Kimberly Lee and her two friends from high school, Susan Taylor and Tiffany Walker, had been touring Western Europe for nearly a month when they decided to expand their explorations into Eastern Europe. They looked through their tour book, finally settling on visiting Prague and Budapest. Almost as an after-thought Tiffany suggested a side trip to another small country called the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia.
The three girls knew nothing about Upper Danubia, except for what they were able to learn from their tourbook. Apparently the country had a lot of architecture from the 18th Century and had not been heavily damaged during World War II. The local citizens were relatively friendly, and there were plenty of nature trails, parks, and very cheap restaurants. Best of all, the guidebook pointed out that Upper Danubia was known for having the world's lowest crime rate due to its unique justice system. Kim and the other two decided to go there for sure; it sounded like a really great place. They would visit the capitol Danúbikt Mostk, and later spend a couple of days hiking at the Rika Chorna Reservoir before continuing on to Prague.
As they waited for the train to take them from Amsterdam to Danúbikt Mostk (or Danube City in English), Tiffany decided to buy some extra marijuana from her lover in Amsterdam. The three girls had taken full advantage of Europe's lax drug laws to smoke marijuana to their hearts' content. Amsterdam was so cool, to sit in cafes and get high!
Kim, especially, had taken to smoking weed while in Amsterdam. She determined to have as much fun now before heading to college in the fall. Tiffany had turned Kim onto marijuana while they were still in high school, but now Kim was smoking it more than either of her two friends. Kim didn't realize it, but she was becoming addicted.
Tiffany casually stuffed the bag of marijuana in Kim's backpack and the three boarded the train. "Don't smoke all of it, Kim," she joked, "we gotta make this last until we get to Prague."
Fourteen hours later, the train arrived at the southern border of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia. It was obvious that Upper Danubia was not a particularly wealthy country, but everything seemed very clean and in good order. The train stopped as the border guards casually checked everyone's passports and pieces of luggage at random. The girls had a brief scare when a border guard checked Tiffany's backpack, but fortunately he skipped Kim's.
As the train pulled to the Danubian side of the border crossing, Susan gasped and pointed out the window. "Check it out! That guy's got no clothes on!"
Sure enough, at the other end of the platform there was a naked young man selling ice cream out of a push-cart. The three girls were amazed that no one around him seemed to think there was anything strange about a naked guy selling ice cream. A few passers-by casually glanced at him, but that was about it. Kim tried to get a closer look at him. He seemed to have something around his neck, like a dark-colored collar, but he was too far from the train for her to have a good look at him.
The three girls now had something to discuss as the train completed the final part of the trip into Danube City, the capital of Upper Danubia. Kim remembered that Upper Danubia had a reputation of being a traditionalist and conservative country, but obviously that wasn't true if guys could run around selling ice cream in the nude.
anube City was very different from the bustling European capitals Kim and her friends had visited previously. All of the architecture in the downtown area was at least 100 years old, and the buildings were very clean. There was no trash in the streets or graffiti whatsoever. There were no private cars on the streets; only trolleys, trolleybuses, and bicycles. Kim remembered from the guidebook that only farmers and merchants were permitted to own vehicles, since the Grand Duchy's territory was small and its government didn't want it filled up with cars and parking lots. As a result of the restriction, the smoke and constant beeping of the other European capitals was totally absent from Danube City. The traffic moved very silently and orderly.
Most of the citizens of Danube City were dressed in typical western clothing, except for a few women wearing traditional Danubian dresses. One detail they noticed immediately was that all of the city's women, old ones and young ones alike, had their hair carefully done up in tight braids wrapped around their heads. Children were dressed in standard school uniforms. Then there were the naked people. As the three Americans walked around, they noticed the occasional young man or young woman, working in a store or a restaurant, or riding a bicycle; moving about completely in the nude. All of the nude people looked like they were in their teens or 20's, and all of them were wearing metal collars.
When they stopped at a cafe, their waiter was nude. The young man seemed very shy and nervous. He didn't seem like the sort who would be at ease being in public with nothing on, and in fact appeared quite depressed. Like all the other nude people Kim had seen in Danube City, he was wearing a metal collar. While her two friends admired the waiter's body and made jokes about him, Kim began to worry. There's something going on here with these nude people that we need to know about, she thought to herself. She badly wanted to ask the waiter what was up with his collar, but he didn't speak English and she did not speak any Danubian. At the end of the meal Tiffany got a bit drunk and slapped the waiter hard on the ass. He gave her a sad look, but otherwise did not react.
By the end of their meal Kim wanted to smoke a joint. The urge was building up very quickly and soon the trio were looking for a place they could enjoy a good smoke in peace. They settled on the nature park behind Danube City's Temple of the Ancients. They found what seemed like a good spot, near a park bench in a picturesque spot that overlooked the East Danube River.
Tiffany rolled a joint and passed it to Kim, then lit the end and held it until Kim was smoking. Kim sat back and relaxed, as she felt the mellow sensation slip through her body. Tiffany and Susan decided to run behind the bushes and pee, then they would take a few drags off Kim's joint before rolling another. It was a routine the three had gotten used to, and today would be another lazy, mellow afternoon...
Suddenly Kim heard an angry woman's voice shouting in Danubian. She looked around and saw a young female Danubian cop standing only a few meters away from her. The cop was quite pretty, but had a very angry expression on her face. She was holding a service revolver in one hand and a radio transmitter in the other. Kim realized with horror what was happening, she was about to be arrested.
When Kim tried to stand up the cop screamed in barely understandable English, "You... maragana girl! You no move!"
The cop punctuated her command by pulling the hammer back on her revolver and pointing it at Kim's head. At that moment the cop's partner showed up, holding a rifle. He pointed it directly at Kim.
Tiffany and Susan came back a few seconds later, chattering in English. The male cop immediately pointed his rifle at them and started shouting at them in Danubian. They squealed with fright. The female cop, in her broken English, was the one who addressed them.
"Y...yes, w...we’re tourists. F...from America."
"You with girl?" The young cop pointed at Kim, who had her hands up and was shaking.
Tiffany nodded in terror.
The female cop then pointed at the ground about five meters away from the park bench. "You lay... lie! On tummy lie!" When Tiffany hesitated the cop pointed the revolver in her face. The three Americans scrambled to lie on the ground on their stomachs. Each in turn felt her hands being grabbed by the male cop and handcuffed.
By this time several local residents were standing around watching the arrest. The two police officers chatted with the bystanders in Danubian, explaining that these tourists had been caught smoking marijuana, on this Sacred ground behind the Temple of the Ancients, no less. The male then reached in Kim's pocket and pulled out her passport. He thumbed through it and found what he was looking for. "Amsterdam," he read aloud.
Two more police officers arrived, a man and a woman. The first female cop ordered the Americans to stand up and pointed at each of their three backpacks. "This one... who?"
"It's mine," mumbled Susan.
"...and this one... who?"
"Mine," responded Tiffany.
"...and this... you?" The cop looked at Kim. Kim sadly nodded her head.
The two new cops pulled out three large plastic bags to put the backpacks in, while the two arresting officers emptied the contents of the girls' pockets into smaller evidence bags. One of the newcomers filled out labels for the bags while the female cop snapped a picture of the spot where the crime had taken place. As an afterthought she picked up Kim's joint from the ground to put in a separate evidence bag.
With that the four cops loaded the three Americans and their backpacks into a van. Kim, Tiffany, and Susan were too stunned to be able to react at all to what was happening to them.
After a very short ride to the Central Police Station the van pulled to a stop in a courtyard. The police unloaded the backpacks and then pulled the Americans out of the van. Next to where the van was parked was a slightly raised circular cement platform. The police ordered Tiffany to stand in the middle of the platform, and Kim and Susan to kneel next to the platform, facing away from its center. The cop with the rifle pointed it at Tiffany while the young female officer took off her handcuffs. She pointed at the ground.
"Costumes here... all!"
Tiffany looked dumbfounded, not understanding the order.
"YOU DO!!!" The officer once again pointed her revolver at Tiffany's head.
Tiffany screamed, but then an older man in a dark suit put his hand on the cop's arm and forced her to lower the weapon. He spoke to Tiffany in an educated-sounding accent.
"Young lady, you must undress, right away. You are now a prisoner of the Duchy, and you are not permitted clothing."
Tiffany started to cry. "No... please."
"It is our law, and you will obey. Take everything off and put it over here. If you do not, we shall punish you for insurrection."
Kim was facing away from her friend, but she listened with horror to Tiffany's crying and the sound of clothing sliding off her body and falling to the ground. Then she heard the rustling of plastic as a guard picked up everything from the platform and stuffed it in a bag. Then she heard the click of handcuffs as Tiffany's hands were once again secured behind her back. Tiffany was guided to kneel next to Kim. Kim glanced over at her friend's bare body and teary face.
Kim felt a hand grip her upper arm. The hand pulled her upward and helped the prisoner get on her feet. She could not bear to look at the officer helping her stand up. Kim felt the key enter her handcuffs and slide them off. With that the older man addressed her.
"You, place your clothes on the cement. Remove your jewelry as well."
Kim felt numb as she slowly worked to get her clothing off. She kicked off her shoes and slid her jeans over her feet. She dropped them on the cement with a dull clump. Next were her earrings and her necklace. A guard handed her a plastic bag to put them in. Kim then hesitated as she held her hands at the waist of her blouse. She held her breath as she pulled it up over her head, exposing her shoulders and breasts to the hot courtyard sun. The final item remaining was her panties. Slowly she slid them over her bottom and legs. She held onto them for just a second, hoping against hope that all this was somehow a nightmare and she would be waking up at any moment.
A guard yanked Kim's panties out of her hand and pulled her arms behind her back. Kim found herself handcuffed and kneeling next to Tiffany, the hot sun shining on her breasts and thighs. The rustling of her items being placed in a plastic bag signaled the final loss of her clothing and of her status as a free American tourist.
Kim knelt in numb horror as Susan undressed. Once Susan's clothes were off her body and bagged as well, the educated man shouted at his subordinates to get three carts to wheel the backpacks and other personal items to the examination rooms.
Three male guards led the three young women across the courtyard into the identification room. The police uncuffed them one-by-one, and then fingerprinted and photographed them. Kim thought to herself in terror, my God, they're going to take pictures of us naked.
Sure enough, Kim found herself standing in front of the camera with nothing on. 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.
Kim watched intently as Tiffany and Susan were subjected to the same series of identification photos. In spite of her fear and depression, Kim was somewhat fascinated seeing her two friends forced to pose with their bodies fully exposed to both the camera and the cops standing around in the room.
The police then handcuffed the three girls and separated Kim from the others. A guard led Kim to an interrogation room. Once in the room the guard locked the door and unlatched Kim's handcuffs. He led her to face a table where three very stern-looking officials, two men and an older woman, were sitting. Kim's backpack was placed on the floor in front of her, along with the plastic bags of her clothing and jewelry.
The guard snapped at Kim in Danubian and tapped her body to force her to spread her legs and place her hands behind her head. Words could not describe the humiliation sweeping through the prisoner as she stood completely exposed, her arms and legs spread, in front of those three well-dressed officials and all those cops standing in the back of the room.
It was apparent that only the woman spoke any English, since during the interrogation only she directly addressed Kim and translated for her two companions.
"You are the American, Kimberly Lee?"
"And you were detained behind the Temple of the Ancients about two hours ago with two other Americans?"
"Is this backpack your property, an item that you brought with you earlier today from Amsterdam?"
"You shall understand that under our laws, you are solely responsible for the contents of the backpack you brought from Amsterdam. We shall now search your backpack."
With that one of the male officials raised his hand. A guard opened up the backpack. The very first item he pulled out was a full sandwich bag of marijuana. He handed it to the three officials, who examined it and placed it on a scale. Kim nearly fainted. She had forgotten the group's entire stash of marijuana was being kept in her backpack. The three officials took notes as the guard emptied out the rest of the backpack. He found Tiffany's rolling paper and her marijuana pipe. He placed both items on the table in front of the officials. He found a colorful t-shirt with a marijuana emblem on it. Finally he pulled out Kim's traveling cash and placed it next to the bag of marijuana and the other items on the table.
The panel looked over the items the cop had placed on the table, and talked quietly among themselves. One of the men talked to the woman, apparently giving her some instructions. Finally she addressed Kim, "Young lady, according to your passport you entered our country at 9:00 this morning. Unless you are able to present evidence to the contrary, this panel is convinced that you entered our territory with 432 grams of marijuana. This panel is also persuaded that the cash in your possession was raised from the sale of marijuana, either in this country or in the country from which you departed to come here."
Kim felt like she was about to throw up.
The spokeswoman continued. "At 13:30 hours this afternoon, two uniformed officers of the law and three common citizens witnessed you smoking marijuana in the Sacred Grounds behind the Temple of the Ancients. Do you deny smoking marijuana in that location at that time?"
"No, ma'am, I don't deny that."
"Are you aware that the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia's legal system is separate and sovereign from that of the Netherlands and that all mind-altering substances are illegal here?"
"Yes, ma'am, I understand that."
"But you made a conscious decision to violate our laws by bringing marijuana into our country and smoking it. Is that true?"
Kim sobbed. "Yes, ma'am, it's true."
"And that you intended to raise income by selling and distributing marijuana in this country?"
"No... please! That part isn't right! We just wanted to have enough in case we couldn't get any in Prague! Please! We weren't trying to sell it!"
The woman picked up the bag of tightly packed marijuana and waved it up and down slightly. Her voice took on a very cold tone of skepticism. "400 grams? For personal use? This panel finds that hard to believe."
"Ma'am! Please! We..."
"That is quite enough from you! You can give your side of the story at your trial tomorrow. This panel will recommend that you face charges of importing marijuana into our territory, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute for illicit gain, use of marijuana in a public location, and violation of the Sanctity of the Ancients."
With that leader of the arraignment panel stood up and drew his fist across his chest, which was the Danubian way of saying "this meeting is concluded". One of the guards took Kim's wrists and handcuffed them together while another photographed the spread-out contents of her backpack.
With that Kim was led down a long corridor to a medical examination room. The hallway was quite busy with cops, public officials, and ordinary citizens running back and forth. Most of the people in the hallway had never seen an Asian girl close-up before, so they carefully looked over Kim's body and face as they passed her. A group of schoolboys shouted something rude to Kim in Danubian, only to have the guard escorting the prisoner yell at them and make them scatter. Kim never felt so vulnerable in all her life, completely exposed in front of dozens of strangers and her hands cuffed behind her back.
Far up ahead Kim thought she saw Tiffany and Susan being escorted together, but she only caught a brief glimpse of them.
