–I wrote this one years ago too, shortly after the 3rd story, but obviously couldn’t publish it till I settled the details of the 3rd story.-
“Hey, Martel.” Captain Morgan calls from his office door, and I go in. “Sit down, I know you don’t normally like to go on longer assignments when Rodriguez is in one, but could you possibly manage for just one week, the 14th to the 20th. It’s not deep cover.”
Since both my husband, Tom Rodriguez, and I are detectives who work undercover frequently, we try not to both be on major assignment at the same time. This way, one of us shows up at home each night to be there for our kids. Tom’s been in deep cover for a few months now, so for ages I’ve been mostly handling other undercover officers and running surveillance, that kind of thing. Well except for my weekly stint as a lady of the evening.
Since Tom’s been under deep cover, and can’t come home, the only way I get to see him is by posing as a prostitute who has Tom as a regular client. We meet at a sleazy motel, and he gets to talk to the kids on my cell phone, then we enjoy each other’s company for a few hours. Though I don’t bust Johns, prostitute is one of my regular covers since it allows me to hang around on street corners without anyone wondering why I’m there.
“You’re in luck Captain, Tom’s parents have been hinting left and right about taking the kids to the lake for a fishing trip, and since it’s summer and they’re out of school, I think I’ll let them.” This way I’ll be distracted when I let Tom’s parents have the kids instead of being a worried mom calling every 5 minutes.
“Great” Morgan says as he walks to the door, then yells out “Jones, Miller, Johansen I need you.”
When Jones and Miller are settled in, the captain starts going over the assignment.
“Are you guys familiar with the singer Daniel Daniels?.” We all nod vaguely. “He’s playing here next weekend. The reason I need you guys is because his manager contacted us about creepy letters he’s been getting postmarked out of this city.”
Captain passes around a stack of them each in an evidence bag. They are creepy.
“Miller, they’ve agreed to let you work directly with his private bodyguards. Johansen you look young enough to be a fan.”
“Captain most of his fans are about 14.” Johansen looks at him doubtfully. “I can’t pass for that.”
“Just aim for immature 18 year old.” The captain continues. “Martel, I asked if there was a way you could get closer to the crowds and they suggested you work with the publicity and promotions department at the radio station that’s hosting the concert. They’re expecting you tomorrow morning.”
I spend the evening packing the kids and arranging the lake trip with Tom’s parents. The next morning I drop the kids off at Tom’s parents’ house on my way to the radio station.”
I get through reception and am soon in a conference room being introduced around the publicity department.
“Detective Martel, this is Bob, Linda, Steve, and Jamie.” The department head Trish, makes the introductions.
“If everyone goes by first names, call me Alex. The idea is that I fit in.” I say.
“Uh, you don’t exactly fit in though.” Jamie points out, and they all nod. “No offense but you kind of look like a librarian”
I look around. Bob has short pink hair, is wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Linda has a long bleached blond wide mohawk in a french braid, a million piercings and is wearing a maxi dress. Steve has the top of his hair in a man bun with the sides and back of his hair buzzed short, plus a very impressive beard. Jamie has long purple hair with a patch on the side of her head cut short with intricate designs shaved into it. Don’t get me started on the tattoos. I do at least have a tattoo, it’s a fleur de lis on my shoulder, much smaller and more discreet than what I see around me.
I of course am wearing my usual work clothes. A gray suit, turquoise blouse, sensible shoes, and my long chocolate brown hair is in it’s normal tight bun against my head.
“No worry, I’m used to changing my appearance to fit in as needed.” I answer. “How about after we go over what I need to know to get access to the fans, one of you takes me shopping. Jamie, are you available?” I respond coolly.
“As long as Trish can spare me, makeovers are my forte.” Jamie replied grinning ear to ear, which makes me nervous. She seems way too eager.
A few hours later, Jamie was dragging me through vintage stores and what have you. So I had enough clothing for the week.
“Now, we need to do something about that librarian hair of yours.” Jamie said thoughtfully.
“I usually avoid having it down when I’m working, but I guess I could just wear it down. I dress as a hooker pretty often and wear a wig.” I speculate. “I have a bunch of them down at the station, if you want to go see them.”
