Raylene didn’t react. I looked at her with some wonder. Not because she was stoical, but because she was beautiful.
“We’re going to begin now, Raylene. There’ll be, oh” – I paused, as if I really were considering the number, which I’d already decided – “thirty strokes.”
Her hands, clasped behind her neck, slipped a couple of inches, as if she wanted to protest. Or even get up. Then she was still again. She couldn’t turn her head to look at me. “Thirty? O god, that’s …” She stopped.
I said, “It’s what you deserve. For now.”
“Thirrr-ty!” But Raylene made no further protest. So it was indeed a good and satisfactory number.
“Yup. Thirty strokes with the razor strop.” That felt good to say, so I added, cheerfully cruel, “across your arse. Quite hard. Probably hurt quite a bit. I mean it to. Do you know why, girl?”
“Because I didn’t call you sir? Before? Sir?”
“No, love. That last stroke dealt with that. So why am I going to strap you?”
“Raylene. Can you think of something you probably need to start dealing with? Atone for?”
“Ah. Because I was in that stupid gang? Sir?”