Kim spent the middle of March confronting the emotional turmoil that resulted from Cindy's trip. Without realizing what was happening until it was too late, she had long since passed a point of no return. She couldn't go back to her old life.
Kim expected the first crisis from her decision to hit about 48 hours after she said goodbye to Cindy. Sure enough, two nights after her sister left Kim's parents called her, in hysterics over the result of Cindy's trip. Cindy's decision to support Kim's desire to stay in Upper Danubia only made their parents more irate. Both girls had completely lost their senses. Why wouldn't she want to come home, even with the tough transition that awaited her?
Kim's father was adamant. "Well, we're filing, no matter what you want. You're coming home and I'm going to knock some sense into you."
Kim asked her Spokesman to call her parents. He seemed to have a better ability to reason with them than she did. Dukov decided to talk to Mrs. Lee, since she seemed to have a greater understanding of how messed up Kim was. Dukov spent nearly two hours carefully explaining why Kim thought staying in Upper Danubia was her only realistic option. He played on her drug use, knowing that her mother had been appalled when she found out what her daughter had been doing in Europe with Tiffany and Susan. At last Kim's mother agreed that if she wished to stay in Upper Danubia, perhaps it was best to not pursue the effort to overturn her sentence. If nothing else, it would keep her clean and off drugs for two years. With that both Kim's mother and Kim's sister worked to change her father's mind. In the end he decided to wait and not file anything for the time being.
Kim's decision ended up saving her parents a lot of money and heartbreak. Later that year her father's lawyer was arrested for fraud. It turned out he specialized in promising the parents of young American adults jailed overseas that he could get their convictions overturned. He collected vast amounts of money, but did not successfully pursue a single case. He finally was caught in Peru, relaxing at a beach resort when he was supposed to be in Lima working on securing the release of two Americans arrested for terrorism charges. The Peruvian government extradited him to the United States for trial. One result of the lawyer's arrest was that Kim's father never questioned her judgment again.
There was no question Criminal # 98945 had made the right decision in requesting that her sentence not be challenged. Still, it was a horrible feeling to think that she had burned a bridge in her life. There truly was no going back. The finality of what had happened frightened her.
Images drifted through Kim's mind, the most vivid of which was that of an enormous set of steel doors, far larger than anything that could have existed in real life, slamming shut behind her. That huge set of steel doors, now bolted and rusted solid, stood between Kim and everything she had ever known in the US. The only reality she could ever know from this point on would be her life in Upper Danubia.
Kim knew she was being overly dramatic. Of course, at the end of her sentence, she would be free to do what she wanted, whether that be to stay in Europe or return to the United States. Still, the feeling that the person she had been just a year before was completely dead continued to fill her thoughts. As March progressed and the trees started to bud out, she wrote at length about her feelings. She wrote actual poetry, not just essays, about the deep philosophical issues that surrounded her situation and what she thought about her life.
Kim shared her thoughts during the reading sessions at the Socrates Club. As she stood in front of her fellow criminals, reciting her emotional journey in her accented Danubian, she wondered what her friends from high school would have thought if they could have seen her. Here she was, in an old building standing on an old stage, naked and with a collar on her neck, talking about her philosophical view of the issues affecting her life. A year ago she had been sitting in the smoking area behind her school, drinking with Tiffany and Susan out of soda bottles spiked with ever-clear. Most definitely the Kimberly Lee of today was not the Kimberly Lee who appeared in her senior high school annual picture from the year before.
Dima ended up writing several songs for the group based on some of Kim's thoughts. One of those songs, titled "The Wall that Divides My Soul", later became extremely popular throughout Europe, and ultimately a signature song for the entire group.
Kim's life faced even more changes as April started and the Danubian springtime began in earnest. On April 1 Danube City's 2,200 criminals lined up in front of the Central Police Station to return their winter capes and boots. At the moment she turned over her clothing, Kim pulled off her criminal's number 98945 from the Velcro patch on the back of her cape and held it up to the clerk, who verified that Criminal # 98945 had returned the property lent to her by the government.
After the capes were turned in, the criminals bantered with each other and posed for group pictures in the main plaza. They joked and smiled as they held up their numbers for the cameras. For some reason the returning of the winter capes was a customary time criminals posed for group pictures, perhaps because it was a time of the year they all were gathered in one place. Kim posed over and over with Sergekt and his friends, all 28 of them, plus several girlfriends and boyfriends who had ended up as part of the group in the same way Kim had joined, by dating one of the members.
Kim had to resolve the dilemma about her work situation. She loved her job at the music store, but she also had promised Victor Dukov to return to his courier service as soon as the weather warmed up. Kim wanted to return to making deliveries for Victor, not just because of her promise, but also because she wanted to put her mountain bike to good use. It was Sergekt who came up with the best solution.
"Why not just keep both jobs? You can work each part time, for example, ride for Victor Dukov Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and work the rest of the week at the store. That would get you out on your bike exercising and at the same time make everyone happy."
Kim approached both her bosses with the idea, making each of them understand she had a commitment to the other. In the end Kim went with Sergekt's suggestion. She delivered messages for Victor Dukov on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She worked at the music store on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the days Eloisa usually liked to have rehearsals or performances after work. Kim's work-week thus was split between working outdoors and indoors. Because each day she did something different, Kim never was bored with either job.
Kim moved about quickly throughout Danube City on her mountain bike as she delivered Victor Dukov's messages. She went everywhere within the collar zone, now that her ability to speak Danubian allowed her to make deliveries and ask questions as easily as any other member of Victor Dukov's staff. She became a familiar sight in Danube City, the naked Maragana Girl on her fancy bicycle, yes, the same one who was singing with Eloisa and her group of ex-students.
Kim now spoke to Victor Dukov in Danubian instead of English. Over the winter she had become fluent in speaking Danubian and now spoke the country's language better than Victor spoke English. That was not entirely a good thing for Kim. She no longer could hide behind claiming that she did not understand something when her boss got unpleasant with her. Victor was his usual self, in spite of the fact Kim was doing him a favor by coming back to work for him. However, Kim understood Victor actually liked her a lot and that his unpleasantness was simply a part of his personality he couldn't change.
Kim enjoyed riding, a task made much easier now that she had a proper bicycle. She loved the feel of the cool spring breeze and the warm sun on her body. She loved the sight of the pleasant streets and parks of Danube City as she whizzed down the tree-lined avenues. She loved her mobility, and the fact that every so often she could drop in at Sergekt's café and say hello to him at work. On the days she delivered messages, Kim rode herself to exhaustion, knowing that the following day she would be at the music store and could rest her body. By the end of the spring, Kim was in great shape, with her muscles toned and her body evenly tanned from the hours spent outdoors on her bike.
April ended with the group becoming depressed again. Four months had passed since their last switching. They were due to be switched again on April 25, more than two years since their original crime. Once again they faced the prospect of being marched in chains to their old school and humiliated in front of the current students.
On April 24, the day before the switching, Eloisa showed up to work with her pubic hair shaved off, as did the other three members of the group of ex-students who were working at the music store. Of course the main purpose of shaving was to prevent the humiliation of being shaved by the police, but there was more to shaving than just that.
Over her time in Upper Danubia Kim had learned that it was customary for a criminal who faced being switched to shave the day before the punishment, instead of the day of the punishment itself. It was an unwritten part of the entire punishment ritual that a criminal announce to the world that he or she faced punishment by appearing in public shaved the day before. There was no formal requirement that criminals make such an announcement, nor even that they shave at all. However, the criminals of Danube City had their own subculture with its own traditions and protocol, which included proper behavior for those facing the switch. Part of that proper behavior was to be shaved 24 hours before the punishment itself.
Kim planned to spend the evening with Sergekt. They would go to the Socrates Club and rent an "intimacy room", since tonight probably would be the last night for several days that Sergekt would want to have sex with her. She already had told Dukov she would not be home until very late.
In the early afternoon Kim was surprised to see Vladik Dukov enter the music store. He was in his police uniform, which meant that his behavior around her had to be different than it normally would be at home. In spite of living under the same roof, when Officer Vladik Dukov was in uniform, Criminal # 98945 had to treat him like she would treat any other public official. As Vladik approached the information counter, Kim dropped to her hands and knees. She touched her head to the floor, feeling very strange having to do this to a person with whom she lived. However, to have not greeted Vladik in the formal manner would have caused a scandal in the store and have been a direct challenge to his authority.
As Kim prostrated herself at his feet, Vladik asked to speak to the store manager. Eloisa knelt, received the order, and got up to find the manager. Once he showed up, Vladik explained he needed to speak with Criminal # 98945 and that she needed to be excused from work for an hour or two. Kim left the store in the custody of the young police officer.
Kim nervously accompanied Vladik, not having a clue about what the police officer wanted from her nor why the conversation could not wait until the evening when they both would be back home.
A police officer and a criminal could not talk normally on the street, so Vladik took Kim to his father's office at the Central Police Station. Only when they entered the reception area could Vladik converse in a more normal manner towards his father's client.
"Kimberly, I apologize for having to pull you out of the store like that, but I need to talk to you and then you have get back to work as soon as you can."
"OK, so what's up?"
"Well, you know that your music friends are all getting punished tomorrow, at their old school?"
"Yes, Vladik, I'm well aware of that."
"Well, it turns out that I have to stand in for one of the arresting officers. He got into a motorcycle accident a couple of days ago and won't be out of the hospital for several weeks. So, I end up with the 'honor' of punishing some of your friends."
"You... you mean... you're going to punish Sergekt?"
"No, not him. I can't punish him because he's eaten at my father's table. That's strictly forbidden, you know, to avoid conflicts of interest and trouble within our household. Someone else will get him. But I'm in charge of punishing a couple of the women. Right now your singing partner Eloisa is on my list. I have to switch her, and that's what I need to talk to you about."
"What's there to talk about Vladik? She doesn't deserve any of this. It's not her fault she got molested and I don't see why..." Vladik held up his hand.
"Kimberly stop... just stop. I'm not here to argue the merits of her case. My partner and I were ordered to participate in this punishment and that's the end of it. Whether or not she deserves what's happening to her is a decision that's beyond my authority. She and the others will be punished tomorrow, and I will be responsible for some of the punishments. Nothing can change that. What concerns me is that your friends are punished fairly and appropriately. I intend to respect their dignity as best I can and will ensure the blows they receive fall within the guidelines set by the Corporal Punishment Code."
Kim looked at Vladik with a bitter expression, not understanding what he was driving at. "So why are you telling me this? Do you think it'll clear your conscience?"
Vladik sighed. "I don't think you fully understand the situation. What my partner and I plan to do is stay just within the guidelines of the required punishment."
Vladik paused and then continued. "I will make a confession to you. The fact is, I do think what happened to your friends is unfair. A lot of us think the same about that case, in the police department, that is. But we can't say anything about it. To question a sentence is not our place, nor our authority. Now about my situation. I try to respect the people I punish. I punish with force, but I do not fondle the criminals like a lot of the officers do. I find that practice disgusting and there are some of us in the police department who are trying to put a stop to it. Another thing. The judge who will sign the punishment certificates for my group is an old professor of mine from the police academy. We know each other and he is of the same mindset I am, and that Father is; that we need to have some reforms in the system. Things are going to change, Kimberly, but that's not going to help your friends right now. What will help your friends, or at least the ones turned over to me, is that I plan to switch them to the absolute minimum of the legal standard. They'll get their 50 strokes, but my partner and I want to go easy on them."
"Well... I mean... I appreciate that Vladik, but what can I do to help?"
"Well, here's my idea. My partner and I will punish eight of your group. There are eight women, including your singing partner, right?"
"Alright, here's where you can help me help them. Your group usually has the women all go first. If they do it that way tomorrow, my partner and I will only punish two of the women and six guys. What I want is to have all the women sent to my room, basically to keep them away from a couple of the other officers who, I know for a fact, will mistreat them. They'll mistreat the guys as well, but it won't be as bad as the women. Now, here's what I want. I want you to very quietly approach the leaders of your group, and tell them to re-organize so that all the women come to me and my partner. The judge will go along with it, but it has to be done quietly or we will all get in trouble."
"But why just the women? Why can't you try to help the guys also?"
"Because my partner and I are only in charge of eight of the punishments. I can help eight out of your group. The reason why it's the women I'm worried about, is because... well, if you knew the other officers you'd understand. I don't believe that criminals should be our playthings, and they very much disagree with me."
"So, with those other officers, it'd be like what happened to me in January?"
"Worse. I know those other officers, and, let's just say there's two of them who I don't think have the right to be wearing badges."
"Alright, I'll talk to them, see if they'll go along with it. I don't know if they will because..."
"No! You will not talk to the whole group about this! Nor will you tell any of the women what I'm trying to do! I want you to go directly to your singing partner's boyfriend and have him make the arrangements with the group's Spokesman. You can tell Sergekt as well, he seems trustworthy. But that's it. I don't want this to get out. I'm taking a real risk here, not just for myself, but also the presiding judge."
"But why are you going through me? Couldn't you just tell Spokesman Havlakt?"
"That's illegal. I am not allowed to make any such arrangements with a Spokesman. That's for a very good reason, because it helps prevent corruption. Nor am I allowed to talk directly to any of the criminals involved in tomorrow's punishment. I'm going through you because you're a member of my household and I can legally talk to you, even though you're a criminal."
"OK, I'll talk to Dima about this, and I'm sure he'll do what he can to help out. I won't tell anyone else except Sergekt."
Vladik let out a nervous sigh. "Thanks. I have to take care of some paperwork and I'll be downstairs while you're gone. Once you get back, have Father's secretaries call me and I'll escort you back to work."
With that Kim rode her bicycle to Sergekt's cafe near the Temple of the Ancients. Kim was relieved to see Sergekt and Dima working there alone. Several of the guys from the group had jobs at the café, but the others were not working the mid-day shift. Sergekt was surprised to see Kim show up on her bicycle, knowing that she was supposed to be at the music store.
Kim quickly and quietly talked to Dima about Vladik's plans. She then explained that Officer Vladik Dukov was the son of Spokesman Vladim Dukov and she lived with him. Dima's face lit up with relief.
"So there really are human beings among all those cops! I was starting to wonder!"
Dima promised to re-organize the group to accommodate Vladik. He would talk to the group's Spokesman, who would make the arrangement. He would not say anything to any of the group's other members, including Sergekt. The group's de facto leader fully understood the need to keep everything as secret as possible. The women would go in wondering about the change, and come out wondering why their switching was not quite as severe as it had been during previous punishments. The guys would know nothing, at least not until the day was over.
With that both Kim and Dima returned to the Central Police Station. They parted as Dima disappeared into the doorway of Spokesman Havlakt's office. With that Kim slipped into Dukov's office and called Vladik to escort her back to work.
A half hour later Kim was back at the music store, kneeling in front of Officer Vladik Dukov as he dismissed her. Kim's feelings about Vladik had been neutral until just a couple of hours ago. He was Vladim Dukov's son, but he was also a cop. Because of his profession, Kim always felt very uncomfortable around him. And yet, working within the restrictions of his position, he was willing to take risks to try to ease the burden of a group of criminals he felt had been treated unfairly. That small act of rebellion on his part totally changed how Kim felt about him.
That night Kim spent several somber hours alone with Sergekt in an "intimacy room" at the Socrates Club. She asked him to lie on his stomach as she sadly caressed his bottom. Sergekt had an attractive bottom, smooth and fairly hairless for a guy. She pressed her palms to Sergekt's skin, fill with regret knowing by this time the next day this same bottom would be covered with cruel welts and blood blisters. She gently kissed and massaged Sergekt's bottom-cheeks, the final night before they would be so cruelly marked up.
Kim was fascinated with the clean-shaven area around Sergekt's penis. It felt smooth and looked so vulnerable stripped of the surrounding hair. Kim felt an overwhelming desire to kiss and run her fingertips over the clean skin. She licked the base of his penis until he was hard then gently ran her tongue around the tip, tasting his pre-cum. She straddled him and impaled herself on him, enjoying the unique feel of Sergekt's hairless lower body against her crotch. She grabbed his arms and pinned them to his sides, relishing the feel of his momentary helplessness. She climaxed with loud moans, in one the best orgasms she ever had enjoyed. It felt so incredibly good.
Once they were finished making love Sergekt wanted to set the room in order and join the others downstairs, but Kim stopped him. She needed to talk. She told Sergekt about Vladik's tentative plans to try to give the group's eight women a partial reprieve from their punishments. She then briefly went over her conversation with Dima and his trip to the Central Police Station. Sergekt was a bit surprised.
"No wonder he came back in such a good mood! He was totally happy, but he wouldn't tell me why. He said that I was just imagining things."
"Well, you know, it's just going to be the women that are getting any leniency. You guys are going to get it just as bad as last time, or worse. From what Vladik told me, there's a couple of real bad apples among those cops that you'll be facing tomorrow. That's the reason he wanted to separate out the women."
"Well, he did something for us, or at least for the ones who needed it the most. We (Sergekt used the Danubian masculine term to refer to just the men) can handle most of what the punishing officers do to us, but we always worry about the girls. Every time we go through this it's the same thing. We're always stressed about what they're going to do to the girls. At least this time we don't have to worry about that. It will put everyone's mind at ease."
"Sergekt, no one's mind is going to be put at ease. You will keep your mouth shut about this. Don't tell anyone. Vladik and his partner are putting their careers at risk by trying to keep the women away from those other cops."
"Of course. I'd forgotten about that. I won't say anything."
