Thesis, part 1
by By Freddie Clegg & Phil Lane
© Copyright Freddie Clegg & Phil Lane 2008 All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or reposted without permission. E-mail: email@example.com Web Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freddies_tales/
All characters are fictitious.
Phil & Freddie would like to acknowledge the help given by the editors in creating the final version of this tale. Many thanks to Dennis, Peter, Red & Rohanna for their input, corrections and suggestions. If there are any typos, punctuation mistakes, inconsistencies or continuity errors left in Thesis then they are Phil’s and Freddie’s fault!
Chapter 1: Board Meeting
Two people are in two offices, a hundred miles apart. By coincidence they are both looking at the same page of the same magazine.
Larry Ross, thirty five years old with sandy hair that just might be starting to thin at the back and a waist that is just a bit thicker than he would like, is one of them. Until recently Marketing Director of Clegg Enterprises Special Products Division, Larry has been given a new job by Clegg and a new challenge, too.
The other is Jenny McEwan, a post graduate student and researcher at a university in the English Midlands.
The magazine is Second Skin, a glossy BDSM and fetish scene magazine. The page they are looking at carries an advertisement placed by a business called “Inward Bound”.
They may be looking at the same thing, but they each have very different interests. Jenny is studying it closely. She is telling herself that her interest is academic, but that might not be the whole story. Larry, on the other hand, already knows about Inward Bound; when he first heard about it he was so impressed he recommended that Clegg Enterprises buy the company.
Jenny is remembering times when a new issue of Second Skin was the thing she looked forward to most of all. She recalls how she and her lover used to read it together in bed using its fetish imagery and kinky articles as a springboard for their own imaginations. It is a pleasant memory, but right now that’s the problem: it’s only memory. She goes on looking at the advertisement. She is going to discuss it with her PhD supervisor, Professor Dawney, later. She is suspicious of Dawney’s motives for suggesting that Jenny look at the advert. She is determined that she won’t end up in bed with the Prof again. Not this time.
Larry is sitting at an empty desk in an empty office in an empty building. It’s the first day in his new job; his first day as managing director; the first day of the new business venture that Clegg has set up. He takes one last look at the magazine and then puts it to one side.
He allows himself a few moments to savour the luxury of an empty diary, an empty filing cabinet and nothing more than the ideas in his head and an open-ended directive from his boss as the starting point for what needs to be done.
The directive was Clegg’s quiet, “Just get things started, Larry. Go talk to the people in Huntingdon. See how you can move things along.” It is a change for Larry; but it is a change for Clegg too. He isn’t used to letting somebody else run things. It’s obvious that neither of them will find the change easy to deal with.
For Larry it is definitely a promotion. Today he is starting on “Project Willing”, the result of ideas that he himself had proposed to Clegg. They aim to take over “Inward Bound”, a business that specialises in giving submissives a chance to experience consensual slavery. Larry isn’t sure which is going to be the bigger challenge, doing the job, keeping Clegg happy or keeping the business legitimate!
He is, however, sure about one thing. The whole enterprise is going to work better with a cup of coffee but, with no kettle, no coffee machine, no coffee, no milk, no secretary it will have to be Starbucks, he thinks.
There’s so much to do to even get the basics in place. He stands up, runs his hands though his hair and looks out of the window. Unsurprisingly, he can see the green and black sign over a shop front less than fifty yards away. He looks down at his waist line. He promises himself that he’ll have a low fat muffin this time. He knows he’s lying to himself.
He is half way to the door when the phone rings. “Ha! Interruptions!” Larry thinks, “That’s good. I must be getting somewhere already. You always get interruptions as soon as you start doing something important.”
He picks it up. “It’s Larry.”
“Hi, Larry.” He recognises the voice at the other end. “It’s Sarah,” she says. “I’ve just had a message from Mr. Clegg. He wants you for a special board meeting at 10:00.”
“Did Freddie say what it’s about?”
“No, Sir, but I sort of had the impression that he has something on his mind. He was, er, very definite if you know what I mean.”
“Thanks Sarah. I know what you mean. I’ll be there.” Larry looks at his watch. It will only take him fifteen minutes to get over to the Brick Lane offices.
Larry puts down the phone. With an empty desk and an empty diary there doesn’t seem like there’s much preparation he can do. He was going to call the people in Huntingdon they were planning to take over. That was going to be the starting point for “Project Willing”. But now, well it’s probably best to wait until after the board meeting. He looks at his watch. 9:30. Larry thinks, “I might as well walk round. It’ll be better for me than the coffee anyway.”
The Brick Lane office has a seedy, unkempt air. It is set on the edge of the City in a 1950s block of dirty brick, peeling paintwork and metal windows. The building has an anonymous, non-descript feeling to it that suits Clegg perfectly. He doesn’t much care for ostentation. At least not in his business dealings.
At 10:00, Larry makes his way up to Clegg's office.
The room is comfortable rather than luxurious, but then Clegg's preferred business forum is his club or the restaurant alongside it rather than the Whitechapel offices. Sometimes, though, he needs an office base, and this is it.
Clegg's management style is usually pretty 'hands on'. He finds it hard to delegate. Worse still, he finds it hard not get involved with the detail. Larry remembers stories of how Freddie insisted on taking part in ‘operations’ sometimes. He isn't surprised that Freddie is looking to involve himself even at this early stage. He had hoped he was going to get through his first day without it, though.
"It's not as though he's even keen on meetings,” Larry thought to himself. “He’s never been strong on the formal ‘running the business’ stuff.” As a result, Larry is surprised to see the room almost full. There’s even one of the secretaries there to take minutes. Larry is astonished. Freddie doesn’t usually go in for taking minutes.
Larry looks around the room. It’s not quite the usual suspects. Freddie is there, of course, and Elly (his business and, everyone assumes, personal partner) in her role as group legal adviser. Pamela Jordan, the group’s medical adviser, and Connie Mbazu, recently appointed as head of training, are both there, too.. There are maybe a half a dozen others lurking at the back. Given that the office isn’t much bigger than a table that has room for eight, it’s pretty crowded.
Clegg smiles and waves Larry to the one remaining chair. “Hello Larry, glad you could come. I just thought it would be good if we all had a chat before you got yourself stuck into things with ‘Project Willing’. Give us all a chance to make sure that things go in the right direction. No treading on toes. No dead ends. You know.”
Larry nods. He knows. He knows exactly. What this says is that Freddie’s changing his mind about things.
“The thing is,” Elly cuts in, “Freddie’s has been re-reading your business plan and looking at the due diligence from the ‘Project Willing’ acquisition. We’re wondering if maybe the “consensual” division might be more important for the future of the Group than we thought at first.”
Elly had always struck Larry as dangerous. She is an attractive woman, her hair jet-black and curly and usually, as today, combed back from her forehead. Her eyes are piercingly blue. Larry always felt there was much more going on in her head than she ever spoke out loud. On their previous encounters, she’d given him a fair hearing and when she’d agreed to support him, she’d always delivered. She is wearing a smart, fitted, white blouse, a black leather skirt, black tights and riding boots. Her outfit tells you she’s a powerful woman, a woman that means business, and one that doesn’t mind your knowing it.
“Yes,” Freddie continues. “We have to have an eye to the social and political context we are operating in.”
Larry is immediately worried. ‘Context’ is a word he doesn’t normally associate with Freddie. It means that he’s been talking to people. That is invariably a bad idea from Larry’s perspective. “The thing is, Larry,” Elly chips in, “that our business risk is gradually increasing whilst the fees we can charge clients can’t rise in step.”
“You see,” it was Connie now, “your marketing efforts increased demand significantly and that has created a problem. Shipping. The business now has a far bigger export market than our home market. Now we have to ship across international borders ….”
“Well,” says Larry. “None of this is news to me. This is all stuff we looked at in the marketing plan, way back. I don’t want to be unhelpful, but what’s this got to do with my business? If I start by trying to solve the problems of your side of the business, I’ll never get it started.”
“Sure, Larry. Sorry.” Clegg sounds almost apologetic. “Let’s slow things down folks. Larry’s right; we don’t want to get things confused. Let me just explain the problem though. The problem as I see it is,” Clegg looked around as if defying any of the others to interrupt him again, “, one of transport. The police and customs are now very interested indeed in the illicit movement of people. Their primary interest is in terrorist operations, but they’re very aware that a lot of illegal immigration and drug trafficking is involved with people trafficking, bringing in sex workers. And, that’s how our slaves are seen.”
“And,” Elly came in again. Clegg shuts his eyes. “While our usual measures serve to keep most of the law enforcement people on-side most of the time, we have to sweeten more people and that’s expensive.”
“Elly,” Clegg interrupted with barely concealed impatience. “And, of course, when Tricia was discovered all crated up and en route to Moscow. Well, let’s just say it didn’t help. We’re going to have the problem of shipping for some time to come. Unless we take a radical look at the problem.”
Larry is feeling increasingly impatient. “And, this radical look relates to my business in some way?”
Freddie nods and looks to Elly. “Do you want to cover this?”
“Sure,” she says with a smile. Freddie sits back in his chair, his hands folded across his stomach. “So Larry,” Elly continues. “We were thinking that if ‘Project Willing’ could find people who wanted to be slaves, they would cross borders willingly as legitimate travellers to their new owners. That would avoid a lot of problems, not to mention a transport cost. I’m thinking we could get to having no real involvement in shipping beyond maybe organising their tickets.”
“Erm, well,” replies Larry. He’s irritated that everyone wants to jump on his wagon. “Well, I’m glad you all feel that this is going to be more than a side show, but a couple of things. As of today, right now, this moment, we do not have an operation in this space – there are a few ideas in my head and the possibility of taking over this new business. So, maybe I can get on with that?.”
Dr Jordan joined in for the first time. “I think you might be missing a point here. There will be people who contact you for an adventure holiday of consensual slave training. During their training, some of them are going to find that the lifestyle is something they would like to continue for an extended period of time. Then who knows? Maybe even 24/7/365 and on into their indeterminate future.”
“What we think we could be looking at, Larry,” Connie continues, “is a complete revolution in the slavery business, with a substantial proportion of slaves in harness because they want to be. They’ll and are prepared to approach us for contracts after their training. In fact, if we train them properly, the physical and psychological changes they experience will lead them to the point where that sort of request is more than likely and …”
“Of course,” Elly takes up the thread, “we would have to negotiate honorariums, health insurance and pension contributions on their behalf with their owners, sorry - our clients, as part of the package …….”
Larry is trying to keep his irritation under control. He hasn't even got this thing started and the rest of the organisation is already trying to hijack it. He is about to lose his cool when Freddie cuts in.
“But in short, Larry,” Freddie leans forward trying to reassert some control, at one time pleased and frustrated by the way that everyone has been pitching in. “If I can just sum things up.” He looks around the room. The others at the table get the message and sit back. “I think - we all think - that this project is important for our future. . If there is going to be a growth in consensual slavery, it will affect businesses like us that focus on the non-consensual kind. This company we're acquiring has got facilities and they've got know-how that we can take advantage of. So, Larry, old man, I want to see how quickly you can get them integrated into the group and how soon we can learn the lessons we need to from them. I am going to give this a fairly high priority. Everyone here is really committed to giving you any help that you need.”
“So, no pressure then?” asks Larry.
“No,” smiles Elly. “No pressure at all! We all have complete confidence in you!”