Kim was taken into a large medical exam room in the basement where an older doctor and a group of medical students were waiting for her. By this time she badly needed to pee, given she had not had the chance to go to the bathroom since before she was arrested. To make sure she had to pee, the doctor ordered her to drink a large glass of water. Then, in front of 20 medical students, he positioned Kim over a bedpan and ordered her to squat. It was obvious that he expected her to fill the bedpan in front of the students, all of whom were looking at her intently.
Kim, in spite of the intense pressure in her bladder, simply could not open up in front of the class. The doctor shouted at her, but still she couldn't go. Kim started to cry. The doctor gave the prisoner a look of disgust. Finally he walked over to his desk and picked up a leather switch. He slashed it across her shoulder blades mercilessly. Kim screamed and lost her balance. She righted herself and shook with terror and utter humiliation as her bladder finally released its contents into the bedpan.
While Kim silently stood in front of the medical students with tears running down her cheeks, the doctor conducted a series of tests on her urine, showing the results to the group. He put the test samples on an overhead projector, and repeated the word "maragana" over and over, which of course was Danubian for "marijuana". Apparently he was teaching the students how to test for drugs. He then ordered a student to divide up the contents of the bedpan into 20 lab dishes and passed out drug testing strips. 20 students dipped 20 testing strips into 20 samples of urine. All 20 strips tested positive.
Kim's humiliation in front of the medical students was not over. The doctor ordered her to sit on an examination table. He drew four large needles of blood from Kim's arm and passed them to four of his students. The students then split up the blood among themselves to run tests on it. Over and over Kim heard the word "maragana" around the classroom. The students finally turned in their test kits and crowded around the examination table.
For the next hour the students took turns measuring Kim's pulse and heartbeat, turning up her eyelids and shining lights into her eyes, shoving fingers and swabs into her mouth, and worst of all, forcing her to submit to several pap smears and rectal exams. Kim was a real-life drug user, something very rare in Upper Danubia. The doctor was not about to pass up this chance to give his class hands-on experience with examining and testing a subject for drug use.
Finally the horror of Kim's medical demonstration passed. The doctor ordered her to shower in the bathroom adjacent to the examination room. There was no shower curtain, but it didn't matter. By now Kim was so broken emotionally that she didn't bother to object to showering in full view of 20 medical students. Kim left the shower and quietly allowed the guard to cuff her hands behind her back yet again, for yet another walk down the crowded police station corridor.
With that the most horrible day of Kim's life came to an end. The guard opened the door of a tiny holding cell that contained nothing but a mattress with a medical bed sheet on top and a chamber-pot. Kim crawled onto the mattress and cried herself to sleep. Just 24 hours ago she had been sleeping on a train with her friends, and now here she was, naked and alone in a Danubian holding cell, cut off from everyone and everything she had ever known.
Kim realized she was in a lot of trouble. Why... why did she go along with coming to this horrible country, not knowing anything about it? Why didn't she pay more attention to that voice inside her that was telling her something was very wrong about this place when she saw naked young people wearing collars on their necks? And what about Tiffany and Susan? What was happening to them?
As she lay crying, trying to force herself to get to sleep, Kim would have been even more horrified to know that even as she was wondering about them, Tiffany and Susan already had left Danube City on a train headed for Prague. They had been released and expelled from Upper Danubia, partly because of extremely good luck, partly because of Danubian law, and also partly because of Tiffany's betrayal of her friend Kim.
While Kim was standing before the arraignment panel, Tiffany and Susan had the good fortune to be placed in a holding cell together. It was only for a few minutes, but that gave Tiffany enough time to think of a strategy to get herself and Susan out of trouble at the expense of Kim.
In a quiet panicky whisper she spoke to Susan. "Quick question... do you have anything in your backpack?"
"Uh... no. I think I put it all in the bag that Kim took."
"You don't have your pipe anymore?"
"No, I lost it last week. Don't you remember?"
"No, I gave it to you..."
"And I put it in Kim's bag. So you don't have anything... nothing..."
"No, but what difference does that make? They got Kim..."
"It makes a lot of difference, Susan... don't you get it? Now you listen to me and you listen good. No matter what they say or ask you, tell them you don't know what's in Kim's backpack... get it? You don't know. You didn't know she was smoking pot..."
"But we all were smoking pot..."
"No we weren't. Kim was smoking, you and I were taking a piss. We didn't know about the pot. You don't know shit about it."
"But... what about Kim?"
"Kim's fucked. There's nothing we can do about it. But if your backpack is clean and you stick to not knowing about Kim's stash, I think you and I can get out of this. My backpack is clean. I know that for a fact."
"Mine is too, but we can't do that to Kim."
"Oh we can't? I sure as hell can. Look, you saw how they treated us... you want to stay here in Nudie Prison?"
Susan sobbed, "No."
"Then you do what I tell you. You don't know shit. You're totally surprised. Never realized that Kim was capable of hauling pot. And one more thing. Don't mention anything about pot or Kim until they ask you. Don't bring it up yourself or they'll nail us."
"Look... do you want to stay here or not?"
The cell door opened and Susan was pulled out to appear before the arraignment panel. Tiffany prayed that her friend wouldn't screw it up.
In the end the prosecutor decided not to file any charges against Tiffany and Susan. He didn't believe they were innocent, but there was no evidence nor any witnesses to refute their claim that they knew nothing about the marijuana Kim had with her. Their stories matched so in the end the prosecutor simply decided to order them out of Upper Danubia and prohibit them from ever returning. Instead he would concentrate on charging Kim and try to get a maximum sentence for her.
Tiffany and Susan felt hugely relieved as they got dressed and were taken to the train station in the police van. When they got their passports back they opened them up to the latest stamp. In English, German, and Danubian it read: "Bearer of this passport is strictly prohibited from entering the territory of The Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia under any circumstances during this lifetime."
No problem with that for either Tiffany or Susan. Neither had any intention of ever coming back.
Kim was emotionally drained the following morning. She kept on hoping everything was somehow an awful nightmare and at some point she would wake up. She used the chamber-pot and then sat sadly on her mattress wondering what horrible things would be done to her today. That panel yesterday had mentioned a trial.
The cell door opened. A guard cuffed Kim's hands behind her back and led her down the long corridor, which once again was filled with people. Once again dozens of eyes looked over Kim's exposed body as she was led down the hallway. The guard took her up two flights of stairs to the reception area of a small office. He then forced Kim into a kneeling position in front of two young secretaries and left her there.
The secretaries quietly talked to each other about the young American prisoner as she silently knelt in front of them. The two Danubians didn't do or say anything to deliberately humiliate Kim, but the embarrassment of having to kneel handcuffed and naked in front of two women her own age and be the subject of their discussion was overwhelming.
After about five minutes the door of the main office opened. A well-dressed middle-aged man appeared. He had a quiet, determined appearance about him, and an expression that was kinder than the expression of anyone else Kim had talked to since her arrest.
"You are Kimberly Lee, the American?"
"Very Well. My name is Vladim Dukov. Allow me to assist you."
With that the man pulled out a key and unhooked Kim's handcuffs. He helped her stand up. "Let us go to my office."
A secretary entered ahead of them and spread a small towel on a padded chair facing a large desk. Next to the chair was a small table with some breakfast rolls, a jar of jam, several pieces of fruit, and a pot of tea. Kim suddenly remembered she had not eaten for nearly 24 hours and looked longingly at the food.
"That food is for you. Please. Sit and eat."
Dukov sat quietly watching Kim while she ate. Once the prisoner had eaten the majority of the food on her table Dukov remarked, "A man does not think well on an empty stomach. Is that not true for a woman as well, Kimberly?"
"Y...Yes sir... that's true. Thank you, sir."
"Good. Now pour yourself some tea and we can discuss what you must confront today."
Once Kim poured the tea the Danubian official spoke again. "As I stated before, my name is Vladim Dukov. My title is translated as 'Spokesman for the Criminal', although you might understand it better if I told you I am a public defense council and parole officer. Under our law there is a difference, but you need not be bothered with that detail right now."
"Sir, you're going to defend me... like... in court?"
"In a matter of speaking I will defend you... in court. My responsibility to you is to explain to the judge any circumstances or facts that contradict the arguments presented by the prosecutor. Any facts that contradict the statements made by the prosecutor must be considered by the judge. It also is my responsibility to present any facts in court that would promote leniency in your sentence. You, Kimberly, have a difficult, but very interesting case."
Kim fought back the urge to cry. "Sir... Mr. Dukov... I was just smoking a joint! That's all I was doing! It was just some pot... that we got in Amsterdam!"
"Kimberly... please. First of all... allow me to ask you: are we in Amsterdam right now? Do you think this country is part of the Netherlands?"
"No... no sir. It's not the Netherlands."
"You are correct, this is not the Netherlands. The Dutch can do as they see fit. If they choose to destroy themselves with drugs, so be it. We, the citizens of the Grand Duchy, have chosen a different path for our society. All drug use is severely punished. Now young lady, another question for you. Where were you smoking your 'pot' as you say it?"
"In the park behind the old temple."
"That is your second problem. That land is not 'just a park'. It is the Sacred Ground of the Guardian Spirits, the spirits of the ancestors who have protected our land for 3,000 years. You defiled our country's ancestors by choosing that location to commit your crime."
"Sir... I didn't know..."
"Yes... yes. You are an ignorant foreigner, how could you know? You Americans do not know very much, do you?"
Kim's heart sank. Even her defense attorney was disgusted by her actions.
"You have a much bigger problem, Kimberly. There were 432 grams of marijuana stored in your personal backpack. That is a significant amount."
"Sir, it belonged to all three of us, and Tiff's boyfriend. But we weren’t selling it, honest. We just wanted to make sure we didn't run out before we got back to Amsterdam."
"Me, Tiffany and Susan."
Dukov’s expression changed slightly at Kim’s last comment. She noticed him looking intensely into her eyes, as though trying to gauge how honest she was being with him.
"So... that marijuana belonged to all of you."
"Who conducted the purchase of the marijuana... in Amsterdam?"
"Tiffany... sir... uh... actually it was her boyfriend."
Again Dukov looked hard into Kim’s eyes, as she returned his stare with a puzzled expression. Dukov's demeanor suddenly became very irritated. He quickly picked up the phone, dialed, and started talking rapidly in Danubian. Kim made out the words "amerikanki", "passporti", "Tiffany", "Susan", "Amsterdam", and "maragana". The Spokesman made another call, waited impatiently, and then spoke a few lines in Danubian. His tone of voice became very exasperated as he snapped, "Nad Prágu?! Yak onetta ídalak nad Prágu?!"
After he angrily hung up, Dukov called in his two secretaries and issued several orders. He then wrote a series of notes. Finally he calmed down, folded his hands and addressed Kim again.
"Kimberly, you must understand the facts of the charges against you before we enter the courtroom. I will make no effort to refute that you were smoking marijuana behind the Temple. That fact is indisputable and for that you will be sentenced and punished. Also, a city police officer retrieved 432 grams of marijuana from a backpack that you acknowledged belongs to you. You acknowledge that you knew that marijuana was present in the backpack when you entered the Duchy. That fact is also indisputable and for it you will be sentenced and punished. However, I will challenge the other charges. I also will tell you the prosecutor has behaved irresponsibly in this case, and I will discuss his failings in court. On your behalf I will attempt to use the prosecutor's failings to seek leniency for you."
One of Dukov's secretaries entered at that moment with several folders. Dukov took them and turned to Kim.
"That is enough, Miss Lee. Now you must clean up and prepare yourself for trial. The criminals' bathroom is over there. You must shower. There is an unused toothbrush on the sink. Use it."
Once Kim was cleaned up she wrapped her hair in a towel and her body in another towel. She entered Dukov's office, expecting that he would have some clothes ready for her to change into before they left for the courtroom. Instead Dukov looked up at Kim with a very irritated expression. "Remove those towels. Immediately."
"It is prohibited. You are violating your status as a prisoner of the Duchy. You may not cover your body."
Kim gasped as she let the towels fall to the floor. "Sir... what about my court appearance? I can't..."
"You will be naked at your trial, Kimberly. That is the custom in our country. It has been that way for over 1,000 years. You shamed yourself by choosing to commit a crime on our soil, and that shame will be there for the world to see."
The naked people... the ones with the collars! So there was the answer to Kim's question, they were convicted criminals! And she was about to go on trial... and be convicted!
"Oh my God... Sir... Mr. Dukov... please, I can't..."
"Kimberly, that is enough from you. You are now a prisoner of the Duchy. You face conviction on two charges, and possibly more. This reality is now your life, and you must accept it. I will seek leniency, but I cannot change the fact that you violated our laws and must now face the consequences."
One of the secretaries poked her head through the door to tell her boss that the court guard had arrived to take Kim to her trial.
"Kimberly, you must now kneel and present yourself to the guard. When he takes you to the courtroom, Tatiana and I will accompany you."
With that the guard handcuffed Kim and led her out of the police station. The courthouse was on the other side of a large plaza. Kim felt sick as the guard led her across the open area and dozens of passersby stared at her in the open sunlight. Alongside her walked Dukov and his secretary Tatiana. About halfway across the plaza Kim had a slight shock, she ran into the naked waiter from the restaurant where she had eaten the previous day. He stared at her in amazement, wondering what she had done to be going on trial, just 24 hours after she had been a customer at his restaurant.
The guard led Kim into an ornate 19th Century courthouse and into a huge chamber full of police officers, medical students, law students, reporters, cameramen, and various witnesses. Kim recognized the onlookers who had been present at her arrest, as well as the doctor and his 20 students who had analyzed her urine and blood. The three members of the arraignment panel were sitting near the judge's chair towards the front of the chamber, as were the cops who had arrested Kim and searched her belongings. There must have been at least 200 people in the room altogether.
About 5 meters in front of the judge's chair there was a raised platform. Kim rightly assumed that once the trial began she would be ordered to stand on it.
The guard led Kim to a worn spot in the ornate carpet covering the floor about halfway between the back door of the chamber and the platform. He unhooked her handcuffs and ordered her to kneel. Dukov stood next to her, holding several folders in his hands.
Kim looked around. To her horror she noticed two television cameras pointing in her direction. Several reporters flashed their cameras at her. It was obvious this trial was going to be a sensation, because Kim was an American. Dukov swallowed and cleared his throat. Kim could tell that he was somewhat nervous. He had not expected the trial to draw so much public interest. He bent down and spoke to her:
"Kimberly, when the judge comes in everyone will stand and salute him, except you. You must kneel forward and put your forehead to the carpet. You will stay that way until the judge orders you to step forward. You will climb the platform and assume the prisoner's stance. That means you must stand with your legs spread and your hands behind your head. No matter who else is talking, you must remain in that position, facing the judge. I will translate anything you need to know or any answers you need to provide the court."