“I’m pretty sure if you wear a wig it’s going to be obvious. Come on, I’ll take you to my barber and he can do something wild. It’ll be fun.” Jamie is way too enthusiastic.
I suppose she’s right though, well not about the fun part. I love my long hair, but I’ve cut it for the job before and this time someone’s life is on the line. If the stalker notices I don’t fit in with the publicity team, he, or she, will avoid me. If he or she can avoid me, he, or she, might go unnoticed and get to Daniel Daniels. Besides, it doesn’t have to be short, just more trendy.
“Where do you go?” I ask with a deep sigh.
“It’s so retro, a little vintage place over on the other side of town, has a spinning pole out front and everything.” Jamie gushes.
Strangely, that sounds like Joe’s barbershop. As she gives me directions to my own neighborhood, I realize it is Joe’s barbershop she’s steering me to. Joe’s barbershop, which my husband and half the cops in the city go to for their haircuts is being called “cool.” I’m a bit baffled but go along with it.
“Hey Martel” Sam greets me as I walk in, then noticing who’s behind me adds “Hey Jamie.”
“Hi Martel” Joe greets us too, looking baffled. “Hi Jamie, I’m not used to seeing you this early. You’re here with Detective Martel?”
Though it’s obvious they know us both, us being together seems to have thrown them for a loop.
“Hey guys, it’s a long story, I’ll fill you in on later.” I promise. “I need a slight image adjustment and Jamie says you do young and hip.”
“Of course we do,” Joe answers. “You just never notice because you always come at quiet times instead of during the lunch hour rush or when the after school and work crowd hit.”
I guess that’s true. I’m still surprised though.
“So, you can help me look like I’m part of the same radio PR department as Jamie, Sam.”
“That’s more Joe’s thing.” Sam answers and points over to Joe’s empty chair. “It’s why I hired him. Well that and so we would still have someone named Joe in the shop after my father retired to Florida.”
So, I take a deep breath and head over to Joe’s chair for a change. This shop suddenly seemed a lot less familiar. I’m not sure if Sam was being serious or joking, he has a very dry sense of humor.
“So, what do you want me to do for you Martel.” Joe asks casually, as he throws a cape over me.
Of course what I want isn’t actually relevant. What I want is to walk out of here with all the long hair I’ve been growing back these last few years since the incident on the construction site. That’s not going to happen though, so ignoring what I want is my only option.
“I have no idea Joe.” I say in defeat. “You just come up with something.”
Of course I regretted saying it as soon as it passes my lips, but I just don’t know what else to say.
“How about I do an undercut with a tattoo design kind of like the one I did on Jamie’s side cut. Then add some color to the top.” Joe smiles. “That way you can keep most of the length.”
I only understood half of what Joe just said, but I nod anyway. The last bit about keeping length sounds good. Joe knows me.
Joe undoes my bun. For a few moments my silky brown hair hangs freely about me. The bun had been braided, so my hair is in the ripples I love so much. It’s grown out nicely since the last time I lost it to this job. I love my job, but the number of times I’ve had to cut my hair for it is getting ridiculous. God, I can’t believe I’m cutting it again.
Joe sections off the hair on top of my head to just about an inch above my ear, and puts it up in a clip. He combs down all the hair around the side and back of my head and picks up his scissors. My nerves are on edge, since I’m not even sure what he’s planning.
He lifts up a huge lock from the side of my head and just cuts it off roughly a couple of inches from my head. The scissors make that heart wrenching crunching noise. Then he drops the long lock to glide down slowly to the floor. Then he picks up another lock. Now that he’s started, it doesn’t feel like I’m keeping much length.
I could close my eyes so I wouldn’t have to watch, but I can’t close my ears against the crunching of the scissors through my hair, so I keep my eyes open. If I can’t pretend it’s not happening, I might as well watch to reassure myself it’s not too bad.
Joe moves around to the back and keeps cutting off locks a couple of inches from my head and dropping them to the floor. Joe’s scissors are sharp, and my fine hair offers little resistance to them. I look down at the floor. The locks look to each be well over a foot long, laying there discarded. They are shiny and deep chocolate brown. Joe’s cutting another one from behind my ear now. Then he finally cuts the last bit of loose hair from around my ear.
