Who are Judges? Joanna's Page 25
Who are Judges? Joanna's Page 25
"So, Gradov, the village of Korzhi didn't suit you?"
"I wanted to find a more exotic village, which would have been lost in snow."
"And you set out to Vlasovo. When did it happen?"
Who accompanied you?"
"Did Pushko stay at Korzi?"
"Yes he came in to his girlfriend. We didn't wait for him. I didn't need Pushko. It was dark already for shooting."
"But why did you need Simkin?"
'The cameraman should have seen the natural surroundings before shooting, but Simkin could hardly go and complained of the cold. Together we wouldn't have "reached that place till darkness."
"Do you ski well?"
"I have a sport grade."
"Keep going, Gradov."
Simkin could hardly crawl and dropped behind all the time. I told I would run alone and let him go to the railway station. And that was all. I haven't seen him anymore."
"What about Vlasovo? Did it suit you?"
"Does it bear any relation to the cause?"
"It does. Can anybody confirm that you stayed in Vlasovo from four to five?
"I doubt it. Nobody saw me."
"I also doubt, Gradov. You couldn't be seen in Vlasovo because you weren't there."
"Oh right. I was busy with a more important thing: I was killing Simkin. Don't you find it ridiculous?"
"Simkin wasn't killed, Gradov. When he went down to the ravine he struck his head against a stone which stuck out of snow and lost his consciousness. He died in two hours when another person who was with him was afraid of the cold and the snowstorm and ran away. He ran away dooming his wounded friend to death."
"All of that is really sad but I've told already I didn't Simkin anymore."
"Answer, Gradow, were you in Vlasovo?"
Yana felt the following pause by her blood and skin, fearing to read an answer and knowing it in advance.
"No I wasn't, if it is so important. I got lost and a snowstorm started."
"You got lost. It sounds strange. The ski track which ran though the forest was as straight as an arrow, and Pushko told you about it, didn't he?"
"I've told you already I don't bear any relation to Simkin's death. Simkim wasn't killed. It was an accident, and you have no right to accuse me."
"There was no legally defined crime but there was a moral crime against principles of our morality. I would like to establish the issue, Gradov. Why was your scarf found not far from Simkin's corpse?"
"When we parted Simkin asked me for it because he was frozen. But I never feel cold when I ski."
"The fluffs of your scarf were found on the dead person's jacket: mainly on his back and under his arms. In this case scarf was used to drag Simkin from the stone to the tree near the ski track. When the accident happened Simkin wasn't alone; it is established/"
"Anybody could be with him."
"Mister X who happened to be near the wounded person in the weather which was so unsuitable for walks. We have checked this unlikely assumption. Indeed, at a quarter to six a female worker of railway crossing could see a skier who came to one of cars standing at the crossing, bound his skis to the car's trunk, got into the car, then the bar was opened and the car went away. He had the same jacket and cap with a peak as you have. Of course, it is not excluded that this mister X wore the same imported jacket and cap except your scarf."
"I've told already I got lost. I came out to the highway, caught a car and ask a driver to bring me to the railway station."
"The witness Kulakova claims you got into a car at the railway crossing."
"This is nonsense; I only get out of the car to see whether my skis hadn't slipped down from the trunk."
"It strange, Gradov, in this case where were you going to? You asked to bring you to the railway station. It is 200 meters from the crossing, and you didn't get out of the car at the crossing but kept on going.
"I reached Cherkasskaya station and got on an electric train there. What is strange here?"
"Only the fact that not all electric train stop at Cherkasskaya. And the distance from the highway to the station is not 200 meters but a kilometer. But you preferred to get on a train at Cherkasskaya."
"I don't understand what relation it bears to Simkin's death?"
"Let me make a few suggestions about the matter. At first you really wanted to save Simkin, but for that thing you had to equate another person's life with your own. It was night, snowstorm and wind. If only I saved my life, and how can I drag Simking over the snow? You courage didn't last long. You left Simkin and ran away. Animal fear for yourself turned out to be stronger than feelings of friendship, duty and, after all, ordinary human compassion.