Kim and Sergekt remained in bed for a while, quietly staring at the ceiling. Kim's thoughts returned to Vladik and his stern but fair outlook as a cop. She wondered what motivated him to go to the police academy in the first place. He was smart and educated, a cut above the majority of his co-workers in the police force. She wanted to get Sergekt's opinion of her Spokesman's son.
"What do you think of Vladik? I mean, you've eaten dinner with us, and talked to him a bit, so what do you think of him?"
"I don't really know. I come over and what I see is a cop. It's weird for me to sit with him. It's weird because, at your Spokesman's table I can talk to him just like I could with anyone else, but the moment I step outside, I have to kiss his shoes. That makes me feel very uneasy, and I can't really separate him from his uniform."
Sergekt continued, "You know, we've been criminals for two years. We still have another year to go. The whole thing has changed me: the restrictions, the beatings, the collar, being referred to as Criminal # 92876 instead of my name... it's made me different. I'm not like I was two years ago. I'm a criminal, and I can't believe I'll ever see myself any differently. And until just now that's how I saw Vladik; as a cop, as a blue uniform with a switch. I couldn't really see him as a human being, and I still can't picture that he sees me as anything other then a criminal. So... this plan of his is a bit of a shock to me, finding out that he actually cares about the girls. I never could have imagined that any cop would care anything about any of us."
Kim and Sergekt got up, figuring it was time to clean the room and go downstairs. They showered and replaced the bed sheets. As Sergekt tossed the used sheets into the overflowing hamper at the end the upstairs hallway Kim remembered something else that Vladik had mentioned that gave her hope.
"Vladik told me something that was interesting. He said there's a whole bunch of people in the justice system: cops, Spokespersons, even at least one judge, who want to make some changes and stop the sexual crap when we get punished. He thinks the laws about that will change at some point. Of course it'll be too late to do us any good, but still..."
The following day Kim was scheduled to ride as a courier for Victor Dukov. He simply contracted her out to Spokesman Havlakt for the day. She had to ride back and forth with numerous legal documents to Sergekt's school, two different police stations, and the Central Courthouse. She was busy riding the entire day, so she only caught very brief glimpses of her friends as they were moved into and later out of the school.
As the criminals knelt in front of the small police station near the school, Kim noticed the eight women were chained together. The guys were separated into three groups: two groups of eight and one of four. Vladik, his partner, and another cop stood over the women, waiting to march them to the school.
Kim did not see the punishment itself, but heard the rest of the story that afternoon from Eloisa. Spokesman Havlakt ordered the women to kneel as a group instead of the usual arrangement of two women with six guys. The women were surprised to be chained together, and unsettled that their punishments would not be taken care of at the beginning, as had been the arrangement for previous switchings.
The women had never seen Vladik and his partner, so they did not know what to expect. Vladik seemed to have a rather stern appearance that frightened them. However, he did not yell at them nor beat their shoulders, as was happening to the guys.
The criminals marched down the street in chains for the sixth time in their lives. It was a humiliating experience, and it was meant to be humiliating. Once inside the school there was more humiliation coming. In Upper Danubia it was customary that, if at all possible, a student punished at a school should be switched in front of an audience of the opposite sex. The police took the male criminals into the school auditorium, which was full of female students. Vladik and his partner took the women to the school gymnasium, where all the male students were sitting.
Because Spokesman Havlakt was in the auditorium with the male criminals, a second Spokesman was present to turn over custody of the criminals to the police officers assigned to punish them. That Spokesman was Vladim Dukov. Eloisa recognized him, and suddenly realized that the cop standing near the punishment table looked a lot like the Spokesman, only much younger.
The boys were sitting eagerly. They looked forward to watching the switching of the eight young women. However, they also were anxiously waiting to see the women humiliated, as they had been during the punishment prior to Christmas. The fondling was the part they really enjoyed, but today they would be disappointed.
The third cop escorting the group ordered the women to stand in a line as he took off the criminals' handcuffs and leg chains. He then unhooked the chains that linked their collars together and ordered them to kneel. They knelt forward, touching their heads to the floor. Because they were facing away from their audience, the women's vaginas and bottom-holes were in full view to hundreds of eager eyes as they knelt. As much as they tried to ignore their exposure, the feel of the air from the gymnasium's ventilator blowing against their most private areas made the women all too aware of how much on display they truly were. They could hear the boys quietly making comments to each other and comparing their bodies.
Vladik's partner picked up her switch and stepped in front of the kneeling
"Criminal # 92870, rise and present yourself at the table."
Eloisa stood up, walked to the punishment table, and resumed her kneeling position at Vladik's feet. As was customary, the Spokesman and the cop saluted each other to signal the change of custody. As was customary, Eloisa kissed Vladik's shoes. He tapped her shoulder with his switch and Eloisa sadly stretched herself out on the punishment table. Vladik's partner secured her wrists and ankles with leather straps.
Vladik touched Eloisa's bottom with the switch. He gave her a stroke that was painful, but not vicious. He re-positioned the switch, and struck again. Vladik continued to strike methodically, laying on one stroke after another. The punishment hurt, but was much less severe than what Eloisa had experienced previously. She closed her eyes, trying to cope with the pain. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but she was able to resist the urge to cry.
Vladik continued switching Eloisa, sharply but not full-force. He tapped her bottom before each stroke, then twisted back and struck her. He punished only her bottom. The welts were not serious enough risk breaking Eloisa's skin, not even when the punishment was close to the end. As a result of the lighter strokes on her bottom there was no need to punish Eloisa's back or thighs.
The lead singer's switching was over in less than 20 minutes. The last time she had been switched, the cop took nearly an hour. She was in considerable pain, but was not feeling the agony she felt back in December. Vladik's partner unbuckled the straps and Eloisa stood up. Vladik then presented her to the judge, who signed her punishment certificate. Criminal # 92870 was hugely relieved. It was over. She knelt, kissed Vladik's shoes, thanked him for punishing her, and with a tap of his switch on her shoulder, was released. Vladik saluted his father and that was the end of Eloisa's switching.
Eloisa felt enormously grateful to Officer Vladik Dukov. He had punished her to the absolute minimum of the legal standard. She realized that some sort of secret arrangement must have been made on her behalf, which also would explain why all the women were together today and separated from their classmates.
Eloisa knelt quietly while the second criminal, one of her back-up singers, was called to the table and switched. The second woman's switching also was to the minimum legal standard and was finished within 20 minutes. No mistake about it, some sort of arrangement had been made. There was no humiliation, no teasing, no fondling. The young harsh-looking officer was showing leniency to the group. Eloisa looked at Vladik Dukov, then at Spokesman Dukov, then back to the officer. She realized the cop must be the Spokesman's son, the same cop with whom Kimberly Lee was living. That explained a lot, but not everything, in Eloisa's mind.
Once the fourth criminal in the gymnasium had been punished and released, the first four women from Vladik's group walked passed their audience of somewhat disappointed boys and left the school in Spokesman Havlakt's hired van. They briefly returned to his office, but none of them needed to get on a recovery table. Already the pain from their switchings was subsiding. They quickly drank some tea and then left to check on the guys. They knew the guys had not been so lucky.
Officer Vladik Dukov had been concerned about the other police officers for good reason. Several of them had a reputation for being a bit perverted and two of them already had been reprimanded for abusing criminals. Vladik was appalled when he found out they would be part of the punishment team, which was what prompted him to take charge of the women.
Along with the deviant cops, several of the medical students from the Central Police Station were present in the school auditorium. As the male criminals looked over at the group of medical students standing with the cops, they knew they were in for a rough time. There was no legal need for the medical students to be present; they were there to have fun. Magda, the female student who had tormented the two burglars in Kim's presence, was included the group. She stood next to a cop she was dating, holding a box of medical gloves in her hand.
The 20 male criminals were forced to stand at the edge of the stage, facing away from their audience. Their punishment began when they were forced to kneel. When they put their heads to the floor, they were fully exposed to hundreds of jeering teenaged girls whose ages ranged from 15 to 18. A couple of female cops walked behind them, kicking apart the knees of the guys who were not spread widely enough. The harsh stage-lights shined brightly on the testicles and bottom-holes of the 20 young men.
The sight of 20 very exposed bottoms lined up on the stage was something the cops and medical students found extremely amusing. The cops, both male and female, kicked and slapped the kneeling criminals, to the point Spokesman Havlakt objected several times to their treatment. However the presiding judge in the auditorium was not the one same one who was in the gym. The criminals in the auditorium and their Spokesman received very little support or sympathy from the judge.
The female students were encouraged to taunt and whistle at the criminals. Many of the older girls remembered Eloisa's case and were sympathetic to the 20 guys on stage. They sat in the back of the auditorium and stayed quiet. However, the younger ones were elated at the spectacle unfolding in front of them. The teachers in the room were divided. Some of them secretly sympathized with the criminals, others felt they deserved everything coming to them because they had attacked one of their co-workers. It was an ugly case that continued to hurt the people involved and one that sharply split the school.
Four medical students put on medical gloves and shoved their fingers up the exposed bottoms of four of the ex-students. They massaged their prostate glands and forced furious erections from their victims. The cops then grabbed their arms and forced them stand up and face the audience. Four erect penises faced the mob of jeering teenagers. The cops, male and female, ran their hands up and down the criminal's bodies and teased them, to the delight of the girls in the front rows. The criminals' humiliation was complete, or so they thought.
Spokesman Havlakt was beside himself with disgust. There was no way he could get this to stop. The presiding judge would not support him, leaving him only the option of filing an official complaint once he got back to his office. However the complaint would do nothing to stop what was going on at the moment.
At last the first four criminals were ordered to kneel at the switching tables. As they knelt and kissed the shoes of the cops tormenting them, it was almost a relief to no longer have to stand in front of all those girls with their penises bobbing up and down. The cops secured them to the four switching tables. Magda, the medical student, placed her hand on the bottom of the criminal stretched out on the first of the four tables on stage. She addressed the audience. "How many of you think criminal # 1 will cry first?"
A portion of the girls cheered.
"Very well... how many of you think criminal # 2 will cry first?"
Another portion of the girls cheered. She asked the question two more times for the other two criminals and got cheers from two other groups of girls.
Sergekt remained kneeling with his forehead touching the wooden stage floor and his bottom spread and high in the air. He was totally horrified. He knew that he would be humiliated and punished in the second batch of criminals with three others. He was so nervous he was sweating and shaking slightly.
Still, Sergekt was immensely grateful that at least Eloisa and her companions were not facing this awful treatment, nor did they have to witness it. He now understood why Vladik Dukov had been so determined to get control over the women in the group. What was happening to the guys was bad enough, but at least they did not have to watch these indignities heaped upon their female friends. From what Kim had told him, Sergekt understood that Vladik planned to punish the women and get them out of the school as quickly as possible. He fervently hoped they already had left.
The switchings began, four at the same time. The four cops struck as hard as they legally could, each trying to get his or her criminal to cry first. The four criminals, following the protocol of their subculture, resisted as best they could. They wouldn't have wanted to admit it, but they were competing against each other to see who could hold out the longest.
The four punishing officers struck the criminals simultaneously, but each trying a different tactic to get his or her victim to be the first to cry. They tried striking fast, striking slowly, punishing across the entire bottom, punishing one bottom-cheek at a time. The first criminal screamed at the 21st stroke, the last one at the 42nd stroke. All of them were crying towards the end of their punishments.
Spokesman Havlakt nervously went from table to table, waiting to do the one thing he was authorized to do. One by one he redirected the punishments against the criminals' backs or thighs to prevent permanent injury to their bottoms. When the punishments ended the Spokesman was sweating from stress and anger. However, he had to maintain his self-control. One group had been punished; there still were four other groups to go.
The police un-strapped the four criminals. The four young men were very badly marked up; their bottoms, upper backs, and upper thighs covered with dark welts. They staggered off and sank to the floor to kiss the shoes of their tormenters. One by one they were presented to the presiding judge, who signed each of their punishment certificates. To conclude their punishments, they had to thank the officers for the mistreatment they had just endured. With that they exited the stage towards the waiting van, to spend a long and painful afternoon on recovery tables.
Sergekt felt a hand caress his bottom. The hand slid between his legs and
squeezed his testicles, so hard that he felt some discomfort. He felt his penis
being massaged, and then the hand returned to fondling his testicles. He did
not dare move his head or try to see the face of the cop who was tormenting
him. Then he noticed part of a white smock out of the corner of his eye. His
tormenter was not a cop, but one of the medical students. He felt a rough
finger slide up his bottom. The finger briefly searched inside him and found
what it was looking for, his prostate gland. He gasped and tears ran down the
bridge of his nose as the finger circled around his gland and worked up a
furious erection. The medical student began massaging his penis with her free
hand and continued working his prostate from behind. She abruptly pulled her
finger out of his bottom and ordered him to stand up. Sergekt did so, and was
forced to face the audience. The medical student stood behind him, running her
hands up his chest and pinching him. She whispered in his ear,
"You know, you filthy little beast, that you look like you could use some relief. You're all worked up and no one to fuck. Now isn't that sad?"
Sergekt was mortified at the thought the medical student might force an orgasm out of him on stage, but she knew better than to go that far. As it was the punishment crew stood very close to passing the legal line of mistreatment of the criminals in front of their under-age audience. Forcing Sergekt to have an orgasm on stage would definitely cross the line and result in a legal reprimand.
The girls sitting in the back and the teachers who had sided with the criminals were furious at what was going on. The school already was very bitterly divided over the merits of the sentences. The division would become even sharper after the punishment of today.
Sergekt and the other three criminals in his group finally were led to the punishment tables and kissed the shoes of the officers who would switch them. They bent over the tables and were strapped down. In spite of the fear of what was coming, he was relieved to no longer be standing up facing the auditorium with his erect penis on full display. However, the humiliation portion of his punishment was far from over. Several cops, male and female, as well as some medical students, caressed his bottom and continued to massage his penis, as he lay stretched out on the punishment table. It was the ultimate humiliation for Sergekt, to be touched by other guys.
Finally the cops in charge of actually wielding the switches took position. Sergekt was so mortified by what had just happened that he no longer was really paying attention to anything going on around him. Still, the criminal protocol of resisting his punishment as long as possible was burned into Sergekt's mind, and he was prepared to attempt not to scream or cry as long as possible.
Once again Magda posed the question to the screaming girls, which criminal would be the first to cry. The girls screamed the loudest when Magda touched Sergekt, making it even more important that he resist, just to prove them wrong.
The cop took her time delivering the first stroke. She made several false starts, trying to catch him off-guard and perhaps get him to scream at the very first stroke. Finally she struck, a hard vicious blow that burned into Sergekt’s backside and made him gasp as he tried to stay quiet. The cop patiently waited for a while and then struck again, with a stroke that approached, but unfortunately did not pass, the maximum legal standard. Sergekt clenched his fists and pressed his forehead to the table. Sweat trickled down his body. Very slowly the cop struck him again and again, waiting a very long time between each stroke. She would break him simply by dragging out the punishment. The pain was mounting and becoming intolerable, but the punishment was only beginning.
The female cop and a couple of medical students periodically ran their fingers over Sergekt's welts. They pressed hard on them, knowing that sharply increased the mounting pain from the raised reddish lines crisscrossing the criminal's bottom. The waiting was an important part of what made the punishment almost unbearable; the pain continued to mount and yet the punishment was no closer to ending. In spite of what he had told Kim in January, that nothing lasts forever, Sergekt now felt that attitude was a lie. The fact this was the sixth time he had endured a punishment didn't matter. What mattered was that he had only taken 10 strokes so far. There were 40 to go. It seemed this would indeed go on forever.
Spokesman Havlakt nervously walked from table to table, trying to prevent any serious injury to any of his clients and looking for anything that would allow him to cut short a switching. The one thing that would end a punishment immediately would be blood. Danubian law prohibited the further punishment of a criminal whose skin had been broken. In fact, if a cop broke a criminal's skin during a punishment, the officer risked losing the switch as part of his or her uniform and with it the right to punish criminals in the future. The officers were well aware of that limit and were very careful not to whip to the point of drawing blood. The Spokesman could see nothing that would legally justify stopping any of the punishments.
Sergekt made it to the 37th stroke without crying. He had defied the girls' prediction by being the third criminal out the four to start screaming. The final holdout cried out less than a minute after Sergekt broke. In this aspect at least, Sergekt maintained a shred of his dignity.
Sergekt's punishment ended in the usual manner, with six strokes re-directed against his thighs and another six on his upper back. He was in so much pain he nearly passed out, but with every bit of energy and self-control he had left, he struggled to get off the table and accompany the police officer to verify he had been properly punished. He knelt to thank the cop for punishing him and finally, an hour and a half after he first had been told to stand up from the stage, Criminal # 92876 was allowed to exit towards the waiting van.
Kim was well aware of what was going on inside the school. She picked up a batch of punishment certificates and caught a brief glimpse of the punishment in the auditorium. There were only four criminals still kneeling on the stage and four others on the tables, in the middle of their switchings. Even at a distance Kim could tell they were being savagely treated. She was relieved to see that Sergekt was no longer there. However, Dima was present, still kneeling on the stage. He would be in the final group to be punished.
Kim was surprised at the sharply contrasting attitudes of the girls filling the auditorium. The students in the back were sitting in disgusted silence, while the younger ones in the front were acting like they were at a rock concert. Kim decided to discuss the school's division with Vladim Dukov, hoping that somehow he would find the information useful.
Some of the girls sitting in the back sadly looked over at Kim as she left with her hands full of folders. The students recognized Kim as the "Maragana Girl", having seen her singing on stage with the criminals being punished today. Kim took a last look at the eight criminals remaining on the stage. Besides, Dima, there were two others who Kim considered close friends. However, there was nothing she could do for them by staying. Kim left the school and rode with her folders downtown.