Looking at Jamie’s head I suspect I know where this is going now. Joe confirms my suspicion by putting down his scissors and returning with his already humming clippers. He guides my head down so he can start clipping the back to a single very short length.
He places the vibrating clipper at my neck and I feel the teeth of its guard scrape against my scalp as the sound changes. I feel them move up to the line where he sectioned off the top of my hair. Short locks tumble down my neck, over my shoulder and into my lap where I can see them. Now it really doesn’t feel like I’m keeping any length at all.
He places the clippers at my neck again, and starts another pass over the back of my head. The pile of short hair in my lap grows. He’s going around my ear now. Folding it down. I raise my head and can see the hair around my head under the sectioned off top is just long enough to cover the scalp.
Joe is going back over it from different angles to get it completely perfect. He then takes the guard off the clippers and starts tapering the cut ever so slightly. The exposed blades of the clippers rattle against his comb. When he has finished shaping it, he dusts me off with his hand.
“Any particular design you want for the tattoo.” He asks as he walks over to the counter puts down his large clippers and picks up a much smaller edging clipper.
I’m only sort of getting what he’s asking, so I mention the fleur de lis tattoo on my shoulder. Joe is pulling a rolling stool out from under the counter.
“Oh yeah, I remember it from the wedding. I’ll do something to go with it.” Joe smiles.
He adjusts the height of the chair and sits on the stool, so that the short area is just about eye level for him. He places his left hand on the side of my head and holds me steady. The trimmer in his right hand starts sketching the design. I can feel the blades against my skin scratching in arcs and swirls. Every now and then he brushes off the back of my head and a dust of quarter inch hairs rain down.
Joe turns my chair slowly as he works his way around my head. He’s concentrating, being very precise. The little trimmer humming at a higher pitch than the regular clippers fills my ear as he works next to it. Then he turns me to get to the other side.
He now puts down the trimmer and wets the area he’s been working on. After wetting it, he returns with a straight razor. He sits back down on his stool and turns me so my back where he had started before is to him. He places his hand on my head and I can feel him pull the skin tight with his thumb. I’ve had my neckline cleaned up with a straight razor before, but this feels different. It isn’t the same smooth gliding over lather, this is more of a scraping. And it’s up on my scalp, which just feels so much scarier. Joe’s taking forever, as he slowly turns the chair this way and that. My breaths are shallow I’m so nervous about moving. Finally, Joe gets up and wipes the back of my head off. I take a deep breath of relief.
“Want to see before I let the top down?” Joe asks and grabs a hand mirror.
I nod yes and reach up from under the cape as he hands the mirror to me. Centered in the back of my head is a pattern of shaved swirls making a very stylized fleur de lis. I reach up with my other hand and the feel of it reminds me of burnt out velvet. My neck line has been shaved into a delicate point. It’s really impressive.
“Ok, let’s do the top now.” Joe says, taking back the mirror from me and setting it on the marble counter.
He rolls his stool back under the counter. He then takes out the clip that has been holding up the hair on top of my head, letting my hair fall over the short area. I suddenly realize this is the perfect compromise between the smooth neck Tom loves and the long hair I love. I’m actually pretty happy with it for a change.
Joe combs down my long hair, wets it with his spray bottle, and starts trimming the ends. He’s trimming off a bit more than I like, probably two inches, but this isn’t that bad. He throws in a few layers, but I still have long hair. I’m really happy.
“Come on over to the sink and I’ll bleach it.”
Now I’m scared. Bleach burns and stinks and damages hair. I think Joe can see I’m hesitant.
“I don’t really like the idea of chemicals.” I let out tentatively as I stand.
“How about, I don’t apply it to the last inch or so of hair from your scalp. That way it won’t really be touching you. It will just look like your roots have grown out a bit.” Joe offers.
“Seems like a good compromise” I look over to Jamie, but she’s playing with her phone and has paid no attention to the conversation.
I sit down in the chair by the sink and Joe turns on a vent fan. Soon, my hair is saturated with the smelly chemicals not quite up to my scalp. I have no choice but to sit there waiting hoping my hair isn’t being dissolved.
When Joe finally rinses it out, I look into the sink where my long hair swirls in the water. It’s a weird unnatural pale yellowy color.
“What’s your favorite color, Martel?” Joe asks cheerfully as he finishes rinsing and wraps my hair in a towel.
