40 Rock Tuff, P.I.: A Fashionable Crime


“It’s not as simple as you might think. A few days ago, a man was considering a deep blue suit with a clashing purple tie. It turned out that he was colour-blind.”

I spent part of my time in the storeroom stacking boxes. I was surprised to find a number of ties and several pairs of socks in a garbage bag in a garbage pail, and when I mentioned it to Mr. St. Laurent, he said they should not have been there. “That’s what I meant about vandalism. It hurts our profit margin.” We restored the articles to the shelves.

During lunch, I tried subtly and unsuccessfully to learn something about the two salesmen, Will Steele and Randall Guy. Both complained about the salary and the percentage of commissions, but Samantha (“Sam”) Wright had an added grievance: “At least you get a discount on clothing.”

“You can too,” said Randy.

“Yes, if I want a sports jacket with padded shoulders that makes me look like a CFL fullback.”

“Or,” added Libby, “a coat that hangs like…like…”

“A tent,” suggested Sam.

“Yes,” said Libby.

I didn’t want to sound pedantic or I would have said: “Like a giant’s robe/ Upon a dwarfish thief,” Angus’s description of Macbeth. Shakespeare seems to have an apt quotation for every occasion.

In the afternoon, two noteworthy things happened: I made my first sale, a handkerchief to a man who had a spontaneous nosebleed, and a mannequin was lynched at the back of the store using two mismatched ties as a rope. I noticed that the noose did not have the traditional thirteen circles above the loop. The mannequin was quickly taken down and the ties put on sale at half-price. I wished that it had happened that morning, so that I could have bought one of them instead of the expensive cravat I was wearing.

That evening I saw an article in the paper about a meeting of local feminists. Two of the women in the accompanying photo looked like Libby and Sam. The next morning, they admitted proudly that we did indeed have two celebrities on our staff. “Power to the persons” they proclaimed, raising their fists.

Later I sold a plaid tie to a man with a Scots accent as broad as the Firth of Forth. Sam helped by saying how good it looked. “Aye, it should, lassie. ‘Tis the pattern of the Buchanans, Scotland’s finest clan.”

I don’t think the Tuffs or the Pettys have a tartan, but if they did it would probably be black and white in a checkerboard pattern.

I watched my four co-workers as closely as I could, but I saw nothing suspicious in their behaviour. I did catch Libby fiddling with a sign, but “Someone tried to change it,” she explained.

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Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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