Madazine
Chapter 11: Kleptomania

“Excuse me, sir. I wonder if you’d care to accompany me to my office at the rear of the store?

“Why?”

“Please, sir. We don’t want to make a fuss outside the premises, do we?

“I didn’t realise we were outside them.”

“We are. Furthermore, if you turn round, you will note that the store manager and his assistant are blocking your geta ... er ... proposed departure. If you’ll follow me, I’m sure this matter can be settled without undue unpleasantness. Please?”

“Proposed departure, eh? Nice one. All right. Obviously I can’t get out. Lead on.”

“Here we are. Do take a seat, sir. Good. Now, perhaps you would hand me the book in the left-hand pocket of your anorak ... Thank you.”

“What’s all this about?”

“I don’t think it’s new to either of us, sir. I have reason to believe that you attempted to take this item without paying for it.”

“Nonsense. It belongs to me. Has done for years.”

“Then perhaps you could explain why it bears the stamp of this shop.”

“Of course I can. I bought it here, ages ago. I’ve read it umpteen times.”

“So, you’re familiar with its contents?”

“Certainly. By the way, I got it from your second-hand shelf. That’s why you can see the pencilled note on the title page – ninety pence.”

“Yes, sir. Of course, that could have been written by anybody at any time. However, supposing I accept your explanation, I assume you won’t mind a little test?”

“I don’t seem to be in a position to mind. What kind of test?”

“Well, let me ask you first whose face appears on the front cover?”

“That’s Albert Einstein.”

“Very well. Now I’ll dip in and we’ll see what happens. Here we are on page forty-three. There’s a sub-heading in italics. Can you tell me what it says.”

“Er, forty-three. Yes. Its ‘The Great Dilemma’.”

“Hmn. A little hesitant, but correct. Do you have a photographic memory, sir?”

“No, I just know the book. Can’t you grasp that simple fact?”

“No need to get excited, sir. Now, page one hundred and twenty-one. What can you tell me about this?”

“One twenty-one eh? It’s all diagrams. No text as such. Does that get me through my A-levels?”

“Facetiousness won’t help you, sir. Now, how about page one hundred and fifty-seven?”

“There isn’t one. The book has a hundred and forty-two pages.”

“Good. Now, page eighty-seven. There’s a formula. Can you recite it?”

“No. That’s the very thing I’m wrestling with.”

“Ah, having a little trouble with our numeracy, are we? Or is the total recall slipping? Now look, son, this isn’t my first case and probably not yours. You stole this book, right?”

“Oh, first it’s the steely glare and ‘sir’, then it’s the wheedling tone and ‘son’. Good cop, bad cop, eh? Must be awkward, as there’s only one of you. Do you practise in a mirror?

“Very flippant. However, this will go better if I ask the questions.”

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