Gregson shopped once a year. That was too much. He bought the best and he didn’t browse. The women in the mall wanted to fix his style or lack of style, but he believed a man with style didn’t wear it on the outside. He practiced his craft in the mall where cons depended on the sea of distraction to pull-off their petty crimes. It kept him sharp. Gregson avoided most stores. He would not allow his heightened senses to be dulled by toxic perfume or pop music. He long ago learned it was the nose and ears that caught criminals and not the eyes. Sleight of hand is the conman’s trick. So, Gregson learned how to sniff-out their cheap cologne and insincere spin. He enjoyed looking for people he couldn’t figure out. But today, Gregson was not there to observe; he was there to buy a suit. His sensitivities had to be hidden by toughness and intimidation. It was a man’s world on the police force and the world of men wanted answers through logic and reason, not intuition and feelings.

“Can I help you sir?”

Gregson swiveled around, noticing a cute young cashier looking at him.

“Where would you go to buy a suit if you wanted to make a statement?”

She giggled at Gregson. Why was it that they always laughed? He was taken seriously when he solved crimes, but in the interim, women thought he was a lovable fool. Maybe that’s why he never married.

“You should try Suits and Blooms; they’re the hottest new department store.”

“Thanks,” Gregson said. He walked in the direction of the crowd. Shoppers entered and exited Suits and Blooms like bees who couldn’t get enough nectar. Roses and tulips grew everywhere. Black was not in fashion and Gregson seriously doubted whether he was going to intimidate anyone with a pick from their store.

“What kind of suit are you looking for?” A slender smiling man asked.

“Oh, one that will scare people away,” Gregson said.

“I’m sorry… You came to the wrong place. You see, Suits and Blooms draws people in with sweet smells, beautiful colors, and style unmatched anywhere.”

Another salesman talking about style, Gregson thought. “At least, do you have a suit that would impress working men?”

“Not high society, but blue-collar types?”

“Exactly.”

“You want to make an impression, as a man, am I right?”

“You’re a mind reader,” Gregson said.

“Um, well follow me and I’ll show you what we have. Not many of your sort shop here, but I assure you, that will only work in your favor.”

Gregson followed the stylized man through colors that might’ve damaged his brain. He looked at mannequins reaching out to him along the flowered path. He had an uneasy feeling. They were too real. Maybe they were professional mimes, but no, their eyes were glazed over like professionals who worked the 9 to 5.

“Here is our section for the working man.”

Gregson looked around. If he entered a crime scene dressed like this, they would question his sanity.

Suddenly, screams erupted. “She’s unresponsive. Somebody call 911; she’s had a seizure or something.”

Gregson capered toward the cries like a dancer, smelling a crime. His enormous frame engulfed the scene. A woman in a white dress stared into space, vacantly. She looked lifeless, like a mannequin and he touched his fingers to her neck.

“She’s dead,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 1 The Reluctant Shopper

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