Kim nodded and choked back her tears. She couldn't believe this! It just kept getting worse and worse! The only shred of hope she clung to was her no-nonsense defense attorney, who seemed genuinely interested in helping her as much as possible.
The judge entered the chamber. The entire room shouted "Doc-doc Danube!" and everyone put their right fist against their left shoulder, the Danubian way of saluting a public official. As instructed Kim knelt forward and placed her hands on the worn carpet, her forehead touching the ground. She felt the cool air of the courtroom blowing against her exposed vagina and bottom. The tears rolled down the bridge of her nose and onto the carpet.
Kim heard the prosecutor's voice as he read the charges against her. Then she heard the judge's voice and Dukov's response. The Spokesman tapped his client's shoulder and pointed at the platform. Kim walked to it and climbed the steps, finding herself standing about a meter and a half above the ground. Reluctantly she spread her legs and put her hands behind her head. Four spotlights shined on her from different directions. She heard the murmurings of the spectators and saw the flashes of reporters' cameras.
At first the only people speaking were witnesses for the prosecution. The female cop who made the initial arrest and her partner spoke first, followed by other witnesses from the Temple area. Then came testimony from the police doctor and three of his students. Finally the arraignment tribunal members spoke, the woman holding up the damning bag of marijuana and Kim's t-shirt with the marijuana insignia. The prosecutor seemed quite smug and at ease with his case, while Dukov stood quietly scribbling furiously into a notepad.
After two hours, Kim's body was starting to cramp badly, and she wondered how much longer she could stay in her position. Just as Kim felt like she was going to faint, the judge stood up. Suddenly Dukov whispered desperately, "Kimberly! Quick! You must kneel!" Kim just made it to the platform on her knees when the entire room exploded with "Doc-doc Danube!"
Dukov ordered Kim to get up and passed her a glass of water. Kim felt despair that Dukov had not yet said anything to contradict the witnesses, but she drank and tried to regain her composure.
"Sir... Mr. Dukov... how come you're not saying anything?"
"Kimberly, those witnesses are telling the truth as they saw it. I am not here to refute the truth. I am here to confront the prosecutor's mistakes."
"What mistakes, sir?"
"The two most important witnesses are missing, your two friends. They left the country last night. It is quite unfair you should go on trial and they should not."
"What!? They were released? But, why them and not me?"
"Because they told the arraignment panel the same story; they knew nothing about the marijuana you were carrying."
"But... but it was Tiffany who bought it... she... was the one who put it in my backpack!"
"That is the folly of the prosecutor. He released her and your other friend based on her statement, and did not talk to you first."
Suddenly Kim felt even sicker. Tiffany and Susan had left her! They lied to the Danubian police, just to save themselves at her expense! No wonder she was facing charges as a drug trafficker!
"I was very angry when I found out your friends had been released," continued Dukov, "very angry indeed, because I was unable to talk to them about you. Neither the prosecutor nor the arraignment panel consulted with me about your friends. If they claimed you were the only one carrying the drugs and then were allowed to leave, I needed to know."
"They actually said that I was the only one?"
"What they claimed was they did not know what was in your backpack, and that neither of them knew you smoked marijuana. That they were very surprised."
"No! They couldn't have done that! We're friends!"
"Well, the fact remains, you are here on trial and they, by now, are in Prague. How else do you think they made it out?"
Kim felt like she had been punched in the chest. She had known Tiffany and Susan since middle school. They had spent the last five years together constantly. She had shared things with them that she never could share with anyone else. And now they had done this to her! Kim sat crying while Dukov reviewed his notes.
"Doc-doc Danube!" Kim scrambled to get into her kneeling position on top of her platform as the rest of the room saluted the judge. The judge read over some procedural issues and then ordered his client to stand. Dukov relayed the order in English and Kim resumed her position on top of the platform, legs apart and hands behind her head. The judge then called the Spokesman for the Criminal to speak up on her behalf.
Dukov spoke at length, consulting his notes and several folders. Kim heard the words Tiffany, Susan, and Amsterdam mentioned over and over. The crowd started to murmur, and out of the corner of her eye she could see both the prosecutor and the arraignment panel fidget uncomfortably. The judge asked the prosecutor several questions, which he answered sullenly. The judge did not appear satisfied with the prosecutor's responses, and shook his head. The judge then looked at Kim and directed a question at her. Dukov translated.
"They are about to pronounce the sentence. He wants to know if you have anything to say to the court. If you do, get on your knees before you speak."
Kim did have something to say. She knelt and spoke in English: "Your Honor, the only thing I have to say to this court and to the people of this city, is that I am very sorry for what I did behind the Temple. I have insulted your ancestors and I ask you and them to forgive me."
After Dukov translated there was a murmur of approval from the audience, at least this ignorant foreigner was willing to recognize her mistakes.
The judge made some notes and finally pronounced the verdict, which Dukov translated. Due to the negligence of the prosecutor and the premature release of Tiffany and Susan, the court was unable to convict Kim of drug trafficking. As expected, Kim was found guilty of possession of marijuana and the public use of marijuana. However, the judge surprised the entire court by declaring Kim innocent of violation of the Sanctity of the Ancients.
"She has sought the forgiveness of the Ancients, and I believe that request was sincere. For that trespass she repented, and the Ancients will hear that request."
Dukov was enormously pleased when he heard Kim's sentence, while the prosecutor tightened his lips in disgust. For a drug conviction in Upper Danubia it was extremely lenient.
"Item One: The American Kimberly Lee will wear the criminal's collar for two years. The collar will identify her as a criminal, monitor her movements, and alert the police should she try to leave this city. For the next two years the American Kimberly Lee is prohibited from traveling more than 10 kilometers from this courthouse."
"Item Two: For the duration of her sentence the American Kimberly Lee is prohibited from covering any part of her body with any article of clothing. She has disgraced herself and our city with her actions, and the American Kimberly Lee's disgrace will be shown to the world as a result of this sentence."
"Item Three: Finally, the American Kimberly Lee will receive four vigorous punishments on the naked buttocks with a standard leather switch. One of the punishments will be given in this chamber immediately at the closing of this hearing, the others will be given on this date in the Central Police Station six months from now, 12 months from now, and 18 months from now. The arresting officer will administer all four punishments."
Kim gasped as Dukov translated the court's punishment to her. When he noticed her horrified expression he tried to reassure her. "Kimberly, this sentence is very lenient, almost nothing. Under our laws you could have been sentenced to five years of wearing the collar, plus a switching every three months for the possession charge. Had you been convicted of drug trafficking, you would have received 20 years, plus the switch every 30 days."
Two years of wearing a collar? Two years in the nude? Four "vigorous punishments on the naked buttocks"? That was lenient? No wonder Upper Danubia has no crime, thought Kim to herself.
"Kimberly, you are now convicted and sentenced. You must come down and kneel before the judge's table."
Once Kim was kneeling on the floor, the judge issued another command. A man in a white doctor's gown walked up to Kim and put a measuring tape around her neck. He checked the pulse of her jugular vein and wrote down the measurement from the tape. He left and shortly returned with a device that looked something like an enormous pair of salad tongs. He slipped the tong-device over Kim's head and closed it around her neck. He checked to make sure the device would not pinch the criminal's skin, and then clamped it shut. There was a faint hiss and a dull click. When the man opened the device and moved it away, Kim had a criminal's collar around her neck. The collar would be the only item she would be permitted to wear for the next two years. She now was marked as a convicted criminal by a collar that was virtually indestructible.
Kim's hand involuntarily went to her neck. She fingered the collar, the cruel item that now set her apart from who she had been before her arrest. The uncompromising feel of the cold metal on her neck echoed Dukov's words earlier in the morning: "This reality is now your life, and you must accept it."
The final part of Criminal # 98945's appearance in court was to be a "vigorous punishment by a standard leather switch" on her exposed bottom. Several court attendants opened the sides of the prisoner's trial platform and collapsed it, revealing a very solidly built table. The table had several straps attached to its top and legs. Kim glanced over at it in terror. Momentarily she would be bent over that table, with her arms and legs immobilized by those straps.
Dukov spoke again to the judge, who answered and nodded. The Spokesman then turned to his client. "Kimberly, I managed to reduce the number of corporal punishments you will receive to four, but right now you must submit to one of those punishments."
"I will explain to you what will happen. The officer who arrested you will strike you with a leather switch. You will receive 50 strokes. Usually those strokes are concentrated on the criminal's bottom, but the officer also has the right to punish the criminal's thighs or shoulders. I will witness the switching. If I believe you risk injury I can order the officer to redirect the punishment to some other part of your body. That is the only way I may assist you. I am not allowed to order the officer to reduce the severity or number of strokes."
Kim sobbed and nodded.
"You must understand that the arresting officer is the one who decides most of the details of your punishment. She can take as long as she wants to administer the 50 strokes, she may humiliate you, and she is allowed to touch you where she pleases. My only authority is to prevent any serious injury."
Kim shook with terror. Perhaps Dukov had gotten his client leniency by reducing the number of times she would have to face the switch, but that would not make the remaining switchings any less painful.
The Spokesman continued, "The judge will ask the officer if she is ready to administer your punishment. She will say yes, and once she does, I will bring you to her. She will touch your shoulder with the switch. That is the signal you must kneel before her and kiss the toes of her shoes. Once you have done that, I will release custody of you to her. Then she and her partner will strap you to the table and she will whip you. What happens after that is entirely up to the officer, as long as I do not think you risk injury."
Kim remained silent.
"Kimberly, do you understand all that?"
"Once you have received your 50th stroke, the officer will undo your straps and order you to stand up. She will bring you before the judge and present your backside for him to verify that the punishment was properly administered. Once he certifies the punishment was properly administered, you will kneel before the officer and thank her for disciplining you. Once you have done that, she will release you back into my custody."
Kim nodded. She looked up at the officer and her partner. The Danubian woman's eyes shined with anticipation. She had a wicked smile on her face. This was her big chance, the public punishment of the first American in Upper Danubia in over three years, and the punishment of the first Asian girl ever. Oh yes... she would show this spoiled little rich drug-using American a thing or two.
The cop and her partner stood at attention before the judge. The judge raised his hand and the two officers shouted "Doc-doc Danube!" at they moved their right fists to their left shoulders in salute of the official. The face of the young Danubian cop was bursting with enthusiasm. The judge asked the cop if she was ready to administer the sentence. The cop responded by pulling the switch from her belt and slashing viciously through the air. "Doc!"
With that Dukov took his client's arm and guided her over to where the two police officers were standing. He and the female cop stood face-to-face and saluted each other. He stepped back and the cop stepped directly in front of Kim. She had a truly wicked smile on her face and cruel look in her eyes. She touched the criminal's shoulder with her switch. As directed Kim knelt and kissed the officer's shoes. The officer then tapped her shoulder with the switch to signal that she needed to stand up.
Again the officer looked into Kim's eyes with her evil expression. She flexed the switch in her hands. "Now I hurt you, Maragana Girl. Now I much hurt you. You much cry."
Kim was more terrified than ever, but suddenly she felt a strong desire to not give that bitchy cop what she wanted. There was something about the cop's sadistic behavior and terrible English that irritated Kim, something that made her want to fight and resist as much as possible. I will not 'much cry', thought Kim to herself, no, I won't give her the satisfaction.
The two cops took the criminal’s arms and guided her over the platform. They buckled the straps that immobilized Kim's wrists, and then secured her waist and ankles. Kim closed her eyes and tried to nerve herself for the ordeal that lay ahead.
The cop did not begin the switching right away. She was fascinated by the soft brown skin of Criminal # 98945's exposed bottom. The two cops ran their hands over Kim's bottom-cheeks and up and down her thighs. The female reached between Kim's legs to fondle her vagina, then she stepped back to let her partner explore that part of her. The female then pressed her hands to Kim's bottom and forced her bottom-cheeks apart. The two cops took a good long look at the American’s exposed bottom-hole.
Kim looked over at Dukov. He was not pleased by the cops' treatment of his client, but there was nothing he could do about it. Because he had formally released custody of Criminal # 98945, the cops were perfectly within their rights fondling and humiliating her.
Finally the initial part of Kim's punishment ended when the cops grew tired of exploring and fondling her body. The female cop put her face close to the American's and whispered into her ear, "Maragana Girl, you now much cry."
The female stepped behind Kim, moved to her side, tapped her bottom lightly with the switch, and laid a vicious stroke across her bottom. Instantly the pain seared into Kim's body and rapidly intensified. Criminal # 98945 gasped and gritted her teeth, but managed to suppress a scream. She breathed heavily, but stayed quiet. The cop was surprised. She had struck the American with one of her best strokes but did not receive the scream she had anticipated. The American was resisting!
The female cop traced the rising welt marking the foreigner’s bottom with her fingertips. She then stepped back and delivered another vicious blow, immediately beneath the first welt. The girl's entire body shook and she was breathing hard, but still she managed to stay quiet. The cop struck a third time, and a fourth. Kim bit her lip hard and the tears were rolling down her cheeks, but still, she had managed to stay quiet.
The cop was both irritated and embarrassed that Kim was resisting her. She had been under the impression that the foreign drug addict was a weakling and that the slightest touch of the leather would set her off screaming uncontrollably. Instead the "Maragana Girl" was holding up very well, as well as any Danubian criminal. The cop struck again, and then decided to change tactics.
In rapid succession the cop laid five vicious strokes on the criminal's right bottom cheek, then five vicious strokes on her left bottom cheek, concentrating the full force of the switch on one bottom-cheek at a time. As the pain mounted Kim's face became discolored with pain and her expression distorted from the agony she was enduring. Her entire world was reduced to the savage sensations coming from her exposed bottom, but her hatred of that cop and her determination to resist drove her to stay silent. Kim pressed her forehead against the surface of the table in an effort to suppress her screams. Her loud breathing and shaking body indicated that she truly was suffering, but still she managed to resist.
The majority of the court bystanders now sympathized with Kim. The young criminal's simple and heartfelt apology for the Temple incident warmed many hearts to her, and her determination to resist her punishment only increased her audience's liking of her. Kim did not realize it, but already, on the very first day of her sentence, she was well on her way to thinking like a Danubian.
Ultimately, however, everyone in the courtroom knew that at some point Kim would have to break. She had received only 15 strokes out of 50, and the cop had all the time in the world maximize the effect of the remaining 35. She could continue to rub and fondle Kim as much as she wanted. Kim would break; it was just a matter of when.
The cop decided to change her tactics yet again and laid a series of 10 strokes across both of Kim's bottom-cheeks, waiting a full minute between each one. The cop waited patiently for the mounting pain and exhaustion to wear down Kim's resistance. Kim was shaking violently and quietly groaning. The cop smiled slightly. She was close.
