Janice stopped frozen in her tracks, a look of shock upon her face. Surely the January sales weren’t meant to be like this? Where was everybody? The new supa-dupa shopping centre that just about everyone was talking about was completely empty. Janice half wondered if she had wrongly set the alarm last night and had arrived too early. So she checked her watch which told her she was right on time.
Who in their right mind would miss the first day of the January sales? Janice had been attending religiously for years and years now. She always got there early ready to run on in the moment the doors opened and start hunting for bargains, the thrill of the chase, an adrenalin buzz. Well it’s everyone else’s loss, she thought to herself, as her shoulders quivered in excited anticipation at the next eight hours of retail therapy.
As Janice walked through the empty entrance way and into the main shopping centre, her mouth was open in amazement. The building was so vast that it seemed to stretch on and on for ever. Shops filled her vision from every angle. The whiteness of the walls bounced light around like a bounding ball and everywhere she looked golden and silvery chrome reflected back at her. Gentle music fluttered through the air and made her feel soothed. Once again she shook her head in amazement.
“It’s sooo beautiful,” she told herself, “who could make such a wonderful thing?” She thought about it for a moment then stated with the knowing nod of a seasoned shopper, “Americans, it must be.” She passed shops full of every conceivable thing she could imagine, all at vastly discounted prices. Once or twice she wished Brian and the boys could be here, but they’d only complain about the walking and grumble about being hungry. Probably wallowing like pigs in muck, she thought to herself, and laughed a lot at that mental picture.
Before she had realised it Janice had walked deep into the heart of shopping centre and there still seemed to be no end to it in sight. She stopped to buy a strawberry smoothie from a smiling man at a drinks stand. He couldn’t explain why there were no other shoppers. It didn’t matter to Janice though, being alone just made it even more special. So she finished her smoothie with slushy slurp and then off she trundled to continue her search.
Underwear and socks was top of her shopping list for Brian and the boys. She decided to try a big looking department store with a funny name that she decided must be Swedish or something. All the stores had funny names.
The store with the funny name had everything she could ever imagine and then some more. Whole departments full of gadgets and gizmos, whachtdacallits and wazermadoes. The sales racks in the clothes section made her mouth drop as they just seemed to stretch on for ever and ever. Surprisingly though they didn’t seem to stock any pants; lots of socks, but no underwear at all. Maybe they don’t wear underwear in Sweden, she wondered. Maybe they all wear thermals instead, she said with a knowing nod of her head.
As Janice wandered through the Swedish shopping heaven, she came across the women’s clothes and let out a small, involuntary yelp of pure pleasure, for the prices were unbelievable. She scurried around, wooing and wowing at the bargains to be had, until her arms ached with the mountain of garments she held. A smiling assistant pointed her in the direction of the ladies changing rooms. With a swish of a curtain she squeezed herself and the clothing into a snug fitting room and began the happy process of trying on so many wonderful things.
It was when she tried the lovely blue pastel dress on that she first heard the voice.
“Janice, can you hear me?” it asked.
Janice looked around the snug little cubicle, but of course nobody was there. She swished the curtain back and peered outside, but there was nobody there either. How frightfully odd, she thought to herself. A few more happy minutes passed before she heard the voice again.
“Janice, can you hear me? If you can, make a sign.”
It was an odd voice. It was booming and loud, yet seemed to be coming from so very far, far away. It was as if Janice was stood on the white cliffs of Dover and a loud Frenchman was shouting at her through a megaphone from France. She walked up and down the fitting room, checking each little cubicle for signs of life, of which there were none. Hearing voices just couldn’t be a good sign and she decided only one thing could cure that, more retail therapy!
Eventually she was done and off she went with her bargains. As she walked towards the checkout she heard the voice again.
“Janice” it called, “Janice.”
She looked around but only smiling shop assistants could be seen. They all looked the same, with their smart white uniforms and golden name badges glistening in the light. Very Swedish indeed, Janice thought to herself. There was no shoppers in sight, so once again she shrugged her shoulders, put it down to it being a very odd day indeed, felt the warm tingle of excitement in her belly that she always got when buying bargains and went off to find a checkout so she could pay for her things…..
… Doctor Patel squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and wiped his brow. He had decided he hated Christmas time and most certainly in the last few days had not had enough sleep. As he opened his eyes the room fell silent. He looked at his watch to check the time and then spoke.
“Time of death oh-eight-fifteen. Cause, heart failure. Doctor Randhir Patel and Nurse Quailey in attendance. The deceased, Mrs Janice Wright, age forty two…”
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