The Dream Doctor
13. The Kleptomaniac
Quickly Kennedy outlined, with Donnelly's permission, the story we had just heard. The
two store detectives saw the humour of the situation, as well as the seriousness of it, and
fell to comparing notes.
"The professional as well as the amateur shop-lifter has always presented to me an
interesting phase of criminality," remarked Kennedy tentatively, during a lull in their
mutual commiseration. With thousands of dollars' worth of goods lying unprotected on
the counters, it is really no wonder that some are tempted to reach out and take what they
"Yes," explained Donnelly, "the shop-lifter is the department- store's greatest unsolved
problem. Why, sir, she gets more plunder in a year than the burglar. She's costing the
stores over two million dollars. And she is at her busiest just now with the season's
shopping in full swing. It's the price the stores have to pay for displaying their goods, but
we have to do it, and we are at the mercy of the thieves. I don't mean by that the
occasional shoplifter who, when she gets caught, confesses, cries, pleads, and begs to
return the stolen article. They often get off. It is the regulars who get the two million,
those known to the police, whose pictures are, many of them, in the Rogues' Gallery,
whose careers and haunts are known to every probation officer. They are getting away
with loot that means for them a sumptuous living."
"Of course we are not up against the same sort of swindlers that you are," put in Bentley,
"but let me tell you that when the big jewelers do get up against anything of the sort they
are up against it hard."
"Have you any idea who it could be?" asked Kennedy, who had been following the
"Well, some idea," spoke up Donnelly. "From what Bentley says I wouldn't be surprised
to find that it was the same person in both cases. Of course you know how rushed all the
stores are just now. It is much easier for these light-fingered individuals to operate during
the rush than at any other time. In the summer, for instance, there is almost no shop-
lifting at all. I thought that perhaps we could discover this particular shoplifter by
ordinary means, that perhaps some of the clerks in the jewellery department might be
able to identify her. We found one who said that he thought he might recognise one of the
women if he saw her again. Perhaps you did not know that we have our own little rogues'
gallery in most of the big department-stores. But there didn't happen to be anything there
that he recognised. So I took him down to Police Headquarters. Through plate after plate
of pictures among the shoplifters in the regular Rogues' Gallery the clerk went. At last he
came to one picture that caused him to stop. 'That is one of the women I saw in the store
that day,' he said. 'I'm sure of it.'"
Donnelly produced a copy of the Bertillon picture.