#3: The Thief
"Terri," Shannon asked, looking across the table at her best friend, "you havenít touched a thing on your plate. Whatís wrong?"
Her friend looked up at her, while using her fork to push the pieces of her salad around on her plate. "Pardon," she said, before realizing what Shannon had said. "Oh, Iím sorry, Shannon. I guess my mindís on the shop."
Terri sighed. "I did another inventory this morning," she told her friend. "Iíve been ripped off again."
"Again?" Shannon repeated. Terri had told her about the robberies that had been occurring at her lingerie shop. Of course, every store has to deal with a certain amount of shoplifting, but lately it seemed that Terri was being hit pretty regular. "What about that new security system you put it?"
"Donít ask me," Terri replied. "It doesnít seem to have done any good at all."
Shannon just shook her head. She remembered how Terri had complained about the cost of the system. It was one of those special doorway detectors that set off an alarm when someone tries to leave with something from the store. Terri had to buy the detector, plus enough of the little metal tags to put on all her merchandise. She had even shelled out the extra dough for the kind of tag that had to be removed at the register.
"I donít know what Iím going to do," Terri sighed. "If this keeps up, Iím going to be in real trouble. All total, Iíd say Iíve lost about two thousand dollars worth of stuff in the last six months."
Shannon leaned forwarded, whispering so as not to be overheard at the next table. "Have you tried using your magic?"
"I thought about it," Terri told her with a shake of her head, "but I decided it would be too dangerous. Hell, that damned security system goes off by mistake at least two or three times a day. Thatís embarrassing enough for the customer. Can you imagine how theyíd feel if they suddenly found themselves turned into a frog. No, itís just too risky."
Shannon had to admit that she had a point. "Well, how about security cameras?" she asked. "Maybe theyíd help."
"I donít think so," Terri told her. "I really donít have the extra money to spend on another security system. Especially since the last one didnít do me much good. Besides, all a camera can do is take a picture of the culprit. What I need is something that can chase them down for me."
"I guess youíre right," Shannon nodded. "StillÖ" She seemed to be in deep thought.
Terri looked at her carefully. "Alright, Shannon," she said after a minute. "Whatís up? Youíve got that crazy idea look again."
Shannon looked up with a smile. "Well," she explained, "I was just thinking. Why not let me be your security camera."
Terri looked confused. "I donít follow."
"You said you needed a security device that could chase down whoever it is ripping you off, right? Well, tomorrowís my day off. I could come to your shop and watch out for thieves for you."
Terri shook her head with a small laugh. "Yeah, right," she said. "Like someoneís going to rip me off with you there watching them."
"But what if they didnít know I was watching?" Shannon asked smiling. "What if I was just a lifeless mannequin."
Terri looked at her for a second, then smiled. "Your statue powers," she nodded. "You could make yourself a mannequin. Then, if you saw someone ripping me off, you could restore yourself and weíd have them."
"Thatís the idea," Shannon agreed. "How about it?"
"Sounds like a plan," Terri smiled.
The next morning, Terri and Shannon went into Terriís shop an hour before it opened. Terri had a mannequin in the back corner of the shop that stood on a pedestal that rotated back and forth at a forty-five degree angle. The girls had agreed that that would be the best place for Shannon to stand. Then, just like a real security camera, she would be able to see the entire store as she rotated back and forth.
Together, they took the mannequin apart and removed its outfit. "Hey, what about the dividing points?" Shannon asked, as they carried it into the room in the back of the store that led to the dressing rooms. "Maybe youíd better use your magic to make me more like a real mannequin."
"Nope," Terri disagreed. "That wouldnít be a good idea."
Shannon looked at her with suspicion. "Why not?"
"Because the plan is for you to be able to restore yourself. Right?" Shannon nodded. "Well, if I use my magic to alter your statue form in any way, that spell will cancel out your abilities. Youíd be stuck as a mannequin until I put you back the way you were before."
"Really?" the blonde inquired. "I didnít know that."
"Thatís because Iíve never mentioned it before. No, youíll just have to be a solid plastic statue instead of a typical mannequin. But donít worry about it. No one pays that much attention to mannequins, anyway. Right? That is the whole point of this plan, isnít it?"
"Well, I guess," Shannon admitted, though she still sounded doubtful.
Shannon picked out the outfit she wanted to wear Ė a blue silk teddy Ė and climbed up onto the pedestal. Terri brought her a piece of the mannequin for her to touch. After she had absorbed the properties of the plastic and fiberglass arm, the girl arranged herself in a mannequin type pose and said, "Freeze."
Instantly, she felt the tingle she had come to enjoy so much since receiving her birthday present from Terri. How do I look? she asked through their psychic link.
"Like just another mannequin," Terri told her. "Just like we wanted." She reached behind her plastic friend and flipped the switch that started the pedestal rotating. After Shannon had made a complete turn back and forth one time, she asked, "How about it? Can you see the whole store?"
