"THIS PLACE IS the
brain-child of Mr Knudson ..."
Uncle, I believe."
right. But I've always called him
Uncle. How surprising!"
"I expect you
find it so ..."
seemed such a kind man."
The woman behind the
broad desk topped by green leather smiled faintly. "Appearances can be deceptive," she
said. Possible she smiled because she
was thinking of herself. She had pale,
placid, almost nun-like features yet, as she was well aware, she was capable of
behaving with extreme cruelty. That,
however, troubled her not at all. If it
had done she would not have taken up the post of Head of the unique
establishment Erik Knudsen had set up.
"Does he ever
come here?" asked the young woman seated before the desk. She was blonde, blue-eyed and exceedingly
pretty; a German, just twenty one, and her name was Fiona Von Bal.
The nun-like figure
shook her dark head of short-cropped hair.
"No ... never," she said simply. Perhaps only in the eyes could her hard
nature be observed. They were
green-blue. Like the cold sea. And, like the sea, as the clouds chase over
it, they could change quickly from sombre chill to hard, flashing
brilliance. This was Martha Duerrisse,
forty five years old and Belgian born.
The blonde girl
looked puzzled. "Well ... how
strange. I don't see what he gets out of
it then. I mean ... why arrange such a
Again the faint
smile. "As you know, your Great
Uncle, has turned sixty."
"Yes, that's true."
gets a very great deal out of St Justine's.
In the first place, he organises everything. Rules and Regulations. Uniforms.
Modes of conduct. He issues what
you might term Edicts to me. In effect,
he is a one-man Governing Body."
Fiona Von Bal
nodded. "I suppose that would keep
him occupied ... amused even," she said.
that," continued Martha Duerrisse, rather as if Fiona had not spoken,
"he receives a regular weekly Reports on all the 'pupils' here. There are always twenty four in number
when a new 'pupil' arrives then?" came a quick question.
The Head raised her
hand authoritatively. "Please don't
interrupt Miss Von Bal. All will be
clear to you in due course. Allow me to get
Fiona felt the power of
this woman in that gesture and her tone.
She felt rather put down. I would
not at all like to be in her charge, she thought. "Sorry ..." she said rather lamely.
those reports, Mr Knudsen may issue certain instructions to me. As to special punishment for a particular
'pupil'. However, in general, he leaves
that sort of thing in my hands."
Fiona felt a catch of
excitement within herself at the word 'punishment', she wondered what form that
punishment might take. Certainly it was
good to know that there was punishment for a 'pupil'. For, with the agreement and co-operation of
Uncle Erik, that little bitch of a step-sister of hers was soon going to be
incarcerated is St Justine's!
she said. Though she didn't really quite
went on Martha Duerrisse, "Mr Knudsen regularly receives selected video
tapes of most of the activities here.
They are in full colour with sound over.
So you see, Miss Von Bal, there is no need for your Great Uncle to visit
here. We go to him. He can see and hear whatever he wants in the
privacy of his own study. If he orders a
particular punishment, within a few days, he can witness it being carried
"I wondered why
he seems to spend so much time in that study of his," said Fiona with the
trace of a nervous laugh.
face remained impassive. Nothing about
St Justine's - or the Governor - were a laughing matter.
Miss Von Bal," she said, "I shall show you one of those tapes. Then you will be able to see the sort of
treatment your step-sister will receive if she does not behave herself while
she is here."
Fiona felt her heart
suddenly pounding. Literally thumping
with joy. Incredible to think that
Belinda could be punished! At just
eighteen, that arrogant little English cow was just too big for her boots. Trying to steal not only her Uncle's
affections ... but also her inheritance as well. Yes, Belinda certainly needed taking down a
peg or two. How lucky it was she had
mentioned her concern to Uncle Erik, who had at once suggested that the girl be
send away to a special 'school' he knew of.
Just for six months or so, he had added, so that her behaviour could be
improved. Fiona had thought it a
marvellous idea and, after no more than a week this meeting with the Head had
been arranged. All very secretly, of
course. She did not have the faintest
idea where she was. No idea of the
country even. For Fiona had to agree to
being put under sedation for the journey to St Justine's. In view of what went on at the place, the
reason for such tight security was becoming more obvious.
"May I ask a
question, Madame Duerrisse?" asked Fiona a shade nervously. Under normal conditions she would most like
have addressed this woman simply as 'Martha'.
Certainly she would not have asked the question. However, Madame Duerrisse radiated such
commanding authority that Fiona paid her the greatest respect.
the flat answer.
"What ... what
happens to a 'pupil' at, say the end of their time here?"
"One of two things,"
came the immediate reply. "It
depends on the instructions of the Governor.
They are put into deep hypnosis and undergo a form of brain-washing
which removes all memory of their time here.
The 'pupil' comes round, imagining she has been in some health clinic
being treated for a nervous breakdown.
Then she goes back to her former life.
Alternatively, the Governor may decide to sell the girl ..."
Fiona gasped. "Sell?" Her eyebrows shot up.
sell," said Martha Duerrisse calmly.
