one of his best employees. He reflected that in a way she still continued to work for him, because all of his current workers were clients that the Spokeswoman had recommended. “I don’t have to advertise for employees at all. Kim’s the one who picks them out and interviews them. Having her assistance is like having a hiring agent working for me for free.”
Maria Elena clearly was worn out by the time dinner was finished. Now that her stomach was full, she was nodding off, in spite of her efforts to show courtesy by paying attention to her hosts’ conversation and Cecilia’s translations. The Dominican came to her aid by excusing herself and requesting permission to take Maria Elena upstairs. Once again she had to kneel and repeat “Spakeebo dek”, but then she was released.
Cecilia ordered the prisoner to take a bath and brush her teeth before she could sleep, emphasizing that Danubians were fastidious about cleanliness. She also ordered Maria Elena to wash and thoroughly comb her hair, because the next morning it would have to be braided. While the Colombian was in the bathroom, Cecilia stripped off the covers from the bed that she would be using, because even in her bed she would not be permitted to cover her body. Fortunately the evening was warm and the room somewhat hot, so hopefully she would be able to adjust to sleeping naked with no covers.
Once Maria Elena was out of the bathroom, Cecilia approached her with a thin dry dishcloth.
“Pass this under your collar after you’re cleaned up. The skin under your collar will chafe if you leave your neck wet, and I can tell you that’s not something you want.”
Once the prisoner dried her neck, Cecilia showed her the bed and explained that she couldn’t cover herself, even while sleeping. Then she looked hard at her companion.
“Maria Elena, I have a question. I need to know if I can trust you.”
“To not try to escape once we’re all asleep. I want you to understand that Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna has taken a personal risk in delaying your trial and not locking you up. She’s placing trust in you. I’m placing trust in you. Victor Dukov is placing trust in you. We all understand that you’re scared. I’m not gonna try to convince you that everything will be OK, because your life as a criminal is gonna be very difficult. But you have to understand that we’re doing what we can to make it bearable.”
Maria Elena said nothing. She was accustomed to being told that everything would be fine, that she had nothing to worry about. She was accustomed to being constantly lied to, to listening to pleasant words that had no meaning, mixed with threats that were very real indeed. Cecilia’s blunt statement came as a surprise to her, because she had been expecting to be told, once again, that everything would be fine and not to worry. She didn’t know how to respond, because she was indeed pondering if there was any way she could get out of the house, find some clothes, get her collar off, and try to escape. She couldn’t bring herself to deny that was what she was thinking.
Had Cecilia told her that everything was going to be fine and not to worry; Maria Elena could have lied and attempted to escape with no regrets. It was obvious, however, that Cecilia cared enough about her to tell the truth about what the future held for her. There was no mystery, no surprises…she knew what she faced as a criminal in Danubia. Almost without realizing what she was doing, she confessed:
“I was thinking…about trying to escape. I…I’m sorry…”
“That’s what I suspected. Of course, you do understand that there’s no way you could get away? That collar has a transmitter on it. The moment we noticed you were missing we’d call the police and they’d locate you. Even if you got the collar off, where would you go? What would you do? You wouldn’t exactly blend in. You don’t have any money. People would notice your hair. You couldn’t talk to anyone. There’s no Colombian embassy here. Your passport’s gone. You try to run, and the only thing you’d do would be add to the number of switchings you’d get in your sentence. More switchings…that’s the only thing running’s gonna get you. More switchings.”
Before Maria Elena could think of a response, Cecilia changed the subject:
“There’s something else that I want you to think about. For your plane trip, you were supposed to get 15,000 Euros and a visa, correct?
“For one kilo?”
“From what I know, 15,000 Euros seems an awful lot of money for moving one kilo. Are you totally sure you would have gotten that? I mean, did you…ever talk to anyone else who flew a kilo to Germany? Did you even know those guys, I mean…before you went to Panama City?”
Maria Elena paused, realizing that no, she had never talked to anyone who had worked for Alex.
“No. I didn’t know them…”
“And you weren’t flying with anyone else? No partners?”
“No, I was alone.”
“That’s not normal, Maria Elena. Usually they fly couriers in groups, or at least pairs.”
“People do it all the time. I’ve heard of plenty of people going by themselves.”
“Yes, but in your case, to me it seems something wasn’t right. I don’t know…maybe Alex is a really great guy and he was trying to do you a favor. But if I had been you, I would have checked things out a bit more carefully before getting mixed up with him.”
“There wasn’t any time. Everything was so rushed…”
“What you mean was that he didn’t give you any time. Time to think…time to have some doubts…you’re right about that…no time, but you need to ask yourself why.”
