"Ah! Thomson. Have you got a moment?"
The question came from Mr Glebe, the sports master at Scroll Valley School. Arnold Thomson, the head boy, walked over to him.
"Yes of course sir! How may I help?"
"Somebody is smoking every day behind the toilets on the sports field! I think that there is only one boy at it. I've been counting the cigarette ends over the last four days. The number goes up by one every day." announced Mr Glebe.
"Oh! I see!" said Thomson thoughtfully. "This is a difficult one. It could be happening anytime outside school hours. I am sure nobody has the time to stand behind there all day waiting for him! Our only hope of catching him is if we were to spot somebody going across the sports field!"
"He has no need to go across the field," responded Mr Glebe, " There is a hole in the hedge just behind those toilets. He can go out of the main gate and approach it from outside the school perimeter."
"I'll give it a bit of thought," said Thomson, "but at the moment I can't think of an easy way of trapping him."
Smoking was a serious offence but Thomson took the attitude that it was something many boys probably do away from school where there was no chance of nailing them anyway. Nobody had ever been caught smoking in Thomson's time at Scrool Valley. He soon dismissed the matter from his mind and headed for the prefects' common room where the lads would probably have the tea brewing.
It was the next day that an idea came into his head. He went across the sports field to the scene of the crime, picking a time when lessons were in progress so that he would not be seen. There was a space about a yard wide between the toilets and the hedge. He thought that the culprit had not been very cleaver to have left the evidence on the ground. At the far end of the building a drainpipe led down from the gutter. At the point where the drainpipe joined the gutter there was a space of about four inches between the pipe and the wall, the gap being obscured by ivy. Thomson thought that this was ideal for what he had in mind. He returned to the main building and went to the laboratory to find the science teacher, Mr Dunne.
"You remember that piece of video you made showing a day in the life of a flower in about a minute, sir?" asked Thomson.
Ah! Yes," replied Mr Dunne, "That was achieved by setting the camera to take one frame every five minutes and then replaying it at normal speed."
"Yes, I know the principle!" said Thomson, "I have another good use for it if I can persuade you to lend me the camera for about twenty-four hours!"
Thomson explained what he wanted the camera for. Mr Dunne looked doubtful.
"That digital camera is a very expensive piece of school property, Thomson. I know it's insured, but I don't like the idea of leaving it screwed to a wall all night!"
"Would you come over to those toilets with me, sir, and have a look at what I have in mind. I'm sure the camera will be quite safe!"
Mr Dunne agreed and accompanied Thomson across the sports field to the rear of the toilets.
"There you see sir!" said Thomson, pointing to the top of the drainpipe, "I would fix a bracket to the wall just behind the pipe. It will be twelve feet up and the camera would be peeping between the pipe and the wall. It would be completely hidden by the ivy apart from the lens. I would cut away just enough of the ivy to uncover the lens."
"Where would you get a bracket and how would you get up there to fix it?" asked Mr Dunne.
"No trouble sir! The school's maintenance man should be able to provide me with a bracket and a ladder! Oh! And a drill!"
Mr Dunne took a lot of persuading but eventually agreed on the understanding that the camera would only be up there for twenty-four hours. Neither of them would be free until the afternoon, so it was then when they returned, Thomson armed with a ladder and a bracket, while Mr Dunne had carried the camera and a cordless electric drill. Thomson positioned the ladder and climbed up with the drill and the bracket.
"I suppose you know you are damaging school property!" chuckled Mr Dunne,
"Yes sir!" replied Thomson with a grin, "It's all in a good cause!"
Mr Dunne was a lot happier when he saw the end result. The camera was completely out of sight. Thomson came down the ladder.
"Perhaps you would be so good as to go up and start it up sir." said thomson, "You understand it better than I do! I would like it set to take one frame per minute, showing the time and date on each picture."
That done, they returned to the school building. There was nothing to do now but wait. The next afternoon, Thomson, as good as his word, retrieved the camera twenty-four hours after he had installed it and took it to Mr Dunne in the laboratory.
"I've got a class to take in a few minutes." explained Mr Dunne, "I will not be able to look at this until after school has finished. I will give you a bell later."
It was about seven o'clock when Thomson got the call. "Have we got anything sir?" he asked.
"We certainly have! You're in for a shock Thomson! You've caught a big fish!"
"A big fish sir?"
"Come along to my quarters and I'll show you!"
Thomson hastened over to Mr Dunne's apartment. He was puzzled by Mr Dunne's remark. What could he mean by "a big fish?" Surely not one of the senior prefects? But no. They have their own studies. They would have no need to hide behind a building!
"Come over to my computer, Thomson," said Mr Dunne, "It was a quarter to seven last night when we got a result!"
He put the first image on the monitor. It showed a boy with his back to the camera and his head down while his hands were up to his face.
