Like a thief in the night, mes amis, is how Mr. Sittenzeplatz arrived. We weren't given a clue as to when to expect him, so you can imagine how tetchy we were all week. We watched the cars in the parking lot of our shopping center; if we spotted one without rusty fenders or taped-up taillights, we snapped to attention. Taffy took to barking "Sittenzeplatz! Sittenzeplatz, ladies!"
Lois watched us grimly. "You girls think you're funny, but I'd hate to think about the consequences if Headquarters got wind of this behavior. I expect you to be professional." Taffy tried to interrupt, but Lois cut her off. "Professional- even if that means sacrificing our grand plans. When Mr. Sittenzeplatz arrives, I hope you will show him the civility I know you possess. We need to make a good impression if this store is to survive."
Well, darlings, that certainly shut us up.
Only two days later, our curiosity was satisfied. A shiny black Mercedes appeared in our parking lot, and a slender, middle-aged gentleman in a well-tailored suit climbed out. A suit, dearies! He certainly stood out from the rest of our clientele, who are more often seen in sweatshirts with frolicsome kitties on them.
Taffy was the first to spot our dapper mystery man and gave the signal, a hearty "Achtung!" I compulsively straightened up the cutting table and checked my hair-do, and I know I wasn't the only one. Lois was right; a good impression was our first priority.
When Carl von Sittenzeplatz entered the store, I was busy with Kathy Millwood, who was choosing some calico for new kitchen curtains. Kathy's a sweet creature, and I did my best to help her decide between the powder blue and the cornflower blue, but it was hard not to be distracted. Mr. Sittenzeplatz was so obviously casing the joint before speaking to any of the staff.
Kathy finally chose the cornflower blue, so I cut the fabric while she divulged all the local community theater gossip. I'm not a theater enthusiast, but sweeties, I am a gossip enthusiast. Her stories of the communal conniptions during the latest production of "No, No, Nanette" were so engrossing that I had almost forgotten about our friendly corporate representative. But there he was, peering right over Kathy's shoulder.
"Sir," I deadpanned, "I'll be with you in just a moment." I turned to Kathy and asked her if there was anything else I could help her with today. She must have sensed that Hancock Fabrics was experiencing its own communal conniption, and gracefully made her exit after a brief glance at this strange blond visitor.
"Now, sir," I assumed my best mother-hen demeanor, "what can I do for you today?"
And when I looked into his eyes, the same color as Kathy's kitchen curtain calico, I knew we had nothing to be afraid of. He was amused, for heaven's sake. He whispered, "I'm sorry that I don't have any news about the local thespians, but I could tell you a few hair-raisers about the CEO."