Summertime when the livin’ is easy… Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high… One of the girls had left the tape of Porgy and Bess on the stereo system of the mustard-yellow Ferrari coupe. Careless that, Max thought. There’d be a smacked bottom or two when he got back from his fortnight’s break. He hoped it was young Elke Mahne again, or even the new French girl Nathalie with her waif-like figure and close-cropped blonde hair. Those were two bottoms he’d like to get at again — and soon.
He hummed the Gershwin melody, slinging his hold-all into the boot and wondering whether to leave his golf-bag behind. From its top there projected an untidy tangle, the curved handle of a cane, the end of three birch switches, and a tail of whipcord. That was one collection of equipment he wouldn’t be needing for the next two weeks. Dammit, this was supposed to be a holiday! Still, it was a long way back to his rooms at the top of the school buildings. Might as well leave the golf-bag in the boot.
Away from it all! The broad tyres of the powerful coupe crunched the gravel of the driveway. He spun the wheel, turning on to the main road and the engine gained its maximum revs with scarcely more than a purr.
Goodbye for two whole weeks to the moral leadership centre where he and Bernard taught English and discipline to teenage nymphs from Germany, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. No more trusting young voices: ‘My name is Claudia. I am coming from Dusseldorf. I have five years English learnt in my Grammar School.’ Cheerio, Claudia! Cheerio Katharine and Dagmar… For two weeks he was going to be free as air. Not even a single nubile bottom turned up bare and innocent for the cane.
For the next fortnight, Max was to borrow the elegant Georgian house of an old friend Alec, set in an ancient cathedral city. Alec had quit his teaching job several years before, fed up with the lack of discipline. Not knowing what else to do, he had become an antiquarian bookseller and had made rather a lot of money. No one was more surprised than Alec himself. At this moment he was high overhead, on the Concorde for New York, with a choice collection of signed first editions to be sold in the auction houses of Fifth Avenue. He had almost implored Max to ‘look after’ his elegant home while he and his wife were gone. Bored with Gershwin, Max snapped the cassette out of the player and thumbed another one in. He was travelling fast now, unable to risk a glance at the title. A moment more and it was his own voice which came back from the two stereo speakers behind him.
‘You’re a little tramp, Elke Mahne! I have never known such a lewd and scheming young minx at sixteen!… Yes, you like to take your jeans and underpants down, don’t you, Elke? You won’t like what comes next, I promise you!… Get your arse properly over that stool, Elke!… Scream as much as you like Elke! You’ve only had twelve across your bottom — and that’s not even the overture to the gala performance!… Come in! You’re early, Helena Thelen! Never mind, since you’re here, get those white jeans down — and your underpants! — and lie bottom-upwards over the stool next to Elke… What a lovely double target!… Twelve strokes of the cane, Helena, to bring you level with Elke! You’re deliberately writhing your arses in that lascivious manner, aren’t you? The pair of you! Provoke me much further, Elke and Helena, and I shall do something that I may be sorry for!’
Max clicked off the tape and drove through the golden countryside with his memories. Memories, he thought, that was all they were going to be for the next week or two. He would find other distractions. Perhaps he really would take up golf. Book lessons with the professional at Alec’s club. Borrow Alec’s irons. Why not?
In the same mellow mood he pulled up a couple of hours later in a space reserved outside the balustraded house. It stood above a high, raised pavement, with a perfect view across the city to the mediaeval spire of the cathedral and the water-meadows. With a jaunty swing, Max took his luggage and strode up the steps to the white painted door with its brass furnishings.
Inside the tall cool hall, Alec and Monica had left a list of chores and helpful hints. Not that there would be many chores. Alec and Monica had solved the servant problem in their own unique manner. Her work with the courts offered Monica a steady supply of little madams who worked under her supervision as live-in maids, in return for having their sentences suspended. Discipline in the household might be meted out with a knowing smile, but it was meant to hurt — and it did.
Max picked up the paper and read the list to himself.
