Story from Februs 23.
The Incident at Purple Pros
by Edward Masterson
'You old cow! Frig off and leave me alone!'
I heard Tammy's shriek above the thumping of the machines as soon as I came in the door. I would have been aware anyway from the girls' expressions that something was wrong. An employer has to have an instinct for that kind of thing, especially with an all-female workforce.
'You cheeky little bint. Tomorrow you're out the door. You're finished here, believe me!'
What I didn't expect to hear was Jess's strident tones issuing from my partitioned office in the far corner of the printworks. I could see her dressed in crimson through the open slats of the Venetian blinds. They were used to screen my office from the shopfloor when I felt like privacy. Half-hidden was the much slighter figure of Tamara, universally known as Tammy. She was my young PA who in only six months had shown evidence of a sound business sense.
Jess kept out of my way these days even though she was still a major shareholder in Purple Pros, our all-women screenprinting business. Our fling had finished last year, but she still kept some of her stuff in my flat. Neither of us had found a steady partner yet, so we still met for mutual support.
Although she was loaded, Jess had an inferiority complex to more than match her bank balance. Life outside Purple Pros (her choice of trading name – at least it meant we received plenty of telephone enquiries) was meant to help me unwind from entrepreneurial stress. But that was impossible with Jess and her uncontrollable compulsion to meddle.
Without a doubt she would be behind this catfight that was causing havoc with the work rate at this very moment. If they weren't careful most of the point of sale cards for the local supermarket would be worthless.
'Okay girls, minds on the job. I'll sort this out, Arlene.' I peeled off the faux Michael Kors leopardskin coat en route, addressing my anxious production manager in what I hoped was a confident manner. The lunch with a potential new customer had gone on considerably longer than planned so my mind was far from crystalline.
I pushed open the door to my office and glided in, relieved to be able to shut out the chemical ink vapours that tainted everything in the workplace – hair, clothes, food, you name it. This was despite a fortune invested in powerful air handling plant. Usually this was my inner sanctum, but not today. The two of them were still squaring up across Tammy's desk and it looked as if claws would be unsheathed any second.
'There you are, Jo. About time too!' Jess wheeled round and got her tuppence worth in first. She was determined to play the role of financial hotshot and pull some rank on me. So she lost any support I might have given her with that remark.
'Hello Jess. This is a surprise, honeypot.' We brushed cheeks ritualistically. 'Anything urgent for this afternoon, Tammy?' I turned in her direction.
Normally sweet and sensible, my straw-haired Tammy was transformed. Her usually placid manner had been severely ruffled in the attempt to handle Jess. Her sleepy grey eyes now flashed and her cheeks burned. Despite myself, my heart gave a flip. Add those rosebud lips and a retroussee nose: her angry appearance had more urchin charm than ever. She shook her head silently and bit her lip.
There was a short silence. I took the opportunity to hang up my leopardskin and ditch the fancy tote bag which weighed a ton. Then I took a seat.
'Well, you two, I take it there's been a disagreement.'
'I'll give you the full details once your secretary has left the room,' Jess snarled sotto voce, tossing her long auburn mane out of her eyes. Despite being well into her 30s she dressed flamboyantly (she could afford to) and knew she could turn heads – both male and female.
'Tammy is my PA. Purple Pros does not have a secretary on the premises, as you well know, Jess. She's also a management trainee and this office happens to be where she works.'
I sensed Jess stiffen. She knew she had rather more of a fight on her hands than she had bargained for. She perched one buttock on the edge of my desk, leaning towards me in a confidential manner.
'Whatever you call her, Jo, I can think of only one name that fits – a smelly little brown-noser.'
Before I had a chance to find out what she was getting at Jess received her reply. Showing more agility than I had imagined her capable of, Tammy flew over the curling carpet tiles to land a stinging slap across the still smirking face of her accuser. I sensed a communal gasp from the rapt audience beyond the glass.
The change in Jess's expression was so sudden as to be almost cartoon-like. She glared at me, cupping her burning cheek in one hand, daring me to betray even a ghost of a smile.
'Tammy, cool down,' I said. 'I've never seen you in such a state before. Let's have those blinds closed and lock the door. It's beginning to resemble Punch and Judy in here.'
Obediently Tammy went round the two glass walls closing each set of Venetian blinds with a gentle tug of the cords. Suddenly it felt cosier. I turned to Jess who had now begun to reassert her self-control: 'Come on, honeypot, spill the beans.'
She glared at Tammy's attractive back view but refrained from any more name-calling.
To cut a long story short, she had just popped into the flat that morning to pick up something. Since she was still paying half the mortgage I hadn't dared to ask her to return her set of keys. So in she breezed and, of course, had to take a peek at everything.
