**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Shoplifters
by [?]

“Madam, would you mind going with me for a few moments to the office on the third floor?”

Constance Dunlap had been out on a shopping excursion. She had stopped at the jewelry counter of Stacy’s to have a ring repaired and had gone on to the leather goods department to purchase something else.

The woman who spoke to her was a quietly dressed young person, quite inconspicuous, with a keen eye that seemed to take in everything within a radius of a wide-angled lens at a glance.

She leaned over and before Constance could express even surprise, added in a whisper, “Look in your bag.”

Constance looked hastily, then realized what had happened. The ring was gone!

It gave her quite a shock, too, for the ring, a fine diamond, was a present from her husband, one of the few pieces of jewelry, treasured not only for its intrinsic value but as a remembrance of Carlton and the supreme sacrifice he had made for her.

She had noticed nothing in the crowd, nothing more than she had noticed scores of times before. The woman watched her puzzled look.

“I’ve been following you,” she said. “By this time the other store detectives must have caught the shoplifter and bag-opener who touched you. You see, we don’t make any arrests in the store if we can help it, because we don’t like to make a scene. It’s bad for business. Besides, if she had anything else, we are safer when the case comes to court, if we have caught her actually leaving the store with it. Of course, when we make an arrest on the sidewalk, we bring the shoplifter back, but in a private, back elevator.”

Constance was following the young woman mechanically. At least there was a chance of recovering the ring.

“She was standing next to you at the jewelry counter,” she continued, “and if you will help identify her the store management will appreciate it–and make it worth your while. Besides,” she urged, “It’s really your duty to do it, madam.”

Constance remembered now the rather simply but richly gowned young woman who had been standing next to her at the counter, seemingly unable to decide which of a number of beautiful rings she really wanted. She remembered because, with her own love of beauty, she had wanted one herself, in fact had thought at the time that she, too, might have difficulty in choosing.

With the added feeling of curiosity, Constance followed the woman detective up in the elevator.

In the office, apart in a little room curiously furnished with a camera, innumerable photographs, cabinets, and filing cases, was a young woman, perhaps twenty-six or seven. On a table before her lay a pile of laces and small trinkets. There, too, was the beautiful diamond ring which she had hidden in her muff. Constance fairly gasped at the sight.

The girl was sitting limply in a chair crying bitterly. She was not a hardened looking creature. In fact, her face bore evident traces of refinement, and her long, slender fingers hinted at a nervous, artistic temperament. It was rather a shock to see such a girl under such distressing circumstances.

“We’ve lost so much lately,” a small ferret-eyed man was saying, “that we must make an example of some one. It’s serious for us detectives, too. We’ll lose our jobs unless we can stop you boosters.”

“Oh–I–I didn’t mean to do it. I–I just couldn’t help it,” sobbed the girl over and over again.

“Yes,” drawled the man, “that’s what they all say. But you’ve been caught with the goods, this time, young lady.”

A woman entered, and the man turned to her quickly.

“Carr–Kitty Carr. Did you find anything under that name?”

“No, sir,” replied the woman store detective. “We’ve looked all through the records and the photographs. We don’t find her. And yet I don’t think it is an alias–at least, if it is, not an alias for any one we have any record of. I’ve a good eye for faces, and there isn’t one we have on file as–as good looking,” she added, perhaps with a little touch of wistfulness at her own plainness and this beauty gone wrong.