IMPORTANT NOTE: If you read “A New Character Appears!” before Aug 28, 2014 I made a minor change to it on that date. Jessie’s debt got less legitimate. Nothing else has changed in the updates before this point.
Jessie nodded without thinking then cursed herself. The lady had picked a package of hose up. She’d stuck it in her purse. The action hadn’t been covert. Jessie didn’t know where it had gone after that, and didn’t really care. Pantyhose was the cheapest thing they sold; let her keep it. Of course, Nathan didn’t know what had presumably been stolen and apparently wasn’t ready to just let it drop. “Maybe it got into your pocket. Lots of coats have em block as well these days.”
The woman shrugged and flipped the pockets of her coat inside out. This drew even sharper looks from the other shoppers who were now watching fairly intently. The woman was playing with them. She was making a fuss on purpose. She had probably been working for this reaction since she walked in the door. Jessie nudged Nathan hoping to signal him to lighten up.
He took it the wrong way, “Were you wearing your coat the whole time? If not you might have put it in a pocket of that suit. It is a lovely suit, I must say. ”
For the first time the woman baulked. Her voice was pitched just a little too loud as she answered, “You know, I come here all the time and I’ve never received this kind of treatment before. Perhaps that sales girl is mistaken.”
Jessie opened her mouth to say she was mistaken. Utterly mistaken. Mistaken this time and broadly prone to fits of fancy and sporadic hallucination.
Nathan was faster. “If you’ll just humor us.”
With slow deliberation the woman started to turn her pockets inside out, thumping whatever she found on the counter. Her expression grew steadily darker as she did so. The gathered watchers were now being obvious in their inspection of the counter, and a small bead of sweat had broken out on Nathan’s forehead. She checked her right front pocket, then both of the back ones. “I don’t see why I should be forced to continue with this. Surely your girl is confused.”
“Almost certainly,” Nathan shot Jessie a look. His cheeks were starting to redden but she couldn’t tell if it was anger or embarrassment.
The woman stood for a moment looking ticked, and then continued starting her pocket search on the largely ornamental pockets of her vest and jacket. There was nothing. “There, I hope you’re happy now. And I hope I can go. Or were you hoping to perform some sort of cavity search as well.”
“No ma’am! Of course! We’re very sorry to have detained…”
“And I hope you will do something about this fearsome child. There was a time I liked coming here, and it would be nice to be able to keep coming here. If you take my meaning.”
This time the flush in Nathan’s cheeks was clearly anger as he looked at Jessie. “We pride ourselves on the quality of our service and we do not like to look anything less than totally competent.”
Jessie winced. This was going to be ugly and only proving that she hadn’t been mistaken would help. She thought back to where the woman had actually put the package. Wait! She hadn’t actually exposed that one pocket! “What about your front pocket.”
“My front pocket?” Some of the innocence was back on the woman’s face as she reached into the right pocket again.
“The left ma’am.”
Trophy Wife reached slowly into the left pocket, then with equal slow deliberation turned it inside out. It was empty. It was as empty as a stage performer’s top hat. Jessie could have clapped, or cried maybe. The woman swept everything she’d put on the counter into her purse with a single motion then pointedly marched out the door without a further word. Nathan wasted no time in yanking her back to his office.
Nathan exploded. “But nothing! That little show was the worst I’ve ever seen. Where in the hell did you learn about customer service? The federal penitentiary? Did you expect her to have a shiv on her? I’ve known all along you aren’t the right sort of employee for us and today you proved it beyond any shadow of doubt. Don’t you have any respect for our customers? These are rich important people. A lady like that wouldn’t steal something. She probably has the money it takes to buy and sell the whole store! We can’t push these people around like they’re just anyone. But I guess you wouldn’t know that. You don’t know anything about quality.”
Wait, Jessie thought, the cameras! Finer Things had more security cameras then a casino. Knowing how heavily recorded they were made some of the employees uncomfortable, but surely one of the cameras would have shown the theft. “Check the security feed, you’ll see I wasn’t making anything up.”
“This isn’t about if the woman stole something or not,” Nathan said, at least partially contradicting himself. “This is about our customers expectation of service. Everyone out there who saw that little scene is going to worry they’ll be treated like a criminal when they try to leave!”
Nathan cut her off before she could point out that he’d been the one to go overboard when she’d been trying to get him to drop it. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, he’d looked like a fool and the store had looked bad. Now he was angry and he was taking it out on her. “No, no, we’re done talking. You’re fired. You are gone. Just leave now. We’ll be mailing your paycheck. If you want to see it I’d recommend you don’t change your address because I don’t want you coming back in the store for anything. Understand? If I see you around here again I will call the police.”
Jessie stomped out so mad the red haze didn’t clear until she’d gotten home. Only then did it occur to her that she’d lost her job and she needed another one fast.