by Sara Kingdom
Television Presenter Stephanie breaks the law in an Eastern European holiday resort and finds that she cannot pay the fine.
1. AT THE BEACH
It was Stephanie's final day in the resort of Dravna. She was due to fly back to England that afternoon with her producer and cameraman.
At 28, Stephanie Jenkins was a rising star of English Television . The dark-haired presenter had started out in children's television and moved on to present a variety of entertainment and documentary programmes. Her talent and beauty made her much sought after by television channels around the country.
It was one of the perks of Stephanie's TV job that, from time to time, she and her fellow presenters were given short assignments to film reports from holiday resorts. She had spent the last two days in this new Eastern European resort on the Black Sea coast. The climate was lovely and the holiday facilities were superb, but Stephanie was appalled at how poor the country was. It had been difficult for her team to film anything useful away from the hotels at the beach-front.
Now that her filming had been done, Stephanie wanted to spend a few hours sunbathing on the beautiful beach. Her colleagues Mike and Kenny were off trying to shoot extra footage.
Stephanie left her hotel dressed in a white bikini with a black and white striped sarong tucked around the waist. On her feet were white canvas shoes and she carried a rolled-up beach towel under her arm. Her clothing showed off her tall and lovely figure to full effect.
She walked the short way from the hotel to the beach but noticed that it was especially busy that day. She decided to walk further up the path running along the beach in the hope of finding a quieter spot.
After walking for about five minutes Stephanie found herself outside of town. The beach was quite deserted, although very beautiful. Stephanie decided to stop and sunbathe here.
She stepped off the path and down a small stairway onto the white sands. She picked a spot and laid out her large beach-towel. She took off her sarong and shoes and lay on her back.
Stephanie lay there blissfully. This was just perfect. With beautiful beaches and a climate like this, there was no way that the fledgling tourism industry could fail to take off in this part of the world.
Suddenly she heard voices all around her. Stephanie opened her eyes to find three policeman shouting angrily and pointing at a sign near the path. They grabbed her by the shoulders and made her stand up. She couldn't understand what they were saying and why they were so angry.
Stephanie tried to speak to them. "Do you speak English ? I'm sorry. I don't speak your language."
One of the policeman shrugged his shoulders and pointed towards a police car parked near the path. He gestured to her to pick up her belongings and come with them.
"I'm sorry. I'm English. I didn't know I was doing anything wrong."
She hurriedly put on her shoes and picked up her sarong and towel. The policemen took her up the beach to the car.
2. IN THE POLICE STATION
No-one in the Police Station spoke English and Stephanie was relieved when Yuri, the television crew's local interpreter, arrived.
"Yuri ! What is going on ? Why have they brought me here ?"
Yuri smiled. "Please keep calm. It appears you have trespassed on a private beach not open to tourists. It is not a serious offence. You will be allowed to go soon. "
"But what do they want ? Why have they brought my suitcase and things from the hotel ? Why have they taken out and counted out all the cash I have ?"
"There is a fixed fine to be paid for your trespass. I think it is about fifty of your English pounds. They have checked your belongings and unfortunately you do not have enough of our currency with you to pay this fully. I think maybe you have only about half of what they need."
"But I've got English money and credit cards. Can't I pay with those ?"
"No, I'm afraid that that the law decrees that all our fines are paid in cash with our local currency. It is perhaps a silly rule, but our country is not so advanced as yours."
"Can you lend me some money Yuri ? I can easily pay you back."
"I would like to do that. Unfortunately it is not allowed. That would be seen to be aiding a criminal act and I, or anyone else, could be put in prison for that. I'm afraid that the fine must be paid from your own cash."
"But I don't have enough. What will they do ? Will I go to prison ?"
Yuri laughed. "No, no, no. There is no danger of that. It is customary for a fine to be paid by having some of the criminal's belongings auctioned in the town square. When enough is raised to pay the fine you will be allowed to go. For such a small amount of money you should not worry."
"Auction ? When will that happen ?"
"These are quite normal and take place nearly every day at 2pm in the square. The guys here tell me that there are no other auctions to be held today. They will take us up there in a few minutes and this thing will be sorted out. Please don't worry."
3. IN THE MARKET SQUARE
Stephanie walked up the steps on to the small wooden stage. Yuri followed her.
"Are these handcuffs really necessary, Yuri ?"
"I'm sorry Miss Jenkins, but until your fine is paid you are treated as a criminal. It is just the way of our country. "
Stephanie laughed. "Criminal ? I only have a fine of about £25 to pay. What would they do if this was something serious ?"
Yuri smiled. "It's just the way we do things, like how we can only accept cash. Please be patient. This should not take too long. You will have the handcuffs off in no time and I promise you will be at the airport in plenty time for your flight this afternoon."
Stephanie was directed to the centre of the stage by a grey-haired man in a dishevelled blue suit. They were about three feet above the ground. Around the stage were about fifty locals all watching intently as the beautiful, handcuffed foreigner was presented to them.
"Hello ... Stephanie !" A shout came from the back of the crowd. Standing there were Mike, her producer, and Kenny the young cameraman. They waved to her as Stephanie looked over at them.
