Natasha loved a good book. Give her a good book and she was gone like a light. She could sit still for hours, her blue eyes glued to the page, her lips slightly moving, occasionally pushing strands of her long red hair out of her face to get a better view of the page. When asked what she was reading, she looked up from the page, those freckles on her face alive with joy. “Oh, it’s a book.” Then she went back to the page.
By the time she was reading for university, it seemed she had read near all the classics. And not in her language which was Russian. In the original languages. She read Homer in Greek, Virgil in Latin, Dante in Italian, Shakespeare in English, Moliere in French, Goethe in German, Basho in Japanese. When she read a book in another language, she sat with a dictionary from that language and turned the pages, searching for the word she saw in the book. She was fast doing this.
Though she loved literature, she decided the best career for her was the law. She loved details and the law was filled with details. The poetry and the fiction she had read over the years taught her compassion. So she took on hopeless cases. If she not taken them on, her clients would have received maximum sentences. Most still received maximum sentences when they were found guilty. And they were often found guilty. At least, they had good representation. From time to time, she was able to work miracles and see them freed.
Occasionally she pointed out a piece of the law judges and prosecutors had forgotten. Because of this knowledge, prosecutors and big time lawyers wanted her on their side. But she resisted.
Her clients had no money, so Natasha worked on the side doing legal work when she wasn’t involved in a case. It was way to pay her expenses and ilk out a living. Over ten or fifteen years, she worked in the trenches, tirelessly. Her head always in a law book. She never tired of the law and the law rewarded her for her diligence.
Then came the case of the elephant.
A circus elephant charged her trainer one night. Her name was Kanda. After the elephant charged and escaped its trainer, it escaped and roamed the countryside as a wild thing. Hunters went after her but she eluded them for weeks.
Natasha was in the area on vacation. It was her first vacation since she left law school. She seldom read the newspapers. But she saw someone else with a paper open. There was an elephant on the front page. Her curiosity got the best of her. Why was an elephant in the news?
“Can I see your front page?” she asked the woman with the paper.
“I’m finished with it. You can have the whole paper.” The woman passed over the paper.
Natasha was shocked at the story. She went and talked to several people at the circus.
“She was such a gentle creature,” one said.
Another pointed out, “Very smart.”
Finally, she talked to someone who had seen the incident. “That Pyotr Pyotrovich is a cruel man. How Kanda put up with him for so long is beyond me?”
“Will you tell a judge this?” Natasha asked the woman who was a trapeze artist.
The woman hesitated. If she talked, she might lose her job. Finally, she said, “Yes.”
Natasha took the woman before a judge. The judge issued an injunction. Any hunter killing Kanda would be prosecuted. Until the judge issued a decree.
The hearing was set for Tuesday. On Monday, Natasha contacted the local papers and national papers, knowing that good publicity mattered. The courtroom was packed that Tuesday morning when the judge entered the courtroom.
“This is highly unusual for a court to hold hearing on a thing like this,” the prosecutor smugly pronounced.
“Yes, it is. But here we are,” the judge said.
Natasha called the owner of the circus to the stand. “How old is Kanda?”
“Approximately forty years.”
“And she has spent her years in captivity, has she not?”
“Yes. I bought her from another circus that went out of business. I am very good at business so she helped my circus prospered.” There was pride in the owner’s voice at how good he was at business.
“If she was such an asset to your business, why did you give her over to a cruel and uncaring trainer?”
“I never saw that trainer be cruel and uncaring.”
“Then why do you think Kanda charged and almost killed him?”
“I don’t know.”
Several other witnesses gave positive reviews of the elephant. How she was so good with children. How there was never ever any trouble. She was the gentlest of animals. They were all shocked at what happened.
Natasha called Pyotr Pyotrovich to the stand. “How did you treat Kanda?”
“I was like a father to her.”
“That is all,” Natasha said. Then she called Tatiana, Pyotrovich’s oldest daughter, to the stand.
“How does your father treat you?” Natasha asked.
“My father is a good man.”
Natasha called the younger daughter, Alina, to the stand.
“How does your father treat you?”
“My father is a good man.”
“Now remember you have to tell the truth. It is the law. If you do not tell the truth, you can be sent to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”
“I do not want to go to jail.”
“If you go to jail, your sister would be alone with your father. Is this not true?”
“Yes, it is true.” There was a great sadness in the daughter’s voice.
“Then tell us. How does your father treat you?”
The girl looked over at her father, then she looked at her sister next to him. She hesitated, then spoke the truth, “He beats me.” Then she shouted for all the world to hear, “And he has raped my sister. Kanda saw it and was trying to defend my sister. She hated the things my father did to us.”
Pyotr Pyotrovich stood up and shouted, “She lies. She lies.”
Tatiana left her father’s side and ran to her sister and the two embraced. They were crying.
“Order. Order in my court,” the judge shouted.
An officer of the court walked over and demanded the trainer sit down.
The judge turned to Tatiana. “Girl, is this true?”
Whimpering, Tatiana nodded a yes.
The judge turned to the officer of the court and said, “Arrest that man.”
Then he turned to the owner, “If we find Kanda, will you give her a home and treat her with the dignity she deserves?”
The owner was crying. ‘I will.”
“Then Kanda will not be killed. She will be returned to the circus to be treated with the dignity she deserves. If she is not, and she is injured in any way, there will be consequences.”
A farmer stood up and said, “Your honor, I have the elephant. She is the most wonderful of elephants. I wish to become her trainer.”
The judge took character statements as to the character of the farmer. Then the judge agreed. The farmer could join the circus and train Kanda and the three other elephants. Then he turned to Natasha, “The court thanks you.”