"Our first shot obviously shows him lighting up!" said the teacher.
"Doesn't help much does it?" responded Thomson, "But he doesn't look such a big fish to me! I would say he looks about fourteen or fifteen years old!"
"You're spot on with the age Thomson! But wait! Here's the second picture."
The second shot showed the boy facing the camera holding the cigarette up to his mouth. His hand was obscuring much of his face.
"Can't recognise him yet !" said Thomson.
"Right! Now for the third picture!" announced Mr Dunne.
Thomson gave a gasp of surprise as the third image appeared.
"Good lord! It's Denborough! Now I know what you mean by a big fish!"
"Yes Thomson! The headmaster's son! What are you going to do about this?"
"I don't know sir! I feel in a state of shock at the moment!" For once, Thomson was lost for words! "I suppose I ought to report him to the headmaster, but that would put the headmaster in an embarrassing position!"
"You can say that again! And what's more, the headmaster has always had a 'thing' about smoking. He regards it as a major crime! The last time anyone was caught smoking - there was two of them - was years ago before you came to this school, Thomson. Do you know what happened?"
"No sir! Please enlighten me!"
"The headmaster gave their parents the choice between having their sons expelled or given a public beating! The parents of both boys choose expulsion and they both had to pack their belongings and leave immediately! Many of the staff who were here then are still here, so the headmaster could hardly be seen taking a more lenient attitude toward his own boy!"
"Phew! expulsion or a caning in the assembly hall!" said Thomson, "I didn't realize he took it quite so seriously! I can't see the headmaster expelling his own son, and that would leave only one other option! You know sir, I just could not bring myself to send a boy to a fate like that unless he had committed murder or something!"
"Well, your only alternative is to let the matter drop!" advised Mr Dunne.
"On the other hand, I feel it a duty to not ignore it, sir!"
Thomson fell silent, looking very thoughtful.
"Thomson!" ejected Mr Dunne, "You are not thinking the unthinkable! Or are you? You're not thinking of whacking the headmaster's boy yourself!"
"Just a passing thought!" mused Thomson, "The headmaster has indicated that he wants him treated like any other boy! He even has to sleep in a dormitory all week and only go back to the headmaster's house at weekends, just like a weekly boarder."
"Would treating him like any other boy stretch to a prefect stinging his backside! You are entering dangerous territory Thomson!"
"I must give it a bit of thought, sir!" Thomson said, "Look sir, could you do me a print out of some of those pictures? Just two or three of the ones where he is recognisable."
"Yes of course! I'll do it for you now."
Thomson next reported to Mr Glebe. The sports master listened to the prefect's story.
"I wish I had never told you about it now, Thomson!" said Mr Glebe, "If you want to forget the whole thing that's fine by me!"
"I'm still thinking it over sir." responded Thomson.
"Well whatever you decide you can be sure of my complete discretion"
Thomson returned to his study. He pondered over the problem all evening. He would have loved to discuss the matter with his fellow prefects, but he knew that he had to keep the matter secret. By the afternoon of the next day he knew that he had reached "make your mind up" time! He decided to take the bull by the horns and sent for Denborough to report to him after school.
"You sent for me, Thomson?" asked Denborough, looking a little puzzled.
"Yes! Come in Denborough and close the door." Thomson just looked at him for a second or two. "Do you happen to have a cigarette?"
The boy seemed to turn into a block of ice! He just stood there motionless and speechless for a while.
"Er! Er! No, Thomson! I-er-er don't smoke!"
"Oh! No. Of course not! It doesn't matter! Nor do I!" Thomson said, "The reason I sent for you is to show you some photographs!"
"Yes! Take a look at these, Denborough!" replied Thomson as he handed over the pictures.
As the boy caught sight of the first picture every bit of colour drained from his face!
"Well?" prompted Thomson.
"That is you in those pictures, isn't it Denborough?"
"Er! Yes Thomson!"
"Have you ever been told what happened to the last boys who were caught smoking?"
"It happened before either of us started at this school, Denborough. Their parents were given the choice between having the boys expelled or given a public caning! They chose expulsion! What do you think your parents, one of whom happens to be the headmaster, would chose for you?"
Denborough was visibly shaking. "I don't know Thomson!" he stammered out.
"Well I've got a good idea which it would be!" Thomson told him, "It's none of my business, but I expect the headmaster gets you in this school at a discount! He is unlikely to want to put you in another school, is he? And what is more you are putting him in an extremely embarrassing position! He would have to make a real example of you, wouldn't he?"
"Please Thomson!" Denborough was pleading now, "I've never smoked before this week! Honestly! Please don't report me!"
"How did you get the cigarettes?" asked Thomson, ignoring the plea.
"I gave the money to a man outside the shop and asked him if he would go in and buy them for me!"