Shannon tried to nod, but of course, that wasnít possible. Perfect, she thought to her friend. I can see everything.
"Great," Terri nodded. "Well, Iíve got to get ready to open. Give me a holler if you see anything suspicious."
For the next several minutes, Shannon stood on the pedestal, watching as her friend went about her normal business. A little after Terri had opened up, she saw Terriís only employee, a young college-age girl named Christie, come in. Inwardly, she smiled. Terri had done nothing but praise the girl since she had come to work a few months before. She had been the first person that Terri had trusted enough to run the shop while she was away on her many business trips out of town.
Almost immediately, Christie noticed the new mannequin. "Hey, cool," she said, coming over to Shannon for a closer look. "What an incredible mannequin. Itís so lifelike."
Terri joined her at the pedestal. "Ainít it?" she agreed. "A friend of mine modeled for it, and asked if Iíd give it a try-out in the store."
Christie examined Shannonís frozen face carefully. "Oh, yeah," she nodded. "Iíve seen her with you before. The likeness is amazing. Youíd almost expect her to step down and walk around the store." She reached out and ran her hand along Shannonís smooth plastic leg. With a confused expression, she turned to Terri. "No, breaking points? How do you dress her?"
Shannonís thoughts came into Terriís head. Told ya.
Terri ignored her. "Itís a new design," she explained to her employee. "The company that made her wanted her to be as lifelike as possible. Breaking points would mess up the illusion. They also positioned her so she could stand without a pole."
Christie looked back at the mannequin. "Youíre right," she nodded. "I hadnít noticed that. Well, Iíd say they did a terrific job. She looks so real, itís scary." She stood and looked at Shannon for a minute more, before turning to go. When her back was turned, Terri turned and stuck her tongue out at her friend.
For the rest of the morning, Shannon watched the store, looking for anything out of the ordinary. But nothing happened, as Terri and Christie went through the normal routine of waiting on customers. Shannon had to admit that she was disappointed. The idea of looking for thieves as a mannequin had been exciting at first. Now, it was just boring.
Around one, Terri went over to Christie, who was helping a customer. After excusing herself, she said, "Iím going to get me something to eat. Then, Iím going to run a couple of errands. I shouldnít be more than a couple of hours. Three, at the most. I want to get that new bra display up before we close today."
"No problem," Christie told her. "Iíll take care of things here."
"I know you will," Terri smiled. Letting Christie get back to the customer, she walked over to where Shannon was standing. Pretending to adjust the mannequinís outfit, she whispered, "Anything?"
Nothing, Shannon confirmed with a disappointed tone. But donít worry. Iíll be keeping a sharp eye on things while youíre gone.
"Thanks," Terri told her. "Iíll see you in a little while."
After Terri left, things went the way they had the whole day. Christie moved around the shop, helping customers and checking them out. The whole time, Shannon rotated on the pedestal, looking for shoplifters. None were seen.
Then, something strange happened. After checking out the only customer in the store, Christie walked with them to the door. After they had left, Christie closed the door and locked it. She put the Back in 10 Minutes sign in the window.
Must have to use the bathroom, Shannon reasoned to herself.
But instead of heading to the back of the store, where the private restroom was located, Christie walked among the racks of lingerie, looking each over carefully. Finally, she took a matching bra and panties set off a rack. "Oh, yeah," she smiled. "This is just what I need."
Shannon watched, as she carried the items to the counter. Reaching under the register, the girl took out the key to the security tags and removed them. Tossing the tags into the box where they were kept, she took the underwear with her into the back room.
Hello, Shannon thought to herself. At the same time, she returned herself to normal. Carefully stepping down from the pedestal, she went to the door and carefully peeked around to see what was going on.
She spotted Christie in one of the dressing rooms. The girl hadnít bothered to close the door, and was in the process of unbuttoning the denim shirt she was wearing. As she pulled it off, Shannon noted that she hadnít been wearing a bra. Next, the girl unbuckled the belt of her jeans and pulled them down. Shannon saw that panties hadnít been on her list of things to wear that morning, either.
Well, what do you know? Shannon thought. No wonder Terri couldnít catch her thief. She was here the whole time.
Shannon looked down to see the mannequin that she and Terri had taken down that morning in a box just inside the door. She reached down and touched it, again absorbing its properties. Then, she quietly approached the open dressing room.
Christie had just pulled on the pair of panties sheíd taken from the rack, when Shannon spoke up behind her. "My, arenít we the clever one."
Christie spun around, surprised to see Shannon standing just outside the door. "What?" she stammered, as she brought her hands up to cover her exposed breasts. "How did you get in here?"
Shannon ignored her. "Quite clever," she repeated. "Hell, Iíll bet Terri even held the door for you."