Once again the cop stopped to fondle Kim's badly marked bottom and allow the most recent welts to rise. The press photographers present zoomed their lenses on Kim's backside, to get close-ups of the first Asian bottom ever to be punished in Upper Danubia.
The cop resumed with her slow succession of blows, laying several across Kim's already punished bottom and causing ugly blood blisters to form. At that point Dukov moved in closer to watch, to make sure the cop did not break his client's skin. The cop proceeded to whip the upper parts of Kim's thighs. Then she struck hard at the base of her bottom three times.
Kim's resistance broke at the landing of the third stroke in that sensitive spot. She screamed loudly and collapsed into a series of violent sobs. Once her resistance broke, she was quite loud during the remaining part of her punishment. She screamed every time the switch landed, and sobbed violently in between the strokes
Kim was in too much agony to realize it, but she had gained the respect of everyone in the room, including the punishing officer. The cop had not managed to get the American to cry until the 33rd stroke, which was far better than most Danubian criminals, men or women.
After the 45th stroke Dukov raised his hand. There was no way that Kim's bottom could take any additional strokes without risking the skin being broken. Dukov pointed to Kim's shoulders. The cop would have to finish on Kim's shoulders. Kim screamed five times, as five vicious parallel strokes marked her shoulder blades.
After the fifth stripe was laid across his client's shoulders. Dukov again raised his hand. The cop turned to her partner who verified that yes, indeed, the last stroke was the 50th and Kim had completed this part of her punishment. For a minute the two cops left the sobbing American in place, but finally they unbuckled Kim's leg and wrist restraints. Kim buried her face in her hands and continued to cry, remaining bent over the table. The pain in her body seemed to be getting worse, even though the punishment had ended. Kim couldn't believe that a punishment could hurt like this.
Finally Dukov walked up to Kim and laid his hand on her arm. "Kimberly, you must stand up now. The policewoman will present you to the judge, and then you must thank her for punishing you."
Kim struggled to get up. The cop grabbed her arm and took her before the judge. Again she saluted the judge and then forced Kim to turn around to show him the American's badly marked backside. The judge nodded and signed the punishment certificate. Kim was still crying, but slowly regaining her composure.
"Kimberly, one final thing before the policewoman releases you back to me. You must kneel before her, kiss her shoes, and thank her for punishing you."
"W...what d...do I need... to say... to tell her?"
"Spakeebo dakub moigu."
Kim repeated "Spakeebo dakub moigu."
"Not bad. It can be understood."
With that Kim knelt before the officer and again kissed her shoes. She raised her head and repeated, "Spakeebo dakub moigu".
The female cop again touched her switch to Kim's shoulder, to indicate that her punishment had ended. Dukov and the cop saluted each other and with that Criminal # 98945 was released back into the custody of her Spokesman.
The judge then clapped his hands. Dukov again lead his client to a kneeling position in front of the court. The judge had a few final words for Kim, which were translated by Dukov.
"Criminal # 98945, you are released from this courtroom to begin your sentence as a convicted criminal and identified drug user. As such you have many obligations, which your Spokesman will explain to you. You are reminded that you may not travel more than 10 kilometers from this court. If you do an alarm in your collar will be set off and you will serve a full five-year sentence for marijuana possession. All roads and streets beyond 10 kilometers are clearly marked with yellow warning signs, so you have no excuse for claiming you do not know where the boundary is located."
"Yes your Honor, I understand."
"Within 48 hours you must return to this court with a certification of gainful employment. Your position as a criminal restricts what you may do. You must accept employment that maximizes the exposure of your body to the public. Any outdoor employment is suitable, as would be retail sales or customer service. Examples of jobs not suitable are indoor positions such as working as a typist or stockroom attendant. Your Spokesman is responsible for helping you find suitable employment."
"Yes your Honor, I understand."
"Finally, you are responsible for reporting to the Central Police Station on this day six months from now for the second of your four corporal punishments. The conditions and severity of the next corporal punishment will be the same as the conditions and severity you endured today."
"Yes... your Honor... I... understand."
With that the court was adjourned. Once again came the shout "Doc-doc Danube!" Once again everyone's right hand thumped against their left shoulder. Everyone, that was, except for Kim. As a criminal, she was denied the right to salute. Instead, she dropped to the floor on her elbows and knees, touching her forehead to the ground.
There was one final indignity waiting for Kim at the courthouse. Immediately following her switching, she had to pose for a series of photos for her official sentencing certificate. The certificate included two photos of the criminal's face, now complete with her collar, and three shots of her body, with her welts on prominent display. Criminal # 98945 sadly turned around for the camera, her spirit totally broken.
Kim sullenly accompanied her Spokesman and his secretary across the plaza back to his office at the Central Police Station. Her body still was in considerable pain, not only from the searing welts, but also from her cramped muscles. The American walked stiffly and slowly, with Dukov and Tatiana slowing their own pace to allow her to keep up with them. The plaza was crowded with commuters and people relaxing in the afternoon sun. Kim, with her bare body, Asian features, metal collar, and marked backside, drew a lot of attention from the public as she walked by. They've turned me into a freak, she thought bitterly. And for two years I have to stay like this.
On the steps of the police station Dukov gave several short interviews to local television reporters, with Kim and the secretary standing behind him. His client felt deep bitterness at that moment, being forced to stand on the steps while the Spokesman cheerfully spoke to the cameras. The Spokesman was in very high spirits, having reduced his client's threatened 20-year sentence to just 2-years. Kim still did not fully appreciate how difficult an accomplishment this had been. She did not yet realize the reduction of her sentence by 90% in this very high-profile case had been one of the most significant victories of Dukov's career.
As the young criminal painfully followed Dukov up the steps, the cameras focused on her backside, filming the dark welts on her bottom and shoulders.
Finally the three were back in the Spokesman's office. The secretary who had stayed behind at the office had a recovery table set up; a massage table with lotion and disinfectant. Kim's body was stiffer than ever, and she was grateful for the opportunity to simply lie down. The secretary at the recovery table examined her to make sure her skin had not been broken anywhere; then she gently spread lotion on the welts to soften them. It was standard procedure following a judicial punishment. Six months from now Kim once again would be lying in this office following her second punishment.
Kim had no desire to move once she was on the table. Even the slightest movement hurt. The pain and stiffness were so overwhelming that she could barely imagine a time that she didn't feel such agony. She started to cry again, not only from the physical torment she was enduring, but also from the emotional suffering she had undergone that day and the overwhelming feeling that her life was ruined. She couldn't imagine that there could be any future for her after what she had endured. However, physical exhaustion finally overtook her and she fell asleep.
Kim did have a future in Upper Danubia, which Dukov spent the rest of the afternoon arranging. His first concern was making sure his client had a job. The court was dead serious about her needing to be gainfully employed within 48 hours. Kim would most definitely present a problem, given that she spoke no Danubian. Over time she would learn, but that did not resolve the issue of the moment.
Dukov decided that the best temporary position his new client could take would be to work as a courier. In a country where fax machines were still very rare, couriers were an important feature of Danubian business communications. Working as a courier would put Kim outdoors most of the time and keep her moving. Dukov suspected that the young criminal was a restless girl and needed movement to stay focused. At the end of September, when the weather started to get cold, she would have to change jobs and do something indoors, but that problem was still three months away.
Kim needed a place to live as well. A convicted criminal in Upper Danubia usually simply returned to live with his or her family. Kim, of course, had no relatives in Danube City, nor anyone else with whom she could live. Dukov had to get her a room, but that presented him with another problem. He knew from his professional experience that his client would be extremely depressed over the next few days, until she got used to her new life as a convicted criminal. That transition was difficult for anyone; with Kim it would be even more so because she had to get used to living in Danube City as well as get used to her new legal status. She had to live with someone who could watch over her, and yet leave her alone when necessary.
Finally, there was the issue of Kim's forfeited life in the US. Dukov needed to contact the US Embassy and arrange an interview with her. She needed to contact her parents and let them know that she would not be coming home for two years. Whatever college plans she had would have to wait. Dukov wondered if the hardest part of Kim's punishment was yet to come, having to explain to everyone in the US what happened.
Dukov spent the afternoon on the phone, first calling the US Embassy. The Spokesman had a rather unpleasant conversation with a consular official, who ripped into him about the barbarity of Upper Danubia's justice system. Dukov was a bit taken aback, given that he was the equivalent of a public defense attorney in the US and by Danubian standards he had successfully defended Kim in court. Finally his temper snapped.
"You will listen to me now. I have been to your country. I have seen your jails. You choose to keep your criminals in useless confinement and your useless system does not work. Its failure is evident for all of us to see plainly. We conduct very speedy trials and return our criminals to society right away. They work, they contribute, they lead productive lives, they learn respect, and they do not re-offend. What is your preference, that Kimberly spend two years in a prison cell, or that she spend two years working?"
Dukov then called his brother Victor Dukov, who ran a courier service. Kim had to be trained and learn her way about the 10-kilometer circle in which she would be delivering messages. Dukov spent over an hour discussing the details with his brother.
Finally there was the issue of where Kim would live. Until she learned how to speak Danubian, the only workable solution would be for her to stay with Dukov and his family. Anyhow, it was getting late and Dukov needed to go home, and take his client with him. He woke her up.
"Kimberly, you will come with me. Tonight you will dine with my family and sleep at my house."
Once again Kim sadly accompanied her Spokesman out onto the street. Once again she had to contend with the constant barrage of curious glances. The sight of a naked young woman with welts on her backside and a collar on her neck normally was not something that drew an extraordinary amount of attention from passers-by. However, the site of a naked young Asian woman with welts on her backside and a collar on her neck was something completely new. Along the street, at the trolley stop, and on the trolley itself local residents shifted around and strained their necks to get a better view of Kim’s badly marked body.
At first Kim looked at the ground to avoid the sight of all her onlookers. However, when Dukov noticed what she was doing he admonished her. "Kimberly, you must keep your head up. You must show your face to the world. A convicted criminal in this country is not allowed to hide her face."
Sadly Kim complied and lifted her head. She had to ride to Dukov's place standing up, even though there were several empty seats on the trolley. Criminals could use public transportation for free, but they were not allowed to occupy a seat. Dukov, realizing how difficult all this was for his client, chose to stand next to her.
The commute took the Spokesman and his client to the outer edge of the Danube City collar-zone and almost into the countryside. Dukov's house was about the size of an average US tract home, but it was solidly made from cinderblocks and polished wooden paneling. It overlooked a beautiful valley of mixed forests and pastures, one of the places Kim and her friends had hoped to visit. However, a yellow sign, visible along the street only a block past Dukov's house, reminded her that valley was now off limits.
Dukov and Kim entered his house. She went to the kitchen and looked out the window, curious to see the back yard. The yard was small and enclosed with a wall, as were most back yards of Danubian houses. Danubians valued their privacy and no proper house lacked an enclosed back yard. Two teenaged girls were sunbathing nude and giggling together over a pop-music magazine. Dukov called out to one the girls, asking her a question. The girl heaved a deep sigh and answered "Negat, Papa.". With that both girls got up, put on sun dresses, and began packing up the things scattered in the yard.
"My daughter, Anyia. You see, she needed to start preparing our meal, and she neglected to do so. Teenagers are the same everywhere, is that not so?"
The girl's carefree behavior struck at Kim's soul. Just a short while ago she had been in high school, doing roughly the same thing with Tiffany and Susan.
As Anyia began cleaning and cutting vegetables in the kitchen, Dukov instructed Kim to go into the main bathroom and get cleaned up. She sadly sat in the bathtub as the rest of Dukov's family returned home and he explained the situation of his new house-guest.
An hour later the young criminal was eating dinner with her Spokesman and his family. Dukov's family was about as typical as a Danubian family could be. Besides the teenaged daughter, he had an older son called Vladik who had just graduated from the National Police Academy. Dukov's wife, a sharply-dressed professional woman who introduced herself as Maritza, also was present, as was Vladik’s fiancé. Throughout the dinner Anyia and the fiancé constantly glanced at Kim, not being able to hide their curiosity about the first Asian woman and the first person from the US to ever eat at their table.
As the women cleaned up and his son attended to his revolver and police uniform, Dukov called Kim to accompany him to his home library. The library was full of books in various languages and had two large very comfortable chairs. There were various pictures of Dukov and his family around the room, but one in particular struck Kim. That picture was the reason Dukov had brought her into the library.
It was a medium sized picture of the Spokesman, much younger than he was now, standing arm-in-arm with his future wife. Both Dukov and his fiancé were naked, and both were wearing collars. Beneath the picture two open collars hung on the wall.
Kim gasped. "Mr. Dukov... you...?"
"Yes, Kimberly. I wore the collar for five years, as did my wife Maritza. We keep this picture to remind ourselves, and our children, of who we are and where we came from. I brought you here so that you can understand something very important. Your life has not ended. Nor has it been suspended for two years. On this date, two years from now, you will be a free woman, but you cannot think about that too much; you cannot live in the future. Between now and then you must live from day to day and enjoy life's momentary small pleasures. That was how Maritza and I endured our sentences, and how we found love in each other."
Kim wondered what Dukov and his wife had done to be convicted as criminals, but she decided not to ask. Dukov had not volunteered that information. Out of respect for her Spokesman she decided not to pursue the question.
Kim slept deeply that night. She did not wake up until 10:00 the following morning. Her body was unbelievably stiff and the pain from her welts was still very much present. She would have a very hard time sitting normally for at least another day. Kim looked at herself in the guest bedroom mirror. The welts had darkened and looked ugly.
The house was completely silent. Apparently everyone had left for work. Kim looked around and finally went to the kitchen, where she peeked out the window and saw Anyia asleep nude on a towel in the back yard. As much as she hated doing it, she forced herself to wake up the girl and ask her where her father was. As Kim had feared, Anyia was none too pleasant about having been woken up. She gave a disgusted sigh, walked into the kitchen to retrieve a note and a Danubian-English dictionary, passed both items to Kim, and then plopped back down on her towel.
Kim couldn't say anything; a couple of years before she had been just as rude.
Dukov's note told Kim to ask Anyia to prepare breakfast for her and then gave instructions for taking a trolley downtown. She got her own breakfast, having no desire to bother the sullen girl on the towel a second time. Then she stepped outside to face the world alone as a Danubian convicted criminal. She carried the dictionary with her and walked up the hill to the trolley stop.
Yet again Kim had to endure all those stares as she rode the trolley into town. She wished she could sit down and cover her welts from her audience, but of course that was impossible due to the rule against criminals taking any seats on public transportation. She arrived at the Central Police Station and again endured the barrage of stares as she went up to Dukov's office. By now it was after 11:00. Dukov's two secretaries were in the front room. Upon seeing Kim enter, one of them immediately ushered her back to Dukov's main office. Dukov got right to the point. There were three problems she needed to resolve that day: find work, call her parents, and figure out where she was going to live.
