Two sisters face a new-style justice system
By Paul Tecres
“We’re really doing this, huh?” I said to my older sister Amy.
“So it seems,” she replied as she put the car in ‘park’ and shut off the engine.
“Don’t worry, Melanie,” she said, trying to reassure me. “This will all be over soon. I know we’re early and all, but I think we should go ahead and ring the doorbell. Maybe we can get it over with faster.”
I looked at the clock. It had been such a long day already, and it was only 1.45 pm.
Amy and I had gotten ourselves into serious trouble. The day before, we decided to do some shoplifting from a local high-end department store. The store was a bit understaffed, and the department we targeted had only one guy working. He looked to be close to my age, and not terribly attractive. I myself am five foot six, with a small waist, blond hair going just past my shoulders, green eyes, and perky 36C breasts. The associate, his name was Trevor, probably didn’t get too many girls flirting with him who looked like me.
Everything seemed to be going perfect. I kept Trevor distracted for a while, then eventually left to re-join my sister. That’s where we ran into a huge snag. It turned out that the store had Loss Prevention Officers walking around in plain clothes, pretending to be shoppers while keeping an eye on suspicious activity. When Amy and I tried to make our way to the exit, about five of the officers surrounded us. They escorted us to a back office, and explained that we were seen shoplifting multiple items. Then they showed us video proof from the store’s cameras. They made Amy empty her purse, and that put all the evidence they needed on display.
The police arrived about fifteen minutes later, and that’s how we ended up participating in a new criminal justice program. The program was formed after Florida lawmakers passed a bill aimed at reducing the number of people in jail for minor crimes. Our crime qualified, since the merchandise we stole totaled less than $500.
The first thing that was different under this program was that the police did not arrest us. Since we lived locally, they took our fingerprints with an electronic scanner, then had us each sign a paper agreeing to appear in court this morning at 8.00 am. Amy was charged as the perpetrator of the crime, and I was charged as an accomplice. Fair enough.
We found out the second difference when we arrived in court.
We had to wait a bit because there were four cases on the docket ahead of us. Finally, our turn came. To simplify things, we both entered a plea of no contest. The judge informed us that we’d have two options for sentencing. We had seven days to either report to jail and serve the time we were sentenced, or submit to court-prescribed corporal punishment. Amy was sentenced to ten days in jail, or ten strikes with ‘the paddle’. I was sentenced to seven days in jail or six strikes. As we left the courthouse we were each given our respective information packets. We went home, and after some discussion we decided that it was better to take the corporal punishment.
We read through the information packets and found out we had a couple of options there as well. We could receive our corporal punishment at the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office, or we could choose to have it done by a private citizen who had been trained and certified to administer the paddling. Amy raised concern that the Sheriff’s Deputies were probably very strict, and might get a little rough with us. We decided to find a private citizen who could do it.
A list of such individuals was included in the packets. One name on the list stood out to us; Darren A. Bennett.
Mr Bennett lived in our neighborhood, just a few blocks away from our street. Our parents had him over a few times for cookouts and parties they held. He was always very nice to us, and seemed like he was fairly easy-going. Amy suggested, and I agreed, that it would be best to have this done by someone we knew. She took out her phone, put it on speaker and called Mr Bennett.
We explained our situation, and that we had seen his name on the list the court gave us. Naturally, we had some questions as well. I asked him to describe the paddle to us. He said it was made of oak, fifteen inches long, with a six-inch handle. The blade portion was three inches wide, and the paddle was three eighths of an inch thick. These measurements sounded intimidating, but we continued.
Amy asked him how we’d have to dress. He said that he was required to perform the paddling over our underwear, but he mentioned that we could wear boxers or some other style of underwear that covered our bottoms completely, as long as there was nothing underneath it. Fortunately, we both had a pair of black silk boxers that we bought each other as a gag gift last Christmas. Inside joke.
