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The Kleptomaniac
by [?]

Quickly Kennedy outlined, with Donnelly’s permission, the story we had just heard. The two store detectives saw the humour of the situation, as well as the seriousness of it, and fell to comparing notes.

“The professional as well as the amateur shop-lifter has always presented to me an interesting phase of criminality,” remarked Kennedy tentatively, during a lull in their mutual commiseration. With thousands of dollars’ worth of goods lying unprotected on the counters, it is really no wonder that some are tempted to reach out and take what they want.”

“Yes,” explained Donnelly, “the shop-lifter is the department- store’s greatest unsolved problem. Why, sir, she gets more plunder in a year than the burglar. She’s costing the stores over two million dollars. And she is at her busiest just now with the season’s shopping in full swing. It’s the price the stores have to pay for displaying their goods, but we have to do it, and we are at the mercy of the thieves. I don’t mean by that the occasional shoplifter who, when she gets caught, confesses, cries, pleads, and begs to return the stolen article. They often get off. It is the regulars who get the two million, those known to the police, whose pictures are, many of them, in the Rogues’ Gallery, whose careers and haunts are known to every probation officer. They are getting away with loot that means for them a sumptuous living.”

“Of course we are not up against the same sort of swindlers that you are,” put in Bentley, “but let me tell you that when the big jewelers do get up against anything of the sort they are up against it hard.”

“Have you any idea who it could be?” asked Kennedy, who had been following the discussion keenly.

“Well, some idea,” spoke up Donnelly. “From what Bentley says I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it was the same person in both cases. Of course you know how rushed all the stores are just now. It is much easier for these light-fingered individuals to operate during the rush than at any other time. In the summer, for instance, there is almost no shop-lifting at all. I thought that perhaps we could discover this particular shoplifter by ordinary means, that perhaps some of the clerks in the jewellery department might be able to identify her. We found one who said that he thought he might recognise one of the women if he saw her again. Perhaps you did not know that we have our own little rogues’ gallery in most of the big department-stores. But there didn’t happen to be anything there that he recognised. So I took him down to Police Headquarters. Through plate after plate of pictures among the shoplifters in the regular Rogues’ Gallery the clerk went. At last he came to one picture that caused him to stop. ‘That is one of the women I saw in the store that day,’ he said. ‘I’m sure of it.'”

Donnelly produced a copy of the Bertillon picture.

“What?” exclaimed Bentley, as he glanced at it and then at the name and history on the back. “Annie Grayson? Why, she is known as the queen of shoplifters. She has operated from Christie’s in London to the little curio-shops of San Francisco. She has worked under a dozen aliases and has the art of alibi down to perfection. Oh, I’ve heard of her many times before. I wonder if she really is the person we’re looking for. They say that Annie Grayson has forgotten more about shoplifting than the others will ever know.”

“Yes,” continued Donnelly, “and here’s the queer part of it. The clerk was ready to swear that he had seen the woman in the store at some time or other, but whether she had been near the counter where the necklace was displayed was another matter. He wasn’t so sure about that.”