The work issue was the most pressing, given that by the end of the next day Kim had to be employed. Dukov suggested the courier job with his brother. She agreed, really having no choice. Upon getting Kim's agreement Dukov took her to an old office building three kilometers away to meet Victor Dukov.
Victor Dukov spoke much less English then did his brother Vladim, but he still could make himself understood to Kim. She learned what her working life would be like over the next several months. She would be working with four other couriers, all of whom were recent high school graduates. One was close to completing a year-long sentence of wearing a collar for fighting at his school, but the other three were just average graduates. Victor issued his newest employee a cheap Danubian-made bicycle and handed her three terry-cloth bicycle seat covers designed especially for naked riders. He emphasized that she had to change her seat cover every day as a health precaution. Another item Kim was issued was a pair of bright orange courier shoes to protect her feet. Criminals who worked as couriers were expected to wear standard courier shoes while riding their bicycles, but had to take them off when not riding.
Once she was outfitted with her seat covers and shoes, the two brothers filled out some papers and then Victor gave Kim her first assignment as a courier, "You take this document of work to judge who sentenced you yesterday. You retrieve his signature. You take this paper with signature to office of my brother. You leave paper there with him. Then you return here with bicycle and receipt from my brother. And remember, you are criminal in court. You act like criminal. You show respect to judge."
Kim sighed. Her new boss did not seem all that friendly, and certainly had no qualms about putting her in her place.
Kim set out on her bicycle on her first assignment as a courier. As she eased herself on her bicycle seat her body protested in pain. However, she gritted her teeth and began peddling, merging into a cluster of other bicyclists headed in the direction of the city's main plaza.
As she cruised among the other commuters on her cheap bicycle, with her welts throbbing against the seat and the collar's feel on her neck as a constant reminder that she was no longer a free woman, Kim had a chance to reflect on her life. It was the first time in a while she had thought about anything other than partying and where Tiffany could score the best pot. All that was now behind her now. Tiffany was no longer her friend, there was no pot to be had in Danube City, and Kim doubted there would be any partying in her life for two years. She couldn't imagine this quiet city having much of a nightlife, and certainly not for someone like her.
Kim's first regret was simple and rather strange, considering all the other problems she faced. She wished that she could have her mountain bike from the US with her. The mountain bike had been a gift for her 16th birthday, but she probably had not ridden it more than 10 times altogether. Now that she would be spending her days on a bicycle, she wished fervently it could have been her own, the gift from her parents she never appreciated.
Kim's thoughts drifted to more urgent topics. She still needed to tell her parents and her sister what happened. She realized that she had so much to tell them. She had no idea where to begin. First, they had not been aware that Kim was using marijuana. That information alone would be a terrible shock to them. Once they knew she was in Danube City they would want to see her, but how could they? Kim's family was very conservative and no member of Lee family had ever seen any other member undressed. If her family were to visit they would have a horrible shock, seeing her naked in public with a metal collar on her neck. And yet, at the very least her sister would come to Danube City, and would see her. The full shame of Kim's situation would descend on the entire family, which, of course, was exactly the reason why she was being punished in this manner by the Danubian government.
Kim now regretted not having respected her family more in high school, and not having listened more to her parents. She had done all kinds of things behind their backs; lied, stolen, cheated on her classwork in her private school, played her sister and her parents against each other, and sacrificed everything at home to spend more time with Tiffany and Susan. She had always told herself that she had to treat her family badly, because Tiffany and Susan were the only people in the world who understood her. And yet... and yet, when she needed her friends to stand up for her, they instead betrayed her. What a waste... what a total waste!
Kim's bitterness towards Tiffany was only now starting to build. The shock from Tiffany's betrayal was giving way to an intense hatred. Because of Tiffany and Susan, Kim had been facing a 20-year sentence with monthly whippings for drug trafficking. She had only avoided the maximum charges thanks to the dedication of a complete stranger, not thanks to two people she had known for over five years. She now understood and could appreciate what Spokesman Vladim Dukov had done for her. Thanks to Tiffany, Kim faced losing 20 years of her life. Thanks to Dukov, 18 of those years had been given back to her.
It was true that Tiffany had panicked, but Kim was convinced had the situation been reversed she would not have turned on Tiffany, and also was convinced that Susan would not have turned on her had it not been for Tiffany's insistence. It was only natural that she should now hate Tiffany and disrespect Susan, but she also realized that she had to keep those feelings under control or they would consume her soul and force her to do something stupid upon being released and returning to the United States.
Kim looked around her. People were still staring at her, although now that she was on a bicycle with a courier's package and wearing courier's shoes, a lot of the mystery about this young Asian was resolved. People now saw her as simply another criminal who had been punished and was serving a sentence. The punishment of foreigners in Upper Danubia was not very common, but it happened occasionally. The only thing that really made Criminal # 98945 stand out from the others was that she was not European.
Kim parked her bicycle in the couriers' area of the courthouse. She winced as she dismounted. As instructed by Dukov's brother, she took off her courier's shoes and hung them on the handlebars before going in. She went upstairs to the judge's office and knelt at the secretary's desk, holding the papers out in front of her. With a very heavy English accent she repeated the phrase she had memorized: "Tutik ya mauk listok derjavnik na htre," which was Danubian for "I have an official document for the judge."
The secretary called the judge to come out. Kim handed him the paperwork and put her head to the carpet. The judge looked over the paperwork. Ordinarily he would have asked the criminal a couple of questions about her employment, but in this case he had no means of communicating with her. He simply signed and replied "Doc-doc." With that Kim got up, left the courthouse, and returned to her bicycle, having completed the first portion of her first assignment.
Kim returned to the Central Police Station and climbed the two flights of stairs to get to Dukov's office. She needed to deliver the judge's signature to her Spokesman, but she also needed to talk to someone. Fortunately Dukov was working on case files, so he had some time to talk to his client about her new life and her feelings. She started by talking at length about her building hatred of Tiffany and her concern over what that could lead to after her release.
"Kimberly, for someone who is only 18, I think you understand the issues of your life quite clearly. You are aware of the dangers that await you, and I do not blame you for hating your friend. She betrayed you. Who would not hate under such circumstances? But the question you must ask yourself is how you plan to live from today. You can obsess yourself with what you cannot change, or you can place your thoughts on becoming a better person. This is your chance to change your life... today... this moment. Is it not?"
"I want to change, Mr... uh... Spokesman Dukov, I want to do things right from now on... not like before."
"Only you can make such a decision, Kimberly. Only you can make that change."
Kim paused, and thought about her next words. She realized she had overlooked something important. "And... Spokesman Dukov... I... I need to thank you for what you did for me yesterday... in court... I mean... really thank you. 20 years... It was gonna be 20 years... and you got me two..."
"That was nothing, Kimberly. It was my responsibility to you as your Spokesman, nothing more."
Kim nodded and choked back some tears. After a few minutes Dukov spoke again. "Kimberly, it is time you call your family and explain to them what happened. That is your chance to redeem your relationship with them. You wish to thank me... you can do so by making things right with your family. That is the first request I make of everyone who comes through my office. Now I make that request of you."
Dukov dialed Kim's home in the US and passed the phone to her. Her older sister picked up the phone at the other end, which made beginning her task slightly easier, but not by much. As Kim expected, her family members were devastated once she laid out her situation. However, she was determined to come clean with other things in her life that she had done wrong, and made several very difficult confessions. They talked for well over an hour, in the most truthful conversation Kim ever had with her family. Everyone was in tears when she hung up, but now it was over. The thing she had most dreaded, having to tell her family about her drug use and her conviction, now was past her. As soon as she managed to wipe away the tears, Dukov spoke to her.
"You still have an obligation to my brother before you leave work today. Return my confirmation ticket and your bicycle to his office. Then return to my office and I will take you back to my home. I will wait for you to return."
The following Sunday night Kim watched her own trial and punishment on television.
Danube City averaged about 18 trials per week that resulted in corporal punishments. The average ratio of male offenders to female offenders was about 2 to 1. Crimes that required corporal punishments included stealing, fraud, public drunkenness, public drug use, drug possession, being at fault in any type of accident that resulted in an injury, vandalism, deliberately inflicting injury on another person, and "insurrection", a crime that covered any act of defiance against the police or public officials. Other crimes in which corporal punishment could be inflicted included "crimes of disrespect", an example being the accusation against Kim of disrespecting the land behind the Temple of the Ancients. (Upper Danubia also had a system of capital punishment for murder, rape, child molestation, organized crime, arson, and in times of military conflict, treason. However the capital court system was completely separate from the corporal court system and operated under totally different rules.)
Upper Danubia's unique justice system had one strange side effect on the country's society. Every Sunday night, the government television station broadcast several hours of highlights from the week's trials and judicial corporal punishments, complete with commentary. Almost everyone in the country watched the broadcasts, which were a holdover from times when criminals were publicly switched in Danube City's main plaza. As the city's population expanded after World War II, public viewing of the switchings in the plaza became impractical due to the large crowds. The solution was to televise the punishments instead.
Danubians loved to watch the punishments and debate among themselves the merits of the cases and the charges brought against the offenders. They also were curious to see how brave each offender was, how quickly he or she started to scream or cry during a switching. How much air-time the network gave any particular case depended on how many cases there were that week, how interesting a particular case was, whether the defendant was likeable, and the seriousness of the offense. Since most of the administrators at the television station were men, female criminals could expect to have their punishments, and sometimes even their trials, broadcast in their entirely. Besides, most of the public agreed that crimes committed by women were more interesting than crimes committed by men.
The case of Criminal # 98945 received prominent feature the Sunday night following her punishment. That was not a surprise to anyone, given that Kim was a foreigner, she was the first Asian woman ever punished in Upper Danubia, and because of the circumstances that led to the most serious charges being dropped. Spokesman Dukov's rebuttal of the prosecutor was aired in its entirety prior to the broadcast of Kim's sentencing and her punishment.
The guest room in Dukov's house where Kim was sleeping had its own TV, and that night she excused herself to watch herself be punished. She expected to be mortified and horribly embarrassed by the broadcast, but she was not. She found it fascinating to see herself filmed on the criminal's stand, legs and arms spread under the bright lights. She began lightly touching her breasts and stomach when she saw herself strapped to the table.
By the time the switching began on TV, Kim was sitting in her easy chair with her legs spread wide open, teasing her clitoris. Seeing herself spread, her bottom and vagina completely exposed to the camera, and seeing the cops' hands rub her welt-covered bottom-cheeks, excited her in a way that she could never have previously imagined. It made no sense. During the punishment itself sexual desire was the farthest thing from Kim's mind, and yet, seeing herself suffer on TV aroused her almost uncontrollably. She was totally wet and experienced orgasm after orgasm as she moved one hand, and then both, over and over her soaked vagina. She threw her head back and closed her eyes, as she listened to herself scream on TV. Her breath came in irregular gasps and she started moaning, biting her lip and rocking back and forth. Suddenly she was filled with an overwhelming desire to be once again strapped to that table. She wanted to have those two cops fondle and caress her. She wanted to be helpless, to be fully exposed, and waiting for the pain. She wanted her suffering and her pleasure to be prominently featured in front of Upper Danubia, in front of all Europe, in front of the entire world.
Kim went to her hands and knees on the floor. She spread her legs wide and thrust her bottom up, enjoying the feel of the room's cool air between her legs. She went down on her knees and chest, freeing her hands to fondle herself, to explore her vagina and her exposed bottom-hole. The fantasy came back stronger than ever... she badly wanted those two cops to explore, to probe, to caress, to fondle her... there. She came yet again.
Kim was gasping for breath as she laid on the floor and watched herself on TV standing behind Dukov on the National Police Station's steps. On the screen the Spokesman was cheerfully explaining his strategy for forcing the reduction of Criminal # 98945's sentence in a post-punishment interview.
Slowly the spell lifted and Kim returned to her senses. The room reeked of orgasm. She opened the window as wide as possible to air out the room and then dashed to the adjacent bathroom to clean off before anyone could smell her.
She sat in the bathtub, wondering what on earth had just happened. She had enjoyed the best series of orgasms of her life, as she watched herself being publicly humiliated and horribly switched on television. She felt ashamed that something like that could possibly have excited her. She had learned something about herself a few minutes ago, something that she really had not wanted to know. She was terrified of the dark secret in her soul, a secret that had just forced itself to the surface.
By the end of Kim's first week in Danube City she was partially settled into her strange new life as a convicted criminal and bicycle courier. Within a week her welts were fading and no longer hurt. She had come to terms with what had happened and even managed to pass by the Temple of the Ancients where all her trouble had started. Kim vaguely wondered if that sadistic cop and her partner were still patrolling the grounds behind the Temple, but had no desire to go there and find out. She would see the woman in six months in the Police Station for her second punishment, and that was soon enough.
Kim's new boss, Victor Dukov, forced her to quickly learn the skills needed to move about as a courier in Danube City. Victor Dukov was very different from his brother Vladim. He was gruff and impatient and pushed her very hard. He quickly forced her to learn how to ask for and understand directions in Danubian. He ordered her to memorize a map of the city and yelled at her when she made mistakes. He expected her to find and use the shortest route and to ride from one assignment to another with no breaks. His favorite line for admonishing the American was, "Kimberly, you smart girl. You pretty girl. But you lazy girl, and you do dumb thing. Why you lazy? Why you do dumb thing?"
Kim knew that line always led into an unpleasant lecture, but over time she got used to it. She learned it was easiest to go along with Victor's nagging, and if she agreed with him and apologized that tended to shorten his lectures. Whether Victor was right or wrong, Kim simply answered, "Sir, I guess I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry for not listening. I'll try harder in the future."
Kim did not like Victor, but she had no specific grievances against him. He did not treat her any worse than he treated his other employees. Victor never disrespected Kim for being a convicted criminal or for being a foreigner. For example, he never required her to kneel when she spoke to him, which was something that in theory he had the right to do, being her superior. To Victor, Criminal # 98945 simply was his employee, the same as four other individuals, and thus she was subject to his temper and demands no more and no less than the others.
Because Kim's command of Danubian language and society were so limited at the beginning, Victor Dukov sent her on the deliveries that were furthest from his office, the ones that would take time away from his other employees. That meant fewer deliveries and thus fewer chances of making mistakes, but also longer trips and constant riding. Kim rode hard all over Danube City, often to within just a block or so of the dreaded yellow signs. She made her delivery, or picked up the needed signatures and receipts, and then was riding again, desperate to make the next delivery before Victor Dukov's cell phone went off to check on her whereabouts. She was always exhausted after each day's work from her hours of hard riding through the city summer heat. However, the courier job was extremely beneficial, because within a month she knew the entire city very well and understood some details about Danubian business protocol.