Amy then asked for more specifics about the punishment itself. Mr Bennett replied that he would have to carry each sentence out individually. We would bend over a purpose-built padded table in his office, and he would administer the prescribed number of strikes for our sentence. Afterwards, he would log in to the Clerk of the Court’s computer system and update the records to show that our sentences had been carried out. We asked when we could have this done, and he replied that since he worked from home we could come over whenever it was convenient for us. Amy asked if 2.00 pm was okay. He said yes. We both changed clothes and left in Amy’s car.
Mr Bennett answered the door promptly and invited us in.
“Amy, Melanie, welcome to my home. It’s good to see both of you. I wish, as you probably do, that it were under better circumstances. Still, I’m glad to see the two of you. Now, I’m trying to remember; Amy, you are twenty years old, and Melanie is eighteen?”
“Yes, sir,” Amy replied.
“Oh, by the way, I’m not very formal, so you can both call me Darren. Now I see that you’re a few minutes early, and you’ve both got signed consent forms for me. I’m guessing that you both want to get this done as quickly as possible?”
We both nodded.
“Alright, I’ll go ahead and take both forms now to save some time.”
We handed him our consent forms.
“Amy, since you’ve been sentenced to the higher number of strikes, I’ll let you decide. Do you want to go first or do you want to let Melanie go first? It’s entirely up to you.”
Amy looked over at me. “Are you okay with me going first?”
Darren chimed in. “Alright, Melanie, you can have a seat here in the living room. There’s a snack basket on the kitchen counter, and there’s bottled water and juice in the refrigerator. Help yourself. Amy, you can follow me. The office is at the end of the hall, last door on the right.”
They walked down the long hallway to Darren’s office and shut the door. I sat on the living room couch and waited. Everything was so quiet. The ticking of the wall clock was easily audible, and had a strange ominous feel to it. I thought about the offer of snacks and drinks that had been made, but I was far too nervous to eat.
About five minutes went by. I expected as much since Amy had changed into a t-shirt and jeans, and I knew she’d probably need a moment to take the jeans off. I had stayed dressed in the same outfit that I wore to court this morning; gray button-down blouse and black skirt two inches above the knee. The only thing I changed was my underwear.
Finally, I heard two muffled sounds from down the hall. The first was a loud pop. The second was Amy screaming. After that, there was a long pause. Probably two minutes went by, and then another loud pop, and another scream. I hoped he wasn’t going to deliberately drag our punishments out. I wanted to get this done quickly. I found some small relief as the third pop happened about five seconds later. The pops and muffled screams continued with each about five seconds apart. There was another long pause after number eight. Maybe thirty seconds went by before number nine. A few seconds later, number ten followed. I sat and waited as about ten minutes or so went by. Finally, I heard the office door open, and Amy came back down the hall into the living room, wiping a tear from her face.
“He said you can come to the office when you’re ready.” Her voice sounded hoarse.
“Are you okay?” I replied.
“I’m fine.” Amy nodded.
I took a deep breath and stood up.
I walked down the hall to the last door on the right. Darren greeted me with a smile.
“Alright Melanie, come on in and close the door behind you.”
I did as I was told. Inside the office, to my left, was the desk Darren was seated behind. To the far right was a coat rack, presumably for subjects to hang their lower clothes on. To the left of that was the padded table he’d mentioned, turned lengthwise with the narrow end against the wall. It was about three feet wide and four and a half feet long. It had sturdy-looking four-by-four-inch legs. There was a black faux-leather padding lining the top. On the end closest to me there was a round cushion of the same material, slightly elevated, and stitched into the rest of the padding.
Darren told me to come over to the desk as we had to take care of a small formality. That’s when I saw the instrument of my punishment lying off to his right side. It was even more intimidating now that I could see it in real life. The nine inch long, three inch wide blade had rounded corners, and the whole thing had a natural wood finish. I felt the immense fear of just how painful this would be. Darren brought me back to reality by explaining what was going on.
“I’m connected to the Court’s system, and I have your record pulled up. This is to show that I’m administering your corporal punishment today. Once we’re done, it just takes a couple of mouse clicks and the record will show that your sentence was carried out.”
He pointed to a thumbprint reader on the desk with a cable running to his laptop.