Larry is used to them behaving like this. He knows how to deal with it. “In which case,” he says, looking around the table and smiling back at Elly in the quiet way he uses to re-assert control. “Perhaps you can let me have your feedback on the contracts that the Huntingdon business is using, Elly. And, Connie, you might like to let me know what your people thought of the site that the Project Willing business is using for their ‘experience’ sessions and when you’re going to finish with Sukie and Rachel, so I can have them as was promised? And, Dr. Jordan, you could update me on the psychological profiling you were doing on their training people. Now that we’re all working as a team. So to speak.” He smiles at the others, happy that he’s made his point.
Clegg chuckles as the others mutter their agreement and start to gather up their papers. He turns to Larry and throws his hands up in mock surrender. “All right,” he says, “you don’t have to ask me. I’ll get the CFO to finish his financial review on the ‘Project Willing’ business as well. Like I said, let’s get on with it.”
While Larry is dealing with the machinations of corporate office politics, Jenny is on her own. She is in the room she shares with three researchers at the university, thumbing through Second Skin. She is looking at the photographs of fetish club events and wondering if she could persuade her husband that they should go to one. She remembers how much fun she had when she went with one of her girl friends, way back in her student days. The only problem had been that others there had got her wrong. Most of the men had thought she was a dominant. It was being quite tall and slim, she supposed. Or maybe it was just the rubber cat suit she was wearing. That and wishful thinking.
She smiles and pushes a strand of her shoulder length, dark brown wavy hair back from her face. She remembers the man that had tried to buy her a drink at the bar. He had taken the drink from the barman and got down on his knees to offer it up to her. It was one of the more original chat up routines she had come across, even if it hadn’t worked.
She smiles again,
Jenny smiles easily. When she does so, her eyes open giving her a wide-awake look. She opens her mouth a little wider than might be thought polite, showing even white teeth and a touch of gum beneath her upper lip.
Her research colleagues think of her as cheerful, open, and straight forward. Jenny puts that down to her determined chin and the way that her nose tips up. Occasionally though, as her colleagues would tell you, she can seem a bit naïve and a bit of a romantic. Jenny doesn’t have an excuse for that.
She turns the page. There’s an article on how a corset fetishist has combined her enthusiasms with the philosophies from Laura Doyle’s book, the Surrendered Wife. Jenny knows she’s supposed to be thinking about her research programme and she’s pretending to herself that this might have something to do with it. When the article moves on to describing the erotic combination of tight lacing and submissive demeanour, Jenny’s hands stray to the crotch of her jeans. She’s fondling herself; looking at a dramatically lit, black and white photograph of a kneeling, corseted, woman. She hears someone in the corridor outside. She gives a strangled cough and drops the magazine. She manages to slide the issue of Second Skin under the latest copy of the Journal of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy as one of her colleagues comes in.
Chapter 2: Acquisitions
“I'm puzzled, Mr. Ross.” Corinne Aimes, the founder and owner of two companies, Huntingdon Management Development Limited and Inward Bound, is talking amiably with Larry Ross, a man who claims he can inject a substantial cash investment into her business. They are sitting in the garden of a Cambridgeshire pub. Corinne is drinking white wine. Larry is enjoying a pint of bitter.
“So your business, Clegg Enterprises Group, specialises in recruitment and placement,” says Corinne. “Sort of head-hunters?”
Larry nods. Corinne is right, although not in the way she thinks. Larry is impressed by Corinne. She’s smartly dressed, dark wavy hair worn short of her shoulders and a dark, almost middle-eastern complexion. Her eyes are fringed with long dark lashes and her features are soft. Although she might be easy to look at, she has obviously got a determined streak when it comes to business negotiation. She’s sitting there looking every inch the successful young business woman. She’s wearing a sober suit with dark grey jacket and trousers, black ankle boots and a black high-necked blouse. Around her neck she’s wearing a heavy silver necklace. It’s not obvious at first but looking at the design Larry sees that it’s formed from two intertwined keys. It makes a subtle and stylish statement about Corinne’s interest in the world of BDSM.
“I guess there is a sort of fit with our main business,” Corinne says. “and I suppose I can see why you’d be interested. Recruitment and placement on your side, training and motivation on ours.”
“Exactly,” Larry responds disingenuously. “The Group Chairman has something of a background in the training and motivation business. He's been looking to invest in those areas. Sees them as a sector that is likely to grow. Building the knowledge economy. Competing on a global scale. That sort of thing. And then, there's your rather unique sideline....”
“I'd have thought that would be enough to put most people off. There's not usually much enthusiasm for companies to get involved with businesses which the general public might see as racy, to say the least.”
“Our chairman is a broader minded man than that. And longer sighted. He’s interested in looking at leisure markets, too.”
“Well Inward Bound certainly falls into that category by my definition. Though I’m not sure if some of my guests right now would think that what they are enjoying was a ‘leisure’ activity.” Corinne toys with her necklace and glances across to her car. “Your interest in that side of the business still seems odd to me.”
Larry watches her, wondering for a moment if she has one of her clients in the boot of her Jaguar. He realises that the rather cool and conservative looking Corinne might just have decided to amuse herself by bringing a customer along on this outing. He finds the thought an arousing one but reluctantly drags himself back to the problem at hand. Larry seeks to reassure her. “Let's just say he understands people and he understands how businesses can make money out of dealing with people. If I'm honest, I suspect he's a bit curious about the whole consensual BDSM sexuality thing.”
“Well, it's a common enough turn-on, you should tell him. Otherwise this particular business would have no foundation.”
Larry thinks wryly, it's not the BDSM thing that's puzzling him, it's the consensual thing. He lets it go. “So, tell me how you set it up; the Inward Bound side, I mean. The corporate training and motivation I think I understand from the papers you sent through.”
Corinne sits back. “Well,” she says, “I'd just finished my degree in educational psychology. I was finding it hard to get work. I had a few short-term contracts on research projects. Then the Uni set up the science park and there were a whole string of little businesses springing up as the faculty tried to find ways to make their research “relevant” or at least get paid twice for their work. Most of them knew next to nothing about business. Truth be told, neither did I, but the first rule of education is that if you've read one more book than your student you'll be OK, so that was where I managed to set up Huntingdon Management Development.”
“But the other side of the business?”
“I was coming to that. When I'd been in my last year at Uni and cash was short, I made a little extra with the odd bit of paid dominance. There are plenty of opportunities for it around a university town. BDSM is the thinking person's sex, after all. And, one of my clients from then turned up as a client for the training business. He teased me a bit about it, which was fair enough I guess; Said that he hoped my courses weren't as painful as my sessions had been; suggested that students would pay more attention if I taught class in a gown and mortar board. That sort of thing. Laugh a minute – you can imagine.
“Anyway, I was at a theme park the following weekend; ...on one of those scary rides that throw you around the sky until you're not sure if you're going to get to the end before your breakfast. And, I thought, why isn't there a theme park for adults? A sort of BDSM Centre Parcs. I looked around in the UK and there are a few places that offer accommodation – bed, breakfast and bondage, that sort of thing. There didn't seem to be anyone trying for anything more ambitious; something that would be a real experience for those taking part. I guess the place that really fascinated me was the Other World Kingdom, but that's in the Czech Republic – I thought there was bound to be an opportunity for something closer to home. Well, it wasn't too difficult to see that I could rework some of our training centre accommodation. I had a few contacts from my Mistress Whiplash days and some of the boys and girls in the legitimate side of the business weren't averse to making some extra money. It sort of took off from there.”
“The Other World Kingdom caters mainly for men though doesn't it. Your 'Mistress Whiplash' clients must have been mainly male too, I'm guessing.” Corinne nods and gives him a half smile that seems to suggest that if Larry wanted to try that side of things out she wouldn’t mind obliging. Larry avoids the thought. The only time he’s been tied up by a woman it wasn’t at all pleasant. “How come you ended up with something that seems to appeal mainly to women?”
Corinne shrugged. “I'm not sure. We didn't plan it that way. I'd like to pretend it was all part of some grand strategy, but it wasn't. We started off offering a 'kidnap & hostage' experience. You know the sort of thing, the 'victim' agrees to an approximate time and duration, we snatch them, take them to some unknown destination, keep them captive and then eventually release them. Virtually all the takers were women. Either that, or it was boyfriends giving their girlfriends a treat.”
“And customers liked it?”
“Oh yes. It's a common fantasy and we did a good job, if I say so myself. Some of the team got quite adept at snatching the customers and bundling them into the back of a van or the boot of a car. Others turned out to be really good at the surly guard part. You wouldn't realise what a level of skill there is in it!”
“I guess you're right.” Larry is thinking that some of his colleagues back at the office might well agree with her.
“We built up a range of different offerings and we managed to find a few different places to keep our customers. Somebody had a house with a cellar; someone else knew a derelict farm with some outbuildings. We even used one of the old supply stores at the University for one client. Anyway, word got around. It's like any other business – personal recommendation is the best source of new customers, but it does tend to turn up customers like the ones you already have. Then, one of our clients had a fantasy that involved her being held prisoner for a couple of weeks. One of the 'guards' thought that while she was there, they could put her through a sort of slave training programme. Afterwards, the client asked us to set up something similar for herself and three friends and things grew from that. We don't advertise much. There seems to be a captive market, if you'll pardon the expression. ”
“And now?” Larry is happy for Corinne to go on talking.
“Well, we've adapted some parts of the site in Suffolk. We alternate the use between Inward Bound and the Corporate Training events. We bought the site using business start up grants. Inward Bound runs five courses a year, each of one month - although we're thinking of increasing that- with five participants. Five is all we can manage at present. We charge £6000 for a month's course - which isn’t that expensive when you think about it, compared to a cruise, say. Also, the Inward Bound clients help to get the Centre ready for the next Corporate Training course, which provides our Inward Bound clients with work to do and reduces costs in our vanilla business. Inward Bound currently grosses around £150,000 a year give or take. Costs are negligible, as I’ve explained, and even the staff costs aren't high. Quite a few of the staff have a stake in the business. All right the business is certainly not as big as it could be, or as profitable. On the other hand, growing it would take a lot of time and effort. The thing is, Larry, this business is doing all right. I'm not even sure what we'd do with an injection of cash from your organisation, except maybe to let us handle more participants in each course.” She looks at her watch again.
“Do you need to get back?” Larry asks.
“No it’s fine. I do have another appointment.” She looks across at the car again. Larry is more than ever convinced that somewhere, either in the back of the car or wherever she’s going, there’s someone that’s waiting helplessly for her. “But nothing that won’t keep safe until we’ve finished.”
Larry is happy to continue. “You talked about both operations in the same breath: tell me about the team you have. Do you have staff from one business in the other, for example?”
“Yes, we do. As it happens all of the core team from HMD help out with Inward Bound. I mean, both are pretty small operations and its not as if we are operating in different countries or anything like that.”
No, just on different planets, from the point of view of the clients, thinks Larry. But he lets Corinne carry on.
“Actually you do not need many people to run a training business and there are three of us: me Charlotte and Josephine. We were friends at university and had a shared BDSM Interest. We have all put cash into the business. We’ve all made contacts in the Scene that have been helpful. I suppose I’m spending more time on IWB because that’s …ah… more labour intensive, so to speak.” There’s another glance across to the car. “There’s Gerry. He’s an architect and that’s been really useful to help with pulling our HQ into shape and then there’s Celia, George Jonathan and Ylena who all have their own jobs too but come to provide specialist input when we are running an IWB course. Then some of the alumni from previous courses who live reasonably locally can also help out.”
“So, are all your colleagues on the payroll?”
“No, not really. At this stage we are not generating enough cash and quite a few of the Team have their own mainstream careers, as I mentioned but we are now at the stage were we can pay everyone’s expenses, although most of the profits get ploughed back into the business as investment for the future. I think this works because we all really enjoy what we do and participation is part of the reward we get. However, enjoying your job doesn’t pay bills and we have to be hard headed about this.”
