‘God I’m in for it,’ she thought, waiting outside the Managing Directors office, ‘Why did I let that bastard talk me into it, and now what? Police, jail, disgrace. He wouldn’t wait for her, that was for sure. He would be running by this time. With all the money of course.’
Sylvia looked young for her age, twenty-four, pretty face, tidy dark hair and a firm slim body. With her looks and university degree, how had she got into this mess. She continued to wait, terrified. Her supervisor opened the door, looked her up and down again, just like he had done when he had found the evidence.
‘Miss Allen, Brigadier Winslow will see you now. Come in.’
As she passed Mr Smythe, her immediate superior, she felt his disgust, sensed his hate.
Entering the luxurious office, she faced her employer. He did not look up from the papers in front of him. The door closed behind her. They were alone. For some ten minutes he studied the documents, then raising his head slowly looked her straight in the eyes.
‘So thief,’ he said, almost spitting out the words, ‘Twenty three thousand pounds you stole from me. Are you pleased with your efforts?’
‘No sir,’ she trembled, ‘My, well, my boyfriend talked me into it.’
‘That’s it, is it, with all the trust we placed in you, some young stud gets in your pants, tells you to push a few buttons, and we lose thousands through another computer fraud, correct?’
She blushed at the way he had said it, embarrassed at how she had made this old gentleman descend to such language.
‘What is done is done. We have to discuss your situation. I already have the money back. Amateurs, do you think we have no security?’ That surprised her. There it was, it had all been for nothing, her spirits dropped.
Winslow continued, ‘Now I have in front of me two possibilities of what to do with you, young lady. One choice, I am assured by my lawyers, will lead you to a period of not less than three years in Holloway Prison. You will never work in any decent company again, and it is my view that this is the best way to deal with rubbish like you.’
She let her head fall. ‘Three years. Christ! And then what?’ she thought.
He continued, ‘My associates, however, are more squeamish. They feel the publicity would be bad. So we have an alternative. It is by way of a special school in the Scottish Isles. You go there voluntarily, we keep the proof, and when they think you have been suitably punished we destroy it. If you choose to leave beforehand, we simply give the evidence to the police. The minimum period at the Institution is twelve months, there is no maximum. Well, which is it to be, jail or re-education?’
The short trip by boat ended her two day journey. This place was the only alternative, and Winslow had wasted no time in despatching her to it.
The heavy-set man manoeuvring the boat said nothing, so she was left to her thoughts in the cold night air. She had been sent dressed as she had arrived at work the previous morning. Within minutes of signing the agreement for her tuition she had been ushered out of the building, to be driven to the station.
At last they landed on a small beach. She struggled through the damp sand, half dragged by the brute, then along a gravel road to a large house, part way up a nearby hill. The giant rang the bell, and shortly the studded oak door was opened by a severe woman in prison uniform.
‘Good evening Miss Allen, we have been waiting for you, welcome to the Institution.’
She was now in the Governor’s office. There were no genteel touches here, or anywhere else, it appeared. Apart from a desk, some chairs and filing cabinets the room was bare. The furniture simple. The Governor addressed her. ‘Sylvia Allen, this is the Institution. You have been sent to us for training for a period of not less than one year. I promise you, young lady, that you will not like it here. We discipline the girls strictly, and frequently. You will obey all instructions to the letter, or you will suffer for it. Jenkins,’ she turned to the female who had admitted her. ‘Take care of this slut.’
The uniform she had been given to replace her normal clothes was neatly folded on the chair in the corner. Not yet allowed to wear it, when shown to her, it accentuated her misery. The grey skirt, white blouse, navy school knickers, and white socks with flat black shoes carried on the theme. She was an adolescent back at an academy.
In the cold room, she stood naked, as Jenkins walked around her. She had been instructed to keep her hands behind her head for the ‘Introductory Lecture’.
Jenkins held a neatly tied bunch of birch twigs in her right hand. During the speech, Jenkins interspersed the statements with swinging cuts that seared into Sylvia’s flesh and made her scream out loud. She snarled at her victim, ‘Here child, you are beaten at least twice a day, — whoosh — once before breakfast, — whack — and again before you go to bed. — Thwack — It is my pleasure to tell you — whoosh — that there are frequently other beatings. — Thwack — You may not talk to any of the other girls, — Whack — or to anyone else without permission.’ This treatment went on for some time, each phrase punctuated with another fearsome stroke. Should Sylvia be so thoughtless as to move to resist the onslaught, the wardress would grab her by the hair, lashing her again and again, to discourage a repeat of such bad manners.
The next morning the poor girl’s body was a mass of bruises. Awakened at dawn, she had slept little because of her wounds. The cell she was confined to was much the same as she would have found in any woman’s prison. A box eight foot by six, with a small barred window above head height. A simple iron bedstead, on which lay a hard mattress covered with two coarse blankets. In the corner a pail, which she had not used. The guard who had roused her led her towards the tiny toilet block, where she stood behind three other girls waiting her turn for a chance to use the ablutions, to be followed by a mandatory cold shower. Cleaned, the four inmates were next taken to a dining room. As the last in line, she was able to watch the method of chastisement.
