2. The lawyer

“Have a look,” a middle-aged woman I’ve never seen before threw a newspaper article onto the table in front of me. It was about my arrest.

“That’s quite a record. What’s white plastic and where did you get the PIN-codes for those cards?”

“Here we go…” I looked at her with distrust. “I don’t even know you, and you start off with a bunch of questions.”

“Sergey, I am not an investigator, but I’m going to ask similar questions. To protect you as well as I can, I need to have information. I understand you may not trust me now, I know all those rumors the guys in the cell have about lawyers working with the cops. She casually mentioned the biggest concern everybody in prison has when it comes to talking to lawyers.

I wasn’t considering telling her everything straightaway, and she had just named the reason. I guess, it was written all over my face, because she suddenly stood up and dragged her chair closer to the light. I could finally take a good look at her. A stout woman in her late forties. She was almost old enough to be my mother. A high forehead, university professor glasses, an old-fashioned hair-do and eyes with huge pupils — because of the darkness of the room. She stared at me with those eyes without blinking, like a cobra.

“Listen, Sergey, your brother hired me. He’s very worried about you.”

If any words could win me over, my lawyer had just said them. I had been at the pretrial detention center for a week and didn’t know anything about Dmitry. I knew they let Katya go the same day — she had nothing at all to do with all of this. But what had happened to my brother: was he interrogated, where was he taken after the police station — I didn’t know any of that. For all I knew, he could be sitting in the cell next door with no idea what had happened to me…

“You mean he’s alright?”

“Yes, he is. He’s out of trouble. Unlike you.”

Once again in my life I got the feeling that something surreal was happening. The ashtray nailed to the table, the dim light, the woman I didn’t know. Where’s my mum? Could she just hug me? I’d cry and say I’m sorry and they’d let me go? That worked when I was a kid. Or maybe, I can just pinch myself and wake up in my own bed? The lawyer must have sensed the way I was feeling because she continued somewhat more forcefully.

“I need to know everything! How did you get passwords to other people’s credit cards?”

I slightly pinched myself under the table. Then got myself together and looked my cobra dead in the eye.

“Not so fast. May I look at your lawyer ID first?”

“Yes,” she reached into her pocket and produced a tag with the number of the room we were in and a little plastic folder.

“Galina Nesterovich,” I read out. “Minsk Central District Legal Aid Bureau.”

“Are you sure now I’m not an undercover cop?” Galina asked with a smile.

“You can never be too sure…”

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