Stephanie smiled and turned enough to show her colleagues that she was handcuffed. She faced the front again and shrugged her shoulders. What else could she do ?
Stephanie noticed that Kenny was filming. She turned to Yuri. "I can't believe it ! They're actually shooting this. I'm going to be a laughing stock when I get home. "
Yuri pointed to a second floor balcony in the building overlooking the square. "They're not the only ones. That's the local television channel up there. They always broadcast these auctions live."
Stephanie looked up to see two men with a large television camera on a tripod. She glanced around the square and noticed a few spectators with camcorders.
"I thought that this was supposed to be a poor country. Where did all the cameras come from ?"
A policeman came up on to the stage carrying Stephanie's suitcase. He placed it at the front of the stage and opened it. He then climbed off the stage and took his place at the front of the crowd. He folded his arms and waited for the show to begin.
The man in the suit walked up to Stephanie. He said something to her and urged her forward by touching her back. She walked with him to the front centre of the stage. Yuri followed and remained behind her right shoulder. "He is the Town Mayor. It is his job to make sure that all fines are recovered for the town. " Yuri informed her.
The man spoke into a microphone and his voice came out of loudspeakers placed around the square. He talked and the audience laughed at his comments.
The man reached into the suitcase and pulled out Stephanie's trainers. He held them up to the crowd. A few voices gave their approval and the man started to react as people shouted out. After a few seconds the audience went quiet and the man pointed to someone at the back. A young woman of about twenty stepped forward and gave the man some coins. She was handed the trainers and she walked away smiling. The crowd laughed as she held them up.
Stephanie turned to Yuri. "I hope they fetched a good price, they cost me a packet back in London."
Yuri shook his head. "I'm afraid that the girl only paid about two of your pounds for the shoes.
Stephanie was shocked. "But that's ridiculous ! Those are really expensive trainers. They're almost brand new."
"I'm sorry." Yuri replied. "That's the way of these auctions. I'm afraid everybody is here looking for a bargain. Nobody can afford much in this country anyway."
Stephanie shook her head. "If this carries on they'll probably get quite a few of my things from that case before they make enough for my fine."
The man returned to the suitcase and pulled out Stephanie's black dress. She had worn it the night before when they had visited a restaurant at the beach and did the final piece of filming for the report.
"Well, that cost me quite a large part of my clothing allowance for this year." said Stephanie. "If these people know anything about designer labels this should raise enough to finish this silly auction off."
Again the man responded to shouts from the audience. They laughed as he held it in front of him and posed. Finally he pointed to the winner, a young man near the front. He approached stage and handed the man a few notes before walking off with the dress triumphally.
Stephanie said hopefully. "Yuri, how much did that dress fetch ? Is that the auction over ?"
Yuri shook his head. "No, I'm afraid that was only about three of your pounds. I think we have still a long way to go."
Stephanie looked up to the heavens in despair. "I don't believe this. Do these people not know quality when they see it ?"
The man put the money in his jacket pocket and made a few notes in his book. He then returned to the case.
The auction continued much in the same vein. Stephanie's personal belongings were taken from the case one by one and bought at very low prices. Her expensive clothes and shoes went for next to nothing. Her toilet bag was emptied out and examined by the curious locals at the front of the stage.
Stephanie cringed with embarrassment. This couldn't be happening to her. She was a well known television presenter and now her personal belongings were being examined and ridiculed in public by these ignorant foreigners. To make things worse she noticed that Mike stood with his arms folded, obviously enjoying the spectacle, and Kenny continued to film with a big grin on his face.
"How much have they made so far, Yuri ?" whispered Stephanie.
Yuri listened for a moment as the man talked to the crowd. "He is telling them that you are still short of your fine by about ten pounds. There is not much left in your case I'm afraid."
Stephanie knew what was next. The man lifted out a bundle and held it up to the audience. Stephanie's underwear !
"Oh, no !" thought Stephanie and looked down in embarrassment.
The man held up some of the items individually and some of the audience cheered. Loud laughter broke out and Stephanie looked up to see the man sniffing a pair of her panties. All the items had been worn during her trip.
There was a frenzy of activity as crowd shouted out bids and the man did his best to keep control. He ran from stage and passed the items to members of the crowd as they handed him coins and notes. He returned to the stage after handing out everything and counted the money he had taken. He wrote in his book again.
"Surely that's it now, Yuri ?" whispered Stephanie hopefully.
Yuri listened to the man again as he addressed the crowd. He watched as the man lifted the empty suitcase and showed it to the crowd. He held it upside down to show that it was empty. A shout came from the crowd again and the man stepped forward and handed the case to an elderly woman in exchange for a note.
The man shrugged his shoulders and consulted his notebook. He talked continually to the audience. Some of them laughed.
Yuri spoke. "I'm afraid that they have sold all your belongings but they have not raised enough to pay the full amount of the fine. I think you are still about five pounds below the amount required."
Stephanie was almost in tears. She had been humiliated as her belongings had been sold for next to nothing.
"W..w..what happens now ? W..will they put me in prison ?"