AT last the forest was behind. Seeing the station's lights you understood you were saved, but at that time another fear captured you: you realized how base you act was and you were afraid that you friends would know about it. In the long run, nobody saw you with Simkin at the moment of the tragedy. You could have gone to Vlasovo alone, got lost, come to the highway and caught a car. Nobody should have seen you leaving the ravine about at six, and it would have been better for you not to be at the railway station at all. Therefore, you turned from the ravine to the crossing and asked to bring you to Cherkasskaya."
"I'm a bit bored by it. May I go?"
"You may go, Gradov. I repeat this case is not criminal. By the way, by what car did you go? We could search its driver, and he would confirm that you got on at the highway but not at the crossing. But of course, you haven't memorized any distinctive parks of the car, not to speak of it number. Maybe, you can remember at least it color?"
"I didn't pay attention to it?"
"I don't doubt it. You are free, Gradov."
The tape with the recording of the interrogation got to its end, and deathlike silence was heard in the headphones, but Yana didn't take them off and sat with a dull appearance in an absurd longing for any natural disaster which would tear her and Khan away from the chairs and make them rush and yell from fear.
"You are free, Gradov. I don't doubt it."
"Why are you silent?" Khan moved aside the proofs of the next issue. You have to write a material on a mental and ethical theme. Will you cope with it till the Saturday's issue?"
She never expected it. She was ready to hear rebukes, reproaches or mockeries: how dared you to get involved with him? We helped your Peacock, assisted and fussed over him, and all of that we did for you, our author. In our editorial everybody guessed already what kind a person your producer was. We warned you but you didn't listen to us and fussed over him and now it happened. We entrusted you with writing important materials but you expressed light-minded shortsightedness, and so on.
In this way Joanna imagined Khan's accusations. From the very beginning she shared the defendant's dock with Denis and rejected all attempts of her friends to drag her from it. As she decided to link her destiny with him, she should bear responsibility together with him for all things he had done. Every other attitude would have to be a desertion for her. Khan's intention to turn her from a defendant into a judge seemed her to be a blasphemy.
"With difficulty did I persuade the investigator to pass the material to us; he wanted to send them to any central newspaper but I said we had not worse staff that they had. I gave him your works to read and persuaded him. Now it's your turn to work. It should be written in a vivid, sharp and dramatic way. We should organize a great discussion about this matter and bring about sending letters, responses and social resonance. Such accidents don't happen every day in our region."
"I can't do that, Andrey Romanovich."
"Let somebody other do that."
"You say 'somebody other'. So you think this fact is not noticeable. Let them leave wounded people, save their own skins, be scoundrels and cowards. Sinegina will not condemn you for that. Is it really so?"
"Do you really believe that Gradov got lost in the straight ski track, and Simkin was dragged and sat under a tree by evil wolves? Do you really believe that when Gradov reached the village of Shumilkino, he without any reason decided to get into somebody's car and went as far as Cherkasskaya where trains stop twice as seldom? Maybe, he wanted to feel cold for a longer time to his heart's content? Do you really believe this? Then what's happened? Don't you want to quarrel with your producer?
'Whether Khan really didn't guess about their relations, or simply played the fool because this way was better? - Yana never knew it. 'She must tell him she has no right to do that because she and Denis.
Dear, beloved, fianc? - these good words were good for nothing now but the indecent word 'lover' suddenly appeared. Visually, this image was associated with Denis's corridor through where she sneaked, holding her shoes in her hands. Then the guilty and excided face of Leonid appeared whom she never could imagine to be dead.
'No, it's impossible,' Yana thought, not knowing what terrified her so much: her former relations with Peacock or their absence in future.
