The Shoplifter

The Shoplifter.

by

Angharad.

Some days I love my work, others it’s a bind. I probably work too many hours and have too little fun. I live well, and am quite wealthy, although the future doesn’t seem as rosy as it once did.

My great grandparents established a shop in this town, over a hundred years ago, my grandparents expanded it several times and my own father turned it into a department store employing a hundred staff.

It seems the day of the high street store is waning as the internet takes over, punishing business rates and the credit crunch all reduce our viability. John Lewis we are not, although I try to be competitive and do the best for my staff.

On one boring morning, I was duty manager, trying to cope with requests from my buyers and VAT receipts as well as drink a cup of coffee which was getting colder by the moment. Possibly my mind was distracted by worrying about my elderly mother, who was too immobile to remain independent. My father died ten years ago–worn out by the business–we all assumed. I was still living at home, my mother looking after my domestic needs while I took over the management of the shop–I had loads of new ideas which my father had refused to try, believing in the old fashioned standards and quality of a traditional department store. I revolutionised things and we began to make a profit again and so far have just about kept it there.

The problem is, it gets harder and part of me felt like giving up and selling it off and living quietly looking after my mother until she died. I had employed several housekeepers/carers for her and each one she quarrelled with and they left. This was the problem today. Her latest carer had gone after less than two days.

She implored me to find another, but where? The various agencies had refused to work for me because of her abuse, even those using foreign workers wouldn’t accept my commission–hence my difficult day.

I put the VAT stuff to one side and looked at Yellow Pages again. None of the care services there would work for me again, at this rate, I’d have to put her in a home. I needed some sort of miracle. I finished my coffee just as there was a loud knock on my door. I jumped.

My secretary only works part time these days–one of those little economies, like using instant coffee instead of fresh ground–so she wasn’t there. I called for whoever to enter.

The door opened and a youth of some sort was thrust into my room by the store detective. “Another one, Ms Grant?”

“Afraid so, Ms Adams.”

“Do we have evidence?”

“CCTV–shall I call the police?”

“I suppose so–at the rate they come here, I’m surprised they haven’t set up a station here.”

“No–please don’t do that,” said our would-be larcenist. I looked at him–his hair was long and needed a wash, his clothing–it was a bit odd. Most boys wear jeans that somehow hang half way between their waists and their knees, this one wasn’t–his fitted very snugly under a voluminous coat–presumably with hidden pockets inside it.

“Why shouldn’t I?” I asked, I always do because they always ask me not to summon the forces of law and order. Usually we do call the boys in blue because the thief after begging for mercy then becomes aggressive when it’s obvious they’re going to be prosecuted.

“I don’t know,” he responded.

“Have you taken anything without paying for it?” I asked, indicating to Ms Grant not to say anything at this stage–she’d have a list of items the accused would have been suspected of
taking.

“Yes,” he said very quietly.

“So I have every right to have you arrested for shoplifting?”

“Yes,” he was so quiet he was barely audible and he was crying a tear dripping off his nose onto my office carpet.

“What did you take?” I asked firmly. Usually it’s small things which they can sell down the pub or car boot.

He hesitated and Ms Grant ordered him to empty his pockets into a tray we kept for this purpose. The items mounted–a lipstick, nail varnish, a pair of tights, a bra, a pack of panties. Ms Grant got him to remove his coat and she searched it while I watched him. He was wearing a girl’s jumper over what looked liked girl’s jeans. We had a transvestite thief–won’t be the first or presumably the last, but it gave a little variety to the chore of dealing with them.

Total value of goods–under thirty pounds–this will cost the system more than it’s worth–calling a copper will cost twice that then the processing and magistrates–all in all probably hundreds of pounds just to sort out some saddo who likes to wear women’s clothes.

“Why shouldn’t I call the police, you’re attempting to steal my property. Shoplifting costs this shop thousands of pounds every year. If there wasn’t any, I could employ another two staff.”

“I’m sorry,” he said very quietly.

“Can you pay for the goods?” suspecting he probably couldn’t.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have any money.”

“What’s your name?”

“Smith.”

“What’s your real name, I can still call the police?”

“It is, Smith, Ian Smith.”

“How old are you Ian?”

“Eighteen.”

“Do you have a job?”

“No.”

I got up from behind my desk. “Do you always wear girl’s clothing, Ian?” I asked as I walked round him.

“When I can,” he replied very quietly.

I sent Ms Grant off to catch a more serious offender while I read the riot act to this child. Most boys of eighteen tower over my five feet five inches, this one was smaller than I, although I was wearing heels. He had on unisex trainers.

“Do your parents know you cross dress?”

“Yeah.”

“Do they approve of it?”

“No.”