Kim returned to the school one last time in the mid-afternoon to pick up the final batch of punishment certificates. The students were back in their classes, pretending to pay attention to their teachers in spite of the spectacle they had just witnessed. The purpose of having the criminals punished in the school was to frighten the students into not getting into trouble themselves. That goal was easily achieved. There was not a student in the school who would have wanted to trade places with their ex-classmates.
Kim picked up her folders and quickly moved towards the main door, not wanting to be there any longer than necessary. However, she was stopped by one of the teachers, who signaled her to go with him to the school library. Once in the library the teacher quietly spoke to her in bad English.
"I want tell you. You... criminal... Advocat Vladim Dukov?"
"Yes sir. He's my Spokesman."
"You know... many teacher... many student... we no like today. Very bad. Very bad. No good to criminal."
Kim nodded. "Yes sir."
"You good girl. Good singer. Now you help me. Take list to Advocat Vladim Dukov. You no show list... only Advocat Dukov."
With that the teacher handed an envelope to Kim. It was fairly thick, but sealed. Kim looked at it, mystified. The teacher tapped it, nervously.
"You no show list."
Kim understood. The envelope had to be hidden. She stuffed it among the other envelopes.
Kim quickly mounted her bike and sped to the Central Police Station. She should have gone to the Central Courthouse first, but she decided not to risk having someone there question the extra envelope she was carrying. She wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
Kim entered her Spokesman's office, passing the two secretaries and two of Eloisa's female friends as they were rubbing lotion onto the welts of four punished male criminals. The contrast between the women and the guys shocked her. The two women still had switch-marks on their bottoms, but nothing too serious. The women moved about normally, none the worse for their experience with Vladik. The guys were covered with dark raised welts that looked awful. Kim realized that Officer Vladik Dukov really had spared the group's women.
She entered Dukov's office to find him there with four other Spokespersons, including Eloisa's. Dukov’s co-workers looked at her with surprised expressions. Kim quietly started to back out, but Dukov called her back. He addressed her in Danubian. "Kimberly, I presume you have something urgent, to have come in here with such haste?"
Oops. Kim had forgotten her public duty as a criminal. In the presence of the other Spokespersons she had to greet Dukov in the formal manner, not just charge into the office. She immediately dropped to her knees and placed her head on the floor. She held out the teacher's envelope. Dukov took it, but did not give Kim permission to stand up. She felt very strange, given that she never had knelt for her Spokesman before.
Dukov opened the envelope and unfolded the sheets of paper it contained.
"Kimberly, please rise and finish your deliveries. Once your assignment has been completed, you are dismissed. You may wish to report to Eloisa. I believe she could use your assistance."
"Yes, Spokesman Dukov."
Kim bicycled across the main plaza to make her final delivery. Upon getting back she sought out Eloisa, and finally found her in Spokesman Havlakt's office. She was with Dima, standing next to his table. He was very badly marked up, not just from the 50 maximum-strength stokes of the switch he had received, but also from having been struck on the shoulders at the beginning of the punishment and having been slapped many times across the face. His face was swollen and his lip had been cut. He was asleep, or to put it more accurately, he had passed out.
Kim was not surprised that Dima had been treated so badly. What did surprise her was to see Eloisa holding his hand and caressing it. She looked up at Kim with tears streaming down her cheeks. She noticed Kim's surprised expression, given that she had never seen Eloisa touch anyone before.
"I... I need to be a bit stronger for him." Eloisa stated sadly. "I'm going to make myself get over my fear of touching people. I need to... be... a real woman for him. I realized that when I saw him this afternoon. He's given up everything for me. The least I can do is hold his hand."
Kim was so upset she felt sick. "What did they do to Sergekt?"
"He's better. He forced himself to get up to help the others come in at the end. Sergekt's tough. I don't know where he is now, though. I'd guess he's in one of the offices, or maybe helping people get home."
"I want to find him." Eloisa sadly nodded. Kim continued. "Will you be OK?"
"Kimberly, I have to be OK. I have no choice."
Kim spent the next few minutes looking for Sergekt, but instead ran across her Spokesman. Dukov signaled Kim to go back into his office. The other Spokespersons were gone, ending the temporary need for Kim to treat him in the formal manner. He was very agitated.
"Kimberly, I wish to ask you something. Are you aware of the contents of the envelope you gave me today?"
"No, Spokesman Dukov."
"Well, I will tell you. What you handed me was a petition, signed by 37 teachers, three administrators, and 138 students. The petition objected to the immoral treatment of your friends today. The teacher who worded the petition argues that to punish criminals in such a blatantly sexual manner will corrupt the morals of the school's young people. What they want is the punishments to stop, or at the very least to be moved elsewhere."
Dukov sat back, stretched his arms backwards, and continued, "There is something else I wish to tell you, which may or may not help you. All 20 Spokespersons in Danube City finally have agreed that our system of corporal punishment needs to be reformed. I will introduce legislation next week that would specifically prohibit police officers from touching a criminal with their hands during a punishment. We wish to outlaw any act designed to sexually satisfy a police officer. Also, we wish to outlaw allowing persons such as medical students to participate in corporal punishments."
Kim said nothing, not really knowing how to react. Dukov put on a pair of surgical gloves and opened up an ancient-looking law book that was placed in a felt-lined wooden tray.
"Today's decision is a very grave step on our part, Kimberly. Our judicial system has kept our country at peace for ten centuries. We have had only two major reforms during that entire time. The first was in 1524. That was when our King, Vladik the Defender, created the position of Spokesman for the Criminal. The second was in 1780. That was when the Grand Duke abolished the use of whips and instead opted for switches. We have had no reforms since 1780."
"So why now? What's made things different?"
"What has made things different is a recent breakdown of morality among the younger police officers. The sexual abuse of criminals is something that started only about 10 years ago. When I was sentenced, no police officer would have disrespected a criminal in the manner we are seeing today. Now the practice is becoming common. It will destroy our entire judicial system if we do not stop it. The problem we face is public opinion and the widespread belief that a police officer should have complete control over a criminal's corporal punishment, within the standards set in 1780. The standards of 1780 no longer properly protect criminals, so we must set new ones."
"But, what's the problem? I mean, isn't obvious that it's wrong to like, rub us and...?"
"No, Kimberly. It is not so obvious. I can tell you there is very little sympathy for criminals in this country. We cannot debate this issue by arguing that criminals deserve leniency. We need to argue from the point of view that the changes are needed to protect public morality. That is why the petition from the school is so important. It supports my argument in terms acceptable to the people of this nation. What we saw at the school today was immoral acts being performed in front of young teenagers. Those girls were corrupted by what they witnessed. That gives me the image I can use to make my argument when I speak next week."
"So, you're going to the Parliament next week?"
"Aren't you scared?"
"Yes, Kimberly. I anticipate this with much anxiety. I am not a politician, and to challenge the statute of 1780 will disrupt the tranquility of my family's life. It will bitterly divide the Judges, the National Police Force, the schools, and the public. I will be blamed for disrupting the peace of our society. Only the Spokespersons are in complete agreement about the need for reform. My responsibility over the next several months will be to convince the rest of the nation. At the beginning that task will be very difficult."
Kim left the office, briefly wondering about the wisdom of her decision to stay in Upper Danubia. What the hell was wrong with this country, that its people didn't recognize the obvious? Who wouldn't want to put a stop to what had happened in the school auditorium today?
And yet, change was indeed coming to the Duchy. There were good people in the police force, in the schools, and in the legal system, who would push for reform. Some would challenge the system because of their definition of public morality, others out of genuine sympathy for the nation's criminals. Perhaps it would be enough to update a law that was two centuries old. Kim held out hope the result would be a better Upper Danubia, one in which she would feel more comfortable spending her life.
With that Kim returned to Eloisa and her boyfriend. He was up and somewhat recovered. The three left the Central Police Station. Tomorrow was another day, one in which Kim and Eloisa would return to the music store, and Sergekt and Dima would be returning to their café. There would be a rehearsal tomorrow night and a concert to prepare for on Saturday.
Every four months the 28 members of Eloisa's group went through this. They still had over a year of wearing their collars and at least three more switchings left on their sentences.
Kim always marveled at the ability of her friends to bounce back after each punishment. The very next evening all 15 members of Eloisa's musical group were at rehearsal, following an ordinary day at work for each of the band's members. It was no surprise that the women should be ready to rehearse, given their switchings had been extremely lenient. However, the band's ten male members all were viciously marked up; with the passage of 24 hours only making the marks appear darker and more severe. But they all were present, all with their instruments, all following the direction of the lead singer. It seemed that once they started with the rehearsal, they were able to step out of the pain and humiliation of their lives and enter the spiritual world of song.
On May 1st there was an International Labor Day celebration in Danube City's Central Plaza. Eloisa's group received prominent billing, performing in front of an audience of 22,000 people. The country's Prime Minister and many deputies from the Parliament sat on the building's main balcony, enjoying Eloisa's talent and attractive figure as much as the crowds in the plaza below. Eloisa's group was only one out of six that performed that afternoon, but it clearly was the crowd's favorite.
The May 1st concert also was the first concert in which Kim sang with Eloisa for more than just one or two songs. The American stood with her Danubian friend at the main microphone for 9 out of a total of 22 songs performed by the group. Once the final song was completed and the group knelt in appreciation of the applause they were receiving, Eloisa brought Kim foreword and had her kneel up front along side her. At that moment Kim realized that Eloisa considered her an equal partner at the microphone.
In the US, and in most other countries, the popularity of Eloisa and her companions would have encouraged their fans to pressure the government to commute or shorten their sentences, or in some other way try to ease the burdens of their lives. In Upper Danubia the public's mentality was very different. Most of the people in the crowd saw no contradiction between the group's popularity and their status as criminals. To the contrary, the performers were held up as examples of how successful the Duchy's justice system truly was at forcing violent offenders to reform and lead productive lives. The public would applaud and honor the group, but at the same time would expect them to complete their sentences.
How Kim's friends saw themselves and their situation also differed tremendously from how a group of people in the US might react to a similar situation. Kim knew that Eloisa never stopped blaming herself for what happened to her friends, but how she dealt with that guilt was extremely productive. She believed that if the others had been so willing to sacrifice for her, it was her duty to be as successful in her personal life as possible, so the others could feel good about the sacrifice they had made. According to Eloisa's line of reasoning, had she failed in life or led a mediocre existence, the others would have sacrificed for nothing. It was her duty, her social obligation, to make sure the sacrifices of the others had been meaningful.
As for the others, there was neither regret nor resentment, not against Eloisa nor the Danubian government. They viewed what happened to them as inevitable. A friend's honor had been violated; it was their social duty to restore her honor and face the legal consequences. There was no choice in the matter, because Danubians believed that a person who had lost his honor was nothing more than a living corpse housing a dead soul. There was no "what if" in any of their minds. Keeping their souls alive was more important to them than evading the suffering they were enduring now.
May progressed with an important development in Eloisa's personal life. She had recovered enough from her experiences that she now was able to hold hands with her boyfriend. Her progress was slow, but it was real. At the Socrates Club Kim noticed her friend's hand constantly resting in Dima's hand on the table, as she nervously forced herself to confront her fear of being touched. One night Kim noticed Eloisa actually walking down the street with her boyfriend, holding his hand as they walked.
Kim could tell that Eloisa was uneasy, but at the same time she was living a real adventure, confronting the demons that had taken over part of her soul. Eloisa was happier than she had been at any time since Kim had met her the previous year. Maybe, just maybe, she had been wrong about herself. She was indeed broken, but, with time and patience from Dima, perhaps the damage could be fixed.
For all the performing they were doing, it seemed to Criminal # 98945 that she and her companions were receiving very little money for their efforts. In many cases, such as holidays, they performed for free, expected to do so as their contribution to the celebration. However, the group also performed in theaters where the public did pay. The only money she ever saw for all her efforts were incidental funds for meals. She also received money to compensate her bosses at the music store and the courier service for her absences, but that was it. When Kim approached Eloisa about the issue, the lead singer simply responded.
"We've been getting a lot of money for our concerts. You haven't seen it because we're not allowed to use it. It's being held in trust by the Spokesperson's credit union until we finish our sentences."
"But how do I know it's even there, if I never see any of it?"
"Is there anything in particular that you need and don't have?"
"Well, no... but..."
"So what's the problem? We'll receive our compensation when we're no longer criminals. Of course, if you have a pressing need... for example Valia..." (who was one of the back-up singers) "...lost part of her family's house in a fire. Our Spokesman released the money she needed to give her parents so they could rebuild."
"And how do you know he didn't keep any for himself?"
Eloisa gave Kim a puzzled look. "Why would he do that? He's adequately paid by the government. He doesn't need our money."
Kim was troubled by her friend's nonchalant attitude about the band's earnings. She decided to bring up the matter with Vladim Dukov. The first thing she wanted to know was how much money she had earned herself. The Spokesman opened a filing cabinet and pulled out her criminal's file. He took out a small bank book and handed it to her. There were various entries with a final sum of the Danubian currency equivalent for $14,500.00.
"I understand all of you have the same amount in your accounts, the active band members, that is. Eloisa has paid your songwriters and assistants half the salary the stage performers receive."
"So she's just splitting the money evenly among us?"
"That is correct."
"And you know for a fact that... I mean... are you sure the others are getting their full amount?"
"Of course they are, Kimberly. Why would they not? Anyhow, the compensation is in their bankbooks."
Kim was not satisfied and decided to ask Sergekt for his opinion. He seemed every bit as oblivious as the others. She tried to make him understand why the financial arrangement worried her.
"Look. In my country there's no way a group of people like us would just let a bunch of money come in and get divided up without someone taking a look at the books and seeing what's going on with it. How do you know $ 14,500 is what we all should be getting? What if it's more and we never saw it? How would we even know?"
"Spokesman Havlakt is a man with honor. I can tell you he wouldn't take our money."
"Sergekt, when it comes to money, no one has honor."
Sergekt gave Kim an offended look, irritated at her questioning his Spokesman's intentions. "Well, he does! He's not a capitalist! What is it that you want? Do you want to take control of our finances? Maybe you could talk to him and work out an arrangement."
When Kim brought up the issue with Spokesman Havlakt, her concerns were put at ease to some extent. Yes indeed, all his clients had bankbooks in their folders with the correct amount. There was a separate folder with the band's pay receipts and everything looked in order when she tallied up the income and outgoing expenses. The Spokesman addressed the young criminal when she returned the folder.
"Kimberly, I want to tell you that I understand your concern and I am not offended. But there is something you should know. Eloisa is in charge of arranging contracts between your group and the concert halls. Up until now that has not been a problem because they pay standard compensation to performers. By American standards it is not much, but by our standards it is fair. Remember, the Duchy's yearly per capita income is only $ 5,500. My concern is what will happen when Eloisa tries to negotiate recording contracts. She is quite naive on the matter and the assistance I can provide is rather limited. Maybe you, with your American capitalist background, can help?"
Kim sighed. Spokesman Havlakt, just like everyone else in this country, seemed to assume that she was a business genius just because she was from the US. She wasn't, of course, but at least she knew what questions to ask.
It was obvious anyone negotiating a contract would run circles around the band's naive lead singer. The only answer was for Criminal # 98945 to step in and help out with the finances. So, as though she already did not have enough going on in her life, Kim found herself assisting the Spokesman Havlakt with the band's records. The next day he took her to the bank and gave her authority to collect and deposit money into the band members' accounts. Then he drafted a power of attorney to allow her to sign contracts on behalf of the group.
Eloisa and Dima came into the office that afternoon and gladly co-signed the permissions allowing Criminal # 98945 to negotiate the recording contracts. Kim did not fully understand what was happening until it was too late. It was obvious the Danubians did not know anything about contracts and were nervous about their lack of knowledge. Up until that point it had not been a problem, but it would be shortly. Rather than confront the problem themselves, it would be so much easier to have the American handle everything, since everyone knows that Americans are good with business.
The only problem was that Kim was only 19 and had barely managed to finish high school. She was not qualified to negotiate anything and she knew it. That night she made a panicky phone call to her father, begging him to get her some assistance.
Vladim Dukov faced a test of his honor. He was sworn to uphold a legal and judicial system that dated back to the Middle Ages. His goal in life was to uphold the Danubian justice system and through his position do his part to assure social peace and tranquility. He took his obligation very seriously, because Danubians believed that if a person pursues a profession, especially a public profession such as Spokesman for the Criminal, the spirits of the dead predecessors in the field watched the actions of the living. A person who failed to uphold his profession to the standards of the Guardian Spirits faced punishment from those spirits, who would return to the world to wreck havoc in the lives of the incompetent and the malicious. That belief was not just superstition, it actually was incorporated in the country's religious practices, the most important of which was the Day of the Dead in September.
Spokesman Dukov saw nothing wrong with the over-all method of punishing criminals in Upper Danubia. Criminals had to be punished somehow, and kept under control for a set period of time. The only two ways to accomplish that goal was to jail them, or sentence them in the Danubian fashion. Dukov reasoned the Danubian way of punishing criminals was far superior to jailing them, because from the very first day of their sentences criminals returned to society and were forced to re-build their lives. Reform and redemption started from day one of the sentence. On top of that the government was saved the expense of maintaining jails and prisons.
Dukov knew that Upper Danubia's system of corporal punishment was in deep trouble, in spite of his belief in that system's benefits to society. Over the last couple of years he had talked at length with his son, and fully realized just how abusive the younger police officers were becoming towards criminals. He had battled with enough police officers himself to know that things in the courtroom and the punishment chambers were headed in a very bad direction.