"No. I don't think they are finished. The auctioneer is asking if there is anything else the people are interested in."
"What ? They've got everything I have !"
Yuri shook his head. "He wants to auction your jewellery. He is asking for people to bid for your watch and rings."
The man approached from behind. Stephanie felt her watch being taken off and her rings were pulled from her fingers. The man walked forward and held them up for the crowd. More shouting followed and the man passed the items to an old woman in the front row in exchange for a couple of coins.
The man returned to Stephanie and knelt down. He touched her canvas shoes and looked up at Stephanie.
"He wants your shoes. Please lift up your feet for him." whispered Yuri.
Stephanie lifted her right foot and the man undid the laces and took her shoe off. She then lifted her left foot and this shoe was also removed.
The man held the shoes up and they were given to a young woman for a couple of coins.
"Is that it now ?" Stephanie asked anxiously. "I haven't much left."
The man returned and tugged at her sarong. He pulled at the material at the waist and the skirt fell away from Stephanie's body. He turned and held it up to the crowd.
Stephanie stood there in only her white bikini.
"Hey ! You can't do that ! Give me that back !" screamed Stephanie.
The man turned and spoke sharply to her. Stephanie knew she was being told to be quiet. Yuri whispered. "Please don't argue with him. He has a job to do and it will be difficult for you if you do not cooperate. He can throw you into prison if he wants to. Please keep quiet. This will be over soon."
Stephanie kept quiet but glared as the man waved the skirt for the appreciative crowd. A young woman of about Stephanie's age was given the skirt in exchange for a coin.
The man turned round and smiled at Stephanie. The crowd started to applaud.
"Yuri ! What is he going to do ? Please help me !"
Yuri stayed silent as the man walked behind Stephanie. She felt her bikini being unclasped and at the back.
"Please don't do this !" Stephanie pleaded. She looked up to the balcony and saw the local film crew. She looked at the back of the crowd and saw Kenny filming away. He still had a big grin in his face. Mike was laughing and clapping with the crowd.
The man came back round in front of Stephanie. She looked at his face. The man was smiling, clearly enjoying himself. He wrapped a finger around the bikini between her breasts and lifted it up over her head quickly.
The crowd cheered as Stephanie's breasts were displayed. She closed her eyes. This couldn't be happening ! Now she was topless in front of all these people ! And how many more were watching on Television ?
Stephanie looked up as the man returned having sold the bikini top. "Oh no ! Please ! Please don't !" She pleaded.
She felt the policeman behind her tighten his grip on her arms. The man approached her, knelt down, and gripped the waistband on either side of her bikini bottoms. He turned his head and said something to the crowd. They shouted enthusiastically. Stephanie knew what they wanted.
The man looked up into Stephanie's eyes and smiled. In one swift movement he then pulled the bottoms down over her hips and down to her ankles. The crowd cheered and Stephanie looked in horror as the bikini bottoms were taken away and waved in the air.
Stephanie stood distraught with her head bowed. The audience cheered and applauded as her last garment was sold. Tears welled up in her eyes. Surely everybody she knew would see this !
The crowd cheered as the last garment was sold. The man looked at his notebook and addressed the crowd. Yuri whispered to Stephanie. "It appears that the fine has not been met. I'm afraid that the Mayor will now decide on what punishment is necessary. I am so sorry. I did not think this could happen."
Stephanie watched as the man talked to the crowd. He seemed to be asking them questions. The man made an announcement and the crowd cheered loudly. Stephanie turned to Yuri. "What is it ? What is he going to do ?"
Yuri shook his head as he explained. "I am so sorry. He has decided that your punishment will be to be displayed for the public here for the next 12 hours. I am so sorry."
"Displayed ! What does that mean ?"
The man approached Stephanie again. The man spoke to the policeman holding her arms. Stephanie struggled as she was led down the steps. The crowd parted as she was taken to the centre of the square.
Stephanie felt her handcuffs being taken off, but she was forced to stand by a tall stone pillar. Her hands were pulled behind either side of the pillar and she felt the handcuffs being put back on.
The crowd formed a circle around the helpless Stephanie. They stared at her body as she wriggled in vain to free herself from the pillar. She tried to cover herself by kneeling down but she was quickly pulled up by one of the policeman. The crowd edged closer and closer.
Stephanie was relieved for a moment to see that the police were attempting to control the crowd. Some men stepped forward and tried to touch Stephanie but they were quickly ordered back.
Then to her horror the people began to form in a line beside one of the policemen ! Stephanie realised what was happening. "MY GOD, THEY'RE QUEUING UP ! NO ! PLEASE HELP ME ! NO !"
Away from the action the Town Mayor stood with Yuri. He spoke in his own language. "I congratulate you, Yuri, on your fantastic idea to use our auction law on this young lady. She really is something special. If she is as famous as you say she is, we are sure to get fantastic publicity. And maybe we can export some video tapes of our little game"
Yuri smiled. "And many will be attracted to our town in the hope of seeing such entertainment. We must do this again soon." He looked over at the rapidly forming line. "Please excuse me, Mr Mayor, but I would very much like to join in with our little lady's party. I must go."