‘Pay the milkman on Friday — Dustbins emptied on Wednesday — Cellar tap is leaking, call Mr Strode if it gets worse — Put the cat out at night by the back door — See to Julie good and hard, there’s a note in the study.’
He read the last words again, excitement and unease fighting it out in his brain. Perhaps Julie was the peke? In Alec’s well-appointed study he saw a scrap of paper with Monica’s scrawl upon it.
Dear Max, it said, It’s so late that we shall miss the plane if we don’t go NOW! Still, you know how my ‘sluts’ play up. There’s some thrashing to be done — but I daren’t stay to do it. Be an angel, Max, and try to see to it while you’re here. It’s not fair to keep a girl waiting a couple of weeks for it… Love, Monica.
Max gave a helpless little laugh and wondered whether to get straight back in the car and drive home. He looked at the details written under Monica’s signature.
Julie, 18 with the cane, bare-bottomed. Thereafter, repeat as needed.
Then there was a final scrawl, almost illegible, as if dashed off while Alec was loading the bags into the Heathrow taxi.
Sue, 30 with the punishment-strap. Repeat when necessary.
Straight home, Max thought, that’s where he would go if he had any sense. Right out of this lunatic asylum, where punishment notes were written like doctors’ prescriptions. Just then he heard a girl’s voice — Julie’s — loud and clear. She was at the other end of the house but Alec, with his reverence for the microchip, had bought a set of the new Sensormatic FM intercoms. They worked by plugging into the mains, each little black box linking the sounds of its room to the study.
‘Did you see him?’ Julie’s sulky classless squeal of derision assured Max that the girls were talking about him. ‘I’m glad I didn’t let Monica get at my arse with the cane. She can be mean. Really mean! This one’s a pushover, Sue. Probably get the strap wound round his own bum! One good yell from me and he’ll be on his knees apologising! I mean, did you see him? That moustache!’
A crescendo of shrill giggles sent the intercom into wild switchback waves of distortion.
Max felt his jaw tighten. All thought of going straight home vanished. What he heard from Julie was a good old-fashioned challenge. No common little tart was going to make fun of his moustache and get away with it. He unpacked carefully in the master-bedroom. Then he went in search of the opposition.
Julie was in the kitchen alone by this time, the sounds of Radio One deafening her to Max’s approach as he watched her through the open door. She was petite for nineteen, Max thought, despite the little shoes with their tall spike-heels. In appearance she was at once lascivious and yet sullen. Perhaps it was the slope of brow and sharp young nose, the petulant young mouth and receding chin, which suggested her sulkiness. The hazel eyes seemed all the darker for the mascara on their lashes. The golden blonde hair was worn loose so that it just touched her collar and brushed her lapels at the front.
Max allowed his eyes to survey her figure in the white tee-shirt and faded blue jeans. The breasts under the white cotton were demure and neat. Yet the smooth jeans were tight as a second skin. Her belly was flat as that of an adolescent nymph and she had that same backward jut of the hips. Her thighs were so slim that they looked almost fragile. The skin-tight jeans showed that the fullest and most feminine softness was represented by Julie’s bottom.
Though not unduly fat, Julie’s backside offered a plump and wanton cheekiness by contrast with her slimmer parts. The tight jeans also revealed the outline of the most scandalous little panties that Max had ever seen. A pocket handkerchief would have made a couple of pairs. The waistband came only halfway up Julie’s buttocks, while the seat did little more than cover the lower two inches of her rear cleavage.
‘Oh, you’re Alec’s friend, are you?’ Julie said, as he came in.
‘Yes I am,’ said Max sharply, ‘And I want you in the study! Now!’
‘I’ve got things to do!’ Julie’s reply was a squall of protest.
‘You’ve got orders to obey!’ Max said and saw her first unease.
Julie shrugged, as if she cared so little about Max and his kind that it was not even worth defying him. He walked behind her, watching the soft plumpness of Julie’s bottom-cheeks arch and wiggle under the tight jeans-seat. Connoisseur that he was, he regretted that discretion forbade him to fondle the cheeks of Julie’s jeans intimately as she led the way. In the study, he pointed out to her the note from Monica with its instruction.