The older police officers viewed both themselves and the criminals they punished as having specific places in society with specific duties. The officer had his role in society with its obligations and rights, and the criminal also had his position in society with its obligations and rights. Those obligations and rights had to be respected, even when a police officer needed to whip a criminal. The judicial code of 1780 clearly laid out a system of corporal punishments designed to be painful, but not cause permanent injury. Unfortunately, the code said nothing about preserving the criminal's dignity, but for generations it had been taken for granted that a police officer should never derive sexual pleasure from his position and power over a criminal.
Over the past decade the values within the police sub-culture had changed in Upper Danubia. The concept of social responsibility had greatly diminished, replaced with the idea that police officers needed to make punishments as hellish as possible to frighten the public into not committing crimes. Because of the change in over-all values, many of the younger police officers saw nothing wrong with sexually tormenting criminals as part of their over-all punishment. They were not violating the Code of 1780, nor causing any permanent injury, so what was the problem? Given the hostility from the over-all population against criminals, most of the public saw nothing wrong with sexually humiliating them. Besides, it was fun to watch.
Dukov had struggled with the issue since Kim's first switching. When she was stretched out on the punishment table last July, a terrified foreigner who only half understood what was happening to her, Dukov's heart went out to his client when she was fondled and he stood by unable to help her. His doubts about the system intensified over the winter as he conversed with Vladik about his fellow officers. Dukov finally was convinced that concrete reforms were needed when his son decided that he needed to put his own career at risk just to protect a group of female criminals from being sexually abused by his co-workers. The entire system clearly was broken and needed to be repaired.
Vladim Dukov wanted to restore the values of the Danubian National Police back to the way they had been prior to the recent change. He wanted the system to be returned to its original goal, rehabilitation. In the past the police officer was a key figure in the criminal's rehabilitation process and fully cooperated with the Spokesman. Today the Spokesman and the police officer were enemies in court, with the Spokesman desperately trying to protect the criminal from abuse and the police officer desperately trying to outwit the Spokesman. Because of the change, the entire system was breaking down and criminals were being unfairly treated. They were being turned into entertainment for both the punishing officers and for on-lookers.
Dukov's goal was to re-establish the spirit of the Code of 1780 by changing its text. He wanted to carefully define what exactly a switching was, how it was to be administered, and define limits of severity. Most importantly, Dukov sought to create strict sanctions against any police officer who sexually abused a criminal as part of his punishment. There would be no touching, no fondling, no sexual jokes permitted, nothing that might be considered to give sexual pleasure to the officer. Dukov's legislation stipulated that any police officer who sexually abused a criminal would face the same sanction as one who drew blood during a punishment; the officer would lose the right to switch criminals in the future. Dukov planned save the system by reforming it.
Sweat trickled down Dukov's face as he stood in front of the National Parliament to present his bill at the end of the first week of May. Behind him stood 37 Spokespersons, 19 from Danube City and 18 more from the provincial capitols. Their support was the first surprise to the nation; that all of Upper Danubia's 37 Spokespersons agreed on the need for Dukov's bill and were standing behind him as he spoke. There was no doubt about their support, because they all saluted Dukov before he began his speech.
The Spokesman began by presenting three petitions, the one from Eloisa's old school, one secretly passed around the National Police Headquarters by Vladik's friends, and one from several religious leaders who were offended by the open display of sexuality during corporal punishments. Dukov then spoke to the stunned Parliament about the need to re-impose morality into the system of judicial punishments and restore harmony between the country's Spokespersons and police officers. A punishment code with clear rules and restrictions would help restore that harmony.
Dukov's proposal immediately proved unpopular among the legislators, as he had feared. It was attacked by numerous deputies who argued that it undermined both the authority of the police in general, and the right of the individual police officer to determine what was best for the criminal. At first it seemed that the support from Dukov's peers and other social leaders did not matter to any of the deputies. However, a deputy from the main opposition party finally broke ranks with the rest of the Parliament and spoke in favor of the proposal. Quickly two others seconded the dissident's position and also gave statements in favor of the reform. A group of deputies filed out in disgust as two others, this time from the governing party, raised their hands in support of Dukov's proposal. There was whistling and hissing from the deputies directed against each other and the Prime Minister shouting to restore order. With that the long debate over reforming Upper Danubia's criminal justice system began.
As the Spokesman stood sweating at the main podium, he was fully aware of the long difficult months that lay ahead because of his actions. He would have to defend his proposal day in and day out, argue continuously with adversaries and ex-friends, and justify over and over why a law that had worked admirably since 1780 no longer was serving its purpose. The debate would go on for a long time before finally being settled, because nothing in Upper Danubia's National Parliament ever got resolved quickly.
Dukov continued to stand in front of the cameras of the nation, unsure whether to leave the podium or not. Finally he directed a question at a deputy Prime Minister. "Sir, may I be dismissed?"
"Spokesman, do you withdraw this piece of treason?"
"Then you stay there, at that podium. Look into the camera. Let the nation see you for the subversive that you truly are."
The term "subversive" stuck and appeared in the nation's newspapers the following day, under a picture of Dukov's sweating, nervous face. As the debate raged about the need to pass the reform, Kim's Spokesman became known as "Vladim the Subversive". Over the next few months the Spokesman and his supporters eventually took the nickname as a badge of honor.
May of that year was abnormally hot throughout Central Europe. Kim enjoyed the hot weather, the high temperatures reminding her of a summer in the United States. However, for Upper Danubia the hot temperatures were a concern. Recently planted crops struggled in the heat, farm animals were under a lot of stress, and the population of Danube City was forced to shed much of its clothing.
Anyia was elated with the crisis, because her school building was sweltering. As a concession to the students, the dress code was lifted and the very next day every girl in the school showed up in a mini-skirt and light blouse. Anyia went to school in the absolute skimpiest outfit she thought she could get away with, a loose-fitting back-less blouse, a very short loose mini-skirt, and sandals. Maritza Dukov watched with concern as her barely dressed daughter scampered down the street with her equally scantily clad friends in the abnormal heat.
The month progressed with no rain. The East Danube River dropped, opening up river beaches that normally did not open until August. The beaches, lakes, and public pools filled up with thousands of naked bodies as the city's population sought to escape the heat. In some places the ground was hard to see because of its covering of thousands of tanned human bodies.
Everyone at the beaches, public parks, and public swimming pools, without exception, was completely naked. Upper Danubia was the only country in the world to outlaw the use of swimsuits in public locations. Danubian society looked at swimsuits as yet another effort by foreigners to impose their moral values and fashion standards on the nation's people. The government's response was simply to make all swimwear illegal. The prohibition of swimwear was another act of defiance from Upper Danubia against the rest of the world.
As Kim rode making deliveries on the days she worked for Victor Dukov, she looked longingly at the people relaxing on the ground near any body of water. She had a few opportunities to swim, but not nearly as much as she would have liked. She worked 9-hour days, six days a week. She had rehearsals three nights per week, a concert at least once a week, and a recording session at least once a week. Whenever she had an evening free Kim could count on Vladim and Maritza Dukov to have something planned, and when that was not the case she could spend a little time with Sergekt.
Sunday hardly was a day of rest. Sundays always included the weekly tradition of Sergekt having dinner with the Dukovs and the preparations needed for the meals. Kim had to help Maritza prepare the dinners, since it was Kim's boyfriend who was coming over. As much as she wanted to drop the whole idea of those stupid dinners, she knew better than to say anything. The Dukovs would never dispense with the tradition and both parents felt that it was very important for them to maintain an on-going relationship with Sergekt.
On top of everything else, Sundays were the only chance Kim had to attend to her newest duty, the singing group's income and contracts. There was much that she had to learn very quickly, about basic accounting, the group's expenses, negotiating performance details with the theaters scattered around Danube City, and beginning to understand music recording contracts.
Kim found out that Eloisa had been contacted by a German company who wanted to sign up the group to produce several albums. Kim spent many hours researching the details of the deal being offered. She faxed pages of documents back and forth to her father in the US, who in turn showed them to a friend he had in the music business in the US. The verdict? Don't sign anything with them as they are trying to cheat you in a big way.
Kim brought the bad news to Eloisa and Dima, expecting an argument. The response was, "Kimberly, you are the business expert among us. If you think a contract is no good, I'm not going to argue with you. You know what you're doing, and we don't. That's why you're in charge of the money."
Kim said nothing, but a sick feeling rose in her stomach. Eloisa, I don't know what I'm doing either, she thought to herself. I don't have a fucking clue.
Criminal # 98945 approached her boss at the music store about her dilemma. He surprised her by actually understanding her situation and by being the one person in Danube City who realized that being born in the US does not make a person a business expert.
"Kimberly, there is only one solution. You will have to make yourself into the expert everyone thinks you are already. You have significant number of people whose lives depend on your actions. Is it fair that you should suffer this responsibility at age 19? No, but fair or not, this reality has become your life. You must succeed, and I will strive to help you."
Kim's boss spent many late evening hours over the summer giving her a crash-course in everything she needed to know to negotiate music contracts and make sure everyone was paid properly. She was amazed he was willing to spend so much time with her. When she expressed her surprise and gratitude her boss replied, "Kimberly, I have spent my entire adulthood promoting music. It is the purpose of my life, it is the very reason I exist on the planet. I have seen many musical groups come and go, many wonderful songs played for a while and then forgotten. But when I hear Eloisa, I feel different. Her voice touches me more than anyone else I have ever listened to. There is something about her, something that will make her unique, and I don't really know what that something is. But it's there, and I want the world to share it. Not just Upper Danubia, Kimberly, but the world. She has that potential to touch the world with her singing. So for me to spend some time with you to make sure you negotiate the right contracts is nothing to me. And when you do need to talk to anyone about contracts, please let me know. I will go with you."
"Really sir? You'd do that?"
"Yes Kimberly, I think it's that important."
During May and June Kim saw very little of her boyfriend except during rehearsals, concerts, and the Sunday dinners. While she was struggling with her two jobs and the band's finances, Sergekt was desperately trying to save his mother's garden from the drought. Hour after hour he spent at the garden plot pumping water from the ground and carrying it in buckets to dump on the garden's plants to keep them alive. It was a losing battle that left him exhausted, but at least he had to make the effort. By June Kim noticed the effect Sergekt's efforts were having on him. He had lost weight and become much more sinewy, his hands were callused from the work and his face continuously exhausted and stressed. There was little she could do to help him, other than lend him her mountain bike to let him get out to his family's garden plot more quickly.
Kim found out it was not just Sergekt who was struggling to save his family's garden. Most of the other male members of the band also had family plots to attend to, and it was Danubian tradition that a grown son should bear primary responsibility for the heavy labor needed to keep the gardens productive. All around Danube City young men desperately pumped and carried water to pour on their parents' vegetables as the sun blazed and water levels dropped. The women noticed the male members of the band become increasingly depressed as stories circulated that wells were running dry around the country. Kim's friends knew it was only a matter of time before their own water stations would run dry, and when that happened their efforts to save their families' food would end in failure.
The worsening drought suspended debate on Vladim Dukov's proposal to reform the country's corporal punishment system, which was ultimately proved fortunate for the reform's proponents. Had the initial vote been held on schedule, the reform proposal would have been defeated by a 3 to 1 margin in the Parliament. However, Upper Danubia was facing a food crisis that needed more urgent attention. As much as the country prided itself on being self-sufficient, it was obvious that year the government would need to import a large part of the nation's food supply. There was money set aside for such emergencies, so the only real issue was to negotiate the best deal for importing basic food items, most notably wheat, animal feed, and potatoes.
Because of his English and experience in the United States, Spokesman Dukov was included in delegations ordered overseas to purchase several shiploads of wheat. The wheat would be off-loaded into barges and brought to Danube City, and from there sent to the provinces by rail. As the negotiations progressed and the contracts were signed, the nation's emergency fund shrank and eventually was used up. However, the end result was the purchase of enough wheat and animal feed to get the country through the next growing season.
Dukov was out of the country during almost the entire month of June, with the handful of other government officials who spoke English. The other officials had been scandalized by the Spokesman's efforts to undermine the nation's centuries-old justice system. At the beginning the others treated Dukov with disrespect, but over time he was able to win their confidence. Slowly, very slowly, he explained why the reforms were necessary, using different strategies to convince different members of the trade delegations. Dukov, in his quiet friendly manner, managed to win the support of several important government officials and deputies, who later in the year would return to their posts and talk to other officials about the need for reform. It was a slow process, but he began to feel confident that he might win the hearts and minds of enough people to make a difference.
June sped by as Kim struggled to become the financial expert everyone thought she was already, and as the male members of the band fought to stem the slow death of their families' gardens. The equinox came, and with it a series of celebrations and national religious services. As always, Eloisa's group performed for the nation, this time in the Plaza of the Ancients, right next to Sergekt's restaurant and the Temple of the Ancients, were Criminal # 98945's legal problems began a year ago.
Kim looked at the Temple and her heart pounded. A year ago. Shit. She suddenly remembered she was due for another switching on July 2, less than two weeks away. The anniversary of her arrest was coming up, the anniversary of the horrible two days that so completely demolished her old life.
Two days after the equinox Kim rode her bicycle over to the Temple of the Ancients. She needed a break and called Victor Dukov to tell him she was taking an extra hour for lunch. Immediately he objected, but she calmly responded, "Sir, I need to take the hour. You can cut my pay or do whatever you want, but I need the hour, and I am turning off my phone. Goodbye sir, I'll talk to you in an hour."
Criminal # 98945 decided to walk behind the Temple and visit the spot where she had been arrested the year before. It looked exactly the same, except the park bench was a bit more worn. Kim decided to sit down and simply enjoy the view of the river. The water level was very low, exposing sandbars she had not seen the year before. The trees didn't look all too healthy and the grass underfoot already was dried out. Oh God, Kim thought to herself, I hope there's never a fire here, all this would go up like matches.
Kim's thoughts wandered to Tiffany. She wondered what had happened to her. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good. Was it possible that Tiffany was consumed with guilt, being responsible for the death of one friend and the imprisonment of another? Was she so blitzed out on drugs that she no longer cared? Was she already dead? No one in Kim's life knew the answer.
Kim's thoughts wandered to her own life and the rest of the summer. The switching loomed in front of her, but then it would be over and within a couple of weeks she would be completely healed. She was more worried about her crash course in the band's management. She was grateful for all the help she was receiving from her boss, her father back in the US, and Vladim Dukov, but the enormity of what she was taking on frightened her. Still, she knew something very important. She knew that, ultimately, she would succeed.
As she got up to leave, Kim heard some footsteps coming up near the bench. Her heart jumped when she saw it was the female cop who had arrested her a year ago. The cop gave her a pleasant look and a slight smile, but Kim knew that was quite deceptive. Suddenly her conscience was filled with dread and horror.
Shaking, Criminal # 98945 knelt at the feet of the cop, touching her forehead to the ground. She waited for permission to stand up. The cop stood silently for several minutes, letting Kim fully appreciate her submission in this situation.
"Criminal # 98945, I see you're a bit sentimental. I presume you are fondly remembering our first meeting in this spot. You know, our meeting here is something that gives me very sweet memories."
"So tell me, Criminal # 98945, are you looking forward to our meeting next week?"
"No Officer, of course I'm not looking forward to that."
"Good answer, Criminal # 98945. You're being honest with me. You know that lying to a police officer in this country is a crime."
"Yes Officer, I know that."
For a long time the cop left Kim kneeling. Finally she interrupted the silence.
"Criminal # 98945, since you and I are here alone, I want to ask you a question. Do you think your sentence was fair? I ask you that because normally you would have received five years, and the switch every three months. But you, because of your sweet-talking Spokesman, only got two. Do you think that's fair? And I want you to answer me with a simple 'yes' or 'no'."
Kim had no idea how to respond. She thought the sentence was more than fair, given that nowhere else in Europe would she have been so cruelly treated for a simple marijuana possession. But by Danubian standards her punishment was extremely light. Finally she answered.
"Yes, Officer, I think my sentence was fair."
"Oh really? Two years out of a five year sentence? Four whippings when you should have received 20? I don't think it's fair at all, Criminal # 98945."
"You are entitled to your opinion, Officer. What more can I say?"
"Oh, I'm entitled to much more than my opinion, you pathetic little druggie. You think you're so Danubian, with your fancy singing and your hair done up like you were one of us, but you, and that group of hooligans you hang out with, and your criminal Spokesman and his traitor son... you're all social garbage as far as I'm concerned. You'll never be Danubian. None of you. Well, I can't do anything about the others, but I'll be making your life pretty miserable next week."
"Officer, I request permission to speak."
"What is it?"
"Why are you this way to me? What did I ever do to you to make you hate me so much?"
"You're a criminal, and a spoiled rich American on top of everything else. I hate you all, all you criminals and all you foreigners. If it were up to me there'd be none of you, no criminals and no foreigners, contaminating our land. As for you, I really don't know why I hate you so much. I just do, and I don't see anything wrong with it. You will learn that hatred is a powerful thing in life, Criminal # 98945. Anyhow, I'll be able to vent my anger on that sweet brown bottom of yours. I guarantee that next week, while you are strapped to the table, I WILL break you. I'll have you screaming, just like last time, only more so."
"You won't be able to surprise me Officer. I now know what to expect."
"Oh, I'm not going to try to surprise you. I'm simply going to beat you as hard as I legally can. I'll make it nice and slow, take my time, enjoy myself. No, there will be no surprises this time... just me and you... and lots of pain. I've had plenty of time to practice, on other criminals, that is. But when I beat them, it's you who I'm always thinking about."
Kim started to shake. As much as she tried to stop, she couldn't. The cop noticed Kim's quivering body.
