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Constance Dunlap

9. The Shoplifters
"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
 
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