‘The bloody old cow!’ said Julie gracelessly.
Max was unmoved by this. He sat in the leather chair and made Julie stand at its arm with her back to him. Then he made her bend over so that the golden-blonde hair spilt forward and the seat of the jeans was presented to him. As he had suspected, Julie’s anatomy was such that when she bent, the cheeks of her bottom became very tightly rounded and well separated.
He questioned her carefully as she bent like this. Max asked her when she had first been spanked at home and how often, what teachers had punished her at school. Had her boyfriend yet used the cane or strap upon her? To this last question Julie replied with an angry squeal of denial and resentment. Yet she was profoundly uneasy at his inquiries and her buttocks suddenly tightened, as if in fear, under the tight denim seat.
‘You’re not one of his friends from those places… you know… where they still use the birch… You’re not…?’
‘Yes Julie,’ said Max quietly. ‘That’s just who I am.’
She seemed stupefied rather than frightened by the revelation. Before she could gather her wits, Max stood up from the chair and made Julie kneel on the seat of it, facing sideways towards one of the broad leather arms.
‘Now,’ he said cheerfully, ‘kneel forward, Julie, right over the arm of the chair. Support yourself with your palms flat on the carpet below. You’ll like that position, I think. The arm of the chair gives you good support under your tummy. And with your weight thrown forward and downward on your palms, you won’t be able to get up so easily. That’s for your own good. Imagine, if you were always straightening up, how many extra strokes you’d have to be given. Right forward, then, Julie. That’s it. Good.’
Max considered the view. The sulky little face was twisted round, looking up at him from a cascade of golden-blonde hair. The jeans-seat was cheekily fattened by contrast with the slim thighs. He undid the waist and drew them down to Julie’s knees. The panties, a gossamer twist of lace-edged cerise nylon, were a ludicrous attempt at modesty. He eased them free and down. Julie’s bottom, its two tautly smooth snow-mounds and the darker ravine, seemed to confront him with mute reproach. Max chose a long slim bamboo and heard her gasp at the sight of it.
‘Eighteen, Julie. That was the total, I believe? Hmmmm?’
She said nothing, the hazel eyes under their mascara’d lashes watching him fearfully, the lipsticked little mouth pouting.
He measured the first stroke and brought the cane down with a sharp impact that made the walls ring. Julie yelled her protest and her lithe young thighs whispered urgently together. Max caned again, and then again. Three white-edged paths of crimson glowed across the cheeks of Julie’s bottom. At the next lash of the bamboo, Julie screamed. Max reassured her.
‘It won’t be the first time you’ve had the cane, Julie. Now, the strap would be a different matter. With an anatomy like yours those split tails might leave some very intimate memories if you were positioned like this. It will be the strap next time, Julie — that’s a promise. So I’m sure you’ll try to be a very good girl for the next fortnight. Won’t you?’
Smack! Number five was a beaut, though he said so himself. It landed on the lower curve of Julie’s bottom-softness and opened up a second front of torment. Whip! Down it came again, right across that same sector and Julie reached the very peak of her operatic range. Once or twice she seemed to press upward with her palms but Max had only to lay a commanding hand upon her shoulders to prevent this rebellion.
The next time he measured the cane across a well-trodden path and saw Julie’s buttocks tighten at the merest touch of the smooth bamboo.
‘Not there!’ There was indignation as well as panic in her cry.
Max smiled and thrashed the little minx just where he intended.
In her frenzy, Julie tried to twist away on her flank, her behind towards the back of the chair for safety.
‘Get that lewd little arse of yours properly over the chair-arm, Julie!’ said Max sternly. ‘You’re not shy about showing it to the entire city in your tight jeans, are you? Don’t try and play the bashful maiden here!’
