Her father was a hypocrite. Belligerently spouting fire and brimstone about homosexuality being a sin whilst happily eating pork and coveting his neighbour’s wife. In the name of ‘purity’ he forbade her to mix with boys alone (oh, the irony) and was suspicious of every girl that she managed to make friends with, driving them away with his unpredictable aggression. He was also jealous of Joan’s desire to please the women in her life, namely her teachers, and, of her easy relationship with his Junior Officer, Margaret Ferguson. When he looked at his daughter all he saw was the shadow of her mother, not a lonely girl in need of some recognition.
That was how, at fourteen, she ended up in a Christian summer camp that boasted it could ‘straighten’ out any ‘troubled’ teen with the help of God’s love. That was how she met Nils.
Even on the first day, in that gaggle of misfits, they’d both stood apart from the crowd. As everyone else dutifully bowed their heads to give thanks to the Lord for this opportunity to find the way back onto His path their scornful eyes found each other’s and their friendship began with a shared sneer of contempt.
Joan had been fascinated by Nils’ excitingly irreverent attitude and his contempt for patently pathetic rules, at almost sixteen he seemed so grown up and worldly. None of these arseholes were worth their time he said, he and Joan were destined for better.
His view of the world inspired her and validated all those things that her father and her teachers said were wrong with her. And unlike most others, he didn’t ridicule her quirky observations or recoil from her intense flashes of darkness. He made her feel comfortable in her own skin.
His parents, Nils said, thought that his juvenile offending was down to his confused sexuality but he knew better. “I’m just bad,” he’d explained to her, “always have been. And I’m not confused; I only said that to avoid a stint in Juvie. I like cock and that’s never gonna change. Same as you like hairy pie.”
Joan had blushed then, stammering, “but I, I don’t…. I’ve never…”
“Yeah but you want to, don’t you? You can’t stop looking at that fencing teacher. I’ve seen you.”
“I want to learn, that’s all” she’d snapped defensively. It was partly true. She remembered thinking that perhaps if she and her father could share an interest she could divert some of his attention away from her brother for once and finally know what his approval felt like. But she also remembered how sweet she’d been on Natalie in those first few weeks.
“She’s cute, I’ll give you that, but don’t forget where we are - she’s in love with Jesus, Joan. Don’t even go there… don’t fuck your head up with something that will end in tears. After all,” he’d said sourly, “that’s what we’re here to be cured of.”
They became inseparable as they played along with the camp’s programme, and the camp counsellors quietly congratulated themselves on a successful conversion. But they would have been appalled had they known what Nils and Joan got up to in their spare time.
Nils taught her to smoke cigarettes, then he taught her to smoke weed; they spent hours listening to Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd on his cassette player. He taught her to fight dirty. He taught her what he knew of human nature and what he’d picked up from the various court-appointed psychologists and, armed with this new knowledge, Joan realised that there was something most definitely wrong with her father.
Sometimes they took acid. Joan loved acid, she had never felt so free, at one with the red earth and shimmering sky. Her mind decorating her surroundings with engrossing fractals and fluids colours, time stretching and shrinking as ideas swirled and fragmented to coalesce again as new constructs – fresh and startling yet nebulous and fleeting as the wind.
She also proved surprisingly adept at fencing. With a coolness that reflected her waning attraction, she wrung all that she could from the pretty camp instructor and made her agree to write a letter to her father encouraging him to enrol her in his club when she got back. He did and she had worked hard at making him proud.
She kept the photo of her and Dad at her first competition displayed where she could look at it every night before she closed her eyes.
Unexpectedly, Nils kept in touch and six months later he moved out of home and into his own place in the City.
When his weekends rolled around her father would often disappear on an out of town drinking binge – he just wouldn’t come home from the pub on a Friday night – and in the absence of a sitter, if she could pack Brian off to stay with friends, Joan would take the chance to visit Nils. As long as she beat the last train home on Sunday night her father would never know.
They were exciting times for Joan. Nils lived his life on the fringes of society, his friends were older: they ignored expectations, they broke the law, they drank, they gambled and they partied hard. Joan was in awe of them, they were so vibrant and, she grew to realise dangerous – but in a way that thrilled her. She craved the rebellious escape that these weekends provided, away from the pressure cooker environment of home.
More than once she’d provided Nils with an alibi when the Police came knocking at his door the morning after some skirmish or other. “No, Officer,” she would answer, her voice quivering with just the right amount of fear and embarrassment as she lowered her eyes, “he’s been with me all night.”
But all of that was child’s play.
Late one night he appeared at her bedroom window, blood darkening his clothes. Eyes wide in his pale, drawn face he moaned “Joanie, I need your help.”
Heart hammering, she stood back as he clambered through the casement. He stunk like an animal – the scent of fear, sweat and blood pouring from him, filling her room. Sinking onto her rumpled bed he quickly told her about the argument over poker winnings, how the other guy had pulled a knife. “He’s dead, Joan. I killed him!”