It sounded improbable, but Thomson did not pursue the matter. He knew that if they had come from another boy Denborough would not let on. No boy would "shop" his mates under any circumstances.
"Empty your pockets, let's see how many you have." ordered Thomson.
"I've only got three left!" said Denborough, emptying his pockets.
Thomson snapped the cigarettes in halves and dropped them in the waste basket.
"If you get a public beating it wouldn't end there, would it? The headmaster being your parent means you would both have to live with the memory of this for ever more! You have been a credit to him up to now, but this has blotted your copybook! I am prepared to let you off the hook somewhat if you promise not to let anything like this happen again. You can take twelve strokes of the slipper from me or be reported to the headmaster! Do you accept my punishment ? The choice is yours!"
It was almost a look of relief which came over the boy's face!
"Yes, I will accept your punishment Thomson!" he replied without hesitation, "I promise it won't happen again!"
Thomson pulled a chair from the table and then put a footstool beside it.
"Take off your blazer and come over to this chair." ordered the prefect.
Denborough moved over to the chair as Thomson took his trusty slipper from a drawer.
"Take down your trousers and underpants!"
"No! B-b-but you can't make me take my trousers down Thomson!"
"I can't! Why not, may I ask?"
"I-I-I'm the....." Denborough stopped in mid sentence!
"Yes! Go on!" said Thomson, forcing him to complete the sentence, "What are you?"
"Er! The headmaster's son!" Denborough said, almost in a whisper
"Really! Thank you for reminding me! I had forgotten! I don't think it has fully sunk in yet, Denborough! Your options are very limited! Either you drop your trousers now or you can take them down in the assembly hall; and it wouldn't be a slipper you would get across your backside! Now get them down!"
Thomson was now having less qualms about what he was doing. Denborough had no choice. The boy's hands went to the buckle of his belt and soon his trousers were sliding down to his ankles! The briefs followed!
"Now kneel on the stool and get over the chair!" ordered Thomson.
Denborough got into position over the chair and Thomson pulled back his shirt tail. The headmaster may not be the prettiest creature in the world but, thought Thomson, he can certainly breed them! Thomson surveyed the pair of firm smooth perfectly shaped buttocks! Thomson mused that this could not be the first time for Denborough. Surely such a delectable piece of spankable equipment had not escaped the headmaster's notice for nearly fifteen years! The prefect took aim and....
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The target had turned a deep shade of pink, but Denborough remained absolutely still.
The sixth stroke brought the first sign of movement as Denborough tried to shift the position of his rear end. The slipper was beginning to bite!
Now he was squirming and it was obviously hurting a lot, but basically he was maintaining his position. Most boys would by now be thrusting a hand in the way unconsciously, but Denborough was disciplining himself well. Thomson thought it was obviously not the first time the boy's rear end had received some attention!
The ninth stroke produced the first sound from Denborough, a sharp "aoool!" and the tenth was accompanied by an "arrrrgh!". He began to sob and Thomson could see some tears dribbling down his face.
CRACK! "Arrgh" CRACK! "Arrgh"
"Alright, you can get up now!" Thomson told him.
The boy stood up and clutched his buttocks with both hands. He had not made very much noise, but the tears were gradually increasing their momentum. After a few moments he pulled up his briefs and trousers.
"You can stay here until you have composed yourself, Denborough." Thomson told him, "You wouldn't want anybody asking any awkward questions, would you?"
After a few minutes the tears dried up, but every now and again one of his hands would stray round to his stinging rump. Thomson was busy putting the pictures through a hand operated shredder. He found a small paper bag to put the pieces in and handed them to Denborough.
"Here! You had better dispose of the evidence! Mr Dunne still has the images on his computer but I will see to it that they are deleted at the end of the term. You can go now if you want to." Thomson told him.
Denborough replaced his blazer and walked to the door, his right hand still straying to his bottom occasionally. He turned to face Thomson as he opened the door.
"Thank you Thomson for not reporting me!"
"Alright Denborough, but remember; if there is any reoccurrence I shall have no choice but to report you to the headmaster. Off you go!"
After the door had closed Thomson gave a sigh of relief that it had gone so well. He left his study and went to report to Mr Dunne.
"My-my!" exclaimed Mr Dunne after he had heard Thomson's account of events. "The headmaster's boy! You've got more nerve than I have Thomson!"
"I had to do it for his sake sir, - and the headmaster's!" explained Thomson, "But I had to admire the way he controlled himself while I was doing it! I don't think this is the first time he has had a hot seat!"
"I'll wager it's not, knowing the headmaster!" said Mr Dunne, "This has got to be kept quiet of course! What about Mr Glebe?"
Oh! He agrees. He won't say anything sir!"
Thomson left Mr Dunne. He thought he would go and spend an hour in the prefects' common room. What a pity he could not tell anybody.