Larry looks at the cool, confident, young woman he has been talking to. It’s hard to believe that she would be anything other than hard headed when it comes to her business. On the other hand, the suspicion that she’s enjoying the discomfort of someone, somewhere, is enough to convince Larry that Inward Bound is a labour of love as much as a money making enterprise.
“Well Corinne, regarding our investment; we'd like to work with you to discover what the opportunities are. Maybe the Suffolk site could benefit from additional capital investment? Maybe you could find ways to take more participants on a course? Maybe you could offer different styles of programme? Or a two month experience? Perhaps if you weren't dependent on the corporate side of the business, you'd have more time to develop this? Let's get some of our people working with your people. We ought to set up a visit to the Suffolk facility. Our chairman is very keen on a collaborative approach.” Larry was almost surprised at himself for his last remark. Actually, his experience of Freddie was that his view of teamwork was a lot of people doing what he said.
“Well,” says Corinne. “I agree it's worth talking. I’d like to understand more about your business too, if we’re going to work out how to best work together. And anyway, I’d want to know where the money’s coming from. You’ll forgive me if I’m careful - In my experience potential investors don’t come wandering in off the street every day of the week. And, frankly, I’m surprised that you are as interested as you are in the Inward Bound side.”
“Perfectly reasonable,” Larry responds. “Let me see if I can reassure you. We’ve spent time working at it, getting our management strategy and procedures right. It’s also one of the reasons why we’re looking for a UK business to invest in. Get some of our eggs out of the international basket, to diversify so to speak. If I’m honest I think our chairman has been involved in some businesses on the ‘leisure’ side of things in the past – video production, fetish photo web sites, that sort of thing. I think he sees us working with you as a way of getting back into an area of business he always enjoyed.”
Corrine feels reassured. “OK, I can understand that, I would like to be less dependent on the corporate side, if I'm honest. This side of things is a whole lot more fun and the cash flow is a whole lot better. I get so tired of trying to screw payment out of some of the corporate clients.”
“Well, that's just the sort of area we could help with in the short-term. We could take over your debt collection.” Larry wasn't sure how well Freddie's debt collection techniques would work in the corporate world, but the important thing now was to get Corinne on side.
“Aha,” says Corinne. “Yeah. Well, maybe I have been distracted from the stuff I want to do by the things I need to do. If this relationship lets me change that, it might be a good idea after all. Look I agree. Get some of your people to come up to visit the Suffolk site. You’ll get a better feel for how we do things and I expect we will both get a better idea of whether our businesses would be a good fit for each other.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” says Larry. At least that way we get to keep on talking, he thinks.
Talking is something that Jenny isn’t doing. She’s sitting at the end of her bed, her dressing gown pulled tight around her shoulders. Her husband is sitting on the bed at the other end, staring out of the window. Jenny is staring at her feet. It hasn’t been a very successful evening. Jenny had tried to talk about some of the things she thought might make their love making more fun. Her husband hadn’t been very receptive. Sure, he understood what it was that she liked and no, he didn’t thing there was anything wrong about it. The problem was that either he didn’t want to act out any of it or that he didn’t think it would work and in any case he didn’t want to talk about it.
Jenny’s fantasies revolve around dark, silent, strangers and dark silent deeds. And, in the past, there had been more than fantasies. But, Jenny felt, silence wasn’t really what was needed right now. What was needed right now was a good hard fuck. She just wanted him to hold her, tell it would all be OK some way and then throw her back on the bed and fuck her. But she didn’t say anything and Joe kept staring out of the window.
Chapter 3: Fond Farewell
About six months later, Jenny McEwan finally gets to start writing up the notes she will use as the foundation of the research proposal that she hopes will eventually lead to her doctoral thesis.
I watch as Joe tosses his case into the back of the taxi. He turns back towards the house for a moment and waves before getting in. We’ve been together three years now and I’ve found the partings getting harder and harder. It’s difficult to know which is worse; the going away or the coming back again. The closer we get to his going away, the more I feel like I'm walking on egg shells when it comes to anything about us.
Well, maybe it’s the work. This time he’s going to Cambodia, north of Phnom Penh, working with the Vietnamese, helping the Cambodians to upgrade the water supply network there, Joe says. He’s only to be away two weeks this time, but the trip after this will be for almost three months. I’m quite proud of him really. It’s sort of heroic, I guess. At least, I say to myself, I’ve got something to think about while he’s not here, on top of what I want our relationship to be, whether it is going where I want it to go. Assuming I know.
Maybe I’m just trying for too much. Most of the time we bump along quite happily, but I think we’re missing out on something. Joe is a loving guy but, well, sometimes it seems like he’s happy to let things just drift along. I like to have time to chill out and relax, but I just feel there ought to be more to it than that. When we got together I guess his steadiness and the quiet, determined, way he approached life were some of the things that attracted me to him. Now, I'd just like to see a bit of passion about something sometimes. Especially about me.
There’s always plenty to think about outside of home. My job at the University is demanding, but I think I am good at it. I graduated six years ago. I’m working as a researcher in the department of psychology and I feel I am making good progress towards my doctorate. The only problem there is Professor Dawney and that’s my own fault.
The two of us had a short, tempestuous, affair while I was working for my master’s degree. I’ve always had an interest in the BDSM lifestyle - well more than an interest I guess, if I’m honest - and we met by chance at a munch. We discovered that it was a passion that we both shared. The professor and I found that our drives fitted neatly one with the other; me submissive, Professor Dawney very much the dominant partner. Subsequently, we managed to run our relationship without upsetting the university. It was hardly the first time that an academic had got involved with a student and besides Dawney wasn’t one of my tutors.
Then, two things happened. I finished my master’s and got a junior teaching post at the university. Shortly after, I met Joe McEwan and found myself swept up in a romantic dream of a future life with him, even if things aren’t looking like turning out that way right now. That was when I told Dawney that I couldn’t go on with our relationship.
The professor seemed to understand – eventually.
When Joe and I started our life together it was fine at first. Well it still is. Fine, that is. It’s just that I’d like it to be better, more than just ‘fine’. Maybe part of the problem for me is that he gets really closed off before he goes away on one of his trips. It’s like he feels he’s already on his way and doesn’t want to be confused with stuff from around home. That hurts, because I really want to have a close and loving goodbye each time Joe goes away.
Also, we never really found a way to make the BDSM thing work between us. He seemed – well - diffident about it. And, when I tried to raise it he’d back away, saying it wasn’t “appropriate” - whatever that meant. It wasn’t that he disapproved; he enjoyed the tales I used to tell him of some of my more outrageous escapades from before we met.
One of my boyfriends was keen on fetish clubs and we used to go together. It felt great to be dressed all in rubber and led in chains into a room to sit at his feet all evening. Then there was the time a girl friend and I had decided to go to a fancy dress party as a sheikh and a harem slave. It had seemed like a great idea but she’d got hold of some slave manacles that she could lock on me. The bitch left me behind in our flat while she had a great time at the party with the guy I’d been planning to hit on. Then, when she got back, she left me chained up while she bonked the guy senseless in the next room. By the time he left, I was so hot for it that we just fell on each other. There were a few more times like that. Somehow it was always me that ended up in rope or handcuffs or straps. But, then, that was how I liked it.
Joe found the tales a turn on all right. But they didn’t make him want to try any of it.
I guess it seemed more that he felt it wasn’t right for him, or for him and me. But it didn't matter. Or, at least I told myself it didn't matter.
I guess that's why I didn't back away from Dawney's suggestion – even though maybe I should have. Joe always seems pleased to get home and sorry to leave, but in between? I very much needed to keep myself busy.
Dawney encouraged me into pursuing a PhD and helped me choose a research area. I shouldn’t have agreed to take on something that was so close to Dawney’s own area, but I needed a supervisor and the professor had always been very supportive. Now though, things were getting difficult and it was becoming worse as a result of the direction my research was taking. When Dawney suggested the topic, I should have recognised the problems that could arise, especially the fact that it was bound to venture into areas where Dawney was considered the authority. But, I didn’t.
The basic idea was to explore the relationship between stress and play; analysing the role that play has in reducing stress. I thought it presented an exciting research opportunity. It was only as the work progressed, that I started to feel that Dawney hadn’t let go of what we had once enjoyed together. The Professor’s slant on the study of the subject matter was that I should focus in my research area to specifically examine the role of BDSM play and stress. It was a legitimate subject for such research. It neatly avoided the pitfall of an overly broad focus on play, in general—which was a good thing. But, I couldn’t help but feel that an alternative topic might have been suggested if I had been a male student, or if the professor and I hadn’t been previously been involved with each other in the way that we were.
The phone rings. I pick it up. The professor’s voice sounds calming after the tension of the exchanges with Joe as he’d left. “I wondered if you’d be in this morning.”
“Yes, sure. Why not?”
“Well, you said Joe was going away again and …”
I interrupt. “It’s just his job. It’s what he does. One month on, two weeks back. It’s a routine. I’m used to it.” I guess my one time lover knew that I wasn’t. To make matters worse, next time he is going to be gone for almost three months. I’m not looking forward to that except that it will give me some more time to think about what I want from our relationship, and whether I stand any chance of getting it. “I’ll be in. I need to talk to you about my work. I’m not sure which way I should be going.”
“Of course. Just drop by. I’ll be happy to give you some direction.”
I put the phone down, remembering the insidious way in which Dawney had pushed our power games and thinking, “I’ll bet you will.” I gather up my papers and push them into the old, green, canvas shoulder bag I use. Last of all, I collect up the bundle of fetish magazines that I’d been working through. Once upon a time, they would just have been fun but, while the content still gives me a thrill, this time the purpose of my studies has been more “legitimate”. I’ve been cataloguing the various references to different forms of play and picking up on the occasions when some aspect of stress, either increase or alleviation was mentioned. A forest of yellow post-it tabs stuck out from the magazines. Then, there were the copies of printed material from a whole series of BDSM discussion boards and forums. At least there was a volume of material to start working on.
An hour later, I’m knocking on the door of Professor Dawney’s office. “Just a minute,” comes the voice from within. I stand in the corridor hugging my pile of papers to my chest, the canvas bag hanging heavily from my shoulder. More power plays, I think. I lean back against the wall, staring down the corridor and on out through the window across the park. I’d become used to these little demonstrations of control. “Come!” Even Dawney’s invitation to enter seemed designed to intimidate.
“Oh, Jenny, excellent,” Dawney’s greeting is fulsome. At once, I remember how I had been first attracted to the professor. Angela Dawney manages to combine a cool authoritative air with an almost Bohemian sense of the unconventional. The university is no longer the domain of the unconventional – the continued quest for funding and the need to make research “relevant” means that today’s departmental heads are as much business people as academics. But Angela Dawney is an eccentric oasis in a desert of convention.
Angela smiles as she pushes back a strand of hair. She’s only 38, maybe 10 years older than I, but her hair is already greying in places. Not that she cares. She is driven, and believes in making the best of herself, but I’m not sure that applies to the way she looks after her appearance. She can look a bit matronly, when she’s not careful.
Her office is filled with the usual collection of piles of books and journals. Her desk is covered with them too. Her laptop is propped on a top of one of the smaller piles, a web cam clipped to the screen peering out at the room like the eye of the Cyclops. A message window blinks, irritated, demanding attention. The only things on her desk apart from that are three framed photographs of Angela with the other academics at the Psychology Research Conventions in 2005 at Denver, 2006 at Stanford and 2007 at St Petersburg.