But Max was obliged to turn her himself with an arm round her waist while such woeful little sounds rose from the direction of the carpet. He deliberately ‘camouflaged’ the next one, measuring it where Julie believed it would cause less havoc but bringing it down yet again across that lower, softer undercurve. In her frenzy she writhed like a landlocked swimmer, her hips and rear cheeks doing the American crawl on the arm of the chair.
‘Half-time!’ said Max brightly, and saw the dismay in her hard little face at the news that the worst was yet to come. He chose the low road again. Julie now sprang from the chair and ran round behind it. Max looked her in the eye without speaking. Julie, crestfallen, came back and knelt on the cushion, going forward over the arm again.
‘Dear me,’ said Max, ‘So there will be a repeat performance after all, tomorrow or the day after.’
He could not, in some respects, help feeling sorry for her. It was not Julie’s fault if she was a little tart. Perhaps most girls brought up as she had been would have been much the same. However, thought Max, that was not the point just now. SMACK!
‘E-E-E-E-Y-O-O-W! N-O-O! OH NO! PLEASE!’
A scalded cat was nowhere in the same league. Max hoped that Alec had had the party-wall soundproofed. As he thrashed another diagonal stroke across the horizontal weals upon the smooth succulent rounds of Julie’s writhing bottom-cheeks, he thought wildly of excuses. Sorry about the noise. Experimenting with a little radio drama. Amplifier stuck. Dramatising The Rape of the Sabine Women… A judicial story from the Gulf States… Oh, what the hell… WHA-A-ACK!
‘MY ARSE! OH, MY ARSE! STO-O-O-P! PLE-E-E-ASE!’
So much for the Sabine women and radio drama.
WHIP!… SMACK… CRACK-SMACK… WHIP-SMACK!
‘Don’t try to twist your bottom away like that, Julie… Yes, I’m sure it smarts like fire, it’s meant to… There are places I’d like to take you, Julie… Places where this would just be the opening number of the show… Will you keep your arse still, you little trollop!’
‘Don’t you tell me when you’ve had eighteen, Julie! I’m the one who keeps the count here… I doubt if you’ve even had ten!’
How easy it was to get carried away, Max thought later. And yet was he entirely to blame? When it was over, he assisted Julie to her feet, her jeans and panties still round her ankles. Oh, what a sorry little face it was he remembered, such floods of tears and a sulky little mouth that turned downward like a tragic mask. She had been whipped to such a state of desolation that she seemed desperate for any human warmth and consolation. There was no one at hand but Max. To his agreeable surprise, the young minx pressed herself against him, weeping into his shirtfront, pleading to be taken into his arms and comforted.
Expert in such matters, Max sat in the chair and drew Julie down to perch on his knee, her jeans and panties now kicked off. She was thus able to sit with her weight taken on the backs of her thighs and her whipped bottom in mid-air. But presently she turned on her hip towards him, arms round Max’s neck and face snuggled against his chest. Nothing like this had ever happened with the German girls, who were far too well-disciplined. With a final gulp, Julie checked her tears and Max cradled her in his arms.
‘That’s better, Julie, isn’t it? Are you a good girl now? Are you? All right, all right. We’ll stroke you and calm you. There. Is that nice there? Mmmmm. I think there’s been a little bit of excitement going on somewhere, hasn’t there Julie? Sorry, Julie. That is still very tender, isn’t it? Let’s touch once more just to see. How about in between? You like that, I think. No one? Not even your boyfriend? Well, well. And how about here? I hope you don’t get up to these tricks on your own! Julie, really! There’s no need to get down there. Well, if you really want to kneel and… Just a second. I’m going to turn this bloody intercom off.’
Julie had given him a lot to think about, Max admitted to himself later. No doubt of that. And even so he had not finished his chores for the day. There was the damned cat to find and put out through the back door, where it was safe from traffic. And there was Susan to be strapped. To hell with the cat, it could find its own way. He summoned Julie after dinner.
‘I want to see Susan in the study,’ he said impatiently. ‘Where is she?’ ‘Dunno.’