“But you didn’t mean to,” she said levelly. “It was self-defence.” It didn’t occur to Joan to be horrified that her friend had just killed someone, stolen a car and driven all the way out here to ask her to cover for him.
Nils’s laugh flirted with hysteria. “Oh yeah, like anyone will want to believe that! If they catch me I’ll go to Pentridge, you know I will.” His pained look shone with desperation as he searched her dark eyes for compassion.
“They’re not going to catch you. You’ve been with me all night. Dad and Brian are out so there’s no one to say you weren’t.”
Nils smiled weakly at her and plucked at his bloodstained clothes. “I’ve got to get out of these. I need a shower.” He stood and shrugged off his leather jacket. As it landed on the white sheet a trickle of blood ran from the turned-up cuff and sank into the snowy cotton. Joan snatched it up and draped over the back of the hard wooden chair; her fingers came away stained and sticky.
Without ceremony Nils stripped. Not even his socks had escaped the crimson fountain and his skin was covered in daubs of drying blood. Joan bundled his clothes into a plastic bag and tried not to stare at Nils’ heavy genitalia. If it weren’t for the dire circumstances they would have laughed at the irony of Joan having a naked boy in her room, or of Nils being in a nearly naked girl’s boudoir.
“Where’s the shower?” he asked.
Whilst her friend erased the physical evidence of his crime Joan filched some clothes from her brother’s room and placed them outside the bathroom door.
She was wiping the last of the blood from the supple leather of Nils’ jacket when he appeared in the doorway, “I really appreciate your help, Joan; I don’t know what I would have done if you’d turned me away.”
She smiled warmly and stuffed the soiled rags into the bag of bloody clothes. “You know I’d never do that,” she crossed the room and hugged him tightly. Nils was the only one who understood her, shared her darkness; she never questioned herself in his company and she never questioned their friendship.
The house shook as the front door slammed.
“Joan! Joan! Why are all the lights on? What are you doing? Joaaan!”
Shock turned her to stone. She stared at Nils in terror. “Get out!” she hissed pulling him into her room, “he can’t find you here!” Bundling the clean jacket into his arms she pushed him towards the window. She threw the bag of soiled clothes out into the garden and was hurling his shoes into the night when her father’s imposing figure filled the doorway.
“What’s this?” he roared drunkenly.
As Major Kireyev lurched into the room Nils dove through the aperture, scooped up the bag and ran barefoot into the darkness of the overgrown garden.
Joan felt sick with fear and her thin body trembled uncontrollably as she waited for the dam of her father’s anger to break. She would get the belt for this, for sure.
The Major swayed as he took in the soiled bed linen and turned to face his daughter. His eyes fell to a smear of blood on her thigh.
“You filthy whore!” His bloodshot eyes swept her body in disgust. “I thought I’d brought you up better than that. Look at you!” He grabbed her by the shoulder and roughly forced her in front of the mirror.
His harsh breath settled on her neck, whiskey fumes wreathing their way into her nose. “How long? How long, Joan? Since camp? Is it just him? How many, Joan, hmmm?” Joan could only shake in his grip as his wrath gathered steam. “Tell me! How many boys have you shown yourself to? Let touch you?” He yanked her thin nightdress from her cowering frame. “Look at you! A child in a woman’s body. A filthy mind in a scholar’s head. Disgusting! Dirty, worthless whore!”
Tears of angry embarrassment brimmed in Joan's frightened eyes and she futilely tried to cover her nakedness under his withering gaze. Hunched forward, one hand slid down to shield her shock of dark curls whilst her forearm crushed her breasts into her ribs. She said nothing. It was safer not to.
“Did I teach you to bring shame on your family?” her father shouted. His outraged tone was suddenly replaced by one of sorrow. “Why do you want to hurt me so, Zhanna? Don’t you love me?” His hand slid down her shivering back and came to rest on the burgeoning swell of her hip and buttock. For a moment, he could have sworn that it was his child bride, Sophia, that stood before him – so strong was the resemblance – and his cock twitched.
Only Joan challenged his height like her mother never could.
“But how could they not come, hmmm?” He slurred to himself and moved to her side, hand falling away from her tensed muscles. “When you flaunt yourself so? Don’t think I haven’t noticed,” he hissed into her stricken face. “No boy could fail to notice these…!” He yanked her arms away and trailed his knuckles down her bare breasts before slapping each one in turn, “or this…” His hand moved towards Joan’s dark bush but she scuttled away out of his reach, terrified out of her mind of his touch in such an intimate area.
Joan knew instantly that it had been the wrong thing to do.
Her father’s face darkened and veins popped in his forehead as he fought to control himself. He turned to her, fists clenching in rage. “Go and get the training foil, Joan. NOW!” Spittle flew from his lips.