The Professor prides herself on being at the centre of an international network of specialists. The result is that she finds herself sought out to peer review papers, edit journals and comment on research proposals.
The rest of the office is buried beneath the accumulation of knowledge; a bookcase, a side table and two chairs are suffering in the same way as her desk as is a good three quarters of the floor. “Find yourself some space,” Angela calls, waving vaguely.
I look around and come to the same conclusion that many of Angela’s students do. There was nowhere else but the floor. I push a couple of the piles of books to one side and squat down, cross-legged, on the carpet, looking up at her. She likes that.
Angela swings her chair around to face me. She puts down the unlit cheroot she has been chewing on in, defiant against the college’s attempts to outlaw all forms of tobacco abuse. She brushes some biscuit crumbs from the lap of her calf length skirt. As she leans forward, my eyes are drawn to the Victorian style buttoned boots that the professor invariably wears. I remember a time when I would have wanted little else but to be sitting where I was then. I shrug to try to shake myself back to reality. “So,” Angela says, “tell me your thoughts so far.”
I launch into a summary of my progress so far, the material I’ve collected, the avenues explored.
“There is very little firsthand objective observational data. I think this is understandable. On the one hand, BDSM play has only surfaced into the public arena in relatively recent years and on the other, I guess it takes time for it to become a “respectable” subject for academic research. Then again, objective observations of BDSM behaviour are difficult to make without disturbing the participants. Imagine: you are in the hands of a Domme who is giving your bum a good going over and in the corner there is someone writing every thing down and then asking a whole series of questions about how it feels.”
I look across at Angela, concerned that she thinks I might be trivialising the discussion. Of course, she would be the last one to put herself in that situation. She doesn’t seem worried. I carry on. “Also, male behaviour has been the first target for scrutiny – guys in high powered jobs going in for sessions of role reversal as a way of escape. And females? Well, there is not a great deal to be had about women under occupational stress. Again, it’s only in fairly recent years that one could find a significant number of women working at senior executive level and I think political correctness discourages the idea that some women might have a submissive sexual drive co-existing with a high powered management or technical job. And, of course, ‘super woman’ can’t possibly suffer from stress and require a somewhat exotic way to deal with it.”
Dawney looks thoughtful. She reaches out and I pass her a pile of the research papers I have been working through. Dawney rifles through them. It is a field she is familiar with and one in which she herself is considered to be an authority. From time to time, she peers down at me over her gold rimmed half moon spectacles. “I think you’re right,” she says. “This looks like a thorough collection of the existing research and I’d trust your assessment.” I feel pleased. Angela’s praise has always lifted me up. “But you’re an ethnographer. You must feel you have the ability to do original research in this area. To observe, to analyse, to draw conclusions from observation.”
“That’s what I think is needed, professor,” I say, anxious to keep things on a professional footing, and conscious that I am also venturing into an area that my mentor considers very much her own.
“Good” says Angela. “That’s why I asked you to look at the Inward Bound advertisement. I think it might be an interesting area of research for us. A sort of ready made sexual laboratory, I’d like you to go on one of their courses.”
“What?” I’m shocked by her proposition. It seems way out of line. Just another example of Dawney trying to restart our affair.
“Hear me out, Jenny,” she says. “This has got nothing to do with anything in our past. This is purely for research. Inward Bound’s courses offer a degree of immersion that you wouldn’t normally find. There’s a chance to observe genuine changes in behaviour and response. We couldn’t possibly reconstruct it in a laboratory.”
“That’s all very well, Professor,” I feel I want to get this onto a formal footing. “But it sounds like pretty dubious science to me. I don’t see how you can achieve much with an observer that is also a participant. And no matter what we got up to,” I look directly at her. Angela at least has the grace to look a little abashed, “I know that I’m hardly very experienced in BDSM and while, yes, I might find it a personal turn on, I can’t see how we would get any useful ethnographic results from it.”
“Of course, Jenny. You’re right. That’s not what I’m suggesting. What I think we should do is to try to establish if Inward Bound really would provide us with a suitable environment for a properly controlled research project. If you can get a real feel for what goes on there we could see if we really could answer the research questions that are coming out of your studies.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier and more ethical just to have someone sit in on some of their sessions?”
“Easier, certainly. I don’t think it would give us the best insights though. I think it really needs someone that is there and part of it. Either as part of the staff or as a course member. I couldn’t see you as part of the staff though.”
That’s unfair, a cheap jibe, I think. I am how I am. I’m not ashamed of my submissive responses.
Angela sees that I’m annoyed by her remark. “Sorry, Jenny. That was unkind. I do think that participation is an important element in allowing us to set the research agenda here. But of course, if you don’t feel that it’s something that you would like to do or feel able to do….”
It’s the same old, manipulative, Angela. And when we were together I did enjoy it. Now it’s difficult. I really don’t want to get myself back into a relationship with her but, on the other hand, the Inward Bound idea is intriguing and it could turn out to be an area for really interesting research. A guaranteed doctorate! I feel myself being drawn to the idea. It’s probably unwise but I start talking through some ideas.
“Well, I could try to record some direct first hand observations of the submissive experience that Inward Bound provides. I could use a quasi-ethnographic approach. Although we’d have to recognise that the value of the results would be very limited for anything beyond establishing a research framework…”
“Of course,” Angela interjects. She can see that I am sliding myself in to the idea and she knows that she only has to oil the slope.
“Then I will see whether it’s practical to come up with a more scientific research programme.”
“I like that idea, you’d treat participation as a sort of pilot … hmmmmm …,” Angela says, polishing her glasses. “Give it some thought,” she continues “I genuinely think it’s the best way to move your doctorate forward. I know you’ll be thinking this has something to do with what went on before but it’s really about your studies. I suggest you explore what is involved. I’ll find out what I can do about funding.”
I smile. As usual Angela assumes agreement. I offer her my thanks, pick up my things and start to leave. I’ve learned enough from my time with Angela to quit while I am ahead. Besides, I’m still not sure if I want to go through with this.
“Do you have to go?” Angela says. “With Joe being away, I thought you might need some company.”
“Sorry, professor, I have to go,” I say keen to return things to a professional footing.
Angela looks disappointed. “Perhaps another time,” she says.
That’s exactly what I am worried about but, when I get back to my office, I spend an hour before going home thumbing through Second Skin again. There’s an article about enthusiasts for wearing fetish clothing in public. I’m fantasising about what it would be like to be dressed in rubber, following Joe around our local supermarket on a leash. Then I hear someone at the door.
The fantasy dissolves instantly. I toss the magazine back onto my pile of work papers and head back to my empty home.
Chapter 4: First Contact
A few days after my meeting with Angela, she sends me an e-mail: “Dear Jenny,” it says. Angela’s e-mails always sound like letters. “I hope you have been thinking about your proposed exploratory investigation.” So now it’s ‘my proposed investigation’ I think. “Contact Inward Bound and see what they have to offer. At this stage, I think you should regard this as a pilot project as we discussed and I think you should approach them as an ordinary client. I’m sure you’ll agree that their approach might be different if you state your academic interest right away. As I’ve always said the foundation of good field work is minimum bias and maximum objectivity. As far as funding is concerned, it will depend on their fees, of course, but I hope we can use some of my Endowment Funding. Best wishes, Prof.”
When I first looked at the Inward Bound website, I was amazed, curious, intrigued and delighted, in that order. From a research point of view I can agree with the Prof: it was fascinating. I have seen some similar sites, but they were in the USA or Eastern Europe and almost without exception they are focused pretty much exclusively on the fantasies of male submissives. Angela’s enthusiasm has made me more than a little nervous, though. From what we had shared together, I can imagine that her interest in Inward Bound might be more than academic and it wouldn't be with her joining in as one of the consensual slaves. I am still worried that she might see this as some opportunity to revive our personal relationship.
On a personal level, Inward Bound could offer me the chance to fulfil the sort of fantasies that had been with me since I was a young teenager, things that I hadn’t shared even with Angela when we were together. Sure, I would prefer to be playing this sort of game with Joe, but he felt it was not “appropriate”. It’s strange. Joe and I have this really open relationship; we can talk about anything, but somehow when it comes to this the shutters come down. Maybe it's me or maybe it's him. I found it difficult to say what I wanted; he found it difficult to take the lead. What ever it is, it hasn't really worked out for us. The vanilla sex was fine – he was kind and loving and friendly and it was great. The trouble was it wasn't enough. But I would rather be playing with Joe. Wouldn't I?
I try to put my personal interests and my feelings about Joe to one side. In the context of what I am supposed to be doing, they aren't going to help with objectivity! Still, it’s hard not to think about him. And us.
I’m looking at the home page of the Inward Bound web site. “Inward Bound” it says in a professional looking style with sober colours. "The place to explore your submissive fantasies in depth. Join us for the chance to experience consensual slavery. Extended courses let you lose yourself in your wildest dreams.”
I must have looked at this site twenty times, or more. At first, I thought it was too good to be true. Each aspect of what Inward Bound claimed to do pulled at my own desires and spoke to what I felt might be the research needs, too. I wrote notes on the site for discussion with Angela, but I kept being drawn back again and again. I almost knew the content by heart: the facilities that they had; the range of programmes they ran; the sort of experiences that the slaves, or as they called it “participants” could expect; the importance they saw in helping participants take each step along their own personal journeys. I guess you might think that showed more than professional interest, and I think you would be right.
I suppose that I just sort of fall towards a decision. I have the opportunity; Joe will be away for nearly three months over the summer. I have the motive; the chance to find out finally, if this flavour of sexuality is as exciting in fact as it is in my head. Best of all, I have the alibi; it really will be pioneering ethnographic research. Won't it?
So here I am, looking at the Inward Bound web site again. I’ve told Angela that I’m prepared to do it. She has told me she can get the funding. She’s promised there is no more to it than research. I still don’t think I believe her but I’m not going to stop.
At the top of the page it says, "Register For More Information Now." I'm looking at the on-line online form that I have just completed.
Name, age, e-mail contact and mobile number. It could be a holiday booking site.
Level of experience of BDSM. Sexual likes and dislikes. So, not like many holiday booking sites there.
There’s a part where they ask about my general medical history and rather some more specific questions about my sexual history. It’s embarrassing in one way to be exposing this, but the questions are very politely asked and the anonymity of the computer makes it easier.
“How long could I stay?” the form asks and then “What would I like to achieve?” That’s a difficult question and I’m not even sure I know the answer. Plus of course, I don’t want to say anything about the university. I look at what I’ve typed in. “To understand my submissive responses better.” It sounds a bit lame, but it will do. And it’s true. It’s probably not all of the truth, but it is at least true.
Finally, there is the inevitable “where did you hear about us?” I tick the box marked “Second Skin Magazine” and now the last box is gently and seductively blinking at me: “Send?”, “Send?”, “Send?”, “Send?”
With a stab of adrenalin running through my body, I press the return key and send the form!
At once I’m thinking, “Gee, what have you done, girl? Was that really wise?” Joe is not easy at all with my thoughts of master / slave games. What if I find out I really enjoy it as much as I enjoy my fantasies? Where does that leave Joe and me?
Before I can think too much about it, a new box opens on the screen. “Dear Jenny. Thank you for your enquiry. We’re delighted that you’ve decided to get in touch with us. This is an automated reply, but Charlotte will try to call you tomorrow and will leave you an e-mail if she cannot reach you. Best wishes and thanks again from the Team at Inward Bound.”