I wasn’t expecting a positive answer. I picked up the lipstick–pillar box red. The nail polish was a matching colour. I was tempted to make him wear both and make him leave still wearing them but they were hardly a suitable colour for his age and complexion.

“What made you choose this colour?” I asked him.

“It was the easiest to take.”

“Look at me, please.” I asked him and when he raised his eyes to mine, I could see his shaped eyebrows. “A pink would be far more suitable for your colouring and age, red is too severe.”

“Thank you.”

I looked at the tights. At least those were suitable, grey with a rose bud pattern on them.

The bra and panties looked about right for his size.

“Is there any reason why I shouldn’t call the police or your parents?”

“No,” I could feel the heat of his blush from a yard away. He shook his head and I saw little studs in his pierced ears.

“Do you want to be a girl?”

“Yes,” he said and burst into tears falling down on his knees in front of me.

“Here,” I handed him some tissues and placed a chair next to him. He sat and wiped his eyes and nose.

“What am I going to do with you?”

“I don’t know,” he said still sniffing and dabbing his eyes.

“Do you still live at home?”

“I live with my mother, but she does her own thing.”

“She lets you wear girl’s clothes though?”

“I only wear these,” he indicated the jeans, “she hasn’t noticed yet.”

“I take it you paid for them?”

“Yes, I did actually.”

“And you don’t have a job?”

“No.”

“Have you ever done any domestic work?”

“What cleaning and cooking?”

“Yes, exactly that.”

“A bit at home–I do most of what gets done at home and cook for myself.”

“Have you ever worked with older people?”

“I helped look after my Gran until she died.”

“Would you be interested in doing some domestic work?”

“I thought you were going to call the police?”

“I still might.”

“Are you offering me a job?”

“I could be–no, it would be better suited to a girl.”

He visibly shrank and his face showed despair. I was teasing him but he didn’t know that yet. “I suppose if you really were a girl.”

He looked up at me with a completely confused expression on his face.

“What do you call yourself when in girl mode?”

“Alice.” He looked back at the floor.

“Would Alice be interested in a domestic job?”

Now his expression was one of total bewilderment. “What?” he gasped.

“Would Alice, namely you, be interested in a domestic job?”

“What, cleaning in the shop?”

“Possibly later, but I was thinking more of a domestic setting, looking after an old lady–it’ll be minimum wage and live in, minimum of thirty eight hours per week, free board and lodgings.”

He looked as if someone told him he’d won the lottery then told him it was an April fool’s joke.

“You’re offering me a job?”

“Yes. If you let me down, I’ll prosecute you for these and if you take anything from my home–I’ll see you get a custodial sentence.”

“What if I say no?”

“You have two minutes to leave this shop and never set foot in it again.”

“You’re not going to call the cops?”

“No.”

“Thank you.”

“What about the job?”

“Could I think about it? I need to talk to my mother.”

“How long?”

“I don’t have enough clothes to be Alice.”

“Wear those, they’ll be okay for what I have in mind.”

“What do I wear tomorrow?”

“I see, quite. So if it was just clothes?”

“I think Mum would be glad to be shot of me so she can have her boyfriend round more often.” He was trying to think in his excited state. “When would you want me to start?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Wow–I don’t know, it’s such a rush.”

“If you can’t do it I need to find someone else–I just thought it would be a way for you to find yourself and for me to resolve my need to find a carer for my mother.”

“Can I call my mother?”

I handed him the phone and he spent all of two minutes speaking with her, she seemed happy to be shot of him and didn’t ask for much in the way of details.

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll do it.”

I took the phone back and dialled, “Hello, Jo, could you do me a favour? Oh good half an hour? Yes, a shampoo and restyle and a facial with some light makeup. On my account, yes, Alice Smith.”

He stared at me. I gave him a five pound note, “Go and get something to eat in the restaurant, be down at the salon at twelve o’clock and they’ll do your hair for you. When you finish there come back to me and we’ll organise some clothes for you–those you can pay me back at so much a month.”

“I can’t believe this,” he said bursting into tears, “how can I ever thank you?”

“Do the best job you can.”

“What about your mother? Won’t she..?”

“That’ll be the last thing she’ll worry about.”

“I can’t believe it,” he sat down heavily on the chair overcome with the moment.

“Don’t forget your name is Alice.”

“I won’t–thank you so much.”

“Alice, go and get something to eat and then down to the salon–well go on, girl.”

“Yes, Ms Adams.”

After she’d gone I sat down and phoned mother, oh well, the two of them will have some fun tomorrow...I was rather glad I’d be in the office once I’d shown Alice where everything was. I’ll do that tonight, I’ll run her home collect her stuff and take her back to my house. I just hope mother doesn’t play up too much–she can be a right old witch. If she copes with my mother, she might just make it as a girl–it’ll be good practice in dealing with stress. Now where did I put those VAT returns?



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This story is 2115 words long.