The first victim walked to a chair placed near to a serving hatch. Carefully pulling her navy-blue knickers down to her knees, the girl raised her skirt, and bent over the back, placing both hands firmly on the seat. For a moment she was to wait in anticipation then the jailer proceeded to deliver the morning flogging. It appeared that each was to receive twelve strokes of the tawse, that favourite instrument of Scottish justice. As each stroke landed the snivelling offender was to respond with the number of the lick, and a brisk ‘thank you Miss’. Failure to reply in this manner was to find oneself starting the count from the beginning.
After watching her miserable companions go through their trials, it was then Sylvia’s turn. How she survived the pain she could not tell. ‘One, thank you Miss. Aaagh! Two, thank you Miss. Oh God! Three, thank you Miss,’ and so she suffered the indignation. Her comrades were now standing next to the hatch. Facing the wall, bottoms crimson, they waited, pants still round their knees, skirts still held high. After this they were fed a bowl of gruel, and given a drink of tepid weak tea.
The meal was eaten in silence. No one had spoken in the refectory, except for those words and screams uttered by girls undergoing the morning ritual. At the end of the short meal, each girl was led, in turn, by an instructress out of the area until only Sylvia remained. The guard returned and spoke to her. ‘Sylvia as this is your first day, we will give you a chance to find out how our little establishment works. Follow me.’
They had walked through various corridors for about five minutes, when they came to a short flight of steps, that appeared to lead down to the cellars. On the way the jailer, whose name she had been told was Stephens, had unlocked and relocked many steel gates. This alone was enough to discourage escape. Sylvia was soon to be put off further.
As they descended the stairs, the stone walls clammy with ice-cold condensation, the detainee was filled with even greater dread. At the bottom lay yet another door. Stephens opened it. This was their dungeon. As the grate swung back she saw, on a pile of straw, a girl of her own age, crouched in the corner. ‘A visitor to watch today’s ceremonies, stand up girl.’ The wretched creature did as she was told. ‘This is Karen, Sylvia,’ the wardress continued. ‘She tried to escape, we caught her a week ago. You will not try to escape again, will you child?’ Karen nodded terrified agreement. ‘Sit in that corner, away from this undisciplined animal and watch.’
Which she did. It was a subtle, but vicious punishment for the escapee. In turn each of the staff entered, placed the girl over their knees, and gave her six strokes of whichever implement they chose. For some that favourite strap, others the cane, one even carried a riding crop. As a member left, there was only a short respite before the next entered. As the last departed, Sylvia, desperately sorry for the victim, was pleased for her that it was over. It was not. Stephens turned to her and said. ‘Now girl, it’s your turn. You will give her six with this belt.’ She offered the weapon, which Sylvia took reluctantly, and continued, ‘You will give her six of your hardest cuts, and for each that I do not think severe enough, you shall spend a day in here. In case you think that may still help out our friend here, I will tell you that for each day you earn yourself she will get two more.’
Her mind was totally confused. She got up and crossed to the chair the others had used. Unable to think straight, she acted. Sitting down, the victim, who had heard all, came to her quickly. She whispered, ‘For God’s sake hit me hard.’ Sylvia’s arm had a life of its own. For the sake of Karen she pulled the strap as far back as she could, and with all her might struck the tiny thing a violent blow. The guard smiled with intense delight, eyes flashing as a second, harder lick cut deep into the victim’s flesh. Again Sylvia hit, and again, each stronger than the last. It was ended, or was it. The tormentor stood over her and said, ‘You did well that time, now go back to your spot.’ Sylvia complied, only, to her dismay, to see the first of the instructresses re-enter, as the routine started all over again.
The work she was given in the institution was boring drudgery. Scrubbing floors, cleaning dishes, sewing up the dowdy grey uniforms the inmates wore. As time passed she became almost immune to the beatings. They came at all times of the day. She would be cleaning a room, when some superior might show her dirt she had not reached yet. There and then, she would be upended over a knee, pants down, for the steady drumming of hand or stick across her bottom. Afterwards to be left, hands touching toes, scarlet posterior, testimony to her discipline, nakedly displayed. There to wait, until some other mistress of her fate would enter, to chastise her for her laziness.
Every night she unsuccessfully sought sleep, face down in her cell, crying as she awaited her next day’s torture.
At the end of her second month she was called into the Governess’s office. She had done well it seemed, for she was to become a trustee in the West Wing, for further tuition.
Jenkins took her to a dressing room by the passage that led to a part of the building she had never seen. Here she was given sexy black underwear. A quarter-cupped corset, tiny frilly panties, taut suspenders holding sheer black nylons, with six-inch-high stiletto-heeled shoes to complete her look. Over this outfit, the shortest of black dresses, one that exposed the curve of her still red cheeks. She was escorted then to the connecting door. Before she opened it, the wardress said, ‘Through here is your future. If you fail to please, they will send you back to us for a week in the cellar, and more. Obey anyone male, and most females, or it will be the worse for you.’
With that, Sylvia was handed across the threshold to a girl dressed identically to herself, waiting to meet her. As the gate slammed shut behind her, she was aware of warmth, carpets, creature comforts she had missed so much.
She was taken to a panelled study. There sitting in a leather armchair was the Brigadier. He spoke. ‘Good evening my dear, kind of you to join us. I have someone here I think you might remember.’
She turned as he indicated, and saw in the shadows her former boyfriend, the one who had callously left her to this fate.
The Brigadier spoke again. ‘Nice to meet old friends again, of course, you don’t know do you. I would like to introduce my son. Now please be so good as to touch your toes and pull down your pants, we should like to thrash you.’
Sylvia did as she was told.