And again, I’m caught between conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I’m taken aback to get a response so quickly, perhaps even a little uneasy that a reply came at all. On the other hand, I’m reassured by the tone of the Inward Bound reply; it seems friendly and very professional. And, now I feel I am in a corner. I am going to have to follow this through.
I go to bed. A large whiskey helps me into a deep sleep. I wake up really rested. My mind turns over the jobs for the day and I’m asking myself why I feel so relaxed and good? At the back of my mind, though, I’m feeling that there is something difficult to do today. Then I remember Inward Bound and a stab of anxiety drives me out of bed, to the bathroom and then downstairs to breakfast. I’m fretting about whether I’ve done the right thing. The feeling is still with me as I leave the flat and start my journey to the university.
It’s 10 am – or just after. I have a lot to do today and I am in the middle of setting out the day when my mobile rings. My eyes are still scanning down my list of “work” e-mails as I casually answer, feeling slightly irritated about the early interruption. The unfamiliar voice on the phone jerks me back to full attention. “Hi, is that Jenny?”
“Hi, it’s Charlotte.” There’s a pause. “...Look, I’m sorry to catch you at work, but did you send us an enquiry form through our web site last evening?”
“Erm, erm, yes, I did, actually.” I feel embarrassed, as If I’d been caught doing something I shouldn’t have. Charlotte laughs. It’s friendly, understanding, a laugh that encourages me to let down my guard.
“Great. Look, I was just calling to make a first contact.” Her voice is light and she sounds approachable. “If you would like to take your enquiry a little bit further, I would normally arrange to meet you maybe at your place or over coffee in town which is often best. I’m sure there will be other things you want to know. I can give you more information before you take any more definite steps. And I’ll want to make sure that our programme will fit in with what you are looking for, too.”
She stops. I can’t think of anything to say.
“Would you like that?” Charlotte says. “Just to find out more? Maybe next week?”
My mouth is a bit dry now and I’m sure my voice is shaking. “Erm, yes please, erm thank you. Yes. Yes definitely.”
So, a week later, here I am in a quiet corner of Café Nero and absolutely on cue a girl about my own age saunters in. Tall, slender, athletic looking. Blond hair, folded into a French pleat. Piercing blue eyes, pale skin; she could be Scandinavian, I think. Blue jeans and white blouse under a leather jacket. She has cowboy boots on and carries a rather informal, but smart leather brief case. The jacket, boots and bag all match, in the same soft tan leather. In a word – class. She pauses and calls a number on her mobile. My mobile rings. So, this must be Charlotte. Heavens: this really is for real, then?
Charlotte sees me reach for my phone. She smiles, comes over and puts her hand and rather familiarly on my shoulder. “Hi, Jenny, I’m Charlotte.” She sits down. “Good to meet you.” She looks at my still full coffee cup. “Do you want another she asks?” I shake my head. “I’ll get myself some water.”
Moments later she is back. She opens her brief case. Forms. The whole world runs on forms these days. Even people in the fetish world have forms. She can see I’m nervous.
“Look, I’ll start if that’s all right. Usually, it takes applicants a while to get their heads around the fact that this could really happen for them, so it probably easier if I lead off and then I’ll let you ask questions afterwards. OK?”
I nod, grateful that she’s taking the lead, pleased that in spite of her ice maiden looks, she's friendly and approachable.
“Well, there are one or two more things we have to know about you, mainly psychological outlook and some more medical. The thing is that the whole idea is for you to enjoy the course, but as it can be a bit demanding....” Charlotte smiles at me. I grin back. “As it can be a bit demanding it’s important we know were we are starting from with each of our applicants. We need to be able to exercise our Duty of Care and we can only do that on the basis of the right information. I hope it’s OK with you to go through this now?” I nod in response. “We do hold the data on computer, but we would rather not scatter your answers across cyberspace. We take data protection very seriously.”
As I make my way through the questionnaires, I can see why! Finally, I finish the forms and pass them across to Charlotte. “So what happens now?” I say.
“Well, let’s see.” Charlotte thumbs through some of the questionnaires. “OK. You are really pretty much a complete novice, apart from this,” she’s looking at the part of the form where I had to list previous relationships with details of any BDSM activities involved. “It sounds as though it gave you some experience of power exchange. Oh, I like this –“
“This bit here: ‘I would like to find out if this type of sexual trip is as exciting in reality as it is in my head.’ – that’s very helpful. I think you will find the answer is ‘yes’, by the way.”
Hmmm. Yes for me but is that good for Joe and me, I wonder? Charlotte leans forward. “Jenny,” she says, “here is where we go now. We run the courses four times each year and the next will start in June. There will be other people on each course. There could be both boys and girls. You don’t have to interact,” Charlotte winks in a meaningful way, “if you don’t want to or if that is a Red Line Issue for you. You will experience what it is like to be a slave, to follow orders, to be punished if you fail to follow them, to have your freedoms restricted, to be trained to perform better.”
I gulp, a little uncomfortable. If I’m honest I’m a bit turned on at this point; sitting in these very ordinary surroundings with this attractive woman discussing these extraordinary ideas.
Charlotte gives me an encouraging smile. “It’s very important to us that you feel safe at all times. We will give you a safe word which you can use at any time to stop the action. However, one of the features of these courses is that they will help you to push against your limits, so we like to encourage participants to keep going as long as they can. To help you through, we give you a 10% financial rebate at the end, if you have managed not to use any of your lifelines so to speak.”
“One other thing. We also need you to let someone you trust know where you are going and they get a contact phone number – a landline number which is traceable by the phone people – to get you in emergency. You get a “safe call” to them when you arrive to confirm you are OK. Again, that’s designed to help you to feel safe, but of course it’s a bit of an insurance policy for us, too.”
“Now, assuming you still want to go through with this. Sometime next week I will send you an e-mail consent form which you have to sign and return as hard copy to our business PO box and also a booking form to confirm when you would like to come. And also you’ll need to make payment! We need you to pay in advance for each month, so if you were following a two month course, you will need to tell your bank when to make the second payment. If you’ve any questions in the mean time you can just e-mail me. Use the questions@IWB as the address and don’t forget to give your name, so I can deal with it.”
It all seems pretty clear. I say, “Thanks. Yes, That’s fine. Yes.”
Charlotte starts to pack up her papers. “Well, is there anything you want to ask me now?”
I don’t really know what to say. I think for a moment and then blurt out. “Have you done the course?”
Charlotte smiles. “Oh, I’ve had a lot of involvement in the courses,” she says, “but not really as a participant. Some people are better at giving instructions and some people are better at taking them, don’t you think?” She looks straight into my eyes.
I try to respond nonchalantly but it just comes out as a muffled whimper. Charlotte grins. “OK, Jenny that’s me done!” She leans forward and kisses me on the cheek: not a sexual kiss, more like two girl friends together. She smells nice. Something from Santa Maria Novella? “I really hope we meet up again soon! Bye!” And with that, she’s gone.
One week later, to the day, I open my e-mail in-box and there is the Inward Bound e-mail from Charlotte, “Hi, Jenny. As promised, here is your consent form and booking confirmation form. Booking and payment is electronic – just click the link. The consent form has to be printed out, signed and sent as hard copy to the address you will see at the end of my note. Best wishes, Charlotte.”
Oh boy, what do I do now? This really is decision time. I know Joe will be away for the best part of three months from mid May. He gets back in early August. Inward Bound’s next course starts in early June. My teaching commitments will be over in June. And the financial bit is being paid for by Prof.
Putting the research angle to one side, I ask myself how do I feel deep down? Deep down, I want to do it. To see how far it is. To find if I really am as I think I am …
Later that day, Prof has a few free moments and I take the e-mail and blank copies of the forms to her in her study. I don’t want her to see the version I finally signed. I could imagine the snide remark when she saw that I said I didn’t want to be involved in direct sexual contact. I also didn’t want to have to defend the fact that I’d consented to being marked or pierced subject to agreement at the time it happens, Angela had always been keen for me to have my nipples pierced but I’d resisted at the time. Now it sounded quite sexy but I knew that she’d be irritated.
She reads them through carefully. Fortunately she doesn’t ask me how much I’ve been prepared to sign up for. “OK, so it looks as if June is the time. I can manage to cover the fees from the endowment funds.” She peers at me over her glasses. “I guess I can rely on you to help the fund out by coming back with the 10% discount?” Angela smiles indulgently, but it’s going to be my bum on the line. I guess that’s why she is smiling. “How long do you need to be there?”
I hesitate, “Err, well, I’m not…”
“Look,” says Angela, “I think we should send you there for a couple of months. You will be much better placed to take stock of the situation after that. You will find it easier to get immersed in things over the longer period. It will help with an objective assessment of the research opportunities and challenges.”
I can see the sense in what the Prof is saying, but what her motives might be worries me.
“Actually, I like their approach.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, they talk about Duty of Care, and they have seriously addressed the idea of Informed Consent. They leave you with a channel of communication to someone on the outside. I can do that for you, if you like. That’s good. Very well thought out. You seem to be in the hands of professionals.”
I hadn’t thought about who would be my life line. The Prof is the obvious choice I guess. So I’ll be in the hands of professionals. Yes, and I will also be in the hands of Professor Dawney, my former lover, my life line to the outside, my link to the real world.
In the mean time, I can look forward to Joe’s getting back and working out how to tell him what I’ll be doing during his next trip. If I tell him what I’ll be doing during his next trip.
Chapter 5: Goodbye & Hello
Joe’s been home for three weeks and he’s going back to Cambodia soon. This has been a good break. I managed to grab some time for us to be together out of the teaching and research schedule. We’ve even managed a couple of days away in this really cosy hotel up on the Yorkshire coast, not far from Whitby. Joe seems more relaxed away from home. Maybe, if you travel as much as Joe does at the moment, you just feel more comfortable in hotels? Whatever the reason, it's been good for us. We’ve walked on the cliffs and eaten good food and talked about nothing and shagged like rabbits and it’s been great.
But, I nearly spoil it. I had told Joe that I would be away while he was, doing some field work for my thesis and I’m thinking how the accommodation at Inward Bound is probably going to be different from the slightly faded splendour of the hotel and I nearly tell Joe about what I’ll be doing while he is away. But then I can’t, I’m frightened to tell him straight and I get angry with myself and snap at him and Joe says what’s got into me and I can’t tell him and …. Oh, oh! This is all too complicated.
It’s OK in the end, though. And we manage a making-up shag!
It all starts after lunch in the hotel when neither of us say very much and between us we finish a bottle of wine. When we get back to our room I say, “I’m sorry Joe, I didn’t mean to get mad.”
He says, “Don’t worry. Come here,” and takes me in his arms. He’s gentle but firm as he pulls me towards him. I always like it when he does that. My head fits on his shoulder perfectly. I nestle closer and kiss his neck. “That’s good,” he says. He’s just being nice but in my mind I’m hearing the words of a slave master. The only trouble is I want it to be Joe.
“You know I only want to please,” I say, wishing that he would take me at my (unspoken) words.
“In which case, I’d better take you to bed,” he responds. He pulls off his shirt. I like his body. It’s fit; quite muscley. He smells sweet and musky. He takes my hand, steering me across the room. I let him lead me. As we fall on the bed I go to unfasten the belt of his trousers, it’s what a good slave girl would do, after all. Joe laughs as I fumble with it and says, “Here let me.” I can’t stop him. He unfastens it, unzips his trousers and pushes them off. I try to pull his boxers off. “No,” he says, smiling and trying to push my dress up, “let’s take yours off.”