This was how Jess found Tammy's birthday card to me stuck on the pinboard in the kitchenette. Two adorable puppies in matching bows, I just couldn't take it down. And it showed a different side to Tammy that she rarely let out when she was at work.
The birthday was almost a month ago, so I had put my other cards away in a drawer, including the one from Jess, an ostentatiously arty number with a plain inside that she had filled with a load of nostalgic mush. Perhaps understandably, she had flown to an immediate conclusion about Tammy and me. As it happened she was way ahead of the mark; but, in a perverse sort of way, her words set me wondering.
Jess's breathless account eventually drew to a close. She had come straight round here in a jealous rage, expecting to have it out with me. Instead she found Tammy efficiently handling the business in my absence. So she staged a scene, threatening her with exposure and dismissal. The whole thing must have been a bombshell for my PA, since we had never discussed our sex lives or anything in that area. Frankly we both had too much on our minds during the working day.
The phone rang, making us all jump. 'Say I'll call back later then take the receiver off the hook,' I instructed Tammy.
I thought hard while Tammy took the call. I was not my usual decisive self after that heavy lunch at Pedro's. It was hard to concentrate on how to deal equitably with this situation. Both of them had over-reacted. Jess had just plunged in and made totally groundless and pointless accusation. Tamara should not have reacted so impulsively but then again she was young and probably felt threatened.
It was up to me to find a solution that seemed just to both sides. I certainly didn't want to sack Tammy. On the other hand Jess and I went back a long way and her investment was keeping the business out of overdraft. They were both standing facing me like errant schoolgirls with scowling expressions, while Jess had the fetching addition of one burning cheek only half hidden by her long hair.
I pushed my reclining chair back a little and picked up the em-rule from its habitual position beside my desk PC. It was a steel ruler just over a foot long marked off in printer's traditional em units. Why I kept it I don't know since it was a relic of hot-metal days. All type layout was done on-screen these days.
But then, as I slid its engraved surfaces between finger and thumb, I thought maybe there was a use after all. The two of them had behaved like schoolgirls, so that is just how I would treat them. In retrospect I put the events of that afternoon down to the lingering effects of that heavy Chilean claret, but at the time I suddenly saw how I could defuse the situation. And also indulge myself into the bargain. I cleared my throat and sat up straight.
'Now listen hard, the two of you. I can't have this kind of catfight going on at Purple Pros. For a start it disrupts production and secondly this is my office as long as I run the business. So I need to make an example of you both.'
'You surely don't mean to punish us?' Jess asked with a hint of sarcasm. 'I don't see why anything I've done should need to be accounted for.'
'That's exactly what I intend doing. Look a bit harder at yourself, Jess,' I could feel my confidence growing as I sensed a way of getting even with her for those months of mental torment she put me through when we lived together. 'You're supposed to be a director of this company. You come bursting in here, causing consternation to the workforce and upsetting Tammy over some fantastic notion you've picked up.'
She opened her mouth but I cut in quickly.
'And Tammy, what you did was inexcusable. No, I'm afraid an apology is insufficient and too late. I have high hopes for your career in management but self-control is an essential quality. So you need to be taught a lesson too.'
I paused for breath. Both of them were clearly puzzled at what was coming next. Did either of them have an inkling of what I was about to say? I slapped the steel rule into my palm, and I noticed Jess's jaw drop open slightly.
'You can see what I've got in my hand. And from what I've just said you must both realise your behaviour was childish. I propose punishing you in just the way children used to be punished. Six sharp strokes on the buttocks for each of you and then we'll forget all about it. Otherwise...'
'This is preposterous!' Jess burst out, 'I'm not going to take this from you, Jo.'
'In that case, I want my front door key returned right now, Jess.'
She went silent. Tammy looked thunderstruck, but then she looked at Jess with a smile playing at her lips. The little minx was always quick to grasp a situation.
I looked them both in the eye and neither found anything to say for a few seconds. Tammy was clearly taken aback at the idea of being made to take corporal punishment, but she was probably weighing up the alternatives. She was the first to find her voice.
'On the bare arse with that?'
'Yes, it will sound worse than it feels. Nobody will hear above the machine noise. As long as you don't yell the place down.'
I faced her without a smile, although inwardly I was willing her to accept.
'Okay, just six.' She whispered looking down at the floor.
'You will both be treated equally with regard to the severity of the punishment and each will watch the other receiving it. Now if you're ready, Tammy I think you should go first.'
I stood up and removed the jacket of my power-dressing outfit.
I swivelled the soft leather chair around so that its back was secure against the edge of my desk.
It was now up to Tammy to make the next move. Giving me a brief quizzical look, she slipped out of her mules and unzipped her tight-fitting jeans. Sitting on the edge of her desk she pulled these off, revealing a pair of shapely legs that, despite her slightness, looked long and smooth emphasising the whiteness of her skin.