Joan's knees buckled and she staggered under his wild glare. “No, Daddy, please,” she whispered hoarsely. “We weren’t doing anything. Nils was just taking a shower. He’s my friend, that’s all. I swear!” Tears coursed down her cheeks at the untold horror of this new punishment. She had never been more scared than right now.
“Don’t lie to me you worthless slut! Bring it to me immediately.”
She stifled howling sobs as she made the short journey to the garage. Bastard! He’d already made up his mind that she was guilty. She fleetingly thought of Nils, hoping that he could get somewhere safe until the heat was off, glad that he wasn’t here. Whatever her father had planned for her, Nils would have got it twice as bad.
Ivan flexed the length of dulled steel and ruefully regarded his daughter. Releasing the blunted tip he indicated to the high footboard, “bend over the bed, Joan.”
“Dad….” Her words failed as he glared at her. “I……”
He lunged and grabbed her by the back of her neck, forcing her down.
“Oh, please, Dad, no! I’d never do anything to hurt you!” she cried twisting in his grip.
“LIAR!” He roared. His eyes fell on the bloodstained sheet and dragged her towards it, pushing her face over the bright smear. “You give him your maidenhead and you expect me to believe you? I am ashamed to call you my daughter!”
“It’s not my blood!” she protested futilely. Joan's voice was high and strained as she stared at the dead man’s mark. The scratchy wool of her father’s jacket chafed against her bare back. “I promise you, Daddy, I haven’t! I wouldn’t…!”
“Joan, the evidence is right there! Just stop with the lies.” Digging his fingers into her hair, he pulled her back to the foot of the bed and shoved her forward.
The wooden board ground painfully against her hipbones and she pulled her thighs together as she tried to cover her exposed sex with her hands, desperate to conceal as much of her private parts as she could from her father. He shouldn’t be looking at her like that.
She could hear him breathing heavily behind her.
“Remove your hands, Joan.” She glanced awkwardly back at him, her silent eyes pleading for his mercy. “You think I haven’t seen a whore’s cunt before?” Ivan’s voice became icy cold, his words clipped and precise, “remove your hands or it will be the worse for you.”
He had beaten her before, usually with his belt and always through her clothes. It never took much to inflame his temper when he’d been drinking, but this was different, so much worse than anything she’d ever faced before. He thought that she had disgraced him and in doing so, had lowered her worth.
She had no option but to do as he ordered, she knew that. She forced her shaking hands away from her clenched thighs and brought them to her lowered shoulders. Numb fingers curled around the white sheets as she steeled herself for her punishment.
The flexible, square blade of the foil bit into her buttocks with crushing force. It left a stripe of burning torment that took Joan’s breath away. The next landed beneath the first as the wave of nerve shattering agony battered her stunned senses, then the next, and the next… The pain seemed interminable.
Ivan applied his steady punishment with a master’s touch that ripped desperate howls from his wicked daughter. He felt his cock lengthen at the raw terror he inspired in the slut.
Joan screamed. She screamed in pain and fear, in anger and despair at the injustice. She screamed at the indignity, at her father’s capricious cruelty and his refusal to believe her, and his failure to treat her like a father should. She screamed until her throat was raw. She screamed until it seemed that she might suffocate on her own wretched cries…
She sputtered awake. Coughing and gagging Joan jerked her head away from the smelling salts her father was pressing under her nose, the harsh assault of ammonia stinging her raw eyes and throat. She felt ice-cold but sweat trickled across her bare skin as she twisted her shoulders to watch her father stand up. With every breath she drew, her fear turned to hatred.
“I want you to remember this punishment, Joan. Remember well what happens when you break my rules.” Her father threw the foil alongside her on the bed. “Clean it,” he ordered. “I’m going out again.”
His retreating footsteps stopped. “I’m sending Ferguson over to make sure you don’t do anything else stupid.” Tears of relief welled unseen in Joan's glittering eyes as she listened to him go into his room and open his wardrobe. A few seconds later the front door slammed and Joan let out a sobbing moan of delayed pain.
Her burning skin flared and screamed in agony and the underlying bruised muscle ached with a deepness that resonated in her bones. The room swam as Joan levered her sore hips from the hard plank, there was nothing but the pain in her swollen flesh and it threatened to send her crashing to the floor. Only sheer determination got her onto the bed and she collapsed across it, eyes screwed tight as she mewled against the rumpled blankets and tried to catch her breath. Oh, it hurt! It hurt so much!
The Major’s order was curt. “Go to my house and monitor Joan. She’s under punishment.” That was all.
She’d applied for a post in the Intelligence Corps expecting to be billeted to one of the clerical departments but her aptitude test had propelled her in front of Major Kireyev, senior lecturer in the art of Intelligence Extraction. She was to be his Personal Assistant. Although it was irregular, the Major encouraged Maggie to sit in on his classes – a good assistant needed to know almost as much as their superior he reasoned – but in return for this boon she found herself minding his children.