Maria Elena was silent, not sure how to answer her companion’s skepticism. Cecilia waved her hand to get the prisoner’s attention:
“So, can I trust you or not?”
“Yes, you can trust me. I promise I won’t try to run away.”
“In this country, people never promise. They simply say what they’re gonna do.”
A few minutes later Maria Elena was soundly asleep on her bed. She was lying on her stomach and gripping her pillow, which was the only item besides herself that was on the bed. Until she lay down, she had not realized how tired she was after not having slept over the last 72 hours. The previous night, of course, had been spent awake in that school. However, she had not slept the night before either, because she lay awake restless in Panama City, both terrified of what she was about to do and eager to start her new life in Europe. She was beyond exhausted; too tired to even care that she was forced to lie naked on top of a sheet.
Cecilia told Pedro to get in bed before going downstairs to briefly talk to Victor. Then she went to her room and got on the Internet to deal with correspondence and e-mails that had built up over the day. Unlike Maria Elena, it would be several hours before she could go to sleep, because after answering her e-mails she had to work on progress reports for her students.
Victor Dukov watched Cecilia as she climbed the stairs to return to her room. He reflected that it had been four years since she and her nephew had first come to his house. She had come to live with him and his wife after having fled the United States with her boyfriend Jason. A very strange couple indeed, but it was because of them that his brother was still Prime Minister and Danubia still had an independent government. The entire country owed them a tremendous debt, so to allow her to stay in his house all that time, even if a rambunctious small boy was part of the deal, was nothing to him.
Four years…how much everything in his life had changed in just four years. Four years ago his youngest son was still living at home and his wife was still alive. They were both gone: the son working at a new customs inspection station in Rika Chorna Province, and his wife was with the Creator.
Victor took off his clothes and put on a black prayer robe. He then returned to his living room, knelt in front of a black-framed portrait of his wife, and began praying. He had lost her, and fully understood that her death was due to his own negligence.
Victor’s wife had been the one person in his life who was patient enough to withstand his ill temper. She understood that he was not good at expressing himself, which frustrated him and made him seem much meaner than he really was. She gave him a family and sense of purpose, wearing herself out raising three sons as well as helping him with his business venture. She always supported him, even when it seemed his courier service was not going to succeed. For years she was indispensible, spending long hours making sure his bookkeeping was in order so he could attend to his employees and their assignments. Without her, his sons would not have grown up to be responsible adults and business would not have survived. He fully understood that.
Yes, Victor’s business had expanded tremendously over the past several years, but that expansion came at a huge personal cost. His wife started having strange pains in her body, but she chose to ignore them. She had felt nauseous and faint, but she pressed on. Towards the end Victor knew that she didn’t look very good, but he dismissed the thought that anything could be seriously wrong. He figured that he would take her on vacation and with some rest she’d feel better.
The vacation was supposed to be during the summer, but in April she finally went to see a doctor. At the appointment the Dukovs found out what was really going on; that she had advanced cancer and that it had spread throughout her body. There wasn’t anything that could be done, because she was way beyond the point that treatment could have done her any good. By June she was dead.
It was August now, and Victor still had not come to terms with what had happened. If only he and his wife had taken better care of their bodies, seen their doctors on a regular basis, it was for sure the cancer would have been detected in time for something to be done about it. It really had been up to him to watch out for her, because she was too busy with his needs to think about her own.
Victor finished his prayers and rose to his feet. For a very long time he stared at his wife’s picture, unsure what to do next. He knew that eventually he would have to go to bed and face another day. He now had a total of 63 employees: couriers, clerks, salespersons, accountants, and supervisors. Those people depended on him. Cecilia and her nephew depended on him. Even his brother, the Prime Minister, depended on him. He had a grandchild that would be born within a month, so dwelling too much in guilt would do him no good. He felt responsible for what had happened to his partner in life, but now he also was responsible for the futures of so many others. How to balance all that…what should have been with what would be in the future? Really…how?
Victor walked upstairs and passed the door to the room where the Colombian girl was sleeping. The door had been left open, because as a criminal she had to sleep uncovered in an open room. The light from the hallway illuminated her attractive figure.
He stood in the doorway contemplating his new guest, wondering how long she’d be at his house. He vaguely suspected it would be more than “just the few days” that Kim had told him. The truth was that, until she could learn some Danubian, she would have to stick close to Cecilia and living with her was the only realistic option. He then realized that if the Colombian stayed longer than a few days, he really didn’t mind. For some reason he found her interesting and was not in any hurry to get rid of her. Strange…he was completely unable to communicate with that girl, and yet she fascinated him...
