Office Politics

Sometimes it takes more than plain hard work and skill to achieve your ambition.

By Katherine Jones

“Got it,” Philip Brett said out loud, tossing the sales performance report across the desk and rocking back on his chair with a smile of satisfaction.

Seconds later the phone rang on Claire Gooding’s desk. The Store Manager acquiesced quickly to the request to go in to see the Head Office’s Lead Auditor. She was keen to make her mark.

There was, however, something about Philip Brett that had worried Claire since their first encounter at the audit preparation meeting five days ago. Claire was thirty-six years old and in her first post as a Store Manager for a large women’s fashion and jewellery chain. The store, which was in a challenging suburb of the City, was developing well under her leadership with sales and profits gradually improving.

Her success was now generating an increasing interest in her approach to shop management from inside and outside the company. Despite her private education on the south coast and fine art degree, she had fitted well into her role in this typically working class community in the north of England. She was liked and respected by her staff team who were all female but ethnically very mixed. They felt that Claire supported them but also challenged them to learn and improve their performance. She had a keen eye for presentation and seemed to understand what made the shop attractive and what the local customers required.

The achievement of a successful audit outcome would fully cement this progress for the shop and secure Claire’s professional reputation. In fact there was a view amongst some staff, which was also held by Claire herself, that this audit was a check on her ability to manage the company’s flagship store in the City centre which was now about to lose its current Manager.

However, the large and imposing figure of Philip Brett had presented Claire with some difficult problems. He was a man of quite stark contrasts. He seemed intermittently intensely interested in her and her approach to her role as a leader and manager but also someone who was at other times aloof and mysterious. This mix made her uneasy and unsure of herself, which was worrying as the stakes were so high. In the big hands of this 50 year old man her professional career rested during the three days of the audit.

Brett had, to Claire’s delight, indicated that his judgment on her leadership of the store going into the final day of the audit was wavering between good and outstanding and Claire knew instinctively that her relationship with Brett over the next 24 hours held the key to unlock that outstanding judgment. However, she was also conscious there aspects of her management which still needed to be improved and financial oversight was not one of her strengths. A further problem was that the store’s finance officer was not a strong or competent employee.

Claire had not confided any of the intensity of the situation to her partner, Amy, before she left the house they shared that morning of the final day of the audit. Amy had not seen Claire change her skirt and blouse combination three times or her opt to wear her most expensive white lingerie. This was Claire’s battle and she needed to use all her resources to fight it, she told herself, acknowledging that she would use every option she had to make Lead Auditor Brett continue to see the quality of her management and engage with the positive aspects of the store’s performance and steer him away from some of its weakness.

“Please sit down,” he said as Claire entered the room. “I will come straight to the point,” he continued rather brusquely. “I have looked again at your sales figures in jewellery and cross referenced them with the information you have supplied about costs and stock levels. There are some inaccuracies and contradictions, in fact enough for me to consider that this store does not have robust systems and may not be accurately representing its profit.”

Claire was shocked but immediately realised there was a problem. She had not had time to properly check the data provided by the jewellery team, having spent all the time in the lead up to the audit concerned about the problems in the financial management of the much larger fashion department.

However, before she had time to consider a response Brett continued to talk. Looking into Claire’s clear hazel eyes, now wide with shock and anxiety, he spoke clearly but firmly.

“Claire, there is another way to resolve this matter. I think you are a good manager and indeed have some excellent qualities. This is a well-run store; you have made great improvements and have a flair for this business. I will give you back these reports to correct but you will need to take responsibility and accept a punishment.

“What?” Exclaimed Claire. “Punishment? What on earth are you talking about?”

Brett replied: “Yes, punishment is required,” going on to explain in a very matter of fact way that he had an interest in corporal punishment and he had come to believe that a short sharp shock applied to a woman’s bare bottom was a good way to mark an error but at the same time allow the audit to provide an overall positive outcome irrespective of any minor accounting errors. “I am offering you that chance, Claire,” he concluded.

“Wow, wow, wow, just a minute,” said Claire, suddenly turning to confront Brett. “I think I need to get some help here and contact Head Office about this. This is well out of order. You should be ashamed of yourself trying to exploit me like this. We have done enough here and I think we should call it a night.”