"As a slave. There are
plenty of markets still in the Middle East and South America. Of course, these are not public auctions but
discreet private ones. Slave-dealers buy
for the harems of rich Arabs and the like.
A young white girl fetches a good price.
Not that your Great Uncle needs the money. He donates it to me to help fund St
Fiona felt slightly
dizzy. It was unbelievable to hear such
terrible things spoken of in such a matter-of-fact way. Girls sold as slaves. Yet this was the second half of the twentieth
century! Why ... even Belinda could end
up like that. Fiona's heart began to
pound again and there was a dryness in her throat.
she said in a whisper.
"I suppose I
am. A little ..."
Doubtless there are
many things here which would shock you.
We, living close to them, come to accept them quite easily."
"So my Uncle
Erik decides?" mused the young blonde.
"How many ...
may I ask ... are sold as ... as ... slaves?"
five per cent."
leapt. I'll work on Uncle Erik, she
thought. I'll make sure Belinda's one of
the seventy five per cent. I'll make
sure she goes to a harem where they can make use of her backside day in day
out! God yes ... that serves the haughty
little cow right! She found herself
"And they are
never seen again?"
"Never. You seem pleased Miss Von Bal. Have you something against your
step-sister? Has she offended you?"
"Yes ... yes ...
she has," replied Fiona. She was
about to go off in a tirade about Belinda's doings when Martha Duerrisse raised
her hand again.
particularly want to know,' she said coolly.
"Suffice to say that, whatever her offence, or offences, she will
pay dearly for them here."
Fiona clenched her
fists. Good, she said to herself. Oh good, good, good!
it," she said in a low voice.
Martha made no
comment but opened a filing cabinet beside her desk. "Would you like to see one of the
Reports your Great Uncle gets each week?" she asked.
said Fiona, trying not to sound too eager.
She took the sheet of foolscap paper which slid across the desk
It was divided into
five days, Mondays to Friday. The
Saturday and Sunday were simply marked Rest Days. The weekdays were divided into class periods,
from nine thirty to twelve thirty.
Periods were of one hour each.
MATHS, LITERATURE, FRENCH, GERMAN, GEOGRAPHY and so on. Fiona read.
Just like a real school, she reflected.
How unpleasant to go back to all that when you were adult! The afternoon ran from two thirty to five
thirty ... and there were always at least two hours of some sporting activity,
like SWIMMING, GYM TENNIS, CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING.
At the top of the
form was the girl's name, age and class.
Name: EMMA PERCEVAL. Age: 22.
Good God ... twenty
two years old! Amazing!
Down the right hand
side of the Report was a column headed COMMENTS AND CLASS PUNISHMENTS.
Fiona's eyes ran
down, noting the neat hand-written entries.
SIX STROKES OF SINGLE
SIX STROKES OF DOUBLE
There were no entries
Fifth in Cross
Country. So no punishment.
TO BE HANDICAPPED
lost tennis match 6-4
EIGHT STROKES OF
inattention in French
(third time this week).
SIX STROKES OF TRIPLE
At the base of the
Report was a space headed:-
(Third time this
SIX STROKES OF TRIPLE
At the base of the
Report was a space headed.
COMMENTS and, in a different but firm, clear hand, Fiona read:
Emma's failure to pay
attention in class cannot be excused. If
it occurs again next week I shall give her a good caning. Perhaps that will wake her ideas up!
Fiona felt a trifle
dizzy again. A 22-year-old strapped,
paddled ... and threatened with a caning.
Unbelievable! But there it was,
in black and white. What an amazing
place this St Justine's was! And what a
wonderful one for Belinda to be sent to!
The Report was taken
away from her and put back in the filing cabinet.
Uncle receives twenty four Reports like that every week, said Martha. "He returns them with his own comments
attached. On the one you have just seen,
for example, he might have recommended that Emma be caned immediately for her
lack of attention. As it turned out, he
Fiona swallowed. "I see,' she said a trifle weakly. Thank God I'm not sitting here as a 'pupil',
she thought nervously. At the mercy of
an old man maybe thousands of miles away ... and in the hands of this obviously
"As I say,"
said Martha, "we have twenty four 'pupils' here. They recently arrived. In Class two are those who have been here
longer. When your step-sister arrives,
one of the senior class will leave. In
one of the two fashions I have already described."
said Fiona again, this time nodding.
How shocking it all
was! Yet, somehow, she was gradually
getting used to hearing such terrible things said. This Madame Duerrisse was so emotionless
about it all. It was as if she had milk
in her veins instead of blood. Yes, like
a nun, reflected Fiona again and the Head's plain black dress with purple collar
and cuffs somehow added to that impression.
"Have you any
Fiona had many she
wanted to ask but thought it best not to be over-inquisitive. The last thing she wanted to do was to cause
offence. I expect that's how 'pupils'
feel, she said to herself. Only a
hundred times more so!
"Do ... any of
The dark head
shook. "Never," said
Martha. "It is quite
impossible. Security here is one hundred
per cent plus. However, if a 'pupil' is
so foolish as to even make an attempt, she is publicly birched. That, I can assure you, is quite a
Fiona gulped. She could well imagine it would be. What a frightful thing!
