“Do you understand the nature of the charges that are being brought against you, Miss Knight?” Colleen Lee Knight said nothing and looked down at her feet, although there really wasn’t anything to see there, just several strands of her long reddish brown hair hanging down in front of her and the sandals she was wearing that had been given to her after her arrest. She’d been greatly afraid that the soldiers would mistreat her in some way, but so far she had been treated quite fairly, although somewhat impersonally. The sandals were made of leather and were comfortable on her feet. She could tell that they had never been used before, as they were stiff and had no marks showing that they had once been worn on another’s feet. They fit her overly long and uncommonly thin feet perfectly - her ‘rabbit feet’, as her family called them. It surprised her that sandals of this size were even made in the Realm, as she had always had problems even in the largest American shoe stores finding anything to wear made in her unusually lengthy and narrow foot size. The dark brown dress she had been given was also new and although it was simple, she could tell it was of good quality. While her feet might be odd sized, her height and weight were perfectly normal for her fifteen years and she had never had any problems finding a wide selection of clothing to choose from when shopping. It gave her hope that her captors did not mean her harm since they had gone to the trouble to provide her with nice new things to wear. She was still fearful, even though the elderly man speaking to her seemed to have kindness and concern in his voice.
“I await your answer, Miss Knight.” His voice had a hint of impatience, yet was as kind as before.
“Yes, sir. Please call me Collie - everyone does.”
“I don’t. This is a formal proceeding, Miss Knight. Nicknames are informal and they are not used in this venue. Again I will ask you if you understand the nature of the charges being brought against you.”
Collie tried to think things through in a calm manner. She had known, of course, that she and Frank were taking a chance sneaking onto the Palace grounds to take pictures of the Royal Family. It had been a great adventure and the intrigue and daring of doing the forbidden made it seem even more exciting. She also remembered what her parents had told her to do if she ever got into any trouble with the authorities.
“Sir, I think I’d like to call my parents and have our family lawyer represent me. I don’t intend you any disrespect, but I won’t give up my right to remain silent and I want to remain silent until I speak to my parents lawyer.” Collie paused and looked at the eleven men and women seated at the benches behind the long stone table. The elderly black gentleman seemed to be their leader and spokesperson. “And, could I please sit down? I’m getting tired standing here for so long.”
The old man turned to one of the guards directly behind him and spoke in a low voice. The guard picked up a chair from among those lining the wall behind the table and brought it to Collie. The modern plastic and metal chair seemed oddly out of place to her, since almost everything in the large chamber was either made of some type of stone, marble by its appearance, or old and weathered wood. Perhaps the old wood accounted for the musty and stale smell, as if the chamber had been sealed for a long time and only recently opened. The guard’s footsteps echoed faintly off the stone walls as he brought her the chair she’d requested. She was glad to sit, and didn’t want anyone to know that the weakness in her knees was more due to fear than to fatigue.
“Miss Knight, it is not our intention that you should answer any question that you do not want to answer. You are perfectly free to remain silent and to simply observe these proceedings. However, I must warn you that what transpires here will determine your guilt or innocence and also your ultimate fate. Only you can decide if your testimony will be in your own best interests or not.”
“But my parents lawyer will need time to talk to me and decide how best to help me.” Collie felt that maybe she shouldn’t say anything. Her mom and dad had been very specific that she should maintain her silence if ever in legal trouble, and let their lawyer sort things out. She decided that she wouldn’t speak again unless absolutely necessary.
“Your lawyer will not be able to assist you here. May I remind you that you are not in < s t 1 : c o u n t r y - region>America? There are many differences between our country and yours, and our legal system is but one of those differences. We have found that an immediate trial followed by a quick decision is almost always a fair trial and an accurate verdict. Your trial will begin in a few minutes. I assure you that although you are not a subject of this Realm, you will be treated justly and fairly as one of our own subjects who is accused of a crime would be treated. You will not be at a disadvantage because you are an American. But, you will not be given any special favorable treatment because of your nationality, either. Do you understand this?”
Collie felt like she was going to cry. She didn’t want to, because the comparative culture teacher at the international school where she was a student had spent