Brett considered for a moment and then replied carefully: “Claire, I would not want to be in a position in which I couldn’t let you have your sales reports back to change. We are both aware that this store is not well managed financially and I could make some serious trouble for you if I extended the financial scope of this audit. However, I don’t want to do that and I hope we can come up with a mutually satisfying agreement about how we deal with this situation.”

Brett continued in a more menacing tone: “But if you are thinking you might report me to Head Office, can I remind you that I have details of your company credit card expenses in my inbox and that I could demonstrate quite easily why you might want to make unfounded accusations about me to deflect from your own actions? I have the receipt for the £52 bottle of wine and a £122 meal you bought at the company’s expense at the Pennine View Hotel back in March, which I assume was with a friend rather than a client? I also seem to have a receipt for an overnight stay for two people in that hotel on the same night which, again, the company has paid for. These actions, as you know, are against company policy and I could make them look like a criminal matter if you push me too far. Is this personal expenditure, and have you taken steps to refund the costs?”

The night at the hotel with Amy on her birthday was meant to be their special time celebrating their move in together and their establishing of their home in this, Amy’s home territory. Why, by accident, had she used the company credit instead of her own to pay the bill? Why had she not repaid the money? This would have taken five minutes but was an action lost in the panic which followed the announcement of the audit. Claire knew that Amy, as a serving Police Officer, must not be involved in this in anyway. She now felt Brett had her cornered. He was obviously very astute and it had been clear from the start of the audit that he had the ear of the Chief Executive. He now had enough information to destroy her completely, both personally and professionally.

Claire Gooding now had a decision to make. She spoke directly to Brett. “OK, OK, I get what you are saying. So things aren’t perfect and you want to take advantage of me because of that? So what are my choices, and what is this corporal punishment? I am not getting undressed, if that’s what you want.”

Brett replied in the same careful matter of fact tone. “What will happen, Claire, is that at the end of today you will send the other staff home by no later than 6pm.  I will then come into your office and I will apply twelve strokes of the cane to your bare bottom. You will need to be naked below your waist and to bend over the meeting table in the middle of your office to allow me to complete the punishment. You will then get your sales and costs data reports back to amend.”   He added rather superfluously: “Is that clear?”

“Crystal,” said Claire, mouth open but with a developing sense that however outrageous this suggestion she had no choice if she wanted to save her reputation, protect Amy’s career and land the prize of this outstanding audit report with its promise of promotion for Claire and bonuses for the staff team who were expecting Claire to pull this off for them.

Claire stood and with her head bowed, not looking directly at Brett, said: “OK, so I will have the chance to sort my expenses and the jewellery sales figures, yes?”

Brett nodded.

Claire continued: “And we are outstanding in the outcome of the audit and the staff get their bonus?”

Brett nodded again and added: “Absolutely.”

Claire reluctantly concluded. “OK I will call you when the staff have all left for home at about 6pm and I will accept your punishment.”

Claire left the room with her face flushed and a slight unsteadiness in her walk. She needed to compose herself for the afternoon staff department heads briefing which was imminent and then to complete the final sets of work for the audit.

The department heads were anxious to know about the progress of the audit and the possibility of bonuses flowing from what appeared to be its likely successful conclusion. Claire worked her way through the meeting and the rest of her day. She encouraged her finance officer and other senior colleagues to leave for the ‘close of audit’ drinks and said she would join them after she had met with Brett for the last time. She knew, however, that this was not going to happen. The last employee left the store at 5.45.

Minutes later, she saw Brett go to his car and get a long leather bag out of his boot and then make his way back into the store. Claire had no doubt what was in the bag and she winced involuntarily at the prospect of what was to come. In a state of high anxiety, she reviewed her position again and reluctantly concluded that she had no choice but to comply with the demands of this man Brett. She also reflected on his assiduous preparation and wondered how many times he had pulled this trick with the attractive young store managers who were in his power in the way Claire now was.

Claire went to the en-suite bathroom attached to her office. She needed to prepare as best she could and put on her best possible face for the ordeal to come. As she finished her makeup, however, she acknowledged that whilst fearful of the coming encounter there was also something quite primitive and exciting about it. She was totally in the control of this man. Although thirty-six years old and too busy to exercise, she was a very tall and attractive woman with a firm figure and had no doubts about her ability to fulfil Brett’s fantasy.