We tumble together until I’m naked and so is he. We’re both laughing. Happy as kids. His hands are on my breasts, then sliding down around my waist, pulling me towards him. I’m kissing him. He’s kissing me. We’re both aroused and maybe a little drunk. He lays me back, kneeling between my parted thighs, his cock swollen and erect. He goes to pull on a condom but I distract him, reaching out towards his cock. “Its OK”, I say: “I’m safe just now.” Actually I don’t care if I am or not the way I feel at the moment. I reach out towards his cock but he takes my hands in his, lifts them to his lips and kisses them before he lays down on me, I’m giggling at his rather gentlemanly kiss; its more knightly and chivalrous than ravishment but then he kisses me on the neck, the ear and the lips and I feel his cock pressing up against me and then slipping inside.
He’s obviously enjoying himself. He’s stiffer, thicker, than he has been for quite a while. That arouses me more. I’m murmuring with pleasure and the murmuring gets louder and turns to more of a grunt. He likes that. He’s pushing into me, saying how much he loves me, how great it is to be in me, how hard I make him. My hands are on his back, my fingers digging into the muscles of his shoulders, squeezing him harder towards me. I’m gasping; the pleasure in my cunt; the feel of his body against mine; the closeness of the two of us. I wrap my legs around his bum, so he can’t get away. Can’t pull out. I want to feel him come inside me.
And then he comes, his words of love turning to grunts as he pulses into me. I’m not far behind him, my own cries merging with his as I press back at him, as if I could somehow prevent what I know must be the shrinking of his member. But then I’m there, squealing with delight as I gasp and groan into my own orgasm.
He rolls off me, laying back. I snuggle up against him. We lay together, cuddling, for what seems like hours. He gets up, pulls the bed coverings over me and walks across the room.
He’s in a reflective mood. “Are you happy Jen?” he says staring out of the hotel window across the windswept view of the bay.
“Mmm, of course,” I say. “Especially after that.”
“Not just shag happy,” Joe grins sitting down on the bed beside me. “Happy happy?”
“It's just that, well, I don’t know, you’ve seemed a bit preoccupied. I know I get moody before these trips sometimes. I just wanted you to know it’s nothing you’ve done and I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to upset you. I know I can be a bit clumsy.”
“Like a bull in china shop?” I laugh and he joins in. “No, it’s OK. I’ve just got a project to work on while you’re away and it’s going to be quite difficult. And you’re going to be in the back of beyond and won’t be able to e-mail me and I won’t be able to speak to you. That’s the trouble really. Not enough time together.”
“You’ll handle it. I know it’s no good asking you about it; I don’t understand the psychobabble. I never got over that dinner with your professor where she managed to make all that kinky stuff sound so highbrow! But, you’ll handle it all right.”
“Was that dinner really so bad?”
“You know I can’t get enthusiastic about vegetarian food.”
I grab for a pillow and make as though I am going to hit him with it. “You know that’s not what I meant.”
“Dawney’s got a different view of the world from me. She sees sex as something to analyse, part of some great transaction between the man and the woman, or in her case the woman and the woman. To me, it’s just something two people do because they want to or because they love each other or because they think it might be fun. All that analysis, classification, pigeon holing, labelling - what good does it do? And when she started to trot out that clap trap about - what did she call it? - ‘The psychodynamics of the dominant – submissive relationship’ I thought – do me a favour, if that’s how people want to get their rocks off, why not just let them get on with it?”
And I almost bring myself to say, yes let’s. Right here. Right now. You and me. Fuck the psycho dynamics. Just fuck me. Fuck me again and fuck me hard and fuck me bareback and don’t be kind and friendly.
But I don’t. And I don't know why.
And then, the moment is gone and he’s looking at his watch and saying, if I’m going to get a drink before dinner I’d better get in the shower right now.
I say, “Yes, Sir!” He grins. It’s the closest we get.
We’re back home. It’s two days later and Joe’s bag is packed. We've managed the last couple of days without the tensions coming back to the surface. The cab is waiting outside with its engine running. “Bye Jen,” he says and kisses me. “I’ll call if I can.”
I suddenly panic. If he does call, I won’t be here and I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to respond to e-mails. The Inward Bound site said things would be quite immersive and without contact with the outside world. “I know,” I say. “But I’m not going to be around much anyway. You know I said I have this project? It looks like I’ll be away from home quite a bit. The project has the people being studied isolated for observation, so we’ve banned mobile phones and PC’s from the site. So don’t worry if you don’t catch me, or I don’t get back to you. If there’s anything urgent, Dawney can probably track me down.”
Joe looks distracted. I don’t really think he’s taken this in. He grabs his coat. “Sure, hun, don’t worry. I’ll be back soon enough and we can do all our talking then. I’m going to be up country anyway and the communications are always dodgy. I’ll try to use e-mail.”
“Keep safe, lover,” I say and kiss him back. I’m wondering if that will work either. Maybe I can get access to the Internet somehow.
“And, you too,” he says picking up his bag. And then he’s gone.
The phone rings. He’s hardly been gone five minutes and Angela is on the phone. It’s almost as if she were watching. “Jenny, how are you? Are you ready for your field-trip?”
Ready is probably not the word, but I’m as prepared as I can be. I’ve agreed with Angela that I’m not going to try to keep notes or write things up as it goes along. I can’t imagine that I’ll get much opportunity and I don’t really want to get caught with a notebook. I mean it’s not like I’ve told them that they’re my research project.
The really important thing is to immerse myself in the experience, so I can understand how the stress of the adventure changes my reactions to what’s happening to me and those others I come up against. I’m going to have to work hard at making sure I commit to memory all my experiences, so I can write them up when I get back. . “I guess so, Prof,” I say. “I’ve spent enough time telling my students that dispassionate observation is the key to ethnographic research. Now, I get to see if I can do it when I’m in the middle of it.”
“Well, I shall be away for a few days myself though I will be back just before you go and then I’ll be on the end of a phone if you need me. You’ve got that life line, if you need it. Although, as I said, I'd like to get the 10% discount back.”
Maybe she would, I think, but that was never going to be an issue with me. If I need to bail out, a few pounds more out of Angela Dawney’s endowment fund aren’t going to worry me.
There’s not much more I can do. All I know is that they'll contact me with my joining instructions and after that it's all a mystery. Two months of who knows what until I get back here again.
Two weeks later I am at home, on my own. My mobile phone pings to tell me a text has come in: “you’ve got e-mail” and when I open my inbox, there are my instructions. ….. Now, I know that it’s really going to happen. I really am on my way.
Chapter 6: A Long & Winding Road
Course 8 / Day 1: Course Progress Meeting
Josephine: All the team are briefed for today’s activities for the new Course 8 intake. There are five this time and they will arrive at the Centre around 19:00.
Joe’s been gone for a couple of weeks. I’ve been working hard to prepare myself but now I’m sitting on the edge of the couch in the lounge at home staring at the papers I have just printed. I’m biting my lip and twisting a strand of hair between my fingers. Somehow, now that the time has arrived, it all seems a bit too real.
“Dear Jenny, here are your joining instructions,” the e-mail says. “Please follow them exactly in order to start your experience in the most successful manner. You will understand that an important part of your experience is concerned with receiving and following instructions. You should view this as the first part of that experience. Please do not bring any personal belongings with you apart from those items mentioned in this letter, you will not need them.”
Of course, it is what I had expected, but somehow it is still disturbing.
“Please do as follows:. Firstly, you are to take a shower and you will shave yourself. Dress in jeans, a tee-shirt and flip flops. Bring a towel and a swimming costume. Do not wear jewellery. Do not bring a mobile phone. You will need exactly £2.20 in coins. Do not bring money or credit cards. As a first step, you should go to the Sports Centre and swim. Be in the main pool at 11:30 exactly. You will receive further instructions there.”
I take a shower, rummage in the wardrobe and put on my underwear. None of my jeans are clean, so I take a pair of linen trousers instead. A tee-shirt doesn’t really go with them, I think. So, instead, I pull on a white sleeveless top. As I put on a pair of sandals I think, “Well, it isn’t exactly what they’d asked, but it’s close enough.”
Entry to the Sports Centre costs exactly £2.20 and, at 11:20, I am sitting on the edge of the pool, my feet dangling in the water. I look up at the large competition clock on the wall above the deep end of the pool. The minute hand clunks one step further towards half past eleven. As it clunks once more to eleven twenty seven I ease myself off of the poolside and into the water, setting out with a slow breast stroke for the middle of the pool. I roll over on to my back and kick a few times, pushing slowly up the pool.
I roll over again and looked at the clock. Eleven thirty exactly. I am almost surprised that nothing happens. “But then,” I think, “they only said for me to be here at half past eleven.”
It is as I am wondering what to do next, that a woman surfaces beside me. “Hello, Jenny,” she says, and I know that things are starting. I don’t recognise the woman, even though she has recognised me. However, given that the woman is wearing a skin-tight white swim cap, goggles and a nose clip, it is hardly easy! “We need to swap keys: you have to give me your locker key,” the woman says.
Puzzled, I do as I am told.
“Thank you,” the woman says. “Now take mine.” She passes her own key over. “Stay in the pool another half hour. Then go and get changed into the clothes you’ll find in my locker. You’ll find your next instructions there too.” Without another word the woman swims away from me to the far side of the pool and pulls herself out. Picking a towel from one of the poolside couches, the woman walks away towards the changing rooms, wrapping the towel around herself.
At twelve o’clock, I climb out of the pool wondering what the next step will be. I, too, grab a towel and head towards the changing rooms. Inward Bound is certainly setting the scene. I’m obviously going to have to get used to following instructions. It will be interesting to see how this conditioning affects the way that the stress of the situation builds up.
As I take the woman’s things from the locker I find a pair of flip-flops, jeans and a white tee-shirt, exactly what I had been told to wear in the joining instructions. Well, as my jeans were not clean and as I did not know I would be swapping clothes anyway, I guess I made the right call to do as I did. There is no underwear here! Looking back, the letter had not said to wear a bra and pants, either. But then, I had not taken the note as literally as that. So I’m definitely sure I made the right call. There’s an envelope stuffed into the pocket of the jeans – and a mobile phone.
The note reads: “Hi, Jenny: Here is a mobile phone and we will be in touch with you soon. Meanwhile, you need to have your hair cut. You have an appointment at one o’clock with Isla at NX Hair in town. Ask her to give you a number four crew cut. And have another piercing put in your left ear.”
I put my hand up to my left ear lobe. I haven’t worn earrings as the original note had said I shouldn’t wear jewellery, but I do have one piercing in either ear. I suppose that I’ve always thought anything more than that a bit unconventional, “But then,” I think, “what I’m doing is hardly conventional anyway. I’m not sure that I’ll go along with that though.”
I make my way out of the Sports Centre and off towards town. I am very conscious of the fact that I am naked beneath my tee-shirt, thinking that every man I pass must be staring at my nipples. The way that my jeans rub against my naked, shaved, crotch is even worse.
As I walk on, the mobile goes off.
“Jenny?” I don’t recognise the voice.
“Hi. Are you on your way to NX?”
“Good. The cut is on account and there is a message for you at reception. ‘Bye.” The phone goes dead, as whoever it was hangs up.
By the time I get to NX Hair, I am feeling discouraged and a little uncertain, but I overcome my fears and go in. “I’m Jenny McEwan” I say, “I’ve got an appointment at one o’clock. With Isla,”
“Oh yes. Take a seat,” the receptionist says.
Moments later a smiling, red headed girl appears, ‘Isla’ is embroidered in red letters on her black, high necked shirt. “Come through,” she says waving to a seat at one of the sinks. “Cut and a piercing, wasn’t it?”
“Ah,” I say sheepishly, “I’ve changed my mind about the piercing, if that’s OK.”