‘Then find her, Julie. If she’s not here in five minutes, it won’t just be a taste of the strap!’
Julie was now wearing a little black dress with a lace collar to avoid the pressure of tight jeans on her throbbing bum-cheeks. Rather sweet, Max thought. She went off to find Sue and he waited with growing irritation.
Presently there was a tap at the door and he called her in.
Max looked at her, and then looked again. Surely there had been some mistake. He had been expecting a girl of Julie’s kind, or perhaps one of Monica’s other protégées, like Noreen with her strapping young bottom and insolent manner. Sue was something altogether different.
She was a little older than Julie, perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three, and a good deal more sophisticated. She had the voice of a high-school and college girl. Max looked at her. The brown hair was worn thick and straight to the level of her collar. Her face was potentially very pretty with its well-cut features and rather narrow blue eyes. Perhaps only in the tightness of her mouth and the slight shallowness of her chin was there some hint of hardness.
Max had certainly never before seen a girl come for her punishment so provocatively dressed. Sue was wearing a pair of jeans every bit as tight as Julie’s and the shape they revealed would have put many a statuesque young Venus to shame. Added to this, she had tight leather knee-boots in pale tan.
He caught his breath at the sight. Sue’s figure had a proud young maturity superbly displayed in her tight costume. She had long firm thighs whose upward and outward branching was perfectly delineated. When she turned, the tight denim offered in outline the taut fullness of Sue’s bottom-cheeks, the hem of stretch-briefs clearly shown.
Max took another deep breath.
‘Yes,’ she said, her voice mingling natural authority with the first hint of apprehension.
‘You know why you’re here, I take it?’
‘I think so. You have to punish me, don’t you?’
He looked at her again. The blue eyes seemed wider and fuller now. There was a hint of pretty freckling round her nose. The brown hair was demurely parted to either side on her forehead. All in all, Sue had the look of a girl who tried to be perversely plain and instead became perversely attractive. Max stood up.
‘Have you had the punishment-strap before, Sue?’
‘No.’ She faced. him warily but without panic.
‘You know that we give the strap across your bare bottom?’
‘N-n-n-o. I hadn’t realised that. I thought…’
‘Get yourself ready, Sue. The door’s locked.’
He watched her unzip the leather boots and draw them off. Then she self-consciously undid her jeans and drew her legs clear. In tee-shirt and white stretch-briefs, she faced him.
‘Your panties as well, Sue.’
There was a moment’s hesitation. Then, as if suddenly making up her mind to accept whatever she must, Sue slipped her panties to her ankles and stepped clear of them. Max marvelled at the firm erotic maturity of her fair-skinned thighs, the fine branching of the young limbs, the pride of shape and deportment which Sue’s pale bottom-cheeks displayed.
From the cupboard Max took a tawse, the thin leather strap being no more than eighteen inches long, an inch or so broad, and divided into three tails at the business-end. Sue gasped out her question.
‘Is that — is that the strap?’
Max smiled at her knowingly and nodded his head.
‘Now, Sue. You see where the two leather sofas have been pushed together, back to back? I’ll want you horsed for punishment, lying astride the backs, one knee on each sofa-seat.’
She looked more than taken aback at this. Still, there was no alternative and Max followed her as Sue climbed up. His hand touched one pale cheek of the young woman’s bottom gently as if to help her up.
‘What a cold bottom, Sue! Is it fright? Whatever the cause, we’ll soon have it burning hot!’
Sue knelt gingerly astride the leather and then lay forward with her statuesque young buttocks rounded and spread. Max inspected the target carefully.
‘Thirty with the strap, Sue! No reprieves I’m afraid. It’s not often one gets a chance like this. So when it comes… Now, Sue, lie with your face turned this way. That’s better. And as for those hands… Get them right out in front. I don’t want to see you trying to shield your bottom with them…
Max ran the tawse through his fingers a moment. Then he raised it and brought it down with a flat whip-crack across Sue’s pale bottom-cheeks. She cried out but he caught her again before she could draw breath.
