Ruth lay on the bed, waiting for something to happen. She tried to work out how much time had passed since her abduction. It was difficult to know because she had been unconscious for some of the time, but she thought that it must be almost forty-eight hours. After Kim had dumped her on the bed and locked her in, she had cried herself into a fitful sleep, which she guessed must have lasted an hour or so. When she awoke her first reaction had been to have a shower.
What hurt more than the bruises, she realised, was the insight into her own psyche: the knowledge that, as she was being caned, one corner of her mind was actually relishing what was happening to her, even as the conventional side of her was recoiling in horror. She hated herself for it but, as each stinging stroke of Robin Henderson's merciless punishment had sent fresh shock waves shuddering through her lower body, she had felt herself reacting, craving more and more punishment. And, although she had not anticipated it, she was disgusted to realise how she had reacted to what followed...
While she dried herself, she was surprised to hear the key scrape in the lock. Wrapping the towel around herself to instinctively cover her nakedness, she cowered in the corner of the room, fearful that one, or both, of the brothers had come to use her body again. To her intense relief, it was Nicky's slim form that slipped into the room.
"What do you want?" Ruth did not disguise the anger in her voice when she saw that her former pupil was alone.
"Robin says I can give you some food." Nicky held out a tray covered by a white napkin. Ruth eyed the tray, tempted to lash out and knock it from the younger girl's hands. The urge to give way to her anger was offset by the awareness that it was a long time since she had eaten. She decided that common sense should prevail, and gestured to the bed.
"Put it down there." She made her tone as icy as possible.
"Ruth...Miss Jamieson.." Nicky's voice was hesitant and timid.
"I'm so sorry for what happened. I didn't know what they were going to do to you, honest I didn't."
"So 'sorry' makes it all right then, does it?"
"No, of course not. I mean...well I really mean it. I am just so sorry. Don't you see? I just don't know the words." The girl was clearly close to tears.
"Welcome to the real world, Nicky," Ruth said bitterly. "'Sorry' doesn't cut it, and it doesn't undo what you took part in either. What's done can't be undone."
"I know that, miss, but I don't know how to make things better. Oh please, miss, it's all gone so terribly wrong! It seemed like just a bit of a lark at first, and you did hurt me terribly when you and Mr. Fullerton caned me. I was angry and I wanted to get my own back. Oh, it was wrong, I know that now, but it seemed as if we could get away with it and not much lasting harm done. Robin was so confident and convincing...and I thought he loved me. Oh, it's all got so out of hand." She began to sob, the cries wracking her body in a series of shudders which ran right through her, shaking her from top to toe.
Ruth was not inclined to let Nicky off lightly, but it was not in her nature to be vindictive, and the sight of the girl in such deep distress did not help her own plight.
"If you really want to make things better, you can help, you know," she said, hopefully.
"How?" The word was choked out on another sob.
"You could get us out of here, or contact someone who can."
"I can't do that. Robin would never let me, and in any case, I won't call the police. It is the police you mean, isn't it? If they get involved we'll all be locked up. I couldn't face that and it would kill my parents. I'm sorry, miss, I couldn't do that, no matter what."
"Nicky, have you any idea what they are planning for me if you don't get some help?" Ruth tried not to let the desperation show in her voice.
"Yes, but Robin said you really enjoyed it...you know...being beaten. He showed me the video that Mould made. He said it was perfectly obvious how much you were enjoying it. That's why I thought it would be OK when he first suggested that we give you the cane. Just a return on what you gave us."
This revelation made Ruth colour up as deeply as at any time over the last few weeks. The knowledge that her once-favourite pupil had actually seen her in such a humiliating position, had actually detected that she had drawn some deep, not yet fully understood, pleasure from her subjection to corporal punishment, was the most deeply shaming insight she'd yet had to face.
"Nicky, listen to me. I don't know what you thought you saw on that video. Maybe it didn't show me in the best possible light but, like I said, what's been done can't be undone. That applies to me as well as to you. Perhaps I have made some mistakes lately and perhaps one of those mistakes was in punishing you too harshly. Believe me, Nicky, I never intended to be unjust, but in the real world mistakes happen, miscalculations happen. All I'm asking is that you don't make another one, one that you'll really be sorry for. You are a decent girl and it will ruin the rest of your life. Do you know they are planning to send me into slave labour in Thailand, never to be heard of again. Do you want that on your conscience?"
Nicky looked doubtful but she was clearly wavering. Ruth could see that her impassioned plea was having some effect on the girl and her hopes rose.
"I-I don't see what I can do. I won't call the police."