“Blue I guess.”
“OK” and he heads off into the back room.
He comes back stirring a bowl of blue goo with a brush. He’s also got a bowl of purple goo, which has its own brush in it, held precariously under the blue goo bowl with his pinky . He places the bowls down on a folded towel on the counter by the sink. He paints the blue goo into my hair, starting at the top and working towards the ends. A couple of inches from the ends he stops and picks up the brush from the purple goo. This time he starts at the ends and paints his way upward. When the purple goo reaches the blue, he blends them together. Finally he sets the timer.
After what feels like forever, the timer goes off and Joe washes my hair out again. He then takes me back to his main chair, and dries my hair.
“Well what do you think?” Joe asks looking at me through the mirror I’m staring at as he uncapes me.
“Joe that’s superb” Jamie, who has put her phone down to look at the final results, says.
Abstractly it’s spectacular. The periwinkle blue transitioning into the lilac is undeniably beautiful. The design shaved into the back is intricate and delicate. I know Tom’s going to love the shaved neck, and I still have long hair. Yet..
I don’t quite feel like me. The hair is long, but it doesn’t feel like mine. I look at this high maintenance person in the mirror. She’s beautiful with stunning hair, she just isn’t Alex. Oh well, I’ll get used to it.
“It’s a work of art.” Which was totally true, even if I was having a hard time with the idea that this work of art is a part of me.
It’s still two days from when Daniel Daniels will get into town, so the next night I get to go see Tom.
Tom and I meet at a room in our usual fleabag motel.
“You’re either going to love this or hate it, I’m not sure which.” I warn Tom.
He get’s a quizzical look on his face and I start slipping off my wig. I shake out my blue and purple hair and I swear his jaw actually drops open.
“Wow, that’s unexpected.” He finally manages to stammer out.
“Here check out the back.” I say as I lift up the long part knowing, what he really enjoys is the access to my neck.
He let’s out an “oo” and is soon occupied by stroking it and nibbling.
The assignment goes great. I fit in with the staff from the radio PR team just fine. I stand out enough though that Daniel’s fans are coming to me to ask for access. Which is just what we need for me to be able to get close to the one who tries to get too much access.
One fan approaches me repeatedly with strange stories of why she needs backstage passes. I keep an eye on her and arrest her breaking into the Radio station’s van to steal a pass. She is soon safely tucked away at the nearest mental hospital and Daniel is off to the next city.
So, it’s about a week after I’ve closed the case, I’m back to the usual at the station. I’ll be on a stakeout with Jones tonight till around 9, when Miller and Johansen will take over.
“Martel, I need to see you in my office.” Captain Morgan calls.
“Martel, when are you going to do something about that hair?” He asks.
“I hadn’t really planned to do anything about it. I’ve kind of gotten used to it.”
“You can’t stay like that. It’s way too obvious and memorable. Tonight, you’re going to have to wear a hat to not stand out like a neon sign. You need to blend in, with regular people.”
“I’ll see what’s involved in getting it back to brown, captain.” I sigh unhappily. I hate the idea of fussing with chemicals, but the blue is rather bright. This wasn’t all that unexpected.
“You need to do something about this two length thing with the weird design, also.”
That, I wasn’t expecting though.
“Captain you can’t even see the undercut when my hair’s down.” I’d learned the style terms during the last two weeks.
“Wearing your hair down to cover it isn’t an option, is it? So that half shaved area is always showing.” He does not sound happy about my arguing the point. “Frankly, it doesn’t look professional. Now obviously sometimes to work undercover you need to look a certain way that isn’t professional, but I expect you to go back to looking professional as soon as possible, when you’re not undercover. It’s been a week, you aren’t undercover now you need to look like someone the public can trust.”
I started opening my mouth to argue more, but he gives me a look that stops me cold.
“You can come in late tomorrow and get that dealt with. The top needs to be a reasonable match to the bottom. I don’t care if you have some way to get the bottom long again, or if you make the top short, but they need to go together and look professional. BEFORE you come in tomorrow afternoon. Any questions.” His tone made it clear that he didn’t mean the part about questions.
“I’ll take care of it.” I promise with a lump in my throat.