A few hours later Maria Elena woke up. At first she was totally confused. The room was unfamiliar, she was naked on an uncovered bed, and she had a metal collar around her neck. Most disconcerting was the total silence. She sat up and covered herself, trying to figure out what had happened. Surly this must be some weird dream…
She touched the collar and looked around the room. Then she felt the bruises in her bottom and the welts on her shoulders. Those hurt for real…no dream. At that point the memories of the previous day started coming back and she realized where she was. No dream…she was in a stranger’s house, in a totally foreign city, where it seemed that only one other person spoke Spanish.
She touched the collar again and put her finger through the metal loop. No escape…there was no escape. She could go downstairs and even step out the front door if she wanted, but because that collar had a transmitter on it, there was no escape.
No escape. It was not only because of her collar there was no escape, it also was because she had nowhere to run. Really…no where to go. Without money and a visa there was no point in trying to go to Spain. Most certainly she did not want to be deported back to Colombia. Many of her friends had wanted to go to the United States, but for some reason she had no desire to go there, nor did she want to go anywhere else in Latin America. Her earlier thoughts of running now seemed rather silly, because even without her collar, she was trapped.
Maria Elena slipped downstairs and decided that she did indeed want to step outside. However, she propped open the front door to make sure she could get back in. The pre-dawn darkness was incredibly peaceful, because there were no sounds of traffic to disturb the quiet. No one was moving about; she was totally alone on the solitary street. There was a slight rustling of leaves in the night breeze, but that was it. The cool air seemed to caress her bare body. For the first time since her arrest, she actually was enjoying the sensation of being naked outside.
She reflected that it only had been 18 hours since she had been arrested, and yet so much had changed in that short time. She wondered what happened in Frankfurt when Flight 2298 finally arrived, and El Flaco stood by, waiting for a call from her cell phone that never came. Maria Elena guessed that he probably called Alex to confirm that a courier was indeed supposed to be on that flight. They would have spent the rest of the morning figuring out that the flight had been diverted to Danubia, that Maria Elena traveled as far as Danube City, but that she never made it back on the plane. The only question remaining would have been to determine whether she had been arrested by the Danubians or whether she had decided to not re-board the plane on her own, in hope of stealing the cocaine she was carrying and trying to sell it herself. As for the boyfriend who had been responsible for her getting into drug trafficking in the first place, Maria Elena was realistic. Undoubtedly already he was working on some other idiotic naïve girl, using his fancy car and expert Salsa dancing to seduce someone equally as stupid as herself. It was likely that he already had totally forgotten about her.
There was one change that she could be happy about. She realized that her Spokeswoman probably was right when she asserted that in Danubia, Maria Elena was totally safe from Alex and El Flaco. She would not have been so safe from them had she gone to Spain…and…
Suddenly Cecilia’s words of doubt entered her mind…15,000 Euros…that was indeed a lot of money. Was it possible that El Flaco really had no intention of actually giving it to her? What if Cecilia was right? El Flaco didn’t know her, so what would have prevented him from murdering her and keeping the 15,000 Euros for himself? Now that she had some time to reflect, that frightening possibility loomed in her imagination. Another scenario forced itself into her thoughts. Germany…why did they have her fly to Germany? Wouldn’t Spain have been more logical? Maria Elena didn’t speak any German; so in that country she would have been totally helpless…especially if they took her passport. Maybe that was what they wanted? Yes…she had heard stories about women from all over the world travelling illegally to various Western countries and ending up…
Maria Elena tried to catch her breath. She thought about Cecilia’s questions, and started remembering various details in Panama City, small things that should have alerted her that she was placing herself in very grave danger. She chose to ignore those warnings, because she was so blinded by her dream of going to Spain. She realized, she now knew, that there was no chance that El Flaco simply would have paid her off and allowed her to leave Germany. No, he had something much more sinister in mind for her. A terrifying thought: had she not been arrested, had she continued on to Germany, would she even still be alive right now?
Trembling with fear and badly shaken, she went back inside, closing the door behind her. She went to the bathroom and managed to calm her nerves. To distract her mind from her frightening situation, she stopped in the hallway and studied herself in a full-length mirror. She realized that her figure was quite attractive. That came as a surprise to her, because she never really had looked at herself naked in a full length mirror before. She still had tan-lines from the swimsuit that she normally wore in Colombia, but she knew those would be gone within a few days; one more detail from her previous life that was destined to disappear.
Maria Elena returned to her bed and fell back asleep. She had only been up an hour, but during that short time she clearly understood that she needed to accept what had happened. The only future for her would be a future in Danubia, because for her there were no alternatives.
The Path of her Life…as the people around her kept saying…
End of Part 1