It was Ruth's turn to think hard. How could she get help, in a way that would not frighten Nicky into betraying herself to Robin Henderson. Then she had a brainwave.
"Nicky, when you saw the video of me, when I was here before at Damocles, were there any other people on the video apart from the Reverend Mould?"
"Well, yes, the tape had two other women and a man. You all got punished one way or another, and Robin said you all seemed to be really into it, or you wouldn't have been there. Although it didn't look as if one of the other ladies was enjoying it much, the thin one, I mean."
Ignoring the embarrassing implications of Nicky's insight into the pleasure she had taken from having her bottom beaten, Ruth concentrated on her objective. "Nicky, if I gave you the telephone number of the man on the video, would you contact him for me? He knows where this place is so there is no problem of giving directions, so he could organise some help, if you just told him I was in trouble."
Ruth was careful, of course, not to mention what Stephen Langton did for a living, and Nicky, after a moment's hesitation, fell into the trap. "All right," she said hesitantly, "I suppose that would be OK. What's his number?"
Ruth's spirits sank. She had not bothered to memorise the number on the card, she had never expected to make contact with him again.
"It's on a card, in my purse. Do you know what happened to all my things?"
"All your clothes and belongings are still downstairs, in the main hall. Robin said to leave them there - he said you wouldn't be needing your clothes for a while." Nicky looked uncomfortable, aware that her teacher was covered only by a towel.
"Can you get to them? Is my purse still there, do you know?"
"Yes, I think so." Nicky was hesitant. "I can try."
"Good girl. When you find my purse, look inside it. There is a card, like a business card, with the name Stephen Langton on it, and his home telephone number. Phone Stephen and tell him where I am. You don't have to tell him all the details, it would take too long. Just say that I am in desperate trouble and I need his and Tony's help. Tony is my boyfriend. They will know what to do."
"All right, I'll try, but you must promise that you'll do your best to help Robin, whatever happens."
Ruth wondered how on earth she could reassure the girl without deliberately lying to her. After a moment she said: "Nicky, I won't lie to you. You have to trust me. You and Robin have done something very wrong and sooner or later you will have to face the consequences. All I can promise is that my experiences over the last few weeks have made me very careful about injustices, and, if you help me now, I'll do all I can to help you in return."
The worry on Nicky's face lifted a little and she stared into the eyes of her teacher.
"I appreciate that very much, miss. You've always been straight with me and anyway I wouldn't have believed you if you'd said we'd get away with it. OK I'll do what I can to help. Now I'd better go or Robin and the others will get suspicious. Oh, by the way," she added as an afterthought, just as she turned to the door, "I put a jar on your tray. It has some stuff called Moon Balm in it. Madam Karabengse and her brothers say that it is very good at soothing pain. I thought you might need it."
Ruth smiled her appreciation. "That was a kind thought. It is good stuff and I could certainly use some right now. If they ask why you have been so long with me, just tell them that you were helping to massage it in for me."
* * *
Almost a full day had elapsed since the brief meeting with Nicky had raised Ruth's hopes. After the girl had left the room, Ruth had inspected the tray, which contained a few sandwiches as well as the Moon Balm. She had decided that her hunger was worse than the throbbing inside her bottom, which had been greatly reduced by Luc's application of the balm as a lubricant, so she attacked the food first. Afterwards, with nothing else to do to pass the time, she had applied the balm to all the areas that still ached. The massage had brought back all the memories she had unconsciously erased from her mind and, despite her situation, she was amazed to find that she was becoming aroused again. Eventually sleep overcame her, and by the time she woke up the sun was streaming through the window.
At first Ruth had not known where she was and had sat bolt upright on the bed, puzzled by her unfamiliar surroundings and the fact that she had no clothes on. Then it all came back to her and she realised with a heavy heart that she was still a captive. She tried again to work out how long it had been since her abduction. With a shock, she realised that, as her caning by Robin had taken place in the early evening, and it had been evening when she was taken from in front of her own house, she must, somehow, have lost a full day. The knowledge that so much time had passed deeply depressed her, and the thought that, even if Nicky managed to phone for help, it was unlikely to arrive for several hours depressed her even more.
Suddenly there was a noise, the key turning in the lock, and Ruth saw the door handle begin to turn. She grabbed the towel from where it had fallen and did her best to cover herself. The stony-faced Madam Karabengse came into the room, closely followed by Kim, who stopped just inside the door and stood impassively, clearly there to prevent any attempt at escape. Madam Karabengse was carrying another tray, which she put down on the bedside table.
"It is good to see you awake and alert," she said, her voice betraying no hint of compassion. "We do not want our merchandise damaged before you get to Thailand. I have brought you some more food as I don't want you to feel we are starving you - but first I want to inspect the damage from last night."