A delivery to a private individual or business owner was no different than a delivery would be in the US. Kim walked in with her package and her signature pad, announced herself with her terrible Danubian, completed the delivery, and quickly was out the door on her bicycle. If the delivery was made to a public official, she had to go to her knees and hold the delivery items out in front of her. Once the client took them Kim put her forehead to the floor, and stayed in that position until she felt the signature pad placed back in her hands. If she wasn't sure if the client was a public official, she asked, and dropped to her knees if the answer was affirmative.
Over the first few days following her sentence Kim was mortified at the thought of having her body on display for a full two years. However, a person can get used to many things in life. Within a week Kim's mind had accepted her constant nudity; by the end of the second week she no longer even thought about it. It seemed that the intense stares from bystanders had started to diminish and Criminal # 98945 simply received the same casual glances any other naked criminal would receive. The unwelcome attention towards her body had receded, and with it much of her self-consciousness.
What helped reduce the constant curious stares, ironically, was the broadcast of Kim's punishment on Danubian television. Kim's case generated a sensational amount of interest. However, the broadcast also satisfied much of the curiosity surrounding Kim and answered a lot of questions. The naked Asian girl with welts on her backside and a collar on her neck had been sentenced under Danubia's marijuana laws and was serving a two-year sentence as a criminal. It was that mundane, and that simple.
No one in Danube City felt that Kim should have been exonerated, since there was no doubt she had possessed and smoked marijuana. However, most of the people interested in Kim's case felt the reduced sentence was fair and that she did deserve some leniency. Kimberly Lee projected a sympathetic and likeable image on TV and there was general agreement that she had been treated shamefully by her two friends. People also agreed with Dukov that the prosecutor had behaved irresponsibly in trying to get a maximum sentence for Kim while releasing the other two Americans. But that was why a Spokesman-for-the-Criminal was needed, to argue on behalf of the suspect and work out a fair sentence. Spokesman Dukov had done his job admirably and as a result the American had received fair treatment in court.
The hot summer weather continued unabated as July became August. Kim continued her sweaty bicycle trips around Danube City. She was in great physical shape from the constant exercising. She ate well and slept soundly at Vladim Dukov's house. She spoke by phone to her parents at least once a week and tried to assure them she was fine. Kim was too busy to have much time to feel sorry for herself. She was too busy even to think about how much she hated Tiffany. While she was not exactly happy, she had achieved a daily equilibrium in her life. Kim's tranquil existence in Danube City had been one of the goals of the judge who had sentenced her.
Vladim Dukov decided to extend Kim's stay at his house until she had enough money saved up to get a decent room. He insisted that she open a Danubian bank account and deposit most of her paycheck from her job. Dukov also laid out a series of chores he wanted the American to perform at his house in exchange for her free boarding. He sent his client out to buy groceries, pay household bills, and other errands with the intent of forcing her to learn how to perform the basic tasks needed to live from day to day. Often Anyia went with Kim and helped her carry the groceries.
By the end of her first month in Danube City, Kim had become a de facto member of Vladim Dukov's family. Her professional relationship with Dukov, her dependency on him, and her lack of any other friends in Upper Danubia resulted in her becoming almost a second daughter of the elder Dukovs. Having been convicted criminals themselves, both Vladim and Maritza understood much of what she had to face. Furthermore, the Spokesman had traveled to the US several times in his life on official functions. While US society and its values were unfathomable to Dukov, at least he had a glimpse of the world that had produced Kimberly Lee and was able to understand some of the cross-cultural difficulties she faced in her new life as a Danubian criminal. Kim needed to be educated and brought up to function in Danubian society. She needed to learn what that society expected of her and how she needed to behave in many different situations, large and small. The restrictions and rules Kim had to live under as a convicted criminal only complicated her adaptation to Danubian society.
After just a few days Kim knew how to speak some phases of Danubian, the most important and most frequently used being "Ya negat rozumigut," which meant "I don't understand". Danubian was a difficult language, very archaic and with grammar and pronunciation rules that would make the average Westerner cringe. Not many average people in the isolated country spoke anything other than their native tongue, thus the task of learning Danubian was a top priority.
Oddly enough, Anyia was willing to help Kim with learning Danubian, at least during the times she wasn't sunbathing. She learned to leave Anyia alone if she was in the yard on her towel or with one of her friends, but if she was in the house alone the girl was perfectly approachable. After a short time Kim's vocabulary expanded way beyond "Ya negat rozumigut", largely with the help of Dukov's moody teenager.
August 15 was a significant day for the members of Victor Dukov's courier service. On that day there were to be no deliveries during the morning, no bicycle runs whatsoever. On that day Kim briefly saw a different side of Victor Dukov, even if it was only for a single day. It was the day Kim's co-worker Vita completed his sentence for fighting in school. It was a significant day for Vita and one that Victor and his staff fully appreciated. Vita would enter the courtroom still a criminal, but would exit as a free man.
Unlike trials, the only day of the week that end-of-sentence ceremonies were held was on Mondays. Normally around 20 criminals ended their sentences on any given week. It was a significant event in their lives and one marked by a formal celebration of the transition from criminals to free citizens.
Monday morning Victor and his couriers went to the courthouse. Vita separated from the group to hug his parents, and then joined the group of naked soon-to-be ex-criminals waiting at the entrance of the main hall of the court. The departure of Vita left Kim feeling a bit uneasy, given that she now was the only naked member of the courier group and as of today would be the only naked member of Victor's staff. She pushed that thought aside and tried to concentrate on Vita, not herself.
The courtroom was filled with relatives, co-workers, and friends of the 19 criminals whose sentences would end that day. There was a lot of happy chatter among the audience. The atmosphere was similar to the overall feel of a graduation ceremony.
A trumpeter in a traditional Danubian tunic blew a very old horn, signaling the criminals to enter the chamber. They filed in, 12 men and 7 women. They knelt and put their heads to the carpet, for the last time of their lives. The trumpeter blew again.
The entire room put their right hands to their left shoulders, except for the handful of criminals in the audience such as Kim. The criminals in the audience dropped to their knees and put their foreheads to the carpet. The judge who had sentenced Kim six weeks before entered the room, and everyone in the audience sat down. The 19 criminals in the front of the room stayed kneeling, although they knelt upright to be able to watch the proceedings.
Vladim Dukov and three other Spokespersons for the Criminals came forward. They saluted the judge, who saluted back.
The judge asked each Spokesperson if each of the criminals under his or her authority had completed their sentences and whether or not they were ready to assume the rights and responsibilities of a free citizen. He asked the same question 19 times. Kim heard a loud "Doc!" 19 times. The judge then gave a brief speech about the transition from criminal to free citizen and the significance of reform and a new start in life.
The next part of the ceremony was the de-collaring of the criminals. One by one they came forward and knelt facing a sturdy metal post. The collar technician then hooked a scary-looking device to the post and closed it around the criminal's collar. The device looked like a huge pair of pliers. It had several clamps that latched into the collar and firing pin to snap the collar's latch. The technician fired the pin into the collar's locking mechanism and pulled it apart by opening the extractor's handles. Once the collar was off, the technician quickly removed the small transmitter and then handed the open collar back to the ex-criminal.
Still naked, but now free citizens, the ex-criminals lined up for the next part of the ceremony; the passing out of their clothes. There were 19 sets of traditional Danubian clothing waiting, tunics for the men and dresses for the women. The Spokespersons placed the respective outfits at the feet of each of their clients. Once everyone was ready, the judge ordered the ex-criminals to get dressed. They did so, quickly. The Spokespersons then stepped in front of the group and saluted them. Their ex-clients saluted back, then turned around and faced their audience, smiling and holding their collars over their heads. The room exploded into cheering and camera flashes. The long suffering of these 19 persons had come to an end.
Later that afternoon Victor Dukov held a small party for Vita in the office. The party was short, because Vita later had to go home and celebrate with his family. Vita's co-workers teased him about the tan-line around his neck from where the collar had been. There was laughter and good cheer in the office. Tomorrow Victor would return to his usual dour over-bearing self, but for one day, at least, he proved himself able to celebrate a joyful moment in another person's life.
Kim's bike routes frequently took her past the plaza where the Temple of the Ancients was located. The first couple of times she passed the Temple she experienced both fear and regret over what that building meant for the loss of her old life. However, towards the end of August the location also began to symbolize a new beginning for Kim and new hope for her future.
On a blazing hot day Kim finished her morning deliveries early. However, she was dehydrated and did not want to wait to go all the way back to Victor's office just to have some water. She decided to stop at the outdoor cafe across from the Temple, the one where she had gone with Tiffany and Susan just before they were arrested. The naked waiter was there, the same shy young man that Tiffany had tormented just before Kim’s arrest. She sat down and ordered a large glass of fruit punch, and... oh please, with lots of ice.
The café was nearly empty, leaving the young waiter with some spare time to converse with Kim. She could tell he was fascinated with her. Suddenly she found herself somewhat attracted to him as well. He was not the type of guy she would have been attracted to in the US, but she had changed as a result of her two months in Upper Danubia. Kim realized that she desperately needed someone to talk to who was not connected to Dukov or his family. In a flash she realized this waiter was her first chance to make a friend of her own, one who she had chosen herself.
The waiter's name was Sergekt. Kim found the name hard to pronounce correctly, but he in turn called her "Geemberglek". The two laughed at the mangled pronunciation of each other's names. With that they briefly exchanged a few details about their lives. It wasn't much, but it was a start.
Some new customers came into the café and Kim's cell phone went off, pulling her and Sergekt away from their brief conversation. With that Kim was back on her bicycle, but she shyly smiled and waved to Sergekt as she pulled away. She badly wanted to see him again.
Over the next few days Kim never missed a chance to stop at the café, even if she could only stay a few minutes. Finally at the end of her fifth visit, Sergekt asked her when she got off work. It turned out that Kim would be off work just after Sergekt got off, giving him time to meet her outside Victor Dukov's office. The result was a pleasant uninterrupted conversation at a nearby café. Kim had to force Sergekt to repeat himself many times to understand him, but gradually she found out more about him.
Sergekt had completed the first year of a three-year sentence for participating in a student riot at his high school. Kim was not able to understand much of Sergekt's explanation of why the riot took place, but apparently a total of 28 students had been convicted of the crimes of insurrection and vandalism resulting from the incident.
Kim did understand enough of Sergekt's explanation to get a perspective on how Danubians saw "honor". When the 28 students were brought before the judge, each refused to say anything about what any of the others had done. Apparently both the judge and the police chief had expected the students would not say anything against each other, and thus the group had to be punished collectively. They were sentenced to three and a half years, collared, and returned to their school. They were switched one-by-one in the school courtyard in front of their classmates, something that took up an entire school day. Because they were under-aged, their punishments were not televised. The offenders then returned to their classes as criminals, naked except for their collars. As far as everyone was concerned the matter was closed and no one ever mentioned it again. All 28 students graduated at the end of the previous May, some of them with honors. Most were now in college. However, the sentences remained, the expected price of loyalty and friendship among the group. Every four months they had to show up at the local police station near their old school to be switched, a burden they would endure until their collars came off two years in the future.
Sergekt was all too-aware of Kim's case. More than anything else he was shocked and appalled by the behavior of her friends Tiffany and Susan, as were many other Danubians. No Danubian in his right mind would ever dishonor himself by betraying a friend out of self-interest. The American tourists had violated one of the most fundamental values of Danubian society, the belief that friendship is sacred and friends never betray each other. Sergekt believed that having to endure the betrayal of her friends must have been far worse for his guest to endure than her actual punishment. Kim sighed and thought to herself, you don't know my country, Sergekt. Where I'm from it's everyone looking out for Number One.
It was only natural that two criminals would start out by talking about their sentences and convictions, since that was the one thing all criminals had in common. However, both Kim and Sergekt realized that to become friends they had to move beyond that topic and see each other as individuals, not as fellow criminals. They probed each other's interests, but quickly realized that Kim's Danubian vocabulary was not advanced enough to have such a conversation. Sergekt finally decided to invite Kim out on Sunday, for a walk in the park, for dinner, and for a movie. That sounded great, yes, just hanging out. She agreed, but later decided it would be a good idea to clear her plans with Spokesman Dukov first.
That night Kim found out that she was quite right in taking the precaution of clearing the planned afternoon of "hanging out" with her custodian.
"Kimberly, as long as you are in my house, there will be no 'hanging out', as you say it, with a young man who has not sat at my table. I will not tolerate such improper behavior in my household. That young man will sit at my table before you spend any time alone with him."
Kim was a bit taken aback, not only by Dukov's response, but also by the harsh tone he used when he responded. She did not feel that the Spokesman was treating her like an adult. However, the following day Kim briefly saw Sergekt and brought up her guardian's objection. Sergekt seemed very embarrassed and apologetic. He immediately agreed to go to Dukov's office and ask for permission to visit his house.
Kim somewhat resented the whole exercise in permissions. All she wanted was have a friend and spend Sunday afternoon with someone her own age. She did not want a long-term relationship, just a friend. However, apparently in this country all contact between a young man and a young woman had to be sanctioned by the girl's parents, no matter how casual it might be.
Saturday afternoon Vladim and Maritza Dukov dressed up in traditional Danubian clothing; a tunic for him and an old-style dress for her. They prepared several elaborate traditional dishes and awaited Sergekt.
Kim rolled her eyes when she saw the set-up in the kitchen. This is totally ridiculous, she thought to herself. We're just friends. That's all I want from him. On top of everything else, she was not even Dukov's daughter. But she had learned not to argue. Upper Danubia had its own logic that she could only begin to fathom.
Sergekt came onto the Dukovs' property. Because Dukov was a public official Kim's friend immediately went to his knees, touching his forehead to the ground. Dukov quickly requested that Sergekt stand up and join himself, his wife, and his client at dinner. Dukov and Maritza spoke at length with Sergekt as Kim stayed quiet. Over time Sergekt spoke more and more. The elder Dukovs initially wanted to have three basic questions answered, what had Sergekt done to be convicted as a criminal, how he saw himself as a person, and what were his plans for the future. Once Sergekt answered to their satisfaction, the conversation became more two-way.
The evening ended pleasantly enough with a strange combination of salutations. At first Dukov warmly shook Sergekt’s hand and patted his arm, but then Kim’s friend acknowledged his role as a criminal by going to his knees and placing his forehead on the ground. Kim did not like any of this. She resented having Sergekt essentially spend the evening with the elder Dukovs instead of with herself, and she resented all the formality. However, in the end Kim got what she wanted, Dukov's official blessing that she be allowed to spend time alone with Sergekt.
"Sergekt is a man with honor. He has proper values. He will become a good friend for you."
Gee, thanks "Dad", thought Kim to herself. I think I had that figured out already.