She enjoyed it but couldn’t help but notice the difference between his offspring. Brian was the image of his father; an active, sporty boy, full of self-belief and the main focus of the Major’s affection. Joan on the other hand was as dark as her father and brother were fair. She was quiet and hardworking, a straight-A student who was shunned by most of her peers. She lived in an aggressively masculine world so it was no surprise that she was awkward, unable to navigate all the little codes and rules that other girls knew instinctively. Maggie had never cared for those rules but, as puberty hit, Joan found it increasingly difficult and Maggie had been the one to listen to her woes.
But she had never been required to enforce a punishment.
Maggie let herself through the front door, unsure of what she would find. She discovered a naked Joan whimpering in pain, face down on her bed. Her pale bottom and skinny thighs were blighted by a stain of vicious looking crimson welts that stood out violently against swollen skin which turning a nasty purple-black. Dried blood beaded in long stripes along the wounds and, where it had flowed freely, outlined her hips in a broken line of small red punctuation points on the wrinkled sheet. A sudden, burning hatred for Kireyev sparked in Maggie’s chest.
Swallowing her shock, Maggie knelt in front of the girl and leaned forward to stroke her head, softly kissing her hair in comfort. “Oh, Joan! What has he done to you?” she whispered.
Joan turned her wooden face to Maggie. “He beat me with a sword,” she replied tonelessly. Maggie stiffened at the Major’s barbarity and her heart missed a beat at deadness in Joan's eyes. “He thinks that I had sex with a boy.”
“And you haven’t?”
“Noooo…” wailed Joan. Her face scrunched up as burning tears forced their way between swollen lids. “I couldn’t… I duh-don’t… But he wuh-wuh-wouldn’t believe me!” she sobbed.
“Then where are your night clothes? Why are you naked, Joan?”
“It was Dad. He w-wanted to show me how disgusting I was.”
“Did he do anything else, Joan?” She searched Joan's eyes and prayed that he hadn’t. She took Joan's cold hand and stroked the limp fingers. Joan's lip trembled as she gave an almost imperceptible nod and closed her reddened lids again. “Oh, my poor child,” moaned Maggie softly and eased her arm under the girl’s heavy head, hugging her the best she could as Joan wept.
Maggie fed Joan brandy and codeine and listened to her sad story as she hunted out a sweater and long socks to try and keep the poor girl warm. Once the drugs had taken effect she gently cleaned Joan's wounds. Whenever Joan flinched, she winced and cursed Kireyev for his brutality. Joan would be lucky not to be scarred from his choice of weapon.
What sort of father would do this to his own child? she wondered as she filled plastic bags with crushed ice and applied them to the swollen mass of Joan’s rear. The man was a monster! He needed to be stopped.
Maggie called the Major on his treatment of Joan as soon as she could. It was something she couldn’t let rest.
“It is not for you to tell me how to chastise my children.” The Major shut his office door and pulled the shade against the curious eyes of the typing pool.
“That’s not chastisement! That’s corporal bloody punishment! She could have you up in court for that alone. Not to mention stripping her naked and touching her! What were you thinking?”
“It’s none of your business!” He snarled, returning to his big chair.
“Oh, it is when you send me round to tidy up your mess!” Maggie's eyes flashed as she leaned over the desk, bunched knuckles supporting her weight. “My duties may be varied and unusual but they do not stretch to covering up physical and sexual abuse of a minor!”
Kireyev leaned back and slowly lit a cigarette. “You’ll do as your told, Ferguson. There’ll be no police report. Ever.”
Maggie drew herself up to her full five feet ten inches. “What makes you so sure, Sir?” she sneered down at him.
“How badly do you want this Army career of yours, eh?” He raised a grizzled eyebrow and pulled her file from a drawer, slapping it down between them.
“This isn’t a military matter,” she replied nonplussed, “it won’t go on my record.”
“No, this matter won’t,” he said, sitting forward, “– but what about your ‘close personal’ friendship with Colonel Henderson’s Admin Clerk? What’s her name again? Wendy isn’t it?” Kireyev grinned evilly at his Junior Officer. “Now that,” he said smugly, “will go on your record.” He relaxed back into his chair, a smug leer stretching his face.
Maggie paled. “You’re bluffing. There’s nothing between us. Why would there be?” They had been so discreet – how could he know? She swallowed; what else did he know?
“That’s not what my source tells me.”
Maggie made a conscious effort to steady her voice. “It’s not true.”
He knew that she was lying and took pleasure in her panic. “My source is never wrong, Ferguson, so you’ll follow orders. You will also cut all contact with my children. They can manage perfectly well without your…” he took a moment to flick his contemptuous gaze over her, “…unnatural presence in their lives.”