With the obvious way she’d put the hose in her purse it felt like a setup, and Nathan was a real bastard. He didn’t have her back. He’d accept any ridiculous story the woman came up with. She would probably come up with some way to blame Jessie for mistakenly walking out with the hose.
What the woman didn’t know was that “Finer Things” saw nearly as much petty theft as a convenience store in a bad neighborhood. Kleptomania seemed pathetically common among the rich. Then again, shoplifting is seldom about the money, and rich people probably enjoy breaking rules as much as anyone else. Consequently, Finer Things had a stern anti-theft policy. If the RFID tag on the hose set off the store security systems Nathan would probably blame her for that as well.
Oh hell, Jessie thought, I’ll just do my job. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Ma’am, I think you may have an unpurchased item in your purse. I can help you with it over at the checkout.”
Nathan hadn’t been standing anywhere nearby. Or at least Jessie hadn’t seen him standing anywhere near, but before the Trophy Wife had even stopped and managed to turn fully around he was there spreading fake charm on things. “Checking out can be such a bother. We don’t want to hold you up. I can help you right here.”
As he spoke he moved to register number 2 and gestured Jessie toward him. Jessie had started looking for another customer to help as soon as Nathan had spoken. If she could just fade into the background then this would stop being her problem. Apparently that wasn’t an option. She joined him behind the register desk as though operating it was somehow a two person job.
It wasn’t, the register was a slightly better than waist-high desk with an RFID scanner, an area for bagging merchandise, and a display both the customer and the employee could see to show what the store was ringing up. The register’s main function was bagging, the checkout processes could have been handled by an RFID reader by the door. In most stores it was. But in those stores if you wanted your stuff bagged you did it yourself.
The Trophy Wife’s face now held such an expression of doe eyed innocence that a casual observer would have thought she’d never even heard of the concept of theft. In keeping with that innocence she followed Nathan over to the register looking slightly confused and then stood in front of him while an uncomfortable pause developed. She was on the patch of lilac carpet that indicated the reception zone of the RFID reader. If she’d had any merchandise on her the register should be displaying it. The register’s screen remained stubbornly dark.
Jessie caught a hint of the woman’s perfume. It was nice, something floral and innocent. Jessie thought maybe Finer Things carried the sent.
At some length Trophy Wife supplied, “Actually, I don’t think I have anything. What were you looking for?”
“Might you have put something small in your purse and forgotten about it? It happens all the time, and if the purse has anti-em measures it wouldn’t show up on our reader.”
Trophy Wife peered into her purse confusion evident in every line of her body. Jessie decided the woman had wasted her life more obviously than most by just snagging a rich husband. She could have been in the movies. After a long moment of earnestly inspecting the contents of her handbag she looked back at Nathan, “I just don’t see anything.”
Then she flipped the purse over dumping its contents all over the counter which caused enough of a clatter to draw long looks from the other customers. Nathan’s eyes went wide and his eyebrows jumped toward his hairline while his mouth opened slightly. Finer Things did not want its customers to think they were going to be subjected to some sort of search when they tried to leave the store. The woman continued to play the oblivious innocent, “Is it any of this?”
Jessie looked down. Oh hell. It was the usual collection of purse junk. There were tissues, hair clips, make up, a smart little wallet that matched the purse, and some paper money. With shock Jessie realized the bills were hundreds. As she watched a tube of lipstick came to a slow rolling stop. However, there weren’t any hose or anything else Finer Things would have sold.
Nathan was already in motion putting things back in the women’s purse. He might have started doing that before they even stopped moving. “Oh there’s no need for that!” Leaning in toward Jessie he hissed, “Are you sure you saw her pick something up?”