Later that night, when she was alone, Kim gave some thought over the significance of the Dukov's stepping into her personal life. He had handled the matter with Sergekt in the same way he would have handled it with his own daughter. She now remembered that there had been no recent mention of her needing to find her own place, no hint that Dukov and Maritza expected her to move out any time soon. Increasingly, whenever the elder Dukovs went out, they wanted Kim to go with them. It seemed that at first they had taken Criminal # 98945 in as a temporary house-guest, but now increasingly they were subjecting her to household rules and Danubian protocol. For better or for worse, with no one ever saying anything about it, Kim had become a member of the Dukov family.
Kim spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon with Sergekt. They went into town and walked along the Danube River, struggling to get to know each other through the language barrier. They had Kim's dictionary and were constantly looking up words. They had dinner at a café in the warm late-summer sun, and finally went to see a British movie. The movie must have been 30 years old, but it was in English with Danubian subtitles. Kim was grateful that Sergekt had taken the effort to find a movie she could understand. It was nice to hear something in English again.
Kim's second outing with Sergekt was a crash-course in Danubian culture. It also was the beginning of many huge changes in Kim's life; of her relationship with Sergekt, how she saw her own role as a Danubian criminal, and ultimately how she would look at herself.
Sergekt suggested going to a nightclub called the Socrates Club. Kim was thrilled. A nightclub, we can actually go to a nightclub? Sure enough, in the old part of town was the Socrates Club, which had been in that location for many years. Apparently the club was only for criminals and ex-criminals. The first thing she noticed was that everyone going into the club was naked. Not everyone was wearing collars, but club protocol mandated that anyone not still wearing a collar had to show proper respect to those who were still serving their sentences by not entering the club dressed. At first Kim felt a pang of fear, thinking that a nightclub only for criminals might be dangerous. Once inside, she realized that danger was the farthest thing from anyone's mind.
Danubians often used the saying "to sing like a criminal" to describe a person who was capable of expressing himself in a very emotional or moving manner. The expression resulted from the fact that most of the country's romantic and serious music was written and sung by criminals, and most of that music had its origins in the Socrates Club.
Kim later learned the club was a fixture in Danubian popular culture. It was a refuge for Danube City's criminals, a place where they could express themselves to a sympathetic audience, listen to each other's poetry and music, and share what they had created. The evening's entertainment started as club-goers stood before the audience to express their feelings, in as poetic a manner as possible. The poetry readings allowed other club members who had a talent for writing music to pick up ideas for songs from their companions on stage. During the ensuing week musicians in the audience wrote songs and music, which in turn were performed by the criminals who had the best talent for singing and playing instruments. It was a collaborative effort that produced a huge amount of very high-quality music, much of which eventually made it to Danubian radio.
Sergekt introduced Criminal # 98945 to a bunch of his fellow classmates. They greeted her warmly, but also with much curiosity. Finally they were able to meet the young American drug addict who had been so horribly betrayed by her friends. Kim saw in them a group of determined and very serious young people, hardly a group of rioting hooligans. Again she wondered what on earth had happened at their school. She also saw in them a group of people her own age with whom she would be able to hang out. Kim was a foreigner and a convicted drug-user, and yet Sergekt's friends seemed to accept her as one of their own.
The group ordered several pitchers of Danubian beer and sat down at a couple of tables that had been pushed together. Sergekt's friends talked a bit about themselves one-by-one. For a long time Kim struggled with introducing herself and trying to understand as much as she could from her companions. That effort was cut short by the beginning of the night's activities, the poetry reading. Two of Sergekt's classmates participated in that portion of the entertainment, as did five other club-goers.
Sergekt and five companions excused themselves for the next portion of the evening, the musical presentation. As two of his classmates, a man and a woman, sang together, the other four in the group played back-up instruments. Sergekt played an instrument that looked something like a balalaika. Even though Kim could only understand a few of the words from the group's songs, she could tell they were immensely sad and moving. One song she did understand almost in its entirety. It was a duet from Sergekt's classmates, in which the male singer lamented about no longer being able to sit at the table of his girlfriend's family; while she responded that she would wait for his sentence to end, and then insist he be allowed to return to her house.
Once Sergekt's group was finished singing, several others followed, all of which had produced excellent music for their companions. The criminals sung of lost love and lost opportunities, and also of the humiliations and physical suffering they were enduring. They sang about friendship and the personal sacrifices a person sometimes had to make to stay loyal to a friend. Above all, however, the criminals sang about their hope for the future. Kim sat fascinated as she listed to one sad philosophical song after another. None of the music that came out of the Socrates Club was light and happy, and certainly was not the type of music that would go very far in the United States. However, Kim reflected that what she was listening to now came far closer to the reality of her life than the escapist industrial product coming out of Hollywood.
Sergekt and Kim got up to dance, joining several other naked couples on the dance floor. They danced slowly and sadly, holding on to each other and seeking refuge from their lives on the outside. Kim vaguely wondered if Vladim Dukov and his fiancée Maritza might have danced here 25 years ago.
Sergekt and Kim left the club very late. The temperature outside was rather chilly, a warning that summer was coming to an end. On the way home the couple hugged each other for warmth. Kim was thrilled at the feel of Sergekt's body against her own as they huddled together on the trolley to Dukov's house. By the time Sergekt left Kim at Dukov's front door, she realized that her feelings towards him were much more than friendship. Perhaps her Spokesman had been right after-all by taking this relationship seriously from the very beginning.
The following day was the first day of high school for Dukov's teenager. That morning the Spokesman’s household was hit by a rather loud crisis. It began very early with several doors slamming and Anyia screaming at her mother. Both Vladim and Maritza tried to reason with the irate teenager, but she stormed off and slammed yet another door. There was more yelling, and another door slam.
The issue was the teenager's school uniform. Having spent the entire summer tanning, the Anyia wanted to show off as much of her body as possible by converting her uniform skirt to a mini-skirt and shortening the sleeves of her blouse. Dukov was incensed. He had no problem with his daughter lying naked in the back yard all summer, but when it came to the school uniform she needed to wear it properly. Maritza had found the mini-skirt in the girl's closet and burned it the night before, replacing it with a standard school skirt. Once Anyia discovered her converted skirt was now a pile of ashes in the backyard fire-pit, she directed her wrath full-force at her parents.
The battle continued four days; screaming and door-slamming in the mornings and tense sullen silence at dinner each night. Danubians normally tended to spoil their children and rarely punished them, but by Thursday Dukov had enough. He borrowed a leather switch from the police chief and returned home with it that night. He did not really want to use it, but he was ready to if necessary. That night Vladim and Maritza Dukov sat their daughter down in the living room.
Dukov pulled out the switch, tapped it in his hand, and in Danubian stated very coldly, "I brought this switch from work today and I am keeping it in the library. I want you to understand the issue of your school uniform is resolved to the satisfaction of your mother and me. Whether or not it is resolved to your satisfaction is of no concern to me whatsoever. There will be no further talk about your school uniform in this house. If you wish to discuss it further, you can get undressed and we'll settle matters in the backyard with you bent over a chair. Now... do you want to talk about your uniform anymore?"
The wide-eyed girl shook her head. "N...negat, Papa."
With that peace returned to the Dukov household. However, the next day, as she was heading to work, Kim noticed Anyia standing in front of her friend's house. The friend was showing the girl how to shorten her skirt by rolling it up at the waist. Kim pretended not to notice. Better not to get involved in this one, she thought to herself.
The desire to talk burned inside Criminal # 98945 the week after she visited the Socrates Club. She had so much she needed to get off her chest. Where to begin? At night she began writing her disjointed thoughts down on paper. She wrote about everything she could think of; the kindness of the Dukov's, her feelings about Tiffany, the painful conversations with her parents, the horror of her first two days while under arrest. She wanted to talk, to be heard, and to have her feelings put into a song. Ultimately she wanted to stand at the microphone at the Socrates Club and speak her mind.
Finally Kim settled on an unlikely topic for her first reading; her mountain bike in the US. Somehow that bike seemed to represent everything she had been given in the past and never appreciated. She struggled with the words in English, trying to make sure that her listeners could understand her bicycle as a metaphor for something much greater in her life than simply an unappreciated object.
She presented her idea to Dukov, who spent three hours helping her translate the text to Danubian. Anyia then helped her go over the phrases and memorize them. Finally Kim presented the idea to Sergekt, who looked over her text. She could tell he liked it tremendously.
Two weeks after she visited the Socrates Club for the first time, Kim spoke to her fellow criminals in heavily accented Danubian. She stood at the microphone with her knees shaking as she struggled to express herself in a language she still only partially knew. The entire club listened with respect to the perspective of an American trying to come to terms with being a Danubian criminal.
Two weeks after Kim's first speech to the club a group of Sergekt’s friends presented a song titled "Nemat mi biciklet". They officially dedicated the song to Criminal # 98945.
Vladim Dukov was a Spokesman-for-the-Criminal. His son Vladik, was a police officer. It was only a matter of time before Vladim would become the Spokesman for defendants arrested by his son.
The same day his daughter's school uniform issue was "settled", at least in Vladim Dukov's mind, Vladik arrested two burglars. Over the summer they had broken into several homes around the Dukovs' neighborhood to steal money and jewelry. In two of the burglaries they had killed family dogs protecting their owners' houses. It was a Danubian crime-wave that terrified the entire neighborhood.
The two men finally were caught while trying to sell the jewelry to a Russian who was working undercover for the Danubian police. The case was fairly straightforward, except the two suspects had been classmates of Vladik, and were assigned to Vladim as clients.
The case gave Kim a chance to see the trial and punishment of two newly convicted criminals up close. Kim's schedule of running all over Danube City was changed that day, because Victor decided to have Kim go directly to his brother's office and handle all the messages related to the trial. Kim would have to spend the entire day relaying documents, signature sheets, evidence, photos, and conviction packages between the police chief, Vladim Dukov's office, Vladim's son Vladik, and the court officials across the square. Even though Kim would have plenty of down-time that day as she waited for the case to run its course through the trial, it made more sense simply to have one courier moving the documents instead of constantly calling whoever was available at the moment. The lovely part of the entire arrangement for Kim was the temporary liberation from her boss' cell phone. Cell phones were strictly prohibited in both the police station and the courthouse. As a result Kim's cell phone sat silent in Victor's office during this particular assignment. She looked forward to spending an entire day not having to listen to her boss’ voice.
The day started with Kim picking up the arrest report from Vladik and taking it upstairs to Dukov's office. As she entered she passed two very scared-looking naked young men kneeling on the floor of the reception area. Kim sympathized, but at the same time felt a twinge of erotic excitement. She would be on hand to witness the collaring and punishment of these two thieves, an event probably just an hour or two away.
Dukov came out to unhook the handcuffs of the two suspects and had them follow him into his office. As he did for Kim, the Spokesman offered his clients a light breakfast, although this time it was just tea and breakfast rolls, no fruit. As the two suspects ate, Kim handed Vladik's investigation and arrest packages to Dukov. The Spokesman thumbed through the folders and sighed.
He addressed Kim in English. "There is very little in these papers that can help them. I do not believe I can rightfully request leniency; not with what is here. I can only hope that by conversing with them I might uncover something in their favor not reflected in these reports."
Dukov signed several acknowledgements of document delivery and then sent Criminal # 98945 across the plaza to the courthouse to deliver them.
Kim returned to Dukov's office with a trial schedule. Within 30 minutes the guard would arrive to take the suspects across the plaza to their trial. Conviction and a full sentence were a sure thing for these two. The evidence against them was overwhelming. Worse, while Kim was at the courthouse, Dukov discovered that both men were ecstasy users, which was why they were stealing. Under Danubian law he did not have the right to withhold that information from the police. Dukov called the police doctor downstairs and relayed the information. The two suspects now had to be tested for drug use before their trial. Dukov then called the judge. The trial had to be delayed, pending the drug test.
Vladik and his female partner quickly showed up to handcuff the two young men and take them downstairs, where the police doctor and his medical students were waiting. Kim had to go as well, with a couple of medical questionnaires. Once those were filled out she had to run them back across the plaza to the courthouse. She felt a grim sense of nostalgia as she entered the examination room. This room was not a place of happy memories for Criminal # 98945. The medical students all looked at the American as she entered, but fortunately today she was not the subject of their testing. As Vladik and his partner entered the students saluted them. They saluted back and turned the offenders over to the head doctor.
The police doctor was holding his switch, just in case there was any hint of rebellion from these two thieves and drug-users. They knelt on the floor as the doctor explained to his class they would be testing the two subjects for ecstasy. He passed out testing kits and then called three female medical students to step forward. They would help prepare the suspects for their medical exam.
The doctor gave one of the kneeling suspects a sharp tap on the shoulder and ordered him to stand up. He hooked the suspect's handcuffs to a metal ring on the side of the examination table and ordered him to spread his legs and lean back a bit. Once the suspect complied his pubic area was completely exposed to everyone in the room. A female medical student then lathered the suspect's pubic hair with shaving cream and pulled out an old fashion straight-edged razor. The student needed to shave the suspect, and she decided to have a little fun with her assignment. She held the razor close to the suspect's terrified face and smiled. In Danubian she taunted him, "You better stay VERY still when I shave you. If you don't, something else besides your hair might end up on the floor, something I really don't think you'd want to lose."
With that the student carefully shaved the suspect. She fondled his penis and testicles, gently massaging and pushing them back and forth. By the time she finished the suspect had a furious erection. The female medical students from the class stood in front of their victim, commenting on the size of his organs and joking about the hard-on. The older doctor and the male students stood back, smiling and making crude sexual jokes at the expense of the suspect. The female student assigned to shaving finished by rinsing off the suspect with a warm washrag, something that aroused him even more. She gave his penis a gentle squeeze and then unhooked his cuffs from the examination table. She ordered him to kneel on the floor, his erection pointing up from between his legs and a truly miserable expression on his face.
The doctor then tapped the shoulder of the second suspect, and another female student repeated the shaving ordeal on him. There were more comments from the females in the class and more jokes from the males. Kim shuddered. Holy shit... at least they didn't do this to me, she thought to herself.
The doctor laid two bedpans in front of the two kneeling suspects and ordered them to pee. One of them emptied his bladder with no problem, but the other had the same problem Kim had, he just couldn't piss in front of a room full of people. The doctor picked up the leather switch and struck him hard across the shoulders four times before the suspect was able to comply with the demand to fill the bedpan.
There was the same testing on the urine samples that there had been when Kim was the subject, and there were 40 positive results, two for each student. Oh yes, documented drug users!
There was the same test on the suspects' blood and the same over-all medical check-up. However, one of the female medical students had a wicked idea when she noticed one of the suspects once again had a hard-on. She whispered the idea into the ear of the head doctor, who smiled and commented. "Ha, Magda, you are an evil little thing, aren't you? Sure, let's have some fun before these two go to trial."