She now wore a light tummy-length blouse and blue satin briefs which, as she turned to place the jeans on her desk, turned out to be merely a thong.
'That comes off,' Jess immediately rapped out. 'You said bare bottom and that means a total strip below the waist.'
Tammy shot her a poisonous look. But then she looked in my direction. I nodded and, noting my reaction, she gracefully slipped the skimpy satin garment down to the floor and stepped out of it. Quickly she moved past Jess to the chair where I was waiting. I noted with satisfaction that her sparse pubic hair was exactly the same shade of straw.
'Do I kneel?' she looked me straight in the eye with a ghost of a smile.
I felt my mouth going dry in anticipation. 'Lean over and rest your weight on the desk top. Now arch your back so that I can get a fine view of your bare arse.'
Her fair-skinned body looked especially vulnerable against the dark leather. Her physique was supple and she did it beautifully. By bending over her I was able to savour the faintly acrid fragrance of her sex.
'Are you ready?'
She turned and nodded. Tammy continued to look over her shoulder as I raised my hand to give her the first. It was more gentle than I had intended and Jess noticed.
'Harder, Jo. The girl is supposed to be feeling she's punished.'
The second and third strokes were more wristy, but still she kept looking. On the fourth, which I delivered with some arm muscle, she flinched and turned to face the front. I noticed that her petite rump was mottling over with angry red blotches. On the fifth stroke she let out a gasp and waggled her hips a little.
'Last one, Tammy. Come on, let's see that burning backside in all its splendour.'
Bless her, she did arch herself again and displayed those perfectly rounded haunches again for my delectation. I took a few seconds to take them in and notice the unmistakeable glistening at her fold.
'Get on with it, and make this a good one!' Jess again.
The final stroke took both buttocks with equal force, the warmed steel rule flexing appreciably as contact was made with a satisfying slap. This time Tammy wriggled much more vigorously and I could have sworn I heard a soft moan. If so, it was quickly swallowed.
Slowly she pushed herself upright. Knowing that Jess and I were rooting our gaze on her rosy orbs, she walked slowly back to her desk without any attempt to cover herself. There was defiance, pride even, in her walk. But self-control too. She quickly dressed, scarcely wincing as the jeans were pulled back on.
Now it was Jess's turn. To give her her due, she didn't hesitate. She removed her big hooped earrings then, unzipping the crimson creation at the side, she pulled it over her head in a flurry of auburn tresses. Underneath she was only wearing tights and pants, so these had to come off too if she was to be equal with Tammy. In that case she would face us both naked.
'Take the lot off,' breathed Tammy, standing with her arms akimbo, savouring Jess's discomfiture. She could hardly beg for clemency since she had shown her rival no mercy.
With her tights cast aside Jess stood in very classy high-cut briefs with lace panels. They would take away little of the sting, I reasoned, but it was only fair she should have a bare bottom too. She slipped them off without looking over her shoulder at where Tammy stood.
Undoing the top button of my silk blouse, I fanned myself. It was getting warm in here. Then I laid a hand on Jess's familiar shoulder to push her down a little. 'Now, Jess, are you ready for your share of punishment?'
She grunted, and as I raised my arm I was suddenly aware of Tammy moving stealthily towards the glass partition behind us.
But I needed to concentrate on Jess's quivering globes which clearly showed the imprint of elasticated lace.
'One'. Jess bolted upright with a hiss of indrawn breath. I pushed her down again hard and delivered the second with slightly more wrist. At that she tried to get off the chair, rubbing her haunch vigorously, but I grabbed a handful of her hair to hold her in place. Relaxed by the wine intake I was beginning to enjoy getting my own back.
With number three she swore aloud, but I held her fast by her hair. Her buttocks were now at least as scarlet as her cheek where Tammy had slapped her.
'One extra for that. This is for your own good, Jess. You're kneeling here stripped to the buff. I would have thought you'd want to get this over as soon as possible.'
I gave her number four and, while waiting for her bucking to stop, looked over my shoulder at Tammy. She caught my gaze and gave me a slow conspiratorial smile. I wasn't entirely sure what she meant by it.
Then I noticed that she held the cord of one venetian blind and was very gently opening the louvres a crack at a time.
Jess, of course, was too occupied with her own discomforts to notice.
By the time I had finished with her Jess was certainly tingling. Her glowing buttocks no longer showed the lacy trim of her briefs. But she didn't realise that she had also been granting a free show to most of the Purple Pros workforce. By the time she was on her feet again, Tammy had stealthily pulled the blinds closed.
I really should have punished the little urchin again for such a mean-spirited act. But I was now quite worn out with so much physical exertion in a single afternoon. Besides, I thought it would be prudent to save up Tammy's misdemeanours for further correction. Next time we would carry it out well away from Purple Pros.