“I’ll need you to scan your right thumb to confirm your identity.”
I placed my right thumb on the scanner and, after a second, the computer pinged. Darren stood up.
“Right this way,” he said as he led me over to the table.
“Okay Melanie, I’ll need you to go ahead and bend over the table. Make sure that you get your hips up over the cushion at the end. Then I’ll need you to lift the hem of your skirt up above your waist, and reach your arms all the way forward like you’re trying to touch the wall.”
I followed his instructions to the letter. My upper body was now lying flat on the table with my arms stretched out forward. The cushion at the end had my bottom slightly elevated, and my skirt was above my waist, leaving my black silk boxer shorts beneath exposed. The very tips of my shoes touched the floor.
Darren continued. “Okay, it’s very important that you remain in this position and don’t move until we’re done. Now, if you prefer, I can apply restraints to keep you in place, or just let you stay like you are. If you move, though, I’ll have no choice but to restrain you. Which would you prefer?”
I thought for a second, and realized that Amy must have moved after the first strike, hence the long pause. I felt like I probably would move too, and I didn’t want to delay things once this got started.
“You’d probably better restrain me now,” I replied.
Darren fastened padded velcro straps around my wrists first. They were much more comfortable than I expected. He asked if they were too tight. I told him they weren’t and he had me wiggle my fingers just to be sure. Then he attached straps to both of my ankles, again asking me if they caused any discomfort. Finally, he pulled a padded torso strap across my mid back, and buckled it into place. He asked if it was too tight, and I assured him it was fine.
“Alright Melanie, it’s going to be six strikes today. If at any time you need me to pause for a few seconds to give you some rest, just let me know. This will be over before you know it.”
With that, he walked over to the desk to retrieve the paddle, and walked back over to me. I felt him line the paddle up, down low on my bottom, and lightly tap it a couple of times.
He spoke once more. “Okay Melanie, get ready.”
I braced myself as the paddle was drawn back. The first strike landed with a very loud pop! My mouth opened wide, but I didn’t scream. I just froze. It was quite a shock to my system. This sudden wave of hot pain enveloped my backside.
A few seconds later, the next strike landed.
“Ohhhh!” I yelled out.
The third strike followed with an “Ahhh!” from me. I found some solace in the fact that my punishment was now halfway over.
A few seconds passed and the fourth strike came down hard. I closed my mouth tightly and let out a muffled scream through my gritted teeth. I thought for a second about asking for a pause, but I decided not to, as I wanted to get this over with.
Strike number five landed, and I let out a “Yahhh!”
It was even more painful now that my backside was so sore. The final strike landed and drew a loud “Owww!” from me.
I was a little surprised that I wasn’t crying even though I was in so much pain. Maybe it was because I felt so out of breath.
Darren spoke again. “Alright Melanie, we’re finished. I’m going to release the restraints now, but I’ll need you to stay in position until I tell you to get up. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” I answered instinctively, even though we were on a first name basis.
He undid the ankle straps first, then the wrist straps. He removed the torso strap last.
“Okay Melanie, there’s no rush. You can get up whenever you’re ready.”
I slowly pushed myself up, and back to a standing position. My skirt fell back into place, and I rubbed my sore bottom.
“Everything okay?” Darren asked with genuine concern in his voice.
“Yes, I’m alright.”
“Okay, good. If you’d like, the two of you are more than welcome to stay for coffee, or if you’d rather just head on home, I’d understand that too.”
We took him up on his offer. The three of us stood in his kitchen, as two of us didn’t really want to sit, and enjoyed the top shelf coffee he kept on hand. After two cups and some conversation, Amy and I departed.
On the short drive back home, we could both feel every small bump in the road.
“Well,” Amy said. “I won’t be doing any more shoplifting, or anything else illegal. That was an experience that I really don’t want to repeat.”
I stayed quiet. As Amy pulled into our driveway and turned off the engine, she asked, “What are you thinking?”
I replied, “We should have brought some pillows to sit on for the ride home.”
With that, we both got a much needed laugh.
© Paul Tecres 2022