Suddenly, Christie seemed to recognize the person in front of her. "You," she said. "Youíre that new mannequin. The one based on Terriís friend. ButÖ"
"Youíve got me," Shannon admitted. "Youíre right. I was a mannequin a few minutes ago. And guess what." She reached out and placed her hand on the frightened girlís shoulder. "Now, itís your turn. Freeze."
Instantly, Shannonís power went to work. Christie gasped, as her body stopped responding to her thoughts. Where Shannon had touched her turned hard and shiny. In seconds, the transformation had spread down both her arm and her body. Shannon stood back and watched, as the girl became a solid plastic mannequin. Christieís hands were still crossed over her chest to hide her nudity.
"Okay," Shannon nodded, reaching to close the dressing room door. "You stay here. And donít you worry about the customers. Iíll set that they get waited on." She closed the door, making sure to lock it.
After getting dressed, Shannon went and unlocked the front door. For the next two hours, she waited on customers. She found that she like helping them make their choices. A couple of them even commented on Shannonís friendliness.
When Terri came back, she immediately noticed that Shannon was behind the register. "Hey," she said, "whatís the deal? Whereís Christie?"
"In the back," Shannon answered, counting out the change for a customer. "Thank you. Please come again." The customer smiled and left.
"Okay, Shannon," Terri said, after the woman was out of the store. "Whatís going on?"
"Lock up first," Shannon told her. "Then Iíll explain." Terri did as she was asked, then followed her friend into the backroom. Using the key from the register, Shannon unlocked the dressing room. "I caught your thief," she said, opening the door to reveal the plasticized girl standing just as she had been when Shannon had closed her in.
"Christie?" Terri asked. "How?"
"Simple," Shannon explained. "And very clever. Sheíd come to work without any underwear on. Then, sheíd just wait until the opportunity presented itself for her to put on something out of the shop. All she had to do was wear it out."
Terri nodded. "And she just took the security tags off herself. Smart." She approached the shoplifter and looked her over carefully. "Youíve cost me a lot of money, sweetheart. But Iíll work a deal out with you. Iíll let you work off what you owe me."
"Work it off!" Shannon repeated. "Do you really think sheíll come to work if you let her leave."
Terri turned to her friend and smiled. "Who said anything about letting her leave," she said.
Shannon looked confused for a second, then returned her friendís smile. "Youíre going to leave her a mannequin."
"Not exactly," Terri responded. "Watch." The young witch stepped back and brought her hands up. While making the necessary gestures, she recited a spell. As she finished, she pointed at Christie.
Shannon watched, as the girlís body seemed to flatten out. It maintained itís shape, but drew up until it was only about a quarter inch thick. Shannon expected it to fall over, but a crosspiece of plastic formed at the girlís back, keeping her up. Shannon grinned, as she realized that Terri had made the little thief into a display figure. "You altered her," she said, turning to Terri. "So, sheís stuck that way. Right?" Terri nodded. "How long do you plan to keep her this way?"
"As long as it takes," Terri answered. "I figure she owes me for about two thousand dollars worth of merchandise. That comes to about six to eight weeks pay. Maybe longer, if I throw in the security system I had to buy. Weíll have to see."
"Wonít someone miss her?"
"Maybe," Terri admitted. "But whoíll believe that she was turned into a cutout. And Iíll cast the same spell on her that I did on you in the gallery. So, no one will recognize her in the store."
"Gotcha," Shannon nodded.
"Now, do me a favor," Terri told her. "Take Christie here out to the store and put her up on your pedestal for me, will you? You can turn the rotator off. I need to get something from the store room."
"Sure," Shannon replied, picking up the flattened girl. She carried her out and stood her where she had spent most of the day. She stood back and admired Terriís handiwork. She had to admit that her friend has style.
Terri came out of the back carrying a waist high wire basket and sat it on the pedestal next to Christie. Returning to the storeroom, she came back up a medium size box. "Can you put these in that basket for me?" she asked her friend. "Iíve got one more thing to get ready."
"No problem," Shannon told her. She opened the box, and began to pull out what was inside. It was packages of the latest breast-enhancing bra on the market. The Magic Bra. She tossed the packages into the basket, as Terri did something at the counter.
A few moments later, Terri returned with a piece of paper and a tape dispenser. While Shannon watched, her friend held the paper to Christieís cardboard tummy and used tape to hold it in place. Stepping back she nodded with a grin. Shannon joined her in grinning, as she read what the paper said:
Donít Be Caught Flat! Wear The New Magic Bra!
"Oh, yeah," Shannon laughed. "Thatís going to sell a lot of bras."
Terri threw her arm around Shannonís shoulder. "She does look good, doesnít she?" She turned to face her friend. "I want to thank you for helping me catch the little thief. And I think I know just how to do it."
Shannon looked at her carefully. "And just how it that?" she asked.
"Well," Terri said, leading her away from the new display, "youíre always complaining about that stupid doctorís office job of yours. And I couldnít help but notice how good you were with the customers earlier. How about it, Shannon? Do you want a job?"
The EndÖFor Now