"I see that you are indeed scared, as you should be. Well, I must continue my patrol, so I'll leave you. Have a pleasant afternoon, Kimberly Lee. I'll see you next week."
With that the cop walked off. Kim sat back on the bench, her pleasant reflective mood totally shattered. For a long time she stared blankly at the ground at her feet, immobilized with terror.
Kim finally forced herself to turn on her cell phone, which was blinking with four messages from Victor Dukov. Instead of listening to the messages, Kim decided simply to return to Victor's office and tell him what happened in the park.
The moment Victor saw his wayward employee, he knew something was very wrong. He had the decency to hold off on berating her for the unauthorized break until he found out what was bothering her. In a frightened, broken voice, Kim told her story. It was obvious his employee could no longer work that day, so Victor told her that she was released.
"Kimberly, you understand that what you did was very foolish, first ignoring your duties to me and second, going into that policewoman's patrolling area. What did you expect would happen?"
"I... I wasn't thinking about her, sir. I just wanted to sit down a bit, maybe think things over. I didn't think I'd see her."
"Well, you did and here are my thoughts. You can't avoid what's going to happen to you next week. You're going to get hurt. There is nothing any of us can do about it. At least you know what to expect, but I would imagine that's no consolation."
"No sir. I sort of wish I didn't know."
"Well, you do, and I think that's for the better. Now here's some advice. I think what you should do is try to find out as much as you can about that police officer. Ask my nephew. I'm sure he knows her and perhaps can give you some insight about her."
"Sir, what good would that do?"
"Knowledge will always help you. Find out what you can."
"I guess so, sir. I'll try."
"Now, take the afternoon off and try to calm your nerves. I'll expect to see you the day after tomorrow, ready to make some deliveries."
Criminal # 98945 quickly went back to her Spokesman's house. She expected to find the residence empty, or at most with just Anyia lying in the back yard. However, she was surprised to see two police bicycles on the front porch. When she went inside, Kim heard Vladik and his partner talking in the kitchen. They were having lunch together, drinking wine and eating some leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
Vladik looked none too pleased that the young criminal had shown up precisely at that moment, and his partner seemed a bit embarrassed. Suddenly Kim wondered if she might have interrupted something between them. She quickly knelt on the kitchen floor and touched her forehead to the ground. Kim never knelt for Vladik when he was alone, but in the presence of other people, especially other public officials, she was expected to show the formal gesture of respect. Vladik quickly told her to get up and join him at the table.
For the first time Kim was able to get a close up view of Vladik's partner. She was not particularly attractive, not nearly as attractive as his fiancée. She had a tough tomboyish appearance about her, but at the same time she seemed to radiate an intense sexuality.
The fact that Vladik had a female partner was normal for his profession. Kim knew that in Upper Danubia, the National Police officers were roughly balanced between the sexes. Almost every police officer was assigned a permanent partner, and whenever possible that partner was of the opposite sex. The prevailing theory behind the custom was the Danubian belief that men and women see the world differently and have different forms of insight. The administrators of the National Police believed the differences between male and female officers complimented each other in the field, especially during investigations and interrogating criminals. Like almost everything else in Upper Danubia, the custom of employing female police officers went back many years, clear back to the judicial reforms of 1780.
As she sat at the table and poured herself some fruit punch, Kim was more convinced than ever she had interrupted something between Vladik and his partner, but she had to play dumb and pretend to be oblivious. Kim could tell that Vladik was making a real effort to hide his displeasure at her sudden intrusion. Well, it's not my fault you want to cheat on your fiancée and screw your partner, she thought to herself.
Vladik's partner finally excused herself from the table when it became obvious Kim had returned home for the afternoon. Vladik stood as well, and the two officers saluted each other before the police woman mounted her bicycle to go home.
Kim was quite happy to have Vladik to herself for a few minutes, in spite of the uncomfortable situation she had just walked into. She told the young police officer about her scary encounter behind The Temple of the Ancients. As she talked, her old fear came back. Her hands were shaking. Finally she got to the point, following Victor's advice about getting more information about her nemesis.
"Vladik, I need to ask you something. Do you know that woman... have any idea why she hates me so much?"
"Oh yes, I know her. Her full name is Malka Chorno. She hasn't spoken to me since Father introduced his legislation in the Parliament. What really set her off was when she found out I was behind the petition that most of the older officers signed. She's called me 'the traitor' ever since. But I do know her fairly well from our service together before all that."
"Well, what's her problem?"
"I think that's the best way to put it, Kim. She's a powerful and charismatic officer, but she does have a serious problem. If she doesn't watch herself that problem will ruin her." Vladik paused for moment. "She's one of those officers who will end up either a complete hero or a complete villain, depending on which path the Spirits of the Ancients choose to lead her. In a fire-fight or in combat you couldn't have a better partner. She's vicious with her weapon, and when she shoots, you can count on that shot hitting its target. I'll give you an example. We had a couple of bank robberies near the border last year, just before you were arrested. Malka and her partner were dispatched to a third robbery, one in which there were hostages and four criminals with automatic weapons. Within 30 seconds of sneaking into the building Malka shot all four bank robbers with her service revolver. Clean shot to the head for each one, no thought or hesitation... she just fired. Bang... bang... bang... bang. It happened so quickly that none of the hostages were hurt. That's her good side."
"Now for her bad side -- and she does have it -- as you are well aware. She loves to dominate other people. She's a bully; there's no doubt about that. She bosses her partner around mercilessly, and she's humiliated him in public a bunch of times. With criminals she's a lot worse. She'll do whatever she thinks she can get away with. She especially loves to humiliate other women. There's nothing that she loves more than to bring a young woman to orgasm against her will before switching her, but she does it with the male criminals as well. She loves to hear criminals cry and scream. I know that she'd go way beyond the 50 strokes if she could. She'd gladly punish with a whip if she could. Now as for you... you're special because you're a foreigner and you're a drug user."
"Well, what does she have against foreigners? I never did anything to her."
Vladik got up from the table and went into his father's library. He came back downstairs with a folder of newspaper articles. Kim opened them up and read about a white slavery ring that had operated in central Europe and had been responsible for the disappearance of eight Danubian teenagers. The case ended when three members of the ring were captured in Danube City. The Danubian police had no hesitation torturing the ring members to find out what had happened to their victims. The interrogation team, which included Malka, tortured the traffickers to death, saying that such criminals were not worthy of a formal execution. As a result of the interrogations four of the missing teenagers were traced to Middle Eastern countries, liberated, and eventually returned to Upper Danubia. The other four, including Malka's younger sister, remained missing.
"The people who got her sister were foreigners, and they used drugs to get their victims to do what they wanted. So there's your answer, drugs and foreigners."
"But I didn't do it!"
"That doesn't matter. Officer Malka Chorno's inner peace is damaged. She can't differentiate between you and any other foreigner. And on top of everything else was the marijuana smoking... that really drove her nuts. You're damn lucky she didn't shoot you behind the Temple of the Ancients instead of arresting you. I think she almost did."
"Yes, shoot you. My partner overheard her a few months back. From the way she was talking, it seems she was just about to pull the trigger when she saw what you were doing. The only reason she didn't was because at the last second she realized there were witnesses, a couple of civilians who happened to be watching."
Kim was left speechless. Vladik continued, "It's for officers like her that we need to codify a standard of decent behavior for the National Police Force. Malka Chorno is a gifted and charismatic officer, but her soul is damaged. Her attitude towards criminals has been a bad influence on many of my classmates from the Academy and on the most recent class that just graduated. The result... well, your friends suffered for it in April, and you'll get it next week."
"Vladik... do you think you could help me... like you did Eloisa? Maybe get someone else to punish me?"
"There's no way, Kimberly. Father tried, and pushed so hard that he was officially reprimanded for attempting to subvert the authority of a police officer. It is officially Malka's duty to punish you, since she is the arresting officer. The only thing I can tell you is that Father will be watching to make sure you're not seriously injured and that there's no blood. Malka cannot make you bleed, if she does she'll lose her switch. That will help you some, because it puts a maximum severity on what can happen to you. But she will punish you up to the maximum standard. And you will cry, and you will scream."
"No, Vladik, not this time. I know better. I'm not going to scream. I won't give her the satisfaction."
"Those are brave words, Kimberly, but you have to be realistic. Malka will do everything she can to break you, and perhaps it is best that you not resist her."
Criminal # 98945 spent the next week feeling as though she was facing a death sentence. She now had enough information to suspect the upcoming switching would in some way change her. At the very least it would be a horribly traumatic experience and would leave her devastated. Deep down she wondered if Spokesman Dukov really would be able to prevent her from being injured.
Kim continued living her normal life, working at the music store and delivering packages for Victor Dukov. She rehearsed with her band, preparing for a televised concert that would take place the evening following her switching. Her voice was off, but everyone understood why. Kim was facing the switch, and of course she was scared. The others kept trying to reassure her that the switching would have to end eventually, that by this time next week Kim would have it behind her. Kim said nothing. The others did not realize that Kim was to be switched by a tormented woman who had wanted to shoot her.
On July 1, Kim followed the Danubian tradition of shaving her pubic hair to announce to the world that she was facing punishment the following day. As she sadly made her way to the music store, Criminal # 98945 felt all that much more naked, her soul all that much more exposed, as the cool morning air blew against her clean-shaven skin. She spent the day talking to customers and confirming that yes, tomorrow she would be switched.
Kim spent the early part of the evening at the Socrates Club, but alone with Sergekt. She had no desire whatsoever to socialize with her friends or hear any of the music or poetry readings. She retreated with him to an intimacy room, and from there planned to go directly home to Dukov's house. She was in a very strange mood. Her dread had subsided into a numb sadness, but what mystified her was that she wanted to begin her suffering now. She didn't want Sergekt to treat her tenderly; she wanted to be treated cruelly. She knew that her boyfriend would never go along with hurting her, but she was not in the mood for normal sex. She wanted something different, something that would not be pleasant and yet erotic.
Sergekt spent a long time kissing and licking the clean-shaven area around her pubis. Eventually Kim rolled on her stomach and spread her legs to expose herself from behind to her boyfriend. He began kissing her bottom and the tender skin surrounding her bottom-hole. It was at that moment Kim realized what she wanted.
"Sergekt, if I ask you to do something... unusual, would you do it for me? Even if you think it hurts me or degrades my honor?"
"Yes Kim, I'll do what you want. You know that."
"Then I want you to get a towel and two of those thin cleaning cloths out of the bathroom."
Sergekt complied, while Kim took all the pillows and stacked them in the middle of the bed. Sergekt handed her the towel and Kim laid it over the pillows. Then Kim settled over the pillows, her bottom high in the air. She spread her legs slightly, completely exposing herself to her boyfriend. Kim's position was extremely erotic. Sergekt took a quick look at Kim's exposed body and had a furious erection within a few seconds. It didn't seem that Kim wanted anything out of the ordinary, just plain sex.
However, Kim shocked Sergekt with her next words, "OK, now tie my hands with the cleaning cloth."
"You heard me. Tie my hands in front of me. Make sure you wrap them tightly, I don't want to be able to slip out."
The cleaning cloth was long, narrow, and made out of thin material, so it was suitable for tying Kim's hands in the way she was requesting. Sergekt wrapped her wrists in a tight figure 8 and made a firm double knot. She tested the knot by pulling on it. It was tight enough to keep her hands immobilized.
"Now, take the other cloth and blindfold me."
Sergekt complied, tying the second cloth behind Kim's head.
"When you enter me... I don't want you to enter me in the normal way. I... I want you to enter my bottom... and no matter how much it hurts or how much I cry, I want you to stay in. Can you do that for me?"
"No. I'm not going to do that. You're going to get hurt tomorrow, why do you want me to hurt you tonight? That doesn't make any sense."
"I need you to do this for me. I can't explain why, but I need it. You told me you'd do anything for me, and right now this is what I want."
Sergekt looked at Kim's bottom and her waiting bottom-hole. Finally he decided to give her what she wanted, partly because he was curious himself to see how it would feel. He reached in the dresser drawer and pulled out some medical jelly, which was kept among the condoms and other sex supplies. He dabbed some on his fingertips and gently massaged it around his partner's bottom-hole. He slipped a fingertip inside to lubricate her more thoroughly. Then he put on a condom and dabbed yet more jelly on the end.
In spite of his reluctance to hurt his girlfriend, the sight of her spread bottom, with its shiny target in the middle, excited Sergekt. It would be the only time in his life he ever would do this to anyone, a chance to try something different. He placed the tip of his penis against her bottom, repositioned himself slightly, and pressed down, using his body weight to force his way in.
Kim's voice broke as Sergekt pushed in and the intense pressure in her anus mounted. The feeling was far different from what she expected and not pleasant at all. She pulled hard on her tied wrists as she tried to break free. The muscles in her bottom tightened instinctually to fight this unnatural intrusion into her body. The pressure was awful, especially when he started moving back and forth inside her.
Kim did indeed feel degraded by the experience. She began to cry, which was what she was seeking. As Sergekt finished and pulled out of her, Kim's intestines ached and her bottom-hole burned and felt raw. She continued to cry for a long time as Sergekt gently wiped her off and tried to comfort her. However, when he reached for her wrists to untie them, she jerked her hands away. She wanted to remain tied and blindfolded. For the next few minutes she did not want to see him or anyone else.
Sergekt looked at Kim as her body jerked with sobs. Why had she wanted him to do this to her? Sergekt thought the matter over, trying to understand his girlfriend’s emotions through his own experiences. He and his friends already had been switched six times, so he knew what it was to face a switching. However, there was a huge difference between Kim's situation and that of the others. Unlike the other members of the group, Criminal # 98945 had to face her switching by herself. When the moment came for her to be punished, she and that crazy female cop would be alone. No wonder she was so scared.
Sergekt knew Kim well enough to finally figure out what she was trying to accomplish. She intended to resist her punishment tomorrow and not cry. She believed that if she could suffer and have a good cry tonight, she would be better prepared to face her switching in the morning. Sergekt was not sure if it would work, but he understood Kim's line of reasoning. It was a question of her criminal's honor.
Finally Kim's crying died down. Sergekt untied her wrists and took off her blindfold. She winced from her still-sore bottom as she made her way to the shower to get cleaned up. While she showered, he cleaned the room and tried to rinse off the towel they had placed over the pillows.
There was very little either of them could say on their way back to Dukov's house. Kim was enormously depressed, to the point Sergekt was worried about her. Finally, at Dukov's doorstep they hugged each other for a long time. Sergekt asked about seeing her after the switching.
"I'm not sure. I have no idea what condition I'll be in. When you get off work tomorrow you can call Spokesman Dukov. He'll let you know if you can see me."
The following morning Criminal # 98945 went with Dukov to his office. For the third time in her life she followed the routine of going to the bathroom one last time and having a drink of water to calm her nerves. Then she knelt in the reception area, waiting for the police to handcuff her and take her downstairs. Spokesman Dukov stood next to her, his hands full of the usual folders and punishment certificates. He issued the usual orders to his secretaries to have a recovery table ready. Kim looked up to see her Spokesman's expression. He was enormously depressed, knowing full well that she was in for a very rough morning.
Officer Malka's partner showed up to handcuff Criminal # 98945 and escort her downstairs. He treated her roughly, jerking her up and grabbing her arms hard. Every time they turned a corner he jerked her to force her to change direction. Kim had the feeling that if Dukov had not been present he would have pushed her down the stairs. She descended the same two flights of stairs she had descended six months before, and was led into the same punishment chamber where she had received her second switching back in January. Once inside, the male cop unhooked her handcuffs and Kim assumed the kneeling position on the floor.
There was the usual formality of Spokesman Dukov presenting Criminal # 98945 to the judge.
Officer Malka Chorno and her partner faced Vladim Dukov and saluted him. He saluted back, releasing custody of his client. Once again she asked, "Spokesman, are there any restrictions concerning the punishment of this criminal that I need to be advised about?"
Very reluctantly Dukov answered, "No Officer... no special restrictions."
Malka gave the Spokesman a slight, but very wicked smile. She was well-aware of Dukov's failed efforts to get Criminal # 98945 punished by a different officer and the resulting reprimand.
Malka touched Kim with her switch and Kim kissed her shoes. "Criminal 98945, stand up and face me."
Kim complied and quietly looked straight ahead. Malka moved in front of her, staring hard into her eyes. Kim did not avert her gaze from Malka's face. Instead, her dark eyes met Malka's, indicating that she had gotten over some of her fear of what was about to happen. Malka was somewhat disconcerted by the criminal's calm, fatalistic demeanor. The cop slapped her hard across the face.
"Don't you look at me with such arrogance!" She slapped Kim again, but the American did not stop looking into the officer's face. She had not been instructed to do anything else, other than stand and look straight ahead. The cop twisted back to slap Kim a third time. Dukov raised his hand and glanced at the court officials.
The judge interrupted. "Officer! You will stop striking that criminal across the face immediately! All she's doing is what you told her to do!" The judge paused, glanced at Dukov, and continued, "Officer Chorno and Spokesman Dukov, I am subtracting two strokes of the switch from this punishment, given that Criminal 98945 has been struck twice across the face. This punishment will end at the 48th, not the 50th, stroke."
Malka clenched her teeth in anger at the rebuke. She signaled her partner to help her with the criminal. The two officers grabbed Kim's wrists and jerked her over the punishment table. Quickly the two officers secured her wrists and ankles with the leather restraints. Kim's heart raced with fear and her face still hurt from the slaps, but she was more determined than ever to not cry or scream during this punishment. She closed her eyes and put her forehead to the table. She then found herself doing something very unexpected, silently praying to Upper Danubia's Guardian Spirits to get her through the ordeal.
