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The "Dope Trust"
by [?]

“We have lost so much lately at Trimble’s,” he was saying, “that it is long past the stage of being merely interesting. It is downright serious–for me, at least. I’ve got to make good or lose my job. And I’m up against one of the cleverest shoplifters that ever entered a department-store, apparently. Only Heaven knows how much she has got away with in various departments so far, but when it comes to lifting valuable things like pieces of jewelry which run into the thousands, that is too much.”

At the mention of the name of the big Trimble store I had recognised at once what the man was, and it did not need Kennedy’s rapid-fire introduction of Michael Donnelly to tell me that he was a department store detective.

“Have you no clue, no suspicions?” inquired Kennedy.

“Well, yes, suspicions,” measured Donnelly slowly. “For instance, one day not long ago a beautifully dressed and refined-looking woman called at the jewellery department and asked to see a diamond necklace which we had just imported from Paris. She seemed to admire it very much, studied it, tried it on, but finally went away without making up her mind. A couple of days later she returned and asked to see it again. This time there happened to be another woman beside her who was looking at some pendants. The two fell to talking about the necklace, according to the best recollection of the clerk, and the second woman began to examine it critically. Again the prospective buyer went away. But this time after she had gone, and when he was putting the things back into the safe, the clerk examined the necklace, thinking that perhaps a flaw had been discovered in it which had decided the woman against it. It was a replica in paste; probably substituted by one of these clever and smartly dressed women for the real necklace.”

Before Craig had a chance to put another question, the buzzer on our door sounded, and I admitted a dapper, soft-spoken man of middle size, who might have been a travelling salesman or a bookkeeper. He pulled a card from his case and stood facing us, evidently in doubt how to proceed.

“Professor Kennedy?” he asked at length, balancing the pasteboard between his fingers.

“Yes,” answered Craig. “What can I do for you?”

“I am from Shorham, the Fifth Avenue jeweller, you know,” he began brusquely, as he handed the card to Kennedy. “I thought I’d drop in to consult you about a peculiar thing that happened at the store recently, but if you are engaged, I can wait. You see, we had on exhibition a very handsome pearl dogcollar, and a few days ago two women came to–“

“Say,” interrupted Kennedy, glancing from the card to the face of Joseph Bentley, and then at Donnelly. “What is this–a gathering of the clans? There seems to be an epidemic of shoplifting. How much were you stung for?”

“About twenty thousand altogether,” replied Bentley with rueful frankness. “Why? Has some one else been victimised, too?”