the short story project


Jose Luis Torres

The highest-priced coat

It could not be imagined that evening at the shopping mall the events unchained by the theft of the highest-priced coat. 

As so many other times before, it was not easy, but those video tutorials first and the following trials to perfect the technique had made the whole process to be clean and quick, faultless. Or nearly so. 
Last five-minute phase still to be completed: removing the alarm without ruining the fabric; taking a pair of good photos of the garment; and publishing online the ad sale for a third of its price in shop. 
These days were being profitable, cold weather had come earlier and coats were sold fast. The amount for the second quarter enrolment fee was almost gathered and neither this month would it be necessary to ask mum and grandpa for money. It was musing over that streak of good luck while carefully folding the coat when appeared those words sewn to the dark brown lining: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it”. 
Reading it again aloud was the proof needed for checking everything was real. As much as the next tag showing the data of the manufacturing company and nine numbers handwritten in black ink and childish style. 
What the hell was all this? Was it a marketing campaign? Would it be the end of the main and only source of income? If the message was authentic, who was that person who claimed having sewn the coat and not been paid for the job? Maybe nobody can or should take that responsibility. If the coat had been paid, it would have not changed the fact of that person not being paid. Even so, it was hard not to feel a growing sense of guilt. 

It is well known that everyone draws the line of ethics in a different point. One thing is to be against an exploiting megacorporation and the other to rip off a wretch with a face and a name, although in this case nothing was known about that being, except the person was in trouble and that cell number. 

What is to be done in these cases? Ask Google? Call the police and tell them about? No way, definitely it is not an option, everything would be known then. 

That head-breaking situation did not cease: “If nobody answers the phone in ten secs, I disconnect and forget all about it. If somebody picks it up but does not talk, I disconnect and I forget. If I am talked in another language, I disconnect. Nobody will say I did not try. I typed the number, but nothing: no signal or out of range. I can’t bear this. I will send a message asking how can I be of help. It won’t be necessary to do anything else. Duty done. Tomorrow will be another day and I will sell this damned black coat.” 

On the following day, the mobile’s tone sounded before scheduled time after getting a message from the number on the tag: “Help me get outta here, pls. Alex.” 

Then two questions arose: Alex for Alexander or Alexandra? Where is here? The message did not improve the state of things since the former night, though it was going to be the key for getting the ending. 

How was it possible to not think of it before? In the bloody coat’s tag there was an address. On the internet it does not seem far from the mall so it would be feasible to hang around the place and ask for Alex, whoever be.

It was faster than expected to arrive at the destiny. Only the noise of vehicles speeding on the near motorway is heard. The factory is a tremendous two-storey bay and the entrance is signalled with a board which reads “Welcome”. 

All seems neat and orderly. Nobody on this earth could positively say its appearance is bad or threatening. From the outside at least. 

This good first impression makes easier to ring the interphone close to the door. The screen lightens but no soul replies. And then the uncertainty born from that silence compels to ask that machine if Alex works there. 

Immediately afterwards, the buzzer sounds and the door automatically opens up to a long corridor whose emergency lights do not work and which ends at a half-open door. 

It was the last memory of that day. Next was waking up alone in that room where there was only a table with a black pen and a pile of tags, as the one of that darned coat, the highest-priced.


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