Malka was in a bad mood. She despised Dukov and was offended by his presence in the room. The rebuke from the judge angered her even more, as did her resentment that she had to exercise at least some restraint while punishing Criminal # 98945. This time she was somewhat impatient, desperate to break the American as quickly as possible. There would be no slow or calculated trickery like last time, just a series of hard strokes, delivered at maximum force.
Dukov watched the officer with disgust. She had lost her temper and her self-control. None of this was about Kim's discipline; it was about Officer Chorno's personal vendetta. This was precisely the type of behavior the Spokesman hoped to outlaw with his proposed reforms. Dukov had seen police officers lose their tempers before, and that was always when things went wrong and the criminal's punishment had to be stopped. Dukov was convinced that if Malka did not regain her composure, he would have justification to end his client's switching early.
Officer Malka Chorno looked at the silent criminal and her waiting bottom; her legs parted and body stretched in anticipation of her punishment. Kim's forehead was pressed to the table and her fists were clenched. She was breathing hard, trying to control her fear. Her knees were quivering slightly.
Malka's partner handed her the switch. Malka slashed it through the air and then lined herself up beside her victim. She touched the switch to Kim's bottom, readjusted her position slightly, and then struck full-force at the base of the culprit's buttocks. The blow was so hard that the girl's entire body jerked. A vivid reddish line quickly darkened across Kim's brown skin. She gasped and bit her lip hard, but managed to stay quiet.
Officer Malka was infuriated. Once again the American drug addict thought she was better than an officer of the law. This arrogant little bitch is going to pay. Malka clenched her teeth, and with every bit of her strength, savagely slashed at Kim's bottom eight times; four blows from the left, and the other four from the right.
Criminal # 98945 tensed up, her knees shaking violently and her fists clenched so tightly her knuckles went white, but still, the only sound coming out of her were her gasps of pain. She pressed her forehead hard on the table, as she suppressed her instinct to scream. At just nine strokes, her bottom looked like it had been struck nine times with a whip. She had been struck so hard that the welts already had risen and quickly were turning dark.
Malka then struck Kim's upper back four times, trying to knock the wind out of her and break her resistance. Criminal # 98945 held her breath each time the switch landed. She would resist. If it killed her she would resist. Somewhere, from deep inside her soul, came the force she needed to stay quiet, in spite of the severity of what was happening to her.
Malka should have waited and allowed the strokes to take their toll on the criminal's endurance before continuing. However, she was shocked and infuriated that Kim had resisted 13 of the hardest strokes she had ever administered during an official punishment. She backed away and slashed savagely at Kim, quickly laying additional strokes on the welts already marking her bottom. She stuck at Kim's thighs, and then returned to her bottom. Blood blisters were quickly forming where the strokes had crossed each other.
Just 15 minutes into her punishment, Criminal # 98945 already had taken 32 strokes. She gasped desperately as she suppressed her screams. Her whole body was shaking violently. Malka still was furious, but now she was horrified at the thought Kim might actually make it through her punishment without crying at all. No, that could not be.
Dukov looked at the growing mass of blood blisters on his client's bottom and thighs. Some of them looked like they were just about to break. He raised his hand.
When she saw the Spokesman's hand in the air, Malka snapped. Disregarding her training and the standards of court punishment protocol, she ignored Dukov and, with every bit of her strength, quickly struck Kim's bottom hard two more times. As Dukov had feared, several of the blisters broke. He jumped between Kim and the officer.
"STOP! STOP! You will stop NOW!"
Malka's foot flew into Dukov's stomach. He doubled over from the force of the kick, all of the wind knocked out of him. Chaos broke out in the courtroom. Malka managed to strike Kim one more time before Dukov recovered enough to grab her arm. She hit him viciously across the chin with her free hand, but he did not let go. The tussle between Spokesman Dukov and Officer Chorno ended as court officials piled onto both of them and pulled them away from the punishment table. Malka struggled savagely as a court guard grabbed the switch out of her hand.
"I'M NOT FINISHED! I'M NOT FINISHED!"
Dukov remained doubled over and gasped as he tried to regain his breath
"Your Honor! My... client is bleeding! I... insist, under... Item 18 of... the Judicial Code... of 1780, that this punishment... be terminated immediately!"
"That request is granted, Spokesman! Under Item 18 of the Judicial Code of 1780, I am ordering this punishment terminated and Criminal 98945 released back into your custody! That is effective immediately! You may remove her from this courtroom!"
Dukov, holding his stomach and still gasping for breath, snapped his fingers at a cop standing nearby to undo the straps holding Kim in place. Kim was in so much pain she was almost passed out. In several spots where her skin had broken the welts oozed blood, and a drop of blood was making its way down her left thigh. As Kim was released from the table, Dukov grabbed her wrists and helped her up. He put his arm around her waist and lifted her hands to his shoulder. Thus supported by her Spokesman, Criminal # 98945 left the courtroom, the third switching of her sentence completed.
Dukov paged his two secretaries, who came clattering down the stairs to help both the Spokesman and his client. As they took Kim upstairs, Dukov doubled over and threw up.
"Call the doctor. I... want him in the... office immediately. I need to see... how badly she's hurt."
"What about yourself, Spokesman? What about you?"
"It's just a kick. I'll be fine. Take care of Kimberly."
A minute later Kim was lying face down on the recovery table, as one of the secretaries gently wiped away the blood and put disinfectant on her welts. An assistant police doctor arrived a few minutes later with a medical kit. He cleaned her more thoroughly, applied some special ointment to prevent Kim's skin from scarring, and placed three bandages over the most serious cuts.
"She should fully recover with no marks if she doesn't move about too much and keeps the cuts clean. She'll have a small scar on her left thigh, but I think that'll be it. This ointment's pretty effective."
"Well, what happened is still a violation of Item 18, scars or no scars."
"Oh, most definitely it's a violation. I'll write a medical report this afternoon and send it up to you. When you present that in court, Criminal # 98945 will leave the courtroom with Officer Chorno's badge in her hand."
"You think it will be her badge? Not just her switch?"
"Her badge, Spokesman. She struck your client three times after you tried to pause her, and at least one time when blood was clearly visible. There's no denying that, it's on videotape. And then on top of all that, she kicked you while you were performing the responsibilities of your office. That's her badge, and a criminal prosecution for assaulting a public official. There will be a hearing as soon as your client can attend court, and we'll release her for court attendance on Friday, after head doctor examines her to make sure she's healed properly. On Friday Officer Chorno loses her badge. I would guess she'll lose considerably more than her badge. She'll leave the courtroom with a collar around her neck."
"It's about time. She's been a problem ever since that occurrence last year with her sister. I feel sorry for her, but she's become a threat to the whole judicial system. I'll be glad to see the last of her. Maybe it will be a lesson to the others. I don't know. Maybe this will help with the reform we have pending in Parliament."
"Don't be so arrogant, Spokesman. The only result of this incident is that one policewoman is going to lose her job, and another criminal will be added to your caseload. Nothing more will come of this. Malka Chorno will wear a collar for several years and maybe will consider correcting the path in life she has chosen to follow. That's the most you can hope for."
Kim was in a painful daze when her Spokesman was talking with the assistant doctor, so she only was partially aware of what was going on in the office. She tried to sleep, but couldn't. Dukov warned her not to move unless it was absolutely necessary. Dukov didn't need to tell Kim not to move; the slightest movement sent sharp pains shooting through her body. She spent the afternoon lying facedown on the table, her body horribly marked up and the three white bandages standing out on her brown skin. Finally, after about four hours lying motionless on the table, Kim fell asleep.
Sergekt called Spokesman Dukov as soon as his shift at the restaurant ended. Dukov decided to meet with Kim's boyfriend in Danube City's Central Plaza, and waited for him at the steps of the Central Police Station. As dictated by protocol, Sergekt knelt and touched his forehead to the ground as he greeted Dukov. The Spokesman quickly ordered him to stand up, and the two men looked for a place to sit down, finally settling on an empty bench near the National Parliament.
Sergekt knew right away that Kim's punishment had not gone well. That much was obvious when her Spokesman told him to meet outside instead of allowing him to go directly to his office. Dukov quickly summarized what happened and explained that the punishing officer was facing the loss of her badge over the abuse of his client. Sergekt sat quietly for a long time, wondering what to ask next. Finally he asked the one question that seemed to matter much more to criminals than to outsiders.
"Spokesman Dukov, if may I ask... how long was Kim able to stay quiet? During the switching, I mean?"
"She didn't cry at all, Sergekt. That's what truly amazed me. Kimberly took the worst beating I have seen in my career, and she didn't cry. She didn't make any noise whatsoever, except her breathing. I don't know how she did it."
"Spokesman... I ask because... when I was with her last night, I... it... that was the most important thing for her. She was completely obsessed with not crying today. So... she succeeded."
Dukov and Sergekt sat for a long time in the late afternoon heat, each trying to think of something significant to say to the other. The passersby glanced at the strange pair, a naked young criminal and a middle-aged professional in a business suit. Finally Dukov spoke, "If you had seen her today... she faced her fears and her worst enemy with complete calm. Kimberly was terribly afraid, but she conquered her fear. She looked that officer straight in the eye. When the officer slapped her, slapped her twice, in fact, Kimberly straightened up and continued to look right at her. I believe that is why that officer became so unbalanced. That officer's soul is damaged, and a damaged soul cannot face the truth. I want you to understand Kimberly is an extremely courageous young woman, and I hope you are able to truly appreciate how lucky you are to be with her."
"Yes, Spokesman. I know that the Spirits of the Ancients have truly blessed me by placing Kim in my life. In my prayers I thank them every night for that blessing."
"There's something else you should know, that should put your heart at ease. The worst of her sentence has passed. Officer Chorno faces the loss of her badge over her treatment of Kimberly. Another officer will administer her final switching in January. Under the law, I have the right to choose who the replacement officer will be. Probably I'll ask my son's partner to administer Kimberly's final switching."
There wasn't much else to say. Dukov planned to spend the night at his office, catching up on his caseload and watching over his client as she slept on the recovery table. Sergekt knew better than to ask Dukov if he could see her, because he knew the Spokesman considered that improper. He would have to wait until she had recovered.
Sergekt knelt in front of Dukov to say goodbye. He then went to the Socrates Club to tell Eloisa about Kim's horrific experience and amazing courage.
The next day Criminal # 98945 was up and moving about fairly normally. Following the doctor's advice she avoided bending or sitting to allow her cuts to heal. She carefully showered, replaced her bandages, and had breakfast in the office with Dukov, his secretaries, and Eloisa. Kim had to eat standing up. After breakfast the two criminals went to their jobs at the music store.
Once at the store, Kim followed the post-switching custom of placing her hands on the counter and allowing her co-workers to look at her punished bottom and back. The entire staff was horrified at how severely she had been beaten. Only once had any of them ever seen a fellow criminal who had bled as a result of his punishment. Kim's boss asked her if she wanted to have the day off or work a reduced schedule.
"No sir, I'll work a normal day. The whipping is over, and from what Spokesman Dukov told me, that officer won't be punishing me in January. Now I want to return to my duties. I want live my life with honor and not feel sorry for myself."
That night Kimberly Lee, with her horribly marked backside and three bandages, sang with her friends on stage. Her voice had returned, but Eloisa noticed a slight difference. There was more power in Kim's singing and a touch of anger. The lead singer knew what was going on in her friend’s mind. She was hoping that cop was watching her sing. She wanted to prove herself, to the band's audience, and to that cop, that no, she was not defeated. Not even that savage beating 36 hours before could stop Criminal # 98945.
Vladim Dukov and his client Kimberly Lee went to his office very early Friday morning. The chief police doctor was waiting for them, to examine Kim and clear her for attending the hearings that would determine the course of Officer Malka Chorno's future. As the doctor’s assistant had predicted, Kim's bottom was well on its way to healing. He removed the bandages and was quite satisfied with the condition of Kim's injuries. "We may even avoid the scar on your thigh. Anyhow, if you have it, it won't be noticeable unless you're looking for it. That pretty brown bottom of yours will be back to normal in another week."
Kim cringed with dislike as the old doctor studied her bottom. The doctor was the same man who had given Prisoner # 98945 the drug test the year before and whose students delighted in sexually humiliating criminals. Kim would have expected the doctor and his staff to oppose Spokesman Dukov and his proposed reforms. However, on the question of injuries, the police doctors fully agreed with Dukov. Under no circumstances was it appropriate to actually injure a criminal. The doctors' objections to some of the more severe beatings that had recently taken place took priority over the head doctor's belief that there was nothing wrong with the sexual humiliations. The medical staff had become reluctant supporters of portions of Dukov's reforms. As for Criminal # 98945, the head doctor was every bit as concerned as was her Spokesman that she recover as completely as possible.
Before going to Malka Chorno's hearing, Kim had to go to the booking room of the Central Police Station to have her second mugshot taken. Throughout their sentences, Danubian criminals had to have their files updated each year, which included new yearly mugshots. Criminal # 98945 looked quietly into the camera as the flash went off. Later, when Vladim Dukov added the second mugshot to his client's file, he had a chance to compare it to the picture taken immediately after her arrest. The contrast was so startling that it was hard to believe that the two pictures were of the same person. The difference went way beyond Kim's changed hairstyle. Her entire expression was different; the very inner working of her soul was different. When Dukov compared the two photos, he realized how much Kim truly had changed and matured during the first year of her sentence.
Dukov escorted his client across the Central Plaza to the Central Courthouse. They entered the ornate building and the courtroom where Criminal # 98945 went on trial the year before. Dukov explained to Kim that today was one day she was not to kneel in the presence of the public officials running the hearing. Kim was the aggrieved party in this case and was due an official apology. She would attend the hearing standing, although because she was still a criminal, she could not salute. Criminal # 98945 and Spokesman Vladim Dukov walked to the witness area immediately to the right and slightly behind the judge's desk. They stood together, as several cameras focused on them.
The courtroom was packed, filled with police officers, all of Danube City's Spokespersons, many law students and professors, and even some human rights activists. A number of criminals who had been punished by Officer Chorno also were present, eager to see the demise of her career.
The case would be a sensation, by far the most exciting trial of the year. Prosecutions against police officers were rare, so when they happened they always drew a great deal of public interest. Criminal # 98945 was relatively well-known and well-liked throughout Upper Danubia because of her singing. She was a familiar sight around Danube City on her bicycle and a fixture at the information counter at the city's main music store. Officer Malka Chorno also was well-known, especially as a result of the fire-fight in which she coolly shot four bank robbers with her service revolver as their automatic weapons sprayed bullets all around her. Finally, Spokesman Vladim Dukov was the most recognized of Danube City's 20 Spokespersons because of his success in representing criminals and because of the controversy surrounding his legislation pending in Parliament. It was for sure the entire incident, from Kim's switching and Officer Chorno's attack against the Spokesman, to the dismissal and prosecution of the policewoman, would be televised. Probably it would crowd out the transmissions of any other trials and punishments for that Sunday evening and be discussed for weeks.
Officer Malka Chorno quietly entered the courtroom in her uniform, accompanied by her partner. She had taken special care that her uniform look its best; her boots were thoroughly shined, her badge and buttons had been polished, her police tunic was crisply pressed and ironed. Officer Chorno knew this was the last time in her life she would have the right to wear her policewoman's uniform. She wanted to treat her outfit with special respect and care before she had to surrender it. Kim noticed one detail indicating the direction of Malka Chorno's future. There was no pistol in her holster. Her service weapon already had been taken away from her.
Malka and her partner silently stepped into the middle of the courtroom. They quietly stood on the empty floor, facing the judge's desk. Both the prisoner's stand and the punishment bench had been removed, because during a police disciplinary hearing neither was used. Errant police officers were harshly disciplined in Upper Danubia, but protocol prohibited them from being disciplined in the same manner as common criminals. It was partly for that reason Officer Chorno entered the courtroom still dressed in her uniform. The official stripping of her uniform would signal the beginning of her punishment.
From her spot in the witness area Criminal # 98945 looked at her nemesis. Officer Chorno looked neither broken nor defiant. She really did not even look sad. She looked... empty, as though the life force had been taken out of her soul. As Kim studied the officer's attractive face and immaculate uniform, she knew that Malka Chorno had changed. No longer was she the same person who had tormented Kim in the park nor the one who so had viciously beaten her a few days ago. Suddenly she felt somewhat sorry for the disgraced cop.
There were no such thoughts of pity from Vladim Dukov. He was determined to destroy Officer Chorno to the point she never could be a danger to anyone again. That cop was out of control and needed to be removed as a threat to the judicial system. She had violated the spirit of the 1780 judicial code continuously since the beginning of last year. She had shown absolute cruelty against anyone unfortunate enough to fall under her discipline. She held the city's Spokespersons for the Criminals in total contempt. Last year she had come very close to murdering Kimberly Lee. Her charisma made her dangerous because of the bad influence she had on other police officers. On top of everything else was the kick to his stomach. That kick was unprecedented. None of Dukov's co-workers ever had remembered a police officer striking a Spokesperson, and certainly never in court. Dukov would have had a hard time admitting it, but for the first time in his life he had developed a deep personal hatred and thirst for revenge.
The entire room stood up and saluted, including Malka's partner. She did not salute. She simply remained quietly standing at attention. Kim, her brain conditioned to dropping on her knees every time she heard the official salute, struggled to remember that she was not to kneel in court.