"Leave me alone!" Ruth shouted frantically, backing away from the bed towards the farthest wall of the room. "Don't you touch me!"
"You must stop being such a silly girl, " responded Madam Karabengse. "I am your mistress now, and you do as I say. You turn around now and face the wall. Let the towel drop."
"I will NOT!" Ruth was ready to fight.
Madam Karabengse spoke a few words to her brother, her voice leaving no doubt as to her intentions, even if Ruth could not understand what was said. The stocky Kim carefully locked the door and handed the key to his sister, before advancing on Ruth. Determined to put up some resistance, to make it clear to these people that she was not just their plaything just there to do their bidding, she launched herself at him, her hands out, determined to scratch at his face and use her knees.
In a split second, she knew that she had misjudged the situation. Despite his apparent lethargy, Kim moved like lightning. Ruth never did work out the sequence of moves but , in a split second, she found herself pinned face down, across the bed, bereft of even the scant protection of the towel. Madam Karabengse swiftly moved between Ruth's legs, forcing them apart. Ruth flinched as she felt the woman's cold hands on her buttocks, squeezing them, kneading, spreading the cheeks wide so that everything was open to examination. She sobbed with frustration, shame and anger as Kim held her firmly down.
"OK," Madam Karabengse pronounced with some satisfaction. "You are not marked much at all. I think the Moon Balm did its work well. You will be ready for another lesson tonight. We shall leave you now to think about that but first, Kim will give you something to remember. You will learn not to make a fuss when I give you an order!"
She said something to her brother which was unintelligible to Ruth and Kim's hand, as hard as a board from martial arts training, whacked down on Ruth's bottom four times in rapid succession, twice on each cheek. It was so sudden and unexpected that Ruth squealed loudly, wriggling frantically in a fruitless effort to escape. Madam Karabengse went to Ruth's head and lifted the tear-stained face.
"You will obey quickly next time or Kim will not stop at four. You understand?"
No reply was necessary and Ruth felt the weight of Kim's other hand leave her body. She lay on the bed sobbing for some time after the housekeeper and her brother had left, the warmth of the spanking soaking into her. Eventually she tidied herself up, applied some of the ubiquitous balm, and tried to eat some food.
The rest of the day was a mixture of boredom and anticipation, interrupted briefly when Madam Karabengse and Luc brought her some lunch, sometime in the early afternoon. Ruth again resorted to the towel to cover her nakedness, despite the fact that they had seen all there was of her, and this time there was no additional trauma. Luc simply leered at Ruth from the doorway as the housekeeper exchanged the empty tray for the full one. Ruth stood back against the far wall, the big bath towel clenched tightly to her body, staring at Luc and trying not to think about what had happened the night before. The expression on his face left her in no doubt that he was remembering the same experience, and she sensed her knees weakening as she relived the sensation... The thought dominated her mind for the rest of the afternoon as she lay on the bed, listening to the various muted sounds which drifted up to her from various parts of the house.
Of Robin and Nicky there was neither sight or sound. Occasionally she got up to look out of the window, leaving the towel, on which she depended for some degree of modesty, on the bed. There was nothing to see. The priory was surrounded by thick woods, stretching back for a distance of several hundred yards on all sides, and she was too far from the road to see or hear any passing traffic.
Now, after being alone with her thoughts for so long, Ruth guessed that her wait must be coming to an end. The shadows of the trees were lengthening and she guessed that the afternoon was drawing to a close. She was sure that, whatever Robin and the Karabengse family had in store for her, it would not now be long before she found out. She suddenly felt a terrible urge to pee. The tension was unbelievable; a mixture of fear and sexual anticipation which added to her sense of humiliation and made every nerve in her body hypersensitive Every slight sound in the house made her jump. Was this the moment? Had the time come for her to be dragged downstairs again, naked and vulnerable? Right on cue, she heard footsteps outside the door and the familiar sound of the key in the lock. It was Kim, alone, who opened the door.
"You come now," he said sternly, holding out a hand. Ruth knew that is was no use to resist. She didn't want another hard on-the-spot spanking, so, clutching the towel tightly to her body with one hand, she grudgingly allowed him to take her other hand in his. With his free hand, he grasped the towel she was clutching desperately to her bosom, wrenched it away from her with ease, and hurled it to the floor.
"You won't be needing that, " he said.
There might be some hope for Ruth if Nicky managed to find the card and telephone Stephen without arousing Robin's suspicions. Will Tony and Stephen arrive in time? What is in store for the towelless Ruth?