Amazingly enough, the captain had been more than agreeable with Richard's idea - believing that it would be fitting and would make an impression. Plus it would mean that the captain wouldn't have to fill out triplicate paper-work. The shop owner had been paid for the locket and now stood beside the police captain in the observation room while Richard was left with John in interrogation. Richard had quickly explained to the boy what had been agreed upon and what would be done. To say the kid was shocked would have been an understatement.
"You…you can't do that! I'm seventeen years old! I'm not a little kid!" Bender protested, but not as hotly as he might have under other, better circumstances. Despite his opposition to the idea, the brat knew that his options of getting out of this situation and allowed to go home were slim.
Richard looked the kid in the eye, noting the fear, the uncertainty, the…pleading… in the gaze. The boy was relying on him to help and get him out of the mess he'd gotten himself into but wasn't entirely certain that one Richard Vernon would want to help him. All their past confrontations had been less than amicable and Bender had used every opportunity to try and prove that Richard Vernon had no control or authority over him - what had just been proposed contradicted that position starkly.
"This is the only option the captain is willing to accept that doesn't involve you staying here in jail and waiting for trial." Richard finally said in as calm a way as possible. "Now, bare yourself then please bend over the table." Richard stared into John's eyes, even as he removed his belt from around his waist and doubled it up with the buckle secured in his hand.
John was the first to look down, mumbling unhappily. "You're gonna enjoy this, aren't you? You're just like my father!" the boy didn't argue any further however, lowering his jeans and underwear then leaning across the table and gripping the other side tightly.
Richard winced at the accusation. He'd heard stories - all the teachers had. Complaints had been filed, concerns reported, they'd done everything that they could legally do. Nothing had ever been done however. John was one who had slipped through the cracks in the system. Vernon straightened his shoulders. The system may have failed the kid, but he wasn't going to fail the kid here and now. He would do what needed to be done so that he could take the kid home - he wouldn't allow the accusation to go unanswered though. Firmly and quietly he disagreed. "No. I'm not going to enjoy it. Despite what you may think, I truly don't want you hurt. But if blistering your butt is what it will take to get you back home in one piece, I'll do it."
John grimaced and closed his eyes tight, waiting for the first blow to fall. Richard walked to his side and put his hand on the small of the kid's back, gently holding him in place. He could tell the boy was terrified of what was about to occur - the muscles in the kid's back were taught and he could feel the child trembling, even though John was doing everything possible to hide his fear. Steeling himself against his own nerves and desire to stop the proceedings, he swallowed then said softly. "Fifty was the least amount the captain would agree to. Count them."
A tiny whimper and a slight nodding of the head was the only response John gave him, but it was enough. Inhaling deeply, Richard raised the belt in the air then swung it down with a harsh crack.
John's eyes widened and unable to help himself he stood straight up with a wail, his hands going back to protect his backside. Richard quickly placed a hand on the boy's shoulder to keep him from running. "You have to accept this John - it is either a whipping or jail...." He gave the shoulder a gentle squeeze then firmly ordered. "Lean over the table again. And stay down. Otherwise we will have to begin over."
With another tiny whimper, Bender obeyed. "O…one sir," was his only reply.
Richard nodded, relieved that the kid understood the options they had been left with and was not going to make it any more difficult. Placing his hand on the small of John's back again, he gently rubbed in an attempt to provide some comfort before pressing down firmly again to hold the boy in place. He eyed the red welt that crossed the young man's pale bottom, then raised his hand and brought the belt down again - careful to land the leather on an unmarked spot.
"Two…" John’s voice quivered as he continued the count.
It continued in that vein for several minutes, Richard landing the belt and Bender counting in an increasingly quavering and tear-filled voice. Vernon tried his best to not hit the same spot, but eventually all of John's buttocks and thighs from the tops of his cheeks to his knees, had red welts. And they had only gotten half-way through the count. Richard truly didn't want to hit him with the belt in an area that had already been hit - the chance of breaking skin was too great. He hated that he had to continue at all - Bender had begun sobbing out the count somewhere around number fifteen. The last ten strokes of the belt Richard had barely been able to understand the number coming out of the kid's mouth. But the captain had been adamant. The locket cost 50 Dinar, so John would receive a count of fifty lashes.
Richard swallowed. The captain hadn't said every number had to be done with the belt however. Nodding to himself, Richard quietly dropped his belt on the floor and moved slightly closer to his student.
John was visibly trembling in his effort to stay in one place and to choke back his tears, so he did not notice Vernon moving. He did notice when he felt a cool palm against his heated bottom instead of the dreaded leather - his breathing hitched and he forced his eyes open so he could look over his shoulder. The tear stained face, trembling lip and confused expression on the boy's face tugged at Vernon's heart and he had to force himself to continue. He did allow himself to reach up and gently squeeze John's shoulder before moving his hand back to hold the boy in place.
He raised his hand and then let it fall with a firm smack. Not waiting for John to continue counting he raised his hand again and let it fall onto a new spot - keeping his own count in his head. John had quickly closed his eyes again and turned his face forward. He was still whimpering and crying - but Richard couldn't help but feel a bit of relief that the heart breaking sobs had calmed. It obviously still hurt, but the fact that he'd changed implements seemed to have somehow comforted the kid.
Richard began to talk as he smacked. "The captain has agreed to release you into my custody. You will stay by my side the entire rest of the trip. I would prefer not to handcuff you to myself, but if you feel incapable of staying next to me where you belong, I will do so."
"I…I'll stay next to you, sir…" John said. Or at least that's what he attempted to say. He was still crying hard and the words sounded mangled beyond recognition.
"Ten more and we're done son. You've done well. I'm proud of you…" Richard admitted allowing his approval of the kid to show in his voice. He'd intended it to bolster the kid's nerves and make the last of the punishment easier. He couldn't help but feel a bit shocked when instead, the boy went limp at the words and began to sob brokenly, apologizing over and over not only for taking the locket but for numerous other misdeeds that he had never admitted to before and promising to be good. Richard blinked in consternation, but hid his confusion quickly - finishing up the punishment with ten firm, hard smacks to John's sit spots.
Gently Vernon helped his charge back to his feet and adjusting his clothing. Bender's sobs increased as the material rubbed over a nearly raw backside. Richard wanted to say something, anything, to try and calm the child down but he needed to be sure that the captain had accepted the punishment as adequate to enable him to release the boy. The captain and shop owner, luckily, did not keep him waiting. Seconds after John had been re-clothed, they came into the room with serious looks on their face.
The shop owner stood in front of John and gave him a firm look. "You be a good boy, yes - and your papa will not have to punish you like that again!"
John shook his head, too spent to argue with the man about his parentage. "I will be good…" he whispered hoarsely, choking back his tears.
"He is free to go with you, sir. Make certain he stays within your sight at all times until you leave…" the captain repeated the conditions of John's release.
Richard nodded briskly then put a protective arm around John, pulling him in close to his side so that he could provide the emotional support - and possible physical support - that the younger man appeared to need. The fact that Bender did not pull away from him told him he'd made the right move. He surreptitiously glanced at his watch. They had about five hours before the rest of the group would return from their site-seeing. Enough time for a nap. Squeezing the thin shoulders under his arm, he led the boy out of the precinct and to the cab he'd called to take them to their hotel.