The person entering the judge's chair was not a judge at all, but the Chief of the Danube City Division of the National Police. Most of the other presiding officials were wearing police uniforms as well. There was an arraignment panel, but all three of them were senior police officers. The first hearing was not about the criminal charges pending against Officer Chorno, but instead her violations of the National Police Code of Conduct. The criminal charges would come after Officer Chorno's status as a police officer was settled.
The Chief of Police spoke from the judge's chair, "Officer Malka Chorno. You will remove your badge and your hat. Place your badge inside your hat. Place your hat at the foot of my desk. Once you have done that, you will return to where you are standing."
Malka's partner un-pinned her badge and handed it to her. She took off her hat and, following the chief's instructions, placed it upside down at the foot of the judge's desk. She returned to her position standing next to her partner.
"You're responsibilities as a uniformed officer are suspended from this moment, pending the outcome of this hearing. That suspension will become permanent should this proceeding determine you are guilty of the violations of the National Police Code of Conduct pending against you. Do you understand the violations pending against you?"
"Yes, Chief of Police, I understand the violations of the Code of Conduct."
"You will state, in your own words, the first violation pending against you."
"I am charged with violation of Article 3 of Item 18 of the Grand Duke's reform of the Judicial Code of 1780. Specifically that means, during the course of punishing Criminal # 98945, I struck her to the point of bleeding, in clear violation of Article 3 of Item 18."
"You will state, in your own words, the second charge pending against you."
"I am charged with violation of Article 4 of Item 18 of the Grand Duke's reform of the Judicial Code of 1780. Specifically that means, during the course of punishing Criminal # 98945, I ignored my responsibility to stop striking that criminal when her Spokesman raised his hand to make me pause for medical evaluation of her injuries."
"You will state, in your own words, the third charge pending against you."
"I am charged with the violation of Insurrection. In violation of Article 9 of Item 5 of the Judicial Code of 1524, I struck a public official while he was performing the duties of his office. I struck him while I was supposed to be performing the duties of my office. Specifically that means, when Spokesman Dukov attempted to intervene to suspend the punishment of Criminal # 98945, I deliberately struck him full-force in the stomach by kicking him. I kicked him in court, while wearing my police uniform. I struck him in the stomach wearing a boot issued to me by the National Police Force."
"You will state, in your own words, the fourth violation pending against you."
"I am charged with a second violation of Article 4 of Item 18 of the Grand Duke's reform of the Judicial Code of 1780. Specifically that means, after I incapacitated Spokesman Dukov by striking him with my foot, I resumed striking Criminal # 98945, even though I could clearly see she was bleeding."
"Officer Chorno, do you refute the veracity of any of the four violations against you?"
"No, Chief of Police, I do not refute the violations."
"Can you give this court any justification for your behavior, any reason why you felt it was necessary to strike either Criminal 98945 or Spokesman Dukov?"
"No, Chief of Police, I cannot provide any justification that would alter the legal standing of the violations."
"Do you understand that your two violations of Article 4 of Item 18 of the Grand Duke's reform of the Judicial Code of 1780 and the violation of Insurrection will require this court to terminate your service as a uniformed officer of the National Police of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia?"
"Yes, Chief of Police, I understand that."
"Very well. Malka Chorno, as of this moment you are no longer a member of the National Police Force. You have proven yourself unfit to wear that uniform."
Malka knew what was coming, but to hear the actual words pronounced struck at her soul. Being a police officer had been the purpose of her life, the reason she existed. The finality of what had happened finally sunk in. Malka's expression changed slightly. She looked stricken. The Police Chief's next comment was directed at Malka's partner.
"Officer, you will remove all property belonging to the National Police of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia from the body of Malka Chorno."
Malka stood quietly at attention as her ex-partner stripped her. He started with her boots, taking them off her feet as she raised each leg. He then took off her police belt. He removed the items from the belt, her mace, her flashlight, her nightstick, her handcuffs, and her holster from the belt. He carried the boots and items from the belt to the foot of the judge's desk and lined them up next to Malka's hat. He rolled up the thick leather police belt and placed it at her feet, because it would stay with Malka and be used to punish her following her criminal trial. Malka's partner then removed several service medals from her uniform. He placed those in the hat with her badge. Her armband and rank came off next, and also ended up in her hat. Malka now was barefoot and wearing nothing but her woman's police tunic. He paused, hoping not to have to go any further.
"You will finish retrieving all property that belongs to the National Police Force, Officer."
Very reluctantly Malka's partner undid the buttons of her blue tunic. He took the tunic, folded it, and placed it at the foot of the judge's bench. Malka now was wearing nothing but a police shirt and the light-blue police-issue bra and underwear for female police officers. Those items had to be taken off as well. Malka's partner unbuttoned the shirt and pulled it off his partner's shoulders. He fumbled with the hook in her bra and finally got it off. He pushed her underwear to her ankles and she quietly stepped out of it.
Malka, now naked, stood at attention as tears rolled down her cheeks. Cameras flashed at the bare body of the disgraced ex-police officer. For a long time the Chief of Police left her standing, to let the humiliation sink in. Malka did not move, nor did she change her expression. The only detail indicating her inner torment was the tears flowing down her face.
"Malka Chorno, for the final portion of this hearing you will kneel. You will understand that from this point forward you are not to salute any member of the National Police Force. No longer will you stand at attention in court. You have forfeited your right to salute. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Chief of Police, I understand."
Malka sank to her knees for the first time in her life. She placed her hands on the floor and her head between them. She touched her forehead to the floor.
"Spokesman Dukov, you will approach the judge's desk with Criminal # 98945."
Dukov and Kim stood at the foot of the judge's desk, as she quietly contemplated the pile of police items at her feet. Kim was awestruck that these items, which looked so fearsome when worn by Malka Chorno, now were nothing but inanimate objects lying on the ground, incapable of causing her any further harm. What was truly shocking was to see how helpless Malka looked, stripped of her uniform.
The police chief stepped down and saluted Vladim Dukov, who saluted back. He then retrieved Malka's badge from her hat and handed it to Dukov.
"Spokesman, in accordance with Article 6 of Item 18 of the Grand Duke's reform of the Judicial Code of 1780, you will present this badge to Criminal # 98945 as a gesture of apology from the National Police of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia."
"Yes, Chief of Police, I will make the presentation."
Dukov turned to his client. He spoke to her in Danubian. "Criminal # 98945, the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia offers its official apology for the manner in which you were treated this past Tuesday. I am presenting you with the badge of the police officer who offended your honor and your rights as a criminal as a gesture of remorse. You will understand this badge has no authority in your possession, it is nothing more than a gesture of apology."
"Yes, Spokesman Dukov, I understand, and I accept this gesture of apology with gratitude."
With that Dukov handed Kim the police badge. Kim thought she could hear Malka suppress a sob. Kim felt no triumph at all, no happiness or relief. She felt awful, and almost guilty that she had to accept the badge.
Kim and Dukov withdrew to the witness's area and the Chief of Police addressed Malka again, "Malka Chorno, my professional relationship with you has ended. I have one final duty to perform before I completely wash my hands of you. I am declaring you under arrest for the crimes of insurrection, simple assault, assault against a public official while in performance of his duty, and abuse of the authority of your former public position. I am ordering you to be taken to the Central Police Station immediately. You will be booked, arraigned, and assigned a Spokesman. Tomorrow you will go on trial, just like any other criminal."
The Chief of Police then stood up and drew his fist across his chest. The officers and civilians filling the courtroom saluted him. One of the court guards picked up Malka's handcuffs from her hat and used them to cuff her hands behind her back. He picked up her police belt and led her out of the courtroom and across Danube City's Central Plaza to the police station. Kim's arresting officer faced a day very similar to Kim's first day as a Danubian criminal. In spite of everything the woman had done to make her life miserable, Kim felt sorry for her.
Dukov and Kim returned to his office. Dukov had expected to see Kim elated, but could tell that she wasn't. He was about to try to talk to her when one of his secretaries handed him an ancient silver box with an archaic version of Upper Danubia's national symbol, a griffin. Dukov sighed and frowned when he saw the box.
"What is it, Spokesman Dukov?"
Dukov showed the box to Kim.
"This box is an ancient tradition in our country. No one knows how old it is or where it came from. But all of us know very well what it is. I can tell you it is something no public official is happy to see."
"This box contains a personal challenge. I must prove my honor. The document inside is a test of my character, a task that I must accomplish."
"I don't get it."
"In this country public officials have had a tradition for hundreds of years. If a public official considers himself important, his peers have the obligation to test his honor. If he passes the test, he may continue with his ambitions. If he fails the test, then he must desist from further public activity. The test is always a task that challenges one's inner soul."
Dukov opened the box and removed a standard business envelope. He opened the envelope and passed the letter to Kim. The message read:
"Former Officer of the National Police of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia, Malka Chorno, is officially under arrest and has been assigned Prisoner # 99348. You will serve as her Spokesman, and will protect her interests to the best of your ability. You will confirm receipt of this assignment when you retrieve her case file from the booking room."
Dukov took the letter back from Kim. He closed the silver box and packed it in its padded carrier. Later that night Dukov would have to return the carrier to the Temple of the Ancients. When it was not in use, the Temple's High Priest kept the box in his study.
"I should not be surprised. I do not know if you understand how difficult an assignment this will be for me. Malka Chorno is the first person in many years I have truly hated. I find her and her actions abhorrent. She represents everything I stand against and want to change. But now I am obligated to serve her interests."
"Who gave you this challenge?"
"The city's other 19 Spokespersons, without a doubt."
"But I thought they all supported you."
"The others support me, Kimberly. This is not a question of whether they support me or not. The others believe that Malka and I must come to terms with each other. This will be as difficult for her as it will be for me. That is why she became my client."
Dukov signed the letter and handed it to Kim.
"Please assist me in this matter. I would appreciate you going downstairs to the booking room and retrieving Malka's file."
"Yes, Spokesman Dukov."
Kim went downstairs to the booking room. The folder was waiting for her. Kim opened it to verify it contained Malka Chorno's documents. Kim studied Malka's mugshot, noticing the woman's glassy-eyed stare into the camera. Kim then knelt as the head photographer signed the receipt for Vladim Dukov. Dukov now was fully committed to serving a person he hated.
Criminal # 98945 returned to her Spokesman's office and handed the file to Dukov. With that he sat down to figure out how he could prepare a plea for leniency. The fact that both he and his surrogate daughter had been the victims of her violence no longer mattered.
Kim left the office to meet Sergekt. He was waiting outside the main entrance of the Central Police Station. She desperately needed to talk to him. She hugged him hard, and they sat down on a nearby bench. She showed him Malka's badge. He took the badge and traced its engraving with his fingertip.
"Kim, you're not happy about this, are you?"
"I don't know. I really don't know why. She deserves everything she has coming to her, but I'm not happy about it. Tomorrow she'll go on trial, get her butt whipped and get a collar put on her neck, and the whole thing makes me sick."
Kim was having huge doubts about the destruction of Officer Chorno's career. Her American desire for revenge clashed with her Danubian concern about what was best for the entire community. What would become of Malka now that she had lost her badge?
Kim's thoughts returned to Vladik's story about the bank robbery. It was obvious that Malka was a brave, if very flawed, police officer. Vladik's words "she's one of those officers who will end up either a complete hero or a complete villain, depending on which path the Spirits of the Ancients choose to lead her" came back to haunt Kim. Was there still room in this life for Officer Malka to become a hero instead of a villain? Could she redeem herself in a way that would be truly beneficial to Upper Danubia?
Kim checked herself. What the fuck am I thinking? That crazy woman wanted to kill me for no reason. She doesn't deserve any mercy. Or does she? Who knows what the terrible fate of her sister could have done to her soul? Can a damaged soul be repaired? Maybe the Guardian Spirits were trying to say something to her, maybe that was why they had answered her prayer to get her through the punishment without crying. Perhaps this country's Ancient Guardians had done Kim a favor, only to demand that she do something in return.
My God, thought Kim... even this country's religion has gotten into my head.
As they walked in the mid-summer twilight, Kim discussed her beating in detail with Sergekt. The detail standing out in her mind was that she had prayed, actually prayed to the country's Spirits of the Ancients before her beating began, and then made it through the worst punishment anyone could remember without crying. She didn't cry at all, not even afterwards when she lay in agony on Dukov's recovery table. Could there be a connection between the two facts? And if she in some way had been helped, did it mean she had to do something in return?
Kim knew Sergekt was quite superstitious, that he took the entire Danubian Guardian Spirit thing very seriously. If there were anyone in her life who she could talk to about her question, he would be the right person.
"It's totally possible, what you're saying, Kim. It would make sense that the Guardian Spirits would have helped you get through your whipping, especially if you were praying to them. And you're right about giving back. If they gave something like that to you, then you must give something back. If the Guardian Spirits speak to you, you'd better listen, and follow the path where they lead you."
"What could they possibly be saying to me?"
"I don't have the answer to that. Let's go to the Old Temple, and see if we can get one of the Priests to help you."
As it got dark outside, the two criminals stood in front of a senior Priest. There was no kneeling, because for a Priest there was no social status among people seeking advice. The man was dressed in a simple black robe and looked about 60. Kim recognized him from last September as one of the organizers of the criminals' torch march.
Kim explained her situation, and her doubts about finishing off Officer Chorno's career. She was perplexed and bothered that she even had such doubts, given that Malka was such an evil person.
"Kimberly Annette Lee, you will understand this dilemma in your life is not about Officer Malka Chrorno. It is about you. That is why you came here, to determine what path tomorrow must lead you. For the first time you hold another person's fate in your hands. That person is someone you hate, but it must be that way, or the decision would be an easy one for you. The decision will be difficult because that is the way it must be, difficult. Once the decision is made, it is not your enemy who will be transformed, but you."
Kim left the Temple clearly aware of what she needed to do. Two things were important. Malka had to be punished for what she had done. She needed to be punished not specifically for what she had done to Kim, but for her overall behavior towards all of the criminals she had switched. Malka would become a criminal herself, learn what it was like to be on the other side of the punishment table, and be forced to change. However, once Malka's transformation took place, she needed to return to her rightful place in society.
Kim returned to Dukov's house very late. She spent the night in restless thought, wondering what she could say to Spokesman Dukov when he got up. As the pre-dawn light appeared out her window, Kim, a 19 year-old criminal, finally settled on a plan that would salvage both the career and the life of Officer Malka Chorno.
Kim discussed her idea with Vladim Dukov as they made their way downtown. Dukov listened attentively once he found out about Kim's trip to the Temple of the Ancients. He was not as openly religious as Sergekt, but many of Upper Danubia's superstitions were present in his thoughts. The more he thought about it, the more Kim's idea made sense.
Vladim Dukov and his secretaries prepared a breakfast for Malka Chorno once they arrived at his office in the Central Police Station. It was a full breakfast, similar to the one Dukov had given Prisoner # 98945 the year before, complete with fruit, breakfast rolls, and tea.
Malka Chorno entered the office, cuffed and escorted by one of her former co-workers. She knelt and was left alone in Dukov's reception area. Dukov un-cuffed her as Kim and the secretaries watched. Malka knelt forward and pressed her forehead to the floor, showing respect to the Spokesman she had so viciously kicked only a few days before.
"Malka, I want you to understand that regardless of what happened between us in the past, my duty now is to serve your interests."
"Please come with me and have breakfast in my office. Kimberly, you will prepare yourself to appear in court while I speak with Malka Chorno."
With that the Spokesman and Prisoner # 99348 entered the back office. Malka appeared totally broken, her soul emptied out. She ignored the food and stared blankly ahead.
"Malka, please. You must eat. Everyone who comes through my office begins with breakfast. A year ago Kimberly Lee went through exactly what you are going through. She ate breakfast, and then we discussed the trial and the charges."
Malka forced herself to eat. Once she finished she had a question for the Spokesman. "Spokesman, if I may ask, because my crime was committed against you and your client, isn't it inappropriate that you represent me in court? Isn't that a conflict of interest?"
"Normally it is, Malka. But the other Spokespersons of this city have determined that you and I must make peace with each other. I will defend your interests, to the best of my ability. It is a question of honor, for both of us."
"Spokesman, I have no honor. What honor I had I squandered last Tuesday."
Dukov paused. Most certainly what the former police officer said was true, but now Dukov was faced with the task of salvaging as much of her life as possible.
"Malka, what you squandered was your current police career. You will understand that you will not recover that part of your life. Today you will be sentenced, and with your own police belt, your body will be severely beaten. Tonight you will sleep in my office, on a recovery table in intense pain. Tomorrow that pain will slowly subside. Once your body is back to normal your life will continue, whether you wish it or not. Now I have a question for you. I would like you, in your own words, to explain to me what happened last Tuesday. I want to know what was going on in your thoughts and what you hoped to accomplish. If you ask why I should know your thoughts that is because I want to know anything that might allow me to request leniency for you."
Malka gave Dukov a sad look, then stared straight ahead. "Spokesman, I wasn't trying to accomplish anything when I punished Criminal # 98945, other than satisfy myself. I simply wanted to gratify my desire to inflict as much hurt on a helpless person as I could, because it's what I enjoy doing. I wish I had some other explanation, but I don't."
"Do you believe using your position to gratify your desires was appropriate?"
"No Spokesman, of course it's not appropriate. And I knew that someday my actions would catch up with me. I knew it would happen eventually. It turned out that Tuesday was the day. As for kicking you, I... I don't know what happened. You stood between me and my obsessions. I wanted you removed so I could continue beating Criminal # 98945. It's like my emotions took total control of me, blocking out my ability to reason. I was insane, just for a few seconds, but long enough to injure Criminal # 98945 and to kick a public official, you. But... before Tuesday... I saw it coming... I knew it was going to happen, and I didn't do anything about it when there was still time."
