Trouble In Store
One of Norman Wisdom’s most famous (and one of his few funny) ones was “Trouble in Store”. I have no idea if BlueMoonie has ever seen it, but this was the tile he suggested with the story idea of “A sales assistant over hears a plot to steal the takings from the January sales from the big department store where she works, but which members of staff can she trust?” So, here’s what I came up with.
Sander’s Department Store had had one of the best January sales in living memory, but for Jenny that wasn’t the big issue on her mind. The big issue was this was the last day, and so she and the other junior sales assistants had to do a stoke take once the store closed that night.
As she sat nursing her coffee in the canteen, she wondered how long that would take. She really wanted to spend some time with Pete that night, but if this dragged on…..
“Five minutes Jenny,” her supervisor called, so she stood up, smoothed down the blue skirt she was wearing, and made her way to the female toilets. As she was sat there, she heard the door open and someone walk into the cubicle next to her. She listened as a number was dialled on a phone, and then as the conversation started.
Yeah, everything’s ready for tonight. There’ll only be a skeleton staff on, and some cleaners. They should be a pushover.
No, the money won’t have been banked yet. All the more for us to take.
Yeah, come in ten minutes before closing and hide in the loos. We can meet up from there.”
Jenny sat thunderstruck as the toilet next to her was flushed, and the sound of heels clicking on the floor echoed down the toilet. She hadn’t recognised the voice, but if she was in there it must have been a staff member. A robbery – tonight? But who was it who made that call?
She cautiously opened the stall door, and seeing on-one around she made her way out.
“Jenny, are you all right? You look like you’ve had a shock.”
Alison, her colleague on the shop floor, looked at Jenny with concern.
“No, no – just something I heard, that’s all. Ali – if you found out something bad was going to happen in the store, who would you talk to?”
“Not old Wiggins, that’s for sure.” Wiggins was the security guard, a lovely man but old and possibly not up to the task. “I’d probably tell Fiona in the first place. Why – is there something wrong?”
Jenny looked at Alison. She hadn’t recognised the voice, but could Alison be involved?
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s get back to work.”
The afternoon passed slowly, as days at the end of sales tended to do, and as the clock ticked down Jenny was kept busy by a slow stream of customers. It was only when it reached four forty-five that she had a chance to stop and think.
Fiona, her boss and the floor walker for the department, came up to the girls.
“Remember, we have a stock take to do when we close, so no running off now.”
“Fiona,” Jenny called out as she walked off, “Could I have a word with you for a minute?”
“Is it important, Jennifer?”
“Yes – and I’d like it to be in private please.”
“Very well then – this way.”
Fiona took Jenny into a small side office that was used for interviews, and Jenny told her what had happened earlier.
“Are you sure you heard correctly, Jennifer?”
“I don’t know – I suppose I may have misheard, but what if I’m right.”
Fiona sat for a moment, rubbing her chin. “I’ll have a word with Mr Sanders and make sure security has been tightened up. In the meantime, Jenny, carry on as if nothing has happened. If you misheard, no harm done. If not, then the last thing we need is for some gang of robbers to be alerted to the fact we know they are here. Now, you get out there and finish up your work.”
Jenny stood up and made her way back to the shop floor. The customers were just starting to make their way out, and Fiona returned to the area.
“Jennifer, Alison, please make your way to the store room and begin the stock check. I will finish things off here.”
As the cleaners made their way to the floor, the two girls made their way to the store rooms at the back.
“So, what scared you earlier?” Alison asked.
“Just my imagination. You take that side, I’ll start from here.”
Other staff were making their way to and from the stockroom, but there was no sound to be heard until a loud crash came through from the store area.
“What was that?” Alison called out.
“You stay here – I’ll go and have a look,” Jenny said, and as her friend carried on she made her way to the shop floor.
The area was deserted – no one else seemed to be in the building, but Jenny could hear footsteps. Hiding behind a counter, she peeked over and saw four of the cleaners being walked into a back room by two people in overalls and balaclava masks. The cleaners had their hands tied together behind their backs, and lengths of tape over their mouths. The two masked people were carrying small rifles, and herding the cleaners along like cattle.
“Oh my god,” Jenny thought, “I need to find Fiona and warn Ali.”
That became a moot question; however, when she saw Alison being pushed onto the shop floor by a third masked and armed person. “Look who I found in the back,” she heard a female voice say as Alison stood there with her hands on top of her head and crying.
“Take her to join the others,” a man said, and Jenny watched as Alison was led off. “I need to find Fiona,” she said to herself as she crept silently back to the small office she knew her supervisor used.
Quietly opening the door, Jenny let herself in and turned around to see Fiona lying on her side on the floor, her wrists and ankles bound together with tape. At the sound, she turned over and Jenny saw that strips of tape had also been placed over Fiona’s mouth. Kneeling down, she gently peeled away the tape and Fiona began to take in great breaths of air.
“Jenny – you were right, I am so sorry for doubting you. They jumped me ten minutes ago, and left me in here. Do you know what’s happened to the others?”
“No – I saw them taking some of the cleaners and Alison somewhere, but no-one else.”
“Quick – there’s a pair of scissors in the desk drawer. Cut me loose, and then we can raise the alarm.”
As Jenny freed Fiona from her bonds, she stood up and led Jenny towards the stairs up to the main offices.
“Shouldn’t we call the police?” Jenny asked.
“We need to use a phone for that – and they’re all upstairs.” Fiona said as she cautiously looked past a door she had just opened. “Come on – this way.”
The two women made their way down a darkened corridor, and stopped outside a door marked “Customer Services.”
“Go in there,” Fiona said, “and call the police. I’ll make my way to Mr Sander’s office and see if everything is all right there.”
Jenny nodded and went into the room.
Inside, the store staff and cleaners were all sat against the wall, bound hand and foot and gagged, and Alison was trying to scream at Jenny. She stood there, dumbfounded, until she heard Fiona say behind her “I wondered if there was someone in the stall next to me at lunchtime. Pity – I had hoped I was wrong.”
Jenny turned slowly around, to see her boss standing behind her with a gun in her hand.
“You silly girl – did you think they would have left one person alone if they intended to rob the store? Now, be a good girl and obedient girl and turn around so that we can make you comfortable as well.”
She felt her hands being pulled behind her and tape been wrapped around them, and Jenny realised that she had indeed made a very big mistake.
“Sit down next to your little friend,” Fiona said, and Jenny was pushed on the floor next to Alison. She watched as her bare ankles and legs were taped together, and then tape slapped over her mouth as a gag,
“Sit tight,” Fiona laughed as she left the room, and the two armed guards that Jenny had failed to notice stood watching the assembled captives.
Jenny hung her head in shame. She had walked right into the trap, and now all they could do was wait until the robbers had finished their work, and they had a chance to get free again.
An hour passed before Fiona came back in and approached the women.
“We’re going now, but we need to take a hostage with us. You – take her and carry her out in case we get stopped by the police.”
To Jenny’s horror, the two guards picked Alison up and carried her, squirming like mad, out of the room before the door was closed and the lock was heard to be turned. Jenny screamed into her gag, but to no avail.
The gang piled into the waiting transit van, and headed off into the night. As they did so, Fiona stopped down and peeled the tape away from Alison’s lips.
“It was a good thing you saw her come out of the toilet after me – the whole plan might have gone awry.”
“Hey, what are sisters for?” Alison asked as the tape w as cut away from her. “Next time, though, go easy no the binding.”
“You’re a fine one to talk – the way you taped me up earlier. Let’s get home – we have a lot of work still to do.”