“Of course,” Isla says. “Why wouldn’t it be? It’s your choice. Now, how about the cut. What did you have in mind?” Isla has picked up her electric clippers.
“Well, I wanted something shorter. With summer coming, I just need something easier to manage. Actually, something like yours would be good.”
“This isn’t all that short,” Isla replies.
“Well, it’s shorter than mine is now. I think it will look nice like that and it will be short enough for what I want.”
“OK,” says Isla, “let’s go with that.” She seems abrupt. I wonder how much of this has been all set up by Inward Bound, but I’m not all that brave at the hairdressers at the best of times. Isla sweeps a black sheet across me and goes to work washing the chlorinated water out of my hair before setting to with comb, scissors and clippers. It all feels odd to me, but it doesn’t take all that long and when Isla has finished combing and cutting I feel rather pleased with the result.
I’m wondering what her next step will be, as Isla pulls the black sheet clear. “There you go,” Isla says.
I stand up. Isla is waiting, holding the sheet. “It’s on account,” I say, “it should have all been arranged.” Isla, evidently still hoping for a tip, looks across at the receptionist who pulls the earphones of her i-pod out of her ears.
“S’allright,” the receptionist says, dropping the copy of Hello! that she’d been reading. Isla looks maybe a bit disappointed, smiles and says she hopes to see me again before too long.
“Was there a message left for me?” I ask, beginning to get the hang of the game by now.
The girl appears to drag a faint memory from the depths of her consciousness. “Oh. Yes. Well there was this.” She pulls out another envelope. Inside is a note and a Travel Card good for a railway journey to London and the Underground. The note says “Warwick Station, London train 14:49”
I get to the station with fifteen minutes to spare before the train. Thinking that I’ll pass the time with a cup of coffee, I almost get to the front of the queue in the station café before I realise that I have no money on me. Embarrassed I slip out of the café, feeling as though everyone is looking at me now, not just the men. I step back onto the platform. I feel the mobile in my pocket and think at least I can report in to Angela. I dial her number. The phone replies that I need a top up. “Very clever, Inward Bound,” I think. “You’ve given me a pay-as-you-go phone with no money on it.” I can receive calls, but I can’t make them. I’ve been neatly tied to an electronic string…
The train carries me swiftly on to London and I spend the journey gazing out of the window. I’m feeling increasingly anxious as I am carried further and further away from home and safety. As the countryside begins to give way to the London suburbs I am startled by the mobile going off again.
“Hi, Jenny. You caught the train then.”
I’m startled. How does she know? Was there someone from Inward Bound at the station? Is there someone on the train watching me?
“It sounds noisy.” Of course. She can hear that I’m on the train. “Anyway - more instructions! When you get in to Marylebone Station, I want you to go on to the Underground and go to Monument. Got that?”
“Yes,” I say, “and what then?”
But, by the time I ask the question, the caller has hung up.
I get to Marylebone Station and head for the Underground. The journey involves me my finding my way on to the Bakerloo line, to Embankment, changing and taking the Circle Line to Monument. As I emerge into the daylight, the mobile rings once more.
“Jenny?” It’s the same voice.
“Not far now! Find Gracechurch Street, follow it into Fenchurch Street, and make your way to The Elephant. It’s up beyond Mincing Lane. On the left. Bye.”
A pub! That can mean food, drink and company. Things are looking up!
As I walk through the streams of City workers making their way home, I’m still anxious about being naked under my tee-shirt and jeans. But of course, they don’t really notice me. They’re all thinking about getting home. Comfortable, familiar, secure home. But what about me? I kept musing that as they journeyed to the security of home, I was on my way to a very different type of security!
Oh dear! I stop as I suddenly realise that I can see The Elephant. Just what is waiting for me only a few steps ahead?
“The rest of you lot are in the function room,” the bar maid calls as I step into the almost empty bar. “It’s through there,” she nods.
I go through to a room at the back to find four other girls dressed just like me. With them is Charlotte, whom I’d met after my initial enquiry, and a short black guy. He’s talking in an American accent to a rather fit looking guy that looks like he's taking time out from training for some sport or other.
“Hi, Jenny,” says Charlotte smiling, pushing a strand of her blonde hair back from her face, “glad you got here. How did you enjoy the journey?”
“Well, I guess it was an anxious trip,” I say. Laughter from the others suggests that anxiety has been a common experience. They all look to be about the same age as I am. There’s a mixture of shapes and sizes. A bunch of normal looking girls having a drink in a pub. Well what did I expect? If I’ve learned anything from my forays into the fetish scene it’s that you can’t tell that someone is into this just by looking at them.
“Here, have a drink,” says Charlotte handing me a glass without asking me what I want. “It’s a good way to break the ice. This is Carrie, Sue, Anna and Judy.” She points to the other girls. “And these two are Gerry,” she points to the American. He returns a broad grin. “And, George.” George cheerily raises a hand. I see him smile, he's got a sort of Hugh Grant look about him, but tougher.
“Now,” continues Charlotte, “just a word to you five. This is your last chance to abort the mission.” She looks around at the four of us. Nobody says they want to bail out. The other four girls have got rather tense expressions. I guess I look the same. “OK,” Charlotte says, “so that’s us ready to roll.”
Gerry joins in, “the carriage awaits, duty and honour call us onward to our fate, so let’s go!”
The combination of the drinks and Charlotte and Gerry’s urgings mean that we get up in a more mellow frame of mind than we all probably arrived in, but I guess that the other four are still feeling as nervous as I am. Certainly none of us say anything as we follow Charlotte, George and Gerry to an NCP car park nearby. Gerry points out a smart Mercedes executive coach. “There you go, ladies,” he says jovially. We take our seats and strap ourselves in. Still no one says anything. I guess we have all got used to following instructions on our journeys to London and now we wait for more. As we move off, things start to shift up a gear.
Gerry is driving. George, sitting beside him, turns around in his seat.
“Now, ladies,” George begins, as the coach bumps out of the car park and into the late afternoon traffic, “you may have noticed that the coach has tinted glass so you will not be visible to passers by or other road users. We have to be a little confidential about our destination and maybe you all could use some sleep, so I think it would be a good idea for you to put these sleep masks on.” He passes them back to us. “You can make believe you’re in business class. The seats in this are just as good!” George is an effective salesman. We obey his request without question.
A moment later, Charlotte comes to crouch down beside me. “It’s a good idea if you keep quiet for the ride,” she whispers. I feel her smooth a strip of tape across my lips. It’s just a small piece, and I guess I could easily dislodge it if I chose. It’s not exactly a gag, but it’s strongly symbolic. I hear her whispering the same thing to the girl next to me. I guess that she does the same to all of us. And then, Charlotte is back again to say softly “now don’t worry” before drawing my hands onto my lap and slipping handcuffs onto my wrists one on either side of the seatbelt lap strap. So here we are, strapped into a strange car, blindfolded, gagged and handcuffed, all without protest. Ah the power of stress, hunger, alcohol and fatigue! And desire. After all, we’re all here because we want to be here.
Out of the car park and over the next ……hour, or was it two? We drive on heading for… where? Our fate I suppose, as Gerry had joked earlier.
As the coach whirrs along my mind wanders to The Story of O, which I read years ago. It begins as O is driven through Paris with her lover, her naked buttocks against the seat of the taxi, while she sat there in gloves. I had found this first passage as arousing as anything in the book. Now, my own situation is not so different as I am driven through the English countryside, a restrained captive, made captive with my own consent. This, I feel is every bit as bizarre and what’s more it’s real. Damn, the effects of the drink are kicking in. I’m going to be desperate for a pee, if the journey goes on much longer!
The slow stretching of my bladder begins to command my attention and the more it occupies my mind, the worse it becomes. Judging from the restless wriggling of my companions, the others are feeling the same!
Then, it’s Charlotte’s voice. “OK, girls I think we’ve got time for a comfort break. Does anyone want us to stop?” The chorus of “mmm’s” gives her the answer she expects. “Gerry,” she says. “Better pull off when you can.”
The coach stops. Charlotte takes our blindfolds off and releases our handcuffs, but not the tape across our lips. We get out to into the dusk on a lonely country road. It is silent and the trees all around cast deep pools of shadow.
“Just go on the grass,” Charlotte says, “You will all be OK. There shouldn’t be anyone around.”
I don’t make a habit of peeing in public places, but any port in a storm and it seems like we are miles from anywhere …..and oh the relief! - an emotion I could tell was fully shared by the others.
We get back in the coach and strap ourselves back in. Without being asked, we put our blindfolds back on. Charlotte slips the cuffs back on my wrists. “All ready, Gerry,” she calls and we move off. We resume our journey only to stop a few minutes later. The car makes a sharp turn and slows, turning this way and that until we can hear that we are driving on gravel. Finally, less than five minutes after our pee-break, we come to a halt.
“It’s a pity you girls couldn’t hold on for a few more minutes,” George laughs.
We are taken out of the car again and the blindfolds come off. The tape stays across our lips and our hands are re-cuffed in front of us again. We stand on the drive outside a rather large house, surrounded by parkland, enveloped in the smells of a summer evening.
As I walk past Charlotte, she is smirking and it seems to me that having the five of us relieve ourselves in the road has all been part of the script!
“OK girls,” says Charlotte again, “you have made it! You will get some supper. Next, you’ll get the chance to make your safe calls. After that, you’ll be taken to your rooms and given the chance to freshen up. Then, we’ll get you properly admitted. Welcome to Inward Bound.”
Chapter 7: Admissions Procedure
Course 8 / Day 1 Course Progress Meeting
Participant Notes: Fifty
Josephine: Fifty was somewhat surprised by her session with Celia after her admission, but took her initial challenge without protest. There is every sign is that she will quickly adapt to the Inward Bound regime.
We are taken into a rather well-appointed dining room. Our group of five is shown towards a separate table just for us. There are place cards at each seat with our names on. Mine has the number Fifty in brackets after it. The other girls all seem to have numbers beside their names too. No one explains what they mean. We’re left to sit ourselves down to eat.
I’m trying to take it all on-board. Thinking about how I’m going to write this up for the research proposal.
Supper is on the table already, waiting for us. It’s fairly Spartan food and makes for an interesting contrast with our gracious surroundings. There’s a big bowl of muesli, a pair of stainless steel water jugs, a plate of oat cakes and another bowl filled with fresh fruit. We’ve each got a plastic beaker, a metal bowl and a plastic spoon. It’s all pretty basic, muesli with water, oatcakes, fruit and water to drink. This diet looks like it’s going to be good for us, if it goes on like this. One thing is certain; any spare fat will be history for me, if we eat like this for two months!
Nobody comes to take the tape from our mouths. Carrie is the first one to peel it away and start spooning some muesli into her bowl. Her handcuffs clank against the metal bowl, as she reaches for one of the water jugs.
After the long journey and nothing to eat since breakfast, I am hoping for something, well, something more normal, and hot! Something like the richer and more indulgent meal being consumed by Charlotte, Gerry and George, at the next table – with wine! There are some none too subtle messages going out.
None of us say anything. I guess that the others are as nervous as I am. Having the tape and blindfolds on during the journey seems to have put us all into an introspective mood. I look around at the others. They all look about the same age as I am. Sue is maybe a few years older, a little more heavily built than the rest of us. Anna is quite tall and willowy; Judy slim, but with nicely prominent tits. One good thing; at least I’m not the only one that hasn’t had her hair clipped really short. Carrie has her hair done pretty much like mine. It’s such a beautiful auburn, I can see why she wouldn’t want to have it clipped. All the others do seem to have got their extra ear piercing, though. They all have a single gold stud in rather red looking ear lobes.
