He knew, but said nothing. He’d said nothing since the police had picked him up in St. Petersburg, two nights before. Now, as they sat waiting for the judge to arrive, he honestly didn’t care what happened to him. Anything would be better than losing the fight had been. He could never face his friends again, after that.
The judge came in, another gray man in a gray suit. “Pavel Andreievich Chekov?” he asked.
“Stand up,” his father snapped, and Pavel reluctantly got to his feet, regarding the older man warily out of his swollen right eye.
“Andrei,” the judge said, and sat down across the table from them. “It is good to see you, old friend. But this time I’m afraid there’s very little I can do.”
The elder Chekov nodded sadly. “I understand.”
Pavel sat back down.
Shuffling through flimsies on the table, the judge stopped and slid one out from underneath the others, read some of it while chewing his lower lip. “It seems this time your son was picked up while setting fire to a newsstand on the square near the Winter Palace—and before that,” he turned the paper over, “had been involved in a fight in the street with three other boys…”
“Hoodlums!” his father interrupted.
“Yes, well. It seems they were fighting over the stolen hovercar on which Pavel here had broken the programming.”
The judge looked at the teen, taking in his disheveled hair, blood stained swollen face and scorched jacket. “Is that right, young Chekov?”
Before his father could elbow him, Pavel nodded, once.
Andrei Chekov sighed and said tiredly, “Is there anything you can do, Sergei? The boy’s mother would want…”
But at this the judge straightened indignantly in his seat. “That this is Pasha Chekov’s boy is precisely why I can no longer be lenient, Andrei. She was a good woman, a good friend…”
“Yes,” the other man agreed quietly, “she was an angel.”
“And she would not have wanted her only son growing up this way.”
“You’re right, of course.”
Pavel shifted in his chair, mumbling something under his breath.
“What’s that?” the judge snapped. “You have something to say for yourself, young man?”
Pavel’s chin came up and he glared at them both. “I said ‘Stop talking about me as if I’m not in the room’.”
His father and the judge exchanged glances, and the boy went on quickly:
“And why is it my mother is always brought into this? She’s been dead ten years; she has nothing to do with anything!”
Andrei Chekov gripped his son’s shoulder and shook him. “You will sit there and listen to what’s to become of you, young hoodlum…!”
“And what does that word mean? Why do you use it so much? You don’t know anything about me and my friends. You…”
“That…is…enough,” the judge said, his words like iron. “I have already made my decision in this case.”
Pavel subsided, still glaring sullenly.
Andrei asked, “And what is that?”
The judge sighed. “As I see it, we have two choices. We can send him to Kursk…”
The elder Chekov gasped, “Prison? But surely—he’s so young…”
“There is a facility there for destructive delinquents such as Pavel,” the judge responded. “Or…”
Andrei sat forward. “Yes?”
“We could send him to Military University in Moscow…”
Pavel snorted loudly at this.
The judge ignored him and went on, “Or perhaps Kazn’ or Ufa…”
Andrei sat back and pulled at his goatee thoughtfully, “Engineering or aviation, hmmm…”
“Yes,” the judge said. “He would learn an important trade either way—but always under strict military supervision.”
Pavel looked from one to the other, for the first time showing real concern about the outcome of this meeting. “You’re not serious!” he protested. “Send me to military school, away from my friends?”
But Andrei had the firm, calm look he’d learned to associate with his father having thoroughly made up his mind. “It’s the only way,” he agreed, and reached over to take Judge Sergei’s hand in agreement. “We can’t have him in jail. Thank you, my friend.”
The judge shook his friend’s hand and stood up to leave, casting Pavel one last, stern look. “I hope you realize what your father has done for you, boy. If not today, then soon enough.”
Silenced by shock, Pavel could only stare up at him. This could not be happening! He couldn’t believe it…
A scant week later he sat on his bed, suitcase packed beside him. He was angry—more angry than he ever remembered being. When his father came to talk to him, he set his jaw and would not speak.
“This is harder for me than you know, Pavel,” Andrei began. “Years ago, your mother said to me…” he trailed off at the glare he received in response. “Nevermind. I know you hardly remember her. But believe me when I say she was the best friend I ever had. And being Pasha Chekov's boy has to mean something."
“Friends,” Pavel was at least driven to say, bitterly. “You wouldn’t even let me say goodbye to mine.”
“Those,” his father replied, some heat returning to his voice, “were not your friends. You’ll see. You’ll have new friends who will help you with your temper, not get you into more and more trouble.”
Pavel was silent, seething with resentment.
Then a horn sounded outside and it was time to leave. Andrei walked him to the door.
“Goodbye, Pavel. And…be correct.”
Young Chekov said nothing, but stalked off without looking back. It would be many years...but he would come to regret that.