‘It hurts so!’ There was panic in her shrillness, ‘I never thought it would hurt so much!’
Max was rather puzzled by the words but he strapped Sue hard across the fullest swell of her cheeks and then strapped her there yet again.
‘Please don’t give me the strokes so fast,’ cried Sue, ‘I can’t bear them like that!’
More puzzled than ever, Max refused to yield on this point. He brought the strap down across the proud cheeks of Sue’s bottom with wicked skill, so that the curling ends searched her intimately. Without a pause he repeated this. He imparted two strap weals lower down and then made the split tails search her again.
Sue was squirming wildly astride the sofa backs on which she lay. She cried shrilly that the agony of the strap was more than she could bear and that she had no idea it would be like this. Bursting into tears at the tenth stroke she sobbed that she had changed her mind.
Max had no time for such gibberish. If an educated young woman, who had the air of a teacher herself, fell foul of the law, justice required that she should be treated no different to anyone else. Sue was older than any other culprit of his experience and far removed in the social scale from most others.
However, that was scarcely his concern. He was only obeying orders. Monica’s orders in this case.
Smack! went the strap across the striped and writhing cheeks of Sue’s bottom. Whipp! How those spliced tails followed the curves, Max thought. Perhaps he could just get the next one to… Wow! Bulls-eye! Once more then. Again! Stop a moment. Calm Sue down a bit. Fifteen still to go. Monica must really have taken a shine to shapely Susan!
‘Lie properly astride the mount, Sue! I’m sure you don’t want the little tails to do that again. Fortunately, we’re not here to do what you want.’
Swhack!… Whap!… Thwock!
Sue was arching her head and shoulders back, clinging to Max’s arm with one hand to delay the next stroke. At the same time she seemed almost to be riding the sofa backs with the rhythm of a girl in the saddle.
‘Wait!’ she gasped, ‘Please!’
In righteous indignation, Max made her resume the approved position. Her buttocks were crimson by now but he gave her a couple of strap-smacks guaranteed to leave a bruise or two. Oddly, he thought, Sue did not seem to mind those last ten strokes nearly as much. Her cries were softer and less urgent. Only when the wicked little tails sought out some secret or other did she cry in earnest. When it was over, she lay there, as if with no particular wish to get down. It was Max who assisted her gently, as he had done Julie. However, in Sue’s case, she turned from him, gathered up her clothes, and went to the bathroom to dress.
By the time that Max stretched out in the master-bed that night, he was truly exhausted. He lay there with the light still on and felt himself in the presence of a mystery whose solution he could not even guess at. The handle of the door turned and Sue stood before him, her blue eyes wide with appeal. She was wearing only the tee-shirt and her buttocks were still glowing from the punishment.
‘I can’t sleep!’ she said pleadingly, ‘I’m so sore. Isn’t there something you could rub on?’
Max went to the bathroom and found one of Monica’s cosmetic creams. He returned to find Sue waiting on the bed. As he sat down she put herself over his knee, for all the world like a little girl about to be spanked. Resignedly, Max began to smooth the pink viscous lotion into Sue’s burning buttocks.
‘And there,’ she said, ‘where you caught me deliberately. I do think that was cruel. I suppose you enjoyed it, though.’
Max swallowed hard and continued his labours.
‘That’s nice,’ said Sue presently, pressing his free hand to her mouth and kissing it. ‘Do it some more just there.’
It was half an hour before Max lost absolute control of the situation. Later still, as Sue nestled up to him on the bed, he said: ‘Next time I hope the court sends you to someone who’s not afraid to whip you into a blue fit. Not Alec or Monica. Someone like me.’
‘Mmmm! said Sue, nestling closer. ‘I think I’d like that.’