Brett knocked on her office door at exactly 6pm. She ushered him in and then sat head down on her desk chair awaiting his instructions. He placed the long leather bag on the desk and produced from it the sales report from the jewellery team.

“Here you are, Claire,” he said, offering her the papers. “I know you will fulfil your side of the arrangement.”

“So what’s next, Mr. Brett?” She said slightly facetiously.

Without answering, Brett began clearing the papers, cups and water jug from Claire’s meeting table. Once a large clear space was created, he turned and looked at Claire.

“Let’s get on with this,” he said, adding: “I want you to bend over your table with your feet about 18 inches apart. I will deal with your clothing and, once I am happy with your position and state of undress, I will then administer twelve strokes of the cane.”

Claire could not resist shouting out: “You bastard!”

However, she moved slightly unsteadily over to stand in front of the table, spread her legs and, now bending, rested her elbows and hands onto the flat wooden surface. She felt her face flush with humiliation, anger and fear as she bowed her head and clenched her teeth.

Brett went to his bag and took a short rattan cane from it, and then paused for some time to take in the sight he was now confronted with of the bending, but fully clothed, Claire. He then carefully approached her and gently lifted her tight fitting black skirt to rest it on her back. He then produced a bulldog clip from his jacket pocket and secured the skirt in place. Claire reflected again on his level of planning and previous experience of this situation.

Brett then stood back to take in the view of Claire’s bottom, now mostly exposed apart from the portion covered by a small silky white thong. He noticed the beauty of her thighs covered for the most part with sheer black pull ups but with a naked target area visible beneath Claire’s buttocks. He strained to look between Claire’s legs as she stayed silently holding back her tears. She did, however, offer some token but rather resigned resistance once Brett’s fingers moved inside the thong and inched it down to the ground, exposing her fully bared buttocks. He unhooked it from her shoes and held it in his hands, relishing its silky warmth.

The scene was now set and Brett moved to take off his jacket and pick up his cane. He then stood back to admire his handiwork. It seemed to Claire that an interminable amount of time elapsed before the cane first rested lightly in preparation on her bottom. Then a resounding crack filled the room as Brett pulled it back and whipped it down, cutting deep into the flesh of Claire’s naked bottom.

Another lash followed in quick succession, then a pause. Brett aimed the third and fourth strokes on the top of Claire’s thighs and she gasped and cried out in pain and anger. Her tears burst through and she sobbed uncontrollably. Five, six, seven and eight reigned down in quick succession before Brett, noticing Claire’s distress, paused and took a step backwards.

Claire slowly stood up, wiped her eyes and involuntarily touched her bottom. However, she then composed herself and resumed the position across the table.

Brett returned to his task with renewed vigour, determined to focus on the vulnerable area of the lower part of Claire’s bottom. The ninth and tenth strokes were across the top of Claire’s thighs, provoking a howl of pain, and then the final two strokes, which were fully savoured by Brett, were aimed deep into the vulnerability of the crease of Claire’s buttocks.

A pause followed the completion of the final stroke. Claire did not move, awaiting instruction, but then sensed Brett now close behind her. She felt his hands making their way inside the crack of her throbbing bottom. She sprung up from her prone position and quickly but powerfully pushed him away.

“I think we are done,” she said before running out in tears to the bathroom in her office.

As she composed herself over the course of several minutes, Claire looked with fascination into the full length mirror at the red tramlines across her bottom and thighs. What would Amy think about this? Would she be angry and want to report Brett? Should Claire try to hide the marks or might Amy be interested and aroused? She final unclipped her skirt and let it fall back in place. She listened to see if Brett was still in her room, but all was silent.

She opened the bathroom door and went back into her now deserted office. No sign of Brett or her thong, which he had obviously taken as a memento. However, two pieces of paper lay on the meeting table in the place where Claire had so recently suffered. One was the sales report and the other was a summary of the preliminary findings of an audit which was judged to be outstanding.

Claire sent a text to her colleagues and thought it was time to go home. She collected her coat and bags. She then paused to throw Brett’s bulldog clip into the waste bin, but held back and instead thrust it inside her jacket pocket.

The End

© Katherine Jones 2014