The phone rang, and Khan picked up the receiver. Then he slipped his coat over his shoulders and grabbed some papers into his briefcase. "I'm called to Moscow; we will speak more tomorrow and I hope we will come to an agreement.
Khan winked and smiled; such familiarity of his was a bad sign.
'How would she behave if she were Denis? Does she have a right to judge? The situation is as follows: either you are a hero, or a coward and scoundrel, the third thing is impossible. To judge in such a situation you must find yourself in it. In any case she has no right for that. Tomorrow she will say that to Khan.'
Denis - a sunny day.
She felt a sudden longing for the life of her that was before Sunday when she could get on an electric train and in two hours reach a house in the village of Lyusinovka. She longed for that unblemished Denis and for herself. All sorrows of that time now seemed to be laughable and miserable.
'O Lord, help! Please do something with it.'
'What an egoist she is! Doesn't she feel sorry for Leonid, his wife and his child? Why does she think only about herself? Why should she sorry for herself? In the long run, Denis will not be taken to court, and an article in the newspaper about him is a trifle! God be thanked, it won't be published in a central one. Maybe, only two or three thousand people will read it. They will read and forget it.'
But the more ardently and fiercely Yana persuaded herself, the more clearly she realized that she should write it because all her arguments were weak. 'If everyone reasoned so, there would be neither courts, nor public opinion: judges shouldn't experience all situations which cause crimes committed by people whom they accuse.
'And what about literature and art? Did Dostoyevsky kill his father or lift his axe against an old woman? Was Chekov a philistine? But Raskolnikov and Yonych appeared. And Goncharov didn't lie on his sofa day and night. They had a right to judge; their talents gave this right to them: they applied to Russia and the whole World. And she, Joanna Sinegina, an employee of a district paper is called to tell about this case which happened in their district. She must do it, so that those two thousand people can read and remember it.
It would be difficult and horrible to judge Denis. It would be the same as to award a death sentence to her own love and all her life by her own hand. But all alternative things would be cowardice and flight. It would be treachery of her talent and her duty.'
It was the same extreme situation. This discovery struck her. It was a passive murder and passive justification. Sharing Denis' guilt was passive justification. She must abandon Denis and come over to 'that party', condemning baseness, cowardice and treachery; it is her journalistic and writer's duty and her feat too.
But shouldn't I be with my beloved man no matter what happened to him? Can I betray my love?' In her anguish Yana caught her last arguments.
The phone started ringing. Yana picked up the receiver.
"He is out; he has gone to Moscow. He will be here tomorrow. I wouldn't know. I'm not a reference book."
She hung up and began to cry, taking sudden and absurd offense at the out-of-staff worker Misha who inquired when Khan would come. She blotted her face with a blotter. Let them come in and see.
'There is a long-distance phone here. She can call to Moscow. She must call. She must tell him about the article she will write.
No, she can't say it, and so she cannot write it too - it would be dishonest. She will only call: they haven't seen each other for ages. Of course, he won't be at home again.
Denis turned out to be at home - by chance. He brought her granny from a dentist and was going to come back to the studio, to the editing room.
'Won't he really want to talk about Leonid?' Denis didn't and when she did it, he interrupted her roughly and maliciously.
"Why are you troubling me with that scarf? I have no time."
"I must say something very important."
"Please say but not about Simkin, God rest his soul. I'm fed with it."
"Khan has a recording of your conversation with an investigator. Why do you tell lies all the time?"
"It's your investigator who tells lies all the time. He investigates only for appearances' sake."
"Listen, I have been entrusted to write."
"About me? OK. Go ahead. I bless you. You can write whatever you can but leave me alone. I'm fed up with it. That's enough, I have no time."
He hung up.
She will never do it. It's impossible. They love each other, and that's the main thing. Let him be a coward, egoist and scoundrel; let it be bad and base - she can't.
She grabbed a clean sheet of paper and wrote a bold hand,
The sheet waited. It was calm and clean in its original whiteness.