Next morning Max woke and thought with dismay, growing to horror, of the previous day’s events. He had thrashed Julie and Sue with no real authority. Worse still, he had seduced — would they call it ravished? — a young woman in the court’s care! He shuddered at the thought of standing in the dock while the details of his conduct were recited. Would they lock him up and throw the key away? That was likely to be the least. He could hear the judge’s voice passing sentence, regretting that the wholesome remedy of public castration was not available for such wretches as this.
And then, as the day passed, Max decided that he was either done for or he wasn’t. His behaviour now made no difference either way. On the following afternoon, there was the matter of Julie’s discipline with the punishment-strap. At four o’clock, she was lying over the arm of the sofa, fresh from Sue’s attentions. The tight jeans and scandalous little panties lay in a tangle on the floor. With loving care his hands positioned Julie’s bare bottom for the punishment. Sue stood by, watching, bare from the singlet hem at her waist down to her heels. The mirror behind her reflected Sue’s backside embossed by what could only be the patterns of a triple-switched birch-rod. As Max stroked Julie’s fat little seat-cheeks, the doorbell gave a piercing trill.
Max paused, feeling a last pang of apprehension. Sue went cautiously across and peered through the concealment of the lace curtains.
‘It’s Julie’s boyfriend,’ she said wonderingly.
Julie gave a little squeal of irritation and impatient wiggle of her rump.
‘Tell him to go away!’ she said shrilly.
Max was sorry that the arrival of a new group of students on the moral leadership course obliged him to leave the day before Alec and Monica returned. He waited until the following evening and then telephoned his friends. It was Monica who answered. In the course of the conversation, Max said cautiously, ‘I did all the chores on your list.’
‘That’s nice,’ said Monica.
‘I sorted out things for Julie and Sue!’
‘Yes, the other girl who works for you.’
But there’s only Julie. I don’t know any Sue except the girl who lives next door. Rather fetching in tight jeans and leather boots. She’s always in and out. Doesn’t work here. Matter of fact, I’m not keen. The man she was living with left her a month or two back and she’s got the hots rather. I don’t want Alec… Well, what did you do for her?’
The ground, which had been rocking under Max’s feet, steadied again.
‘Odds and ends,’ he said evasively, ‘Nothing much. You or Alec left a note about her at the end of your list of chores.’
‘We did no such thing!’ Monica’s irritation was clear. ‘Whatever was on that list, Sue put there herself. She treats this house like her own!’
Almost dreading the answer, Max asked softly,
Does she use mauve ink and curly letters?’
‘That’s it!’ said Monica brightly, ‘Told you so. I only hope she didn’t pester you all the time. I think you neglected Julie, didn’t you? Ever since we got back she’s played up as if she was asking to have her bottom skinned. We’ve only been in the house two hours and Alec’s already had to take off his belt and put her over his knees. Sometimes, Max, I really wonder where all this pastoral care is getting us…’
Max put down the phone at last with a sense of relief and gratitude for the tranquillity of his professional life. How far removed it was from the trembling perversity of Sue and her kind. Nice and simple. Elke’s bottom to be caned tomorrow, tears and repentance. Blonde Helena to be whipped quite hard for some reason or other. Nice and normal. Straightforward punishment, tears, forgiveness — until the next time. It was so safe here, he thought, so reassuring.
The phone rang again, but it was only the internal line from Bernard, his co-director.
‘Welcome back!’ said Bernard heartily. ‘We could never replace you, Max, my dear old, friend and colleague. One piece of good news, though. First-class application for the assistant post. Well qualified young woman with a real belief in discipline. Some experience too. I’ve asked her for an interview next week. And since this is my sphere of influence, I fully intend to appoint her. Any questions, by the way?’
‘Only one,’ said Max quietly. ‘Does she write in mauve ink with curly letters?’
There was a moment of total silence from the far end of the phone. Then Bernard said very softly,
‘My dear Max! You really are the most extraordinary fellow. Telepathy! Or is she perhaps someone you know?’
‘Oh, no!’ said Max, laughing wildly, ‘No one! How should I know her? No one at all!’
And when he had put the phone down, quietly as anybody could do, Max allowed himself a fit of hysterics.