At the other table “the Faculty”, as I’ve christened them to myself, are all chatting away; inconsequential stuff about the trip up, as far as I can tell.
Eventually the Faculty finishes, pushing away their plates, most of them leaving something. We’ve been waiting quite a while and even if we haven’t found it that appetising, we’ve managed to clear almost all of the food that they served up for us.
Two more Inward Bound staff arrive. One of them points at me and beckons me to follow her, out of the dining room along a corridor and down a flight of stairs of stairs to an office. She dials a number on the phone and hands the receiver to me. “Your safe call”, she says, “Just say you got here OK”.
Eventually Angela’s voice mail picks up – it’s just as well that I’m not in any sort of jam!
“Hi, Angela, it’s Jenny,” I say. “Just a quick call to say I got here safe and sound. I’m at …er…(I look down and realise that I can’t give Angela the number because there is no number on the phone) …at IWB. I am just checking in. ‘Bye.”
I hand the receiver back to the woman. As she takes it, I can see she is obviously very amused by my reference to “checking in”, as though I was at some grand hotel. Well, I’ll keep up appearances as long as I can.
We leave the office and further down the passage, get to what I guess is going to be my room, at least for tonight.
I’m not sure that ‘room’ is the right word. This is the first confirmation of what Charlotte had told me at the interview, “We try to push your limits and it can be quite demanding”. The room looks exactly like a prison cell. There are three solid walls, but the corridor wall is all bars, floor to ceiling. Inside I can see a couch with a blanket and towel folded up on it. Alongside those, there are five black and silver metal bands. There are en suite facilities, well sort of - a wash hand basin next to a French style squatting toilet with a shower head over the toilet tray. There’s one small window, barred of course, high in the outer wall. I presume it will admit daylight come tomorrow but there’s no way I can reach it so there won’t be much of a view. Maybe clouds if I’m lucky.
My escort engages in a real conversation for the first time. “Fifty, I’m your trainer and my name is Josephine,” she says. “You can call me Jo,” I hadn’t been expecting to be allowed such familiarity, “except when I tell you otherwise.”
“Pardon?” I say. “What’s with the ‘Fifty’? My name’s Jenny.”
Jo shakes her head. “No. Not here. Slaves have numbers, not names. You have left Jenny behind. As long as you are here, you’re ‘Fifty’. See, here’s your number on the door. Still, Jen-ny; Fif-ty – your number’s not far away from your old name!”
Jo waves me into the cell and takes off my handcuffs. “OK Fifty, get undressed, please, and have a shower and there’s a tooth brush by the basin. Be sharp!”
Her snapped instruction spurs me to action. I guess if I’m going to be a slave, I’m going to have to get used to doing as I’m told. The numbers thing is hardly a surprise but it certainly adds to the stress. I’ll have to think to remember my number. I can imagine there will be penalties for not responding when I’m called. This could be a focus for some of the research. How people respond to having their identities re-assigned and to what extent their behaviour changes as a result of changes in the way that they are identified.
Of course, there are not many clothes to struggle out of, just the tee-shirt and jeans. I stand with my feet on the footpads of the toilet. The shower controls are within easy reach. The water cascades down over me, into the toilet pan and away down the drain. It’s very efficient. In short order, I’m washed, dried and my teeth are cleaned. I turn around to see that Jo has swept the clothes into a bag.
“Very good, Fifty,” she says. “The next job is to have you collared and cuffed. If you wondered why we wanted measurements of your neck, wrists and ankles, here is why.” She points to the five metallic bands on the couch. “Let’s put these on, shall we?” She snaps the bands on me. They are flat polished metal and lined with black rubber. They clip efficiently into place. “And, that’s you done for now,” says Jo.
“What about clothes?” I say, conscious that Jo is picking up the bag containing my tee-shirt and jeans.
“Clothes?” Jo seems genuinely puzzled, as though I’d asked for something extraordinary.
“Yes. I wondered what it was that you wanted me to wear.”
At this point, Jo breaks out laughing. “No, no clothes for you, Fifty. You didn’t follow your first instruction, did you?” I guess that my confusion shows on my face. “You know. About what you were told to wear in your Joining Instructions?”
“But …,” I start to try to explain, but Jo presses her finger against my lips.
“Shhhh!” she says gently. “It doesn’t matter why. These things happen, but the why never matters. We just think that the best way to help you avoid similar mistakes is to keep you completely naked throughout your time with us. All slaves get to go naked at some stage; it’s just that you will get to be naked right from the start. You might even get an all-over tan, if the weather is good. Well, apart from your neck, wrists and ankles.” She laughs again. “Enjoy!”
She stands back and slides the cell door closed with a clang. It seems to lock automatically.
And there I am, left all alone and wondering just what I have got myself into.
Another of the staff appears outside my room. She is tall with red spiky hair and blue eyes. She wears blue scrubs and white surgical clogs – and speaks with a lilting South African accent. It’s as if a member of the cast from “ER” has just walked onto the set.
She has all the breezy confidence of a doctor or a nurse. “Hi Fifty, just stand back and I’ll let myself in,” she says as she swipes a card through a card reader outside my “room”.
The door unlatches and she enters, carrying what looks like the sort of utility box you can buy at Mother and Baby stores. She sets the box down on my bed and opens it to show various sterile packets.
“OK, Fifty. I’m Celia. I’m here to teach you a bit about personal hygiene.”
“Hygiene? But I’ve only just had a shower and ……”
Celia is laughing, hands on hips. “No, Fifty. Internal hygiene, silly.”
Internal hygiene? What is the girl talking about – oh, but wait a minute, I have just cleaned my teeth, so she cannot be interested in teeth …..
“Fifty, when was the last time you went for a crap?”
I’m not really happy talking about this sort of thing, not even - especially not even - with Joe. I blush and fall over my words.
“Hmmm, well whenever it was, I bet you didn’t really clean yourself out, inside. Did you? Well, you see, Fifty, slaves have got to look after themselves inside and out. Owners expect it. And you are going to start doing it. Now, on your knees, over there, by the toilet.”
Celia’s not expecting any arguments and I’m going redder by the second. Obeying seems best, but surely …… surely not …..
I am facing away from my bed, but can clearly hear the sound of some of the packs being opened and then I feel Celia rubbing something on my anus. She is wearing rubber gloves. Instinctively, I clench my buttocks, and get a sharp slap on my bum for my pains – which really stings.
I’m sorry, it’s just …… well it’s just …….
“You’re not used to having an enema?”
OH! Jeeze! OH!
“Er, well no. I’m just not. Sorry. It’s … I …..”
“Well, it will be another first for you. And, I’m sure you will get used to it just fine. Now. I’m going to do the first one with you and I’m going to watch you do another one right after me. After that, And we will go on doing them till I’m happy you can do it. Then it will be down to you to clean yourself out daily. Got that? We’ll check, hmmmmm?”
“No, the right answer is: ‘Thank You Mistress!’”
“Oh, look I’m sorry, err it’s just well, I’m just not used to ….”
But Celia is laughing and somehow that’s encouraging, but gee! High cringe factor, as far as I’m concerned.
Celia again: “So here’s what you are going to do. Put some warm water in this metal bowl – warm, NOT hot. Still as its going inside you, I guess I don’t need to labour that.” She fills a metal bowl from the hose tap next to my toilet. “Next, you fill this enema syringe like this? Now you – come on, it doesn’t bite.”
I reluctantly take hold of the very large metal syringe. The business end is about as wide as a finger and rounded at the open end. “Now, I have lubed your anal bud, so take the syringe to your rear end – yes like that – feel it on your bud – do you feel it?”
“Yes, Celia.” I’m horrified by the whole process, by what she’s doing and by the fact that she’s there watching.
“OK. So now, we gently push it in. Make as if you are having a crap. Are you? Would another slap help?” I shake my head. It’s the last thing I want right now. “AHHH, there you go!”
The syringe feels cold and slippery …. but finally, it’s in up to the hilt, so to speak. A cold, rigid, finger up inside me.
“Now squeeze the plunger with your other fingers.”
I’ve got my forehead resting on the floor, knees apart, bum in the air, one hand on the barrel of the syringe and one hand free to squeeze ….. the water as it enters me is warm and comforting. I must have sighed with relief, because Celia replies with the well worn medical cliché, “There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?”
No, it isn’t, except for my pride. But then perhaps the demolition of personal pride and self consciousness is one of the things I am going to be learning?
“OK. Now squeeze your bum tight shut. Slide the syringe out.” It’s a curious, slippery sensation as it comes away. “And get over the loo.” Anxiety must be showing on my face because Celia answers my unspoken fears. “Don’t worry, you won’t leak if you squeeze tight!”
I squeeze. Boy, do I squeeze!
“Now you are over the loo, Just let go ……”
A stream of water - and other material pours out of me. Yeuch! This is so embarrassing! But, not so embarrassing as to prevent Celia making me go through the whole thing four times, till at last the water coming out of me is clear. We watch it passing across the toilet pan tray and down the drain.
“Now, that’s better, Fifty!” I will expect you to do that every day and after clean the kit afterwards. You keep it in this box.” She motions to the utility box. “It’s got to be spotless. Absolutely spotless. Always. You got that?”
“Yes, Celia. Sorry! Mistress.”
“Good girl!” She strips off her gloves and discards them along with the sterile wraps into the flip top stainless steel waste bin in the corner of my room. “Right: now go and wash your bum and hands and clean your teeth, if you haven’t done that already. I’ll leave that to you. Then it’s bed time.”
Celia reaches through the bars and swipes her card to gain her exit. I watch as she leaves. It’s been an oddly “veterinary” incident, leaving me feeling slightly less than fully human, somehow. I mean having someone else telling me how to look after myself, as if I could not be trusted on my own …..
“Stand away from the bars,” she tells me, as she reaches out to press a button on the wall beside the door. There is a quiet whir as an aluminium mesh shutter starts to slide down on the outside of the bars, cutting me off from the rest of the room. It eventually reaches the floor and a clunk announces that it, too, has locked into place. I am left completely alone, taken aback, indignant and shivery. I lay down on the couch. The surface is wipe-clean PVC, but at least there is a cotton cellular blanket. Shortly afterwards, the light goes out. It’s very dark. The only light is a tiny red LED glowing up in the ceiling.
I am left alone to mull over the past few hours; the journey, the other girls, the ‘Faculty’, being collared and cuffed, being given a number, and then the humiliation of the enema. It’s odd. I’m here partly because Joe and I are not as complementary as I’d like us to be sexually and I am going to be trained by a girl called, Jo. Strange. Then I think, how will I explain this to Joe when I get back? Suntanned, but with white marks on my wrists and ankles and neck? I’ll have to think of something, though heaven knows what. But what would he feel if I just told him the truth?
Finally I find myself thinking about my safe call to Angela. I really wish that I could have spoken to her in person but I wasn’t surprised to get her voice mail. Also, I would have felt happier if I could have given an actual number. Do they allow the transmission of their number on outgoing calls? I called Angela’s university direct dial line. Does the university exchange record incoming numbers? That way, she can get the number. Could someone pick out the Inward Bound number from all the thousands which might be logged?
Suddenly, as thought piles on thought, worry on worry, there’s a cold stab of panic in my stomach. I could be much more exposed and alone than I thought. Anxiety churns in my mind. I try to calm myself, thinking back to the project working out how I am going to describe this; trying to think how I can separate my responses from my observations; what it might mean for the research. It’s a good distraction. At last I am overtaken by sleep.
End of part 1.