With that the eight female medical students in the class split up into two teams, and the males placed bets on which team would win. Kim wondered to herself... win what?
The women ordered the two suspects to stand up. Two members of each team each grabbed an arm of their victim with one hand and started massaging his chest with the other. The other two team-members put on medical gloves and took up their positions, one behind the victim and the other in front. The student behind each suspect shoved a finger up his bottom and quickly located the suspect's prostate gland. The student in front grabbed the suspect's penis in one hand and his testicles in the other. At a whistle from a male classmate the females began rubbing and massaging the two suspects' prostates and penises. Quickly both young men had furious erections. They shivered and groaned as they came, shooting sperm across the floor in front of them. The male students whistled and applauded. They noted where the semen had landed and cheered Magda, the leader of the winning team. Her suspect had ejaculated first, and had ejaculated farthest. As Magda smiled and blushed, the whole room laughed and shouted: "Doc-doc Magda! Doc-doc Magda!"
Kim stood dumbfounded, wondering if Dukov was aware of what was going on down here. Anyhow, Vladik and his partner were quietly watching the whole affair with disapproving expressions on their faces. Finally in voice that reflected impatience and disgust he commented, "Doctor, I would very much like to get these two to trial. If you want to have sperm races down here I'd appreciate it if you do it on your own time, not mine."
With that the fun ended. The two suspects were briefly un-cuffed to shower and then re-cuffed to take across the plaza. Kim, meanwhile, ran the confirmation sheets up to Dukov's office for his signature and then over to the courthouse for more signatures, then back to the Spokesman's office. By now the two unhappy defendants were standing outside his door, ready to be taken over to the courthouse by Vladik and his partner.
Kim was on-hand to witness the trial and punishment of the two thieves and newly-identified drug users. As a courier, she had the right to sit in the press area of the courtroom, something she took advantage of to get a better view.
Dukov was not in a good mood at all. Not only was he on opposite sides from his own son; there was absolutely nothing in this case to allow him to argue for a reduced sentence. Still, he considered it a point of personal honor to argue for some sort of modification of the punishment. Finally he settled on the idea of reducing the number of switchings the two thieves had to face in favor of frequent drug-testing. It was the best he could do. As in every case he handled, his goal that day was to reduce the suffering of his clients as much as possible.
The trial went quickly and the sentence was standard for the crimes. The criminals got five years for the burglaries, two years for vandalism and animal cruelty, and five years for ecstasy use. They would be tested for drug use every 30 days and switched every five months. Furthermore, they were prohibited from having contact with each other during their sentences. To make sure they could not see each other, the judge ordered that they would have to draw lots to see which of them would move out of the Danube City collar zone and into a provincial capitol. Dukov's only success that day was reducing the frequency of switchings from once every three months to once every five months. It wasn't much, but at least he had done something for them.
The two criminals looked at each other in fear as they knelt to have their collars fitted and put on. Once collared, they knelt forward to put their heads on the carpet, their exposed bottoms and testicles high in the air for anyone behind them to clearly see. Dukov ordered his clients to stand up and led them to his son and his female police partner. The Spokesman saluted his son and presented the two young men for judicial punishment. Both knelt to kiss the shoes of the two police officers.
Although Vladik had been the arresting officer for both men, he needed to turn over the punishment of one of them to his female partner. He had been classmates with both criminals, but one of them in particular he knew very well, the two having played together in the school's soccer team. Under Danubian social protocol, Vladik could not punish his former friend, nor would he have wanted to. He needed to turn the punishment of his former teammate over to his female partner. The other criminal he would punish himself, since he had not known him that well in school and did not have the same social prohibitions against punishing him.
Vladik quietly addressed his former teammate. "You might as well go first. My partner will administer your punishment. I want you to show some courage with she switches you, which is something you seemed to have lost over the last couple of years. It hurts me to see you like this, but you did this to yourself."
"I'm sorry Vladik. I really am."
"I'm not Vladik to you anymore. You have dishonored our friendship, you have dishonored your teammates, and you have dishonored our school. You are now a criminal and I am a cop. You will address me as Officer Dukov. Please don't make that mistake again when you talk to me. But... but, I guess... I'm sorry too."
With that Vladik and his partner took his ex-teammate's hands and guided him over the table. They secured his wrists and ankles with the straps. Vladik's female partner pulled him to the side and quietly asked him.
"Vladik, do you want me to go easy on him, since he was your teammate?"
"No. I don't want you to show him any mercy, none whatsoever. I want you to switch him as hard as you possibly can without breaking his skin or getting my father to intervene."
The female cop nodded. "As you wish, Vladik."
Vladik's partner positioned herself near the punishment table, lightly touched her victim's bottom with the switch, drew it back and laid a fearful blow across the base of the criminal's bottom. It was a vicious blow aimed right at a very sensitive area. Vladik's classmate groaned, his voice close to breaking at the very first stroke. She waited a few seconds, then struck again, only slightly higher than the first blow.
The female officer carefully timed the first 10 strokes, laying them across both bottom-cheeks. She struck hard, moving her entire body with the swing. Her aim was excellent. She laid one hard stroke after another on her victim's bottom, leaving it covered with vicious welts perfectly parallel and very close to each other. The criminal's voice broke at the fifth blow. By the tenth blow he was crying non-stop.
Vladik's partner methodically moved on to the next part of the switching, 10 full-force blows on her victim's right bottom-cheek and ten more full force blows on the victim's left bottom cheek. She carefully aimed at the unmarked parts of the criminal's bottom, hitting so hard that she came close to breaking the skin each time the switch landed. Vladik's ex-teammate screamed over and over, sobbing and begging for mercy. Vladik shook his head. This ex-friend of his was dishonoring himself yet again with all that racket. The young police officer looked up at the cameras focused on the criminal's punishment table. Yes, Vladik thought to himself, film it. Let the whole nation know what a coward he really is.
After just 30 strokes it was obvious there was no way Vladik's partner could continue to punish his classmate's bottom. Already both bottom-cheeks were a mass of very severe welts and quite swollen. Instead, the female officer slowly worked her way down the offender's thighs, laying seven full-force strokes on his left thigh and then seven full-force strokes on his right thigh. By now the criminal was sobbing so hard that his body was jerking back and forth on the punishment table. There were only six strokes to go, all of which Vladik's partner laid across the offender's shoulders. Six very loud screams punctuated the final set of strokes.
Vladik and his partner quickly unbuckled the straps that attached his former classmate. As a gesture of contempt the two officers pulled the sobbing criminal off the table and dropped him on the floor in the same manner they might have handled a sack of rotten potatoes. He remained on the ground, still sobbing loudly. Kim later learned that pulling a punished criminal off the switching table and dropping him on the floor was the supreme insult a Danubian police officer could level in the courtroom. Normally the punishing officer allowed the criminal to get off the table on his own, once he had sufficiently recovered to stand up.
Vladik and the female officer then saluted each other, a quick formal gesture indicating that Vladik was now taking charge of the switching table from his partner. He glanced over at the second criminal, the one he now would punish. He tapped the table with his switch. The man sadly nodded and bent over the table, extending his arms to fit into the straps on the surface. Vladik's partner quickly secured the criminal's wrists and ankles.
Vladik was a serious officer and never attempted to fondle or sexually humiliate a criminal. In that respect the criminals he punished were lucky, since he did not like to have "fun" with them at their expense. However, like his partner, he was a severe disciplinarian who carefully measured and timed the strokes to maximize the pain and impact of any punishment he administered. He wielded his switch with maximum effect.
Using the same technique as his partner, Vladim began the switching with 10 parallel strokes across the criminal's bottom given full-force, then 10 strokes on each side, once again, given full-force. He then slowly struck the criminal's bottom again, trying to maximize the number of strokes on the bottom before having to punish the subject's legs or back. As a result, Vladik's victim received 38 strokes on the bottom and 12 on the thighs, none across the back.
In spite of Vladik's talent with the switch, the criminal he punished proved to be much braver than the one punished by his partner. He gasped and sweat during the first 38 strokes, but managed to stay quiet. His voice did not break until the 39th stroke, but even then, he had the good sense to not beg for mercy and tried to keep his screams to a minimum. Once the punishment ended he forced himself to quit crying. Vladik undid the burglar's straps, but allowed him to get up on his own.
Vladik and his partner led the two punished criminals before the bench. The criminals turned their backsides to the judge, who in turn examined the welts and signed the punishment certificates. Then both criminals knelt at Vladik's feet and kissed the toes of his shoes. The braver of the two criminals immediately thanked Vladik for punishing him. Vladik touched the man's shoulder with his switch and with a salute released him back into the custody of Spokesman Dukov. The other criminal knelt at the feet of the female officer, still crying and trying to force out the needed "Spakeebo dakub moigu." Finally he sort of got it out. The female cop did not push the issue. She wanted to be rid of the pathetic creature. She touched her switch to his shoulder and released him back into Vladim Dukov's custody.
As she sat among the reporters, Kim had a bit of a problem. She was totally turned on by the whole punishment scene, and during the entire time had been gently rubbing her legs together. Now she was as excited as she had been when she saw her own punishment on TV, but she was in the middle of a busy courtroom, officially at work as a courier, and needed to spend the afternoon running messages and signature sheets back and forth. She was wet, and what was worse, a cameraman kept glancing over at her, as though he knew something. Kim quickly ran to the restroom and cleaned herself up as best she could, but the burning erotic excitement continued to torment her.
Dukov's two criminals staggered across the plaza with their Spokesman as Kim picked up their punishment certificates and sentencing sheets. Once again she was running all over the courthouse and the police station looking for signatures, stamps, certified copies, delivering documents, picking up other documents. Finally she returned to Dukov's office and passed the two criminals lying face down on recovery tables.
Kim was a bit surprised to see Vladik and his partner in Vladim Dukov's office when she entered to deliver some papers. Vladik's presence eliminated at least one trip for Kim, since now he was on hand to sign several medical certificates and receive a copy of the two criminals' sentencing sheets.
Vladim invited Kim to sit down and join them for a snack of Danubian fruit punch and cheese rolls. As she sat down many questions entered her mind, among them how did Vladim and Vladik Dukov handle the conflicting goals of their jobs. Dukov's answer surprised Kim.
"Kimberly, our positions do not conflict at all. We all work for the same purpose, to keep our country safe under our laws. It is all one system. I am a part of that system, and Vladik is a different part of that system. It is like saying your hand and your foot are different from each other. Yes, they are indeed, but the body needs both the hand and the foot, just like a society needs policemen and its criminals need Spokespersons." Dukov sipped his punch, smiled at Vladik, and continued. "I will tell you that Vladik and I are very proud when we salute each other in court. I take pride in knowing he is a police officer, and he takes pride in knowing I am a Spokesman. Perhaps we must challenge each other at times, but in the end we want the same thing. We want the Duchy to be a safe and tranquil place for the people who live here."
"And you're satisfied with the way things are here? You like... the whole thing with the collars and the switchings... and making criminals run around in the nude?"
"It is not that I like it, Kimberly. I was a criminal myself and I know what it is to dread the switch year after year. I feel very bad for the people who must suffer the consequences of their actions, which is why I studied to become a Spokesman. I do what I can to reduce the suffering criminals must face and fight any injustices that may work their way into the system. You, for example, suffered a great injustice at the hands of your friends and the prosecutor, which I had to address. Yes, we have problems, and our system has its deficiencies." Dukov took another sip of his punch and continued. "But, think about it, Kimberly. No matter how cruel you may think things are here, remember one fact. Our country has no jails. We do not confine anyone for more than one night. The rest of the world says that what we do to our criminals is barbaric. But is it? Is it not more barbaric to put a person in a cage for many years and cut him off from his loved ones, from his work, from any usefulness in life?"
"Yes, Spokesman Dukov, I guess I see your point. To be honest, I still don't like what's happened to me, but you're right that it's better than sitting in a prison cell."
Vladik's police radio went off, calling him to an emergency a few blocks away. The two police officers excused themselves and left Dukov's office. Dukov decided to change the topic in his conversation with Kim.
"Kimberly, I would like to know something. What do you think would have happened to you if you had smoked your marijuana in peace and left the ground behind the Temple of the Ancients? If you had never been arrested and continued on your trip to Prague?"
"I guess we would have hit a bunch of discos in Prague, crashed at some friends' places...Tiff knows a bunch of people there. We'd of partied, maybe looked around a bit... probably not that much though... mostly we were partying."
"And the marijuana? What would you have done with it?"
"Smoked it. Maybe party a bit with it... invite some friends to smoke... Tiff wanted to trade some of it for some smack... that's part of the reason we had so much with us."
"And do you perceive that as a worthwhile use of your time... and your money?"
"No, of course it isn't. But you know how it is... people want to party and they don't know when to stop."
"Kimberly, another question... if I may... If you look back at your life in June through the prism of who you have become in September, how do you see yourself?"
Kim thought about it. Finally she answered. "If you really want to know, I don't think things were going well. I mean... we came to Europe to see it, and all we were doing was getting high. We spent a bunch of money to get to Amsterdam, and we just sat in the pot cafes all day, smoking weed. I was doing more and more of it. That's why I got kinda desperate after lunch when we got here... I just had to have a smoke. It was all weed for me, and... here Tiff was talking about smack... and I would have tried it... and I know better. That stuff fucks you up, but I would have done it anyway."
"And there is my point. You had dedicated your life to your "partying," as you say it. Your life was not going in a good direction. It is quite possible your experience may have ended elsewhere under equally bad, or even worse, circumstances. If you believe yourself unlucky please give that consideration."
Kim sat silent for a minute. "Spokesman Dukov... there is something else that I realize. I don't like who I was back in June. I mean... I pulled a lot of shit on my parents and on everyone else. I didn't appreciate anything... all I wanted to do was party."
"Like in your bicycle poem..."
"Like in my bicycle poem. Exactly Sir... like in my bicycle poem. I didn't appreciate anything... not if it wasn't from Tiff and Susan... and now all that's gone, and I don't know what I want. I really don't know..."
Dukov smiled slightly. "There is no rush. You have two years to figure it out. That is one thing that seems to trouble you Americans; you think you need to have everything in your lives resolved right away. Such haste in life is unnecessary. Perhaps... perhaps your two years in our country will serve its purpose. You will have time to reflect about your life, and to think about what you really want for yourself."
Kim sighed. "I don't know." She tugged at her collar. "This sure is a rough way to do it."
"It is never easy, Kimberly. It is not meant to be easy. It is meant to work. It is meant to force you to change." Dukov stood up and smiled. "Come. Let us return to my house and have dinner. You can leave Victor's bicycle up here instead of returning it tonight. I will call him and let him know that I instructed you to do so."