"How can they
stand it?" she asked wonderingly, speaking almost to herself. "You ... you'd think they'd ... well ...
do away with themselves."
impossible," replied Martha.
"Oh? I don't understand ..."
"I told you
about the deep hypnosis and brain-washing when they leave. Well, they also undergo that on arrival. The suggestion is firmly induced that it is
impossible for them to harm themselves.
Or others, for that matter. Given
a pistol and a girl might hold it to her head, but she could not pull the
trigger. In fury, or terror, a girl
might strike out but, before any blow fell, it would be as if her hand had come
up against a sheet of plate glass."
"Remarkable. Quite remarkable," said Fiona. "And how clever!"
"All the ideas
and doing of Mr Knudsen. Yes, he is
indeed a clever man!"
raced. "There's another
thing," she began. Then paused.
strappings ... canings ... and so on.
They must make a lot of marks. I
mean ... well ... I mean ..."
Fiona's voice trailed off.
There came a faint
smile to Martha's thin lips. "You
mean repeated beatings would cause permanent harm to the flesh? That it would become so abused that further
beatings would be impossible?"
"Yes ... that's
Knudsen has seen to that too. We have
jars and jars of a very special ointment at St Justine's. I don't know where he gets it made, but it's
quite miraculous stuff. It would be a
great boon to mankind if he ever put it on the open market. Cuts and bruises would disappear almost
"Oh yes ...
really. If a girl has had, say, a dozen
strokes of the strap and this ointment was put on a tonight, there would be no
trace of those strokes in the morning."
"Of course, if
the strapping was more severe, it may take twenty four hours. It simply depends on the severity. In the case of a girl caned by me, she is
afterwards taken to the Sanatorium where she remains for two, three or even
four days, receiving repeated doses of the ointment. All marks will have gone by the time she
emerges. That aspect presents no
"I am becoming
more and more impressed by what you call Uncle Erik's 'brain-child'," said
Martha, getting up. Her smile was almost
friendly. "Now, if you will follow
me, Miss Von Bal, I shall show you the Punishment Room where I cane my girls
... and after that you might care to look at one of the video tapes."
Fiona's heart leapt
to her throat. She found herself
actually flushing with pleasure. Knees
feeling a little weak, she followed the Head across the study.
A black door with
brass fitments faced them on the far side of the room. Martha Duerrisse opened it. She did not invite Fiona to enter first but
preceded her. The young woman felt
faintly resentful, after all, she was a guest with a prospective 'pupil' in
mind. However, she showed no sign of her
said Madame Duerrisse, as Fiona looked round eagerly yet fearfully.
The room had a plain
brown carpet and two facing walls were fully mirrored. On one of the other walls was a tall, wide
cupboard; whilst the wall opposite was bare.
The walls were creamy white. But
what rivetted Fiona's attention was the appliance set before one of the
mirrored walls. It was something like a
gym vaulting horse but lower. The top of
it was about two feet six inches from the floor. Also, the top, rather than having the normal
leather, flattish top of a vaulting horse, was surmounted by what looked like a
leather bolster. Straps and buckles hung
from each side of the contraption.
"This is my
Whipping Horse," said Martha Duerrisse crisply. "Though that is something of a
misnomer. My girls do not get
whipped. They get caned."
"I ... I ...
s-see ..." said Fiona feeling an apprehensive twinge. What a ghastly room it was! How terrifying! Just imagine ... but then she did not want to
"It is over this
Horse," continued Martha (rather as if she were a Museum Guide),
"that any errant 'pupil' learns the folly of her ways. A girl may not come here often, but when she
does, it is a memorable occasion. I do
not believe in light canings. Mine are
severe and exceedingly painful. The very
minimum is twelve strokes but more usually a girl receives eighteen or twenty
four. More, if I think fit,
Fiona experienced a
certain freezing of the blood. It seemed
impossible that a young woman could endure - indeed survive - such savage
treatment. Yet ... yet ... it had to be
admitted. Madame Duerrisse talked about
these terrible things in such an unconcerned way. This was a whole world away from normality.
And it had all been
devised by her Uncle Erik!
For his pleasure ...
His amusement ...
An entertainment in
his declining years ...
Well, he had worked
hard and made several fortunes out of the ore-mining business, so perhaps he
deserved to enjoy his retirement, reflected Fiona. But at what cost to others!
Then she pulled
herself together. What the Hell did all
that matter? It was at St Justine's she
was going to have her revenge on Belinda ... and get rid of the girl for
ever. That was what mattered. What a marvellous thought it was!
Fiona continued to
look at the Horse, with it crimson leather topping and its plain deal
sides. Also the heavy straps for
pinioning the thighs. On the opposite
side, in the mirror, she could see other straps for securing the wrists. Anyone over the Horse, she realised, would be
able to witness clearly her own torment from both fore and aft. Most, most unpleasant!
Yes, this St
Justine's was surely as horrible a place as any young woman could find
herself. Well, that suited Fiona
perfectly. As far as she was concerned,
the sooner Belinda got there the better.