Dukov proceeded to ask Malka to describe her police career at length, both the positive and negative things she had done in her life. He wanted his newest client to examine herself, and also gauge to what extent she could be truthful about her flaws. It turned out the ex-police officer was capable of being brutally honest with the most uncomfortable details of her life and her actions. She saw herself clearly for what she was: a brilliant police officer with a serious character defect that had hurt many people and ultimately wrecked her career. She blamed herself where she needed to, for striving to satisfy her lust for hurting other people instead of turning in her switch and seeking counseling.
Malka didn't grovel in regret or self-pity. She knew she was a deeply flawed person who had failed to exercise any type of self-control. She now was paying dearly for that failure. Her fiancée had left her, her parents had disowned her, and her co-workers had turned their backs on her, including the ones she thought were her friends. Only one person in her life had stayed loyal to her, and that was her partner, a man she had so brutally bullied and bossed around ever since they had been assigned to work together. Malka suspected that over time he would reflect about his relationship with her and how awfully she had treated him, and once he did so, he too, would turn his back on her.
"My life is pretty much over, Spokesman. At least, what I knew is gone. I had a real reason for living; something the Ancients blessed me with. They gave me the talents and the abilities to do my job well and serve this country. How did I repay them? By tormenting criminals and squandering my career. I had a purpose in life, and now that purpose is gone."
"Malka, I don't believe that is true. You are only 26 years old. The meaning of your existence is not gone. I believe, ultimately, you will return to your purpose in life. However, before you return to that purpose, you will suffer for what you have done, and you will reflect about what the path the Ancients want you to follow. I will be here to help you."
"Spokesman, I... don't... want to argue with you, but I am facing at least an 18-year sentence. I mean... my crimes are pretty serious. How can I return to my purpose after 18 years?"
"We'll see. Now, I'd like you to get cleaned up. The criminal's bathroom is over there. There is an unused toothbrush on the sink. Use it."
"Spokesman, do you have a razor? I suppose I might as well shave."
"In the cabinet under the sink."
Malka's police escort arrived to handcuff her and take her across the plaza to the Central Courthouse. The plaza was crowded with onlookers and reporters as the disgraced officer was marched naked and handcuffed to her trial. Dukov and Kim trailed behind, both very nervous about what lay ahead. As much as the reporters photographed Dukov and his two clients, there was no crowding, no pushing, no shouting of impromptu questions. The Danubian press would never tolerate such undignified behavior from its reporters. The reporters fully expected Dukov to answer their questions after the trial in exchange for respecting him now and keeping their distance.
The trial began in a manner very similar to Kim's trial a year before. There were the same formalities, the same salutes, the same shouting of "DOC-DOC DANUBE!" Like Kim before her, Malka knelt, placing her forehead to the worn carpet and her bottom high in the air.
One difference was Kim's role in the trial. Kim stood next to Dukov, for reasons the court would understand very shortly. Because she was one of the two aggrieved parties in this trial, she was not kneeling, in spite of her continued status as a criminal.
The judge's first question in this highly unusual trial was directed at Dukov. "Spokesman, I have a question for you. Since this prisoner is accused of kicking you, how is it that you became her representative in this court?"
"It was a collective decision of this city's Spokespersons that I am best suited to defend her interests, your honor."
The judge smiled slightly. Dukov's answer was a very euphemistic way of saying that he had received the Silver Box. Very well, Spokesman Dukov, I hope you're up to this challenge, thought the judge to himself.
Malka ascended the prisoner's platform and spread her legs and put her hands behind her head. She had watched so many people do the exact same thing, and now it was her turn. She stood motionless, looking straight at the judge.
The majority of the trial was a review of the tape documenting Kim's punishment, mixed with the testimony of the judge presiding over what was supposed to be a routine switching. The assistant police doctor testified next, as he shot a look of dislike at Malka.
"I have worked here for 22 years. Not once during that time have I seen a criminal as brutally treated as Criminal # 98945 last Tuesday. I was appalled and disgusted when I treated her injuries. Spokesman Dukov was well within the responsibilities of his position when he ordered a halt to that punishment."
There was more testimony from other police officials and the court guards who pulled Officer Chorno away from the punishment table, this time to support the charges of insurrection and assault of a public official while he was performing the duties of his office. Because of Dukov's task of representing Malka, there would be no direct testimony from him about what happened when she kicked him.
There was the usual break and the usual drink of water for the defendant. Then Dukov spoke in defense of his former enemy. Dukov refuted none of the facts presented by the prosecution. Instead he concentrated on the need to give Malka the chance to reflect on her life and return as soon as possible to being a productive citizen. He presented Malka as she was, a brilliant but flawed individual who needed guidance and the opportunity to redeem herself.
Dukov's arguments were typical for such a case, but what followed wasn't. Criminal # 98945 stepped forward to testify. She was terrified, but courage welled up inside her to fulfill her purpose for being present on the floor of the courtroom. She addressed the court in accented Danubian as the cameras rolled and flashes went off wildly.
Kim spoke at length, explaining her deep fear of Officer Chrono before the final switching, her personal determination to overcome her fear, and most importantly her prayer that she make it through the punishment. She described her doubts as she received Malka's badge and at seeing her former nemesis reduced to a naked kneeling prisoner during the police hearing. The audience then sat in dumbfounded silence when Kim described her trip with Sergekt to the Temple of the Ancients and her talk with the old Priest there. Kim drew a deep breath, and finally proceeded with the mission she had assigned herself, making the effort to redirect the destiny of Malka Chorno.
"The government of Upper Danubia has sought to apologize for what happened to me last Tuesday. I don't know how I should feel about that, because what happened to me is something that shouldn't happen to anyone. It did, and now I must move on with my life. The problem I face is that because of my trip to the Temple of the Ancients last night, I do not believe it is the destiny of Malka Chorno's life to be destroyed because of me. I want her to repair her damaged soul, and then I want her to return to serving this country. She is a brave and capable woman in spite of her damaged soul, and one who ultimately will serve this country well."
Kim then held up Malka's badge. "Your honor, I request from this court permission to deliver Officer Chorno's badge to the National Police Academy and to surrender custody of it. I ask, once Malka Chorno has had an opportunity to reflect on what path in life the Ancients want her to follow, that she return to the National Police Academy, retrain, earn her badge back, and return to her duties as a police officer. If she needs to start over, at the lowest rank, so be it. But what I ask is that this woman's life not be wasted."
The judge tilted his head slightly, trying to make sense out of what Kim had just said. "Are you saying that she should be exonerated of her charges, Criminal 98945?"
"No, your honor, not exonerated. She does need to be punished. She needs to learn what it is to be a criminal and to dread the punishment table. She needs to wear a collar and for a brief time live among the people she abused. However, once she passes though those experiences, my hope is that she will change, and that she will turn her back on whom she has been up to this moment. My hope is, your honor, that the in the future she will use her talents to serve all of Upper Danubia's people, criminals included."
"What is your definition of a 'brief time', Criminal # 98945?"
"I'd guess a year, your honor. Definitely no more than two years."
The judge turned his attention to Malka. "Malka Chorno, to be honest, I am shocked by the attitude of Criminal # 98945. She seems to have forgiven you, which is something that I, in her position, would have been reluctant to do. Now I will ask you. Do you think you can transform yourself? Do you have the same confidence in yourself that Criminal # 98945 has in you?"
"I don't know, your honor. I don't know if I can change or not. Criminal # 98945 has placed faith in me. I cannot answer, even in my own heart, whether or not I deserve that faith she has placed in me."
The judge leaned back, thought for a few seconds, then leaned back forward. "You gave me an honest answer, Malka Chorno. You don't know. If you don't know, then maybe there is hope for you. Fine. Here is my verdict. There is no doubt in my mind that you are quite guilty of all of the charges pending against you. Those charges include the crimes of insurrection, simple assault, assault against a public official while in performance of his duty, and abuse of the authority of your former public position. In ordinary circumstances the convictions would require you to wear the criminal's collar for 18 years. However, in your case I will not put a definite time limit to your sentence. If I am persuaded you are able to fulfill the faith that Criminal # 98945 and Spokesman Dukov have placed in you, then I will suspend your sentence and allow you to return to the National Police Academy. I am giving you something that you clearly don't deserve: the hope that someday you can redeem your life. Do you understand me?"
"Yes your honor."
"Criminal # 98945, I want to thank you for your gesture of concern for what is best for our country. I don't really know what to say, other than your thoughtfulness and consideration go far beyond what I would expect from a person only 19 years old. If you decide to carry through with surrendering the badge of former Officer Chorno, I will notify the director of the National Police Academy. He will receive the badge from you directly. Then it will be up to former Officer Chorno to earn it back."
"Thank you, your honor."
"This court is ready to pronounce the tentative sentence of former National Police Officer Malka Chorno."
With that, Malka dropped to her knees.
"Item One: Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno will wear the criminal's collar for an undetermined period of time. The collar will identify her as a criminal, monitor her movements, and alert the police should she try to leave this city. For the duration of her sentence Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno is prohibited from traveling more than 10 kilometers from this courthouse."
"Item Two: for the duration of her sentence Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno 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 Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno's disgrace will be shown to the world as a result of this sentence."
"Item three. Finally, for the duration of her sentence, however long that should be, Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno will receive a vigorous punishment on the naked buttocks and thighs with the leather belt originally issued to her as part of her police uniform every 120 days. Every 120 days Former National Police Officer Malka Chorno will be immobilized on the punishment table and beaten to the limit of her endurance, in accordance with the standard treatment for a former member of the National Police Force."
"Malka Chorno, you are now convicted and sentenced. You will descend to the foot of my desk to receive your collar."
Malka quietly knelt as the collar device closed around her neck. There was the familiar hiss and dull click signaling the final locking of the collar. Like every other criminal sentenced in the courtroom, Malka's hands went involuntarily to her neck, to finger the metal that now separated her from her life as a police officer. She had finished crossing to the other side. Malka Chorno had become a convicted criminal.
Malka was now to be punished. The table was waiting for her, but Kim noticed the restraints were set up differently. Instead of bending over the table, Malka would lie on top, with her wrists and ankles strapped to the table's four corners. As a former police officer, the protocol of her punishment would be somewhat different from that of an ordinary criminal.
Besides the different position, the punishment of a former police officer in Upper Danubia was different from the punishment of the average criminal in other ways. Because police officers punished ordinary criminals with switches, the National Police Code of Conduct prohibited switches from being used on police officers, even former ones. A former police officer instead always was punished with his or her police belt, beaten on both the bottom and the backs of the thighs. A former police officer always was punished by police officers of higher rank. In Malka's case that meant only the precinct's section chiefs could punish her, since she had the highest rank possible for a patrolwoman.
The Chief of the Danube City division of the Danubian National Police approached the punishment table, holding Malka's police belt. The belt, stripped of its accessories, was a simple thick leather strap, very heavy and pliable from being used for several years. It was the only part of Malka's uniform that would remain with her. Once her punishment was finished she would have to wear it around her waist, and bring it with her to her next punishment. Now however, it would remain in the hands of Malka's former bosses, who would take turns punishing her.
Dukov saluted the Chief of Police as Malka knelt. She kissed his shoes and he tapped her on the shoulder with the belt. With that Malka climbed onto the table. The Chief of Police handed her a hard pillow that looked like a cylinder, which Malka placed in the table's middle. She positioned herself lying over the pillow, which pushed her bottom up high, fully exposing it. Two court guards positioned Malka's ankles and wrists at the corners of the table and secured them with straps. Malka now lay helpless and completely exposed for a long and harsh punishment with her own police belt.
At first Kim thought the being punished with a belt would be more lenient than being punished with a switch. However, soon she would realize that was not true at all. Unlike the standard 50 strokes for a criminal, there was no set limit on the number of belt swats a former police officer could receive. The belt itself was thick and heavy, far heavier than a normal belt worn by a civilian. Malka would be badly bruised for days after her punishment. On top of everything else, as part of her sentence she would have to wear her belt around her waist when she went out in public, to show the world she was a disgraced former police officer.
The Chief of Police spent a long time studying Malka's spread bottom and exposed vagina, but he did not touch her. Finally he walked around to the side of the table. He doubled Malka's belt and lay it across her bottom. Malka quietly looked back at him, then straight ahead. Finally her former boss lifted the belt from her bottom, lifted his arm up and back, and marked the middle of Malka's bottom with a tremendous CRACK!
Malka flinched, but stayed quiet. That did not surprise Kim. She expected Malka to be extremely stoic about her punishment and that she would resist crying for a very long time. The Chief of Police struck again, laying a second swat immediately on top of the first one. He struck a third time, laying yet another swat in the exact same place.
CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!...Malka's former boss struck her hard a total of 10 times, always in the exact same spot. The swats were so loud that many of the court spectators flinched in sympathy. The police chief paused for a couple of minutes as the solid red band of pain marking the woman’s otherwise white bottom darkened and swelled. The man tightened his lips and stuck hard, although this time at a different spot across Malka's backside. Viciously he struck again and again at the spots immediately above and below the vivid red stripe marking the first 10 strokes. Malka began crying. She didn't scream or make any noise, but her body jerked with sobs that she tried to keep quiet.
After the 50th stroke the police chief stopped. Malka's bottom was horribly red and had small purple marks on it. Kim thought the punishment had ended. Hmm... that wasn't so bad. But as that thought passed through Kim's mind, the police chief saluted an older woman, who she recognized as the member of the arraignment committee who had spoken to her in English following her own arrest for marijuana possession. The woman removed her jacket and took the belt. She doubled it, swatted it through the air to test it, and then, full force, delivered a tremendous CRACK to Malka's already badly marked bottom.
Once again, Kim flinched at the ongoing CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK!... CRACK! She felt bad for Malka, but could take satisfaction in knowing that her former nemesis did not face having to put up with this horrible punishment for 18 years. She certainly had incentive to reform, and to do so very quickly.
After 25 swats the arraignment committee member was breathing heavily and ready to stop. She saluted another older uniformed officer and passed the belt to him. He struck Malka's dark red bottom viciously another 25 times. By then the errant cop’s bottom was deep red and covered with purplish bruises and welts. Kim winced in sympathy. Malka now no longer was Kim's sadistic enemy. She was a fellow criminal who was suffering tremendously. Like any other criminal, she was trying to follow the informal code of honor by trying to stay as quiet as possible as long as possible. Her body continued to jerk with silent sobs as she attempted to hide her face from her former supervisors, who now had become her tormentors.
The older officer passed the belt to yet another section chief. Dukov raised his hand and pointed at Malka's thighs. The man nodded and struck hard at Malka's legs, concentrating on the sensitive area immediate beneath the base of her bottom-cheeks. Malka's resistance began to wear down. Her voice broke with each tremendous CRACK targeting her legs.
Two other sections chiefs punished Malka's thighs before Dukov raised his hand. By now Malka's bottom had darkened and looked ugly. Soon Malka's thighs would darken as well. When Dukov's hand went into the air a second time, Kim thought the punishment finally had ended. Kim was wrong about that.
The police chief snapped his fingers at four of the court guards. "Turn her over."
The guards unbuckled Malka. One of them jerked the pillow out from under her. The guards then roughly grabbed Malka's wrists and ankles. They flipped her on her back and wrapped the restraints around her wrists and ankles. Kim gasped in horror as yet another section chief took the belt. He placed the belt on the upper part of Malka's thigh, lifted it up, and delivered a frightening CRACK to the previously unmarked skin of the former police officer's muscular right leg. He struck hard five times, then walked around the table to strike her left thigh another five times.
Malka, her face turned upward and her body spread and immobilized on the table, lost what little dignity she had left. She screamed and cried as the belt crashed into her skin over and over. Her body weight and movements pressed on the welts marking her backside, adding to her agony on the table. Her breasts jiggled back and forth as she sobbed, and her shaved vagina was on full display to the court cameras and her former colleagues in the police department.
After 25 hard swats to the fronts of Malka's thighs, there was another salute. Yet another section chief took the belt. The belt struck Malka's thighs yet another 25 times.
Kim gasped and stared at the scene in disbelief, looking at the broken, sobbing woman on the table. Dukov raised his hand a final time and looked at the judge. The judge drew his hand across his chest, indicating the punishment was over. The court guards undid the straps. Malka struggled to get off the table and fell into the arms of her former enemy. Dukov held the sobbing woman until she had recovered enough to finish the formal proceeding.
The judge needed to sign Malka's punishment certificate. Malka had to present herself before the judge, instead of having the person who disciplined her perform the presentation. She struggled to stay upright as she faced away from the judge and presented her backside. Her final duty was to thank her former supervisors for punishing her. She dropped to the floor, struggled to her knees, and one by one kissed the shoes of her tormentors. Malka was facing away from Kim, so Kim had a good look at her bottom. It was so dark that Kim was appalled. No... most definitely being beaten with a police belt was no more lenient than being beaten with a switch.
The police chief touched Malka's shoulder with her belt and released her back into the custody of the Spokesman. He then handed Malka's police belt to Dukov.
The presiding judge had a final word for Malka. "Malka Chorno you will arrange gainful employment with your Spokesman within 48 hours. You know the rules so I will not need to explain them. On this date, four months from now, you will present yourself to the Central Police Station for your second punishment. Do you understand?
"Yes, your honor. I understand."
With that, Malka Chorno, the brilliant young police officer whose character flaws had so thoroughly ruined her life, reported to the court photographer to have her official post-sentencing identification pictures taken. Once the photos were completed she silently accompanied her Spokesman back across the Central Plaza to the Central Police Station. She climbed on Dukov's recovery table and cried herself to sleep.