“Hey!” I snapped at him. “What do you think—”
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
“I’m going home. Who are you?” I demanded.
Some customers going in and out paused to watch the exchange, and I thought I would start to scream any moment to draw more attention and frighten whoever he was away, but he surprised me by opening his wallet and showing me a badge.
“I’m the store security man, and you, young lady, are under arrest for shoplifting. Now, turn around and head back into the department store,” he ordered.
“I paid for this!” I cried, and showed him the slip.
“What about what you’re wearing underneath your blouse?”
How could he know that unless they had some sort of camera or peep hole in the changing room? I wondered.
“Do you want me to make you take it off out here, or what?” he asked.
I thought about running, but the small crowd of onlookers had built considerably and was now surrounding us.
“Well?” he demanded.
I turned and headed back toward the entrance of the store. As we approached, Kathy Ann came out.
“Where were you? I’ve been looking all over for you. Why did you go out without telling me?”
“Step aside,” the security man told her.
“Go home, Kathy Ann,” I said, “and tell my sister I’m in trouble.”
“For what?” she asked, looking at the security man.
“For shoplifting,” he said.
Her mouth dropped open. The security man put his hand on my back and pushed me toward the store entrance.
He took me to an office at the rear of the store where the store manager waited. He was a small, baldheaded man with deep wrinkles under his eyes and thick, wet lips. I could see from the way he was nodding and smiling that his day had been made.
“You juvenile delinquents think you can come in here anytime you want and just rip me off,” he said. “This time you were fooled, eh.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Well? What’s your excuse? C’mon, let’s hear it. Maybe you have something new.”
“I just forgot,” I said.
“Oh,” he groaned, and sat hard in his seat. “She’s not even a little original. I’ve already called the police. We’re going to press charges against you to set an example. We know you kids have been coming in here and pulling these stunts all year long, and we’ve grown sick and tired of it. The only way to stop it is to see to it that when you’re caught, you pay the price, and I don’t mean the price of what you stole, either.”
I was hoping he was saying that just to frighten me. I was afraid, but something in me kept me from milking it. I couldn’t even cry. The rage and tightness I had felt on my way here were still strong.
“What’s your name?” he demanded.
“Puddin‘ Tame,” I said.
“Oh, I see, a smart-ass. All right, we’ll leave it all to the police and the courts. Sit,” he commanded, pointing to a chair.