I had thought I was going to keep the length this time. Of course, I don’t have a way to get the bottom long again. If I had, I would have done it last week. It’s too short to glue in extensions, not that I would want to fuss with them. Besides, every time I’ve seen someone with extensions put their hair up in a ponytail or bun, you can see the glue spots. I’m going to have to cut the top.
After I drop the kids off, I head to Joe’s Barbershop. I don’t really want to, but I don’t have much choice. I slowly walk in and the chime jingles.
“Hey Martel” Sam smiles as I walk in. He has a youngish guy, late teen or early twenties, getting into his chair as he shakes out his cape. When he snaps the cape the young guy startles slightly before the cape falls over him.
“Hi Sam, Hi Joe.” then I notice who’s in Joe’s chair. “Hey Sarge it’s been ages.”
“Good lord Martel, I didn’t recognize you.” My old Sergeant from when I was still in uniform answers. He’s having the fringe of hair around his otherwise bald head clipped short.
“So what’ll it be?” Sam asks the young guy in his chair. The guy has shaggy dark blond surfer dude hair.
“I’ve got a job interview tomorrow.” Young guy simply states and Sam takes it as answer enough and picks up his clippers.
I go slump down in a waiting chair.
“Here to get the back cleaned up Martel?” Joe asks me.
“I wish.” I respond with a sigh. “Captain thinks it’s unprofessional.”
“You know I would never have put up with that while you were in uniform.” Sarge adds. “you sound like a sulky teenager.”
“It’s not like I went out and did this on a whim. I did it for my last undercover assignment.” Ok, I am whining like a teenager, but it really felt unfair that I had to cut it again.
“So, if you didn’t choose the style, what’s the problem?” Sarge asks.
“I just don’t want to lose the length again.” I say as I run my finger back through the long hair on top. I wonder why I was opening up so much to Sarge, I never normally complain.
“I know exactly how you feel.” the young guy in Sam’s chair cuts into the conversation, as Sam runs the clippers over his comb and three inches of dark blond curls come off.
I can’t help but laugh. Mostly at myself. I know it’s sexist of me, but I have a feeling it’s easier for him than me. He however, is barely more than a teen, so sounding like a whiny teenager is more understandable.
Joe’s finished with Sarge, so Sarge walks over to me and pats me on my shoulder.
“Look on the brightside, at least yours’ll grow back. Mine stopped doing it 20 years ago.” He says with a chuckle. Then goes to the register to pay.
Joe returns to his chair and I reluctantly walk over to it.
“So it needs to go back to brown?” Joe asks.
“And” I draw out, “The top and bottom need to look like they go together. The tattoo’s got to disappear too.”
“I’m going to have to take the top down to about 2 inches to blend it in with the bottom. The brown roots on top are an inch and a half. Want me to try to save the extra half inch by dying it, or just cut off all of the blue?” He asks, then adds, “If I dye it. I probably won’t get an exact match.”
“Don’t bother, a half inch isn’t worth it.”
Joe places his cape over me. He isn’t nearly as eager when he tucks in the tissue as he was for my last haircut two weeks ago.
“So long masterpiece.” Joe says quietly to himself. I feel almost as bad for him as I do for myself.
Joe delicately lifts one long blue and purple lock and cuts it off just above the brown so there is just a little blue left at the ends. He lays it down carefully on the counter and smooths it out. This is going to take forever if he does this for every lock.
“Are you planning to save it Joe?” I joke.
“Just one lock as a sample.” He answers completely seriously. Then turns his focus back to my head.
Joe takes a deep breath and picks up his comb. He starts lifting the long blue hair up with it and cutting it off roughly at about two or three inches. He’s working in earnest now. Once more my ears are filled with the crunching sound I hate. I watch the dry hair flutter as it falls to the floor. The next lock he lifts and cuts lands on my shoulder before he knocks it off lifting the next lock up with the comb.
As he works foreward, locks from the front fall before my face and into my lap. I feel a tear run down my cheek. I thought I was passed crying over these things. I’ve managed before not to cry. Then again I’ve never whined like a teenager before, so I guess I’m less in control of my emotions today than I normally am. I usually keep my emotions in check by telling myself it’s necessary, this one isn’t necessary in my opinion, it’s just something the captain is insisting on.
I’m now surrounded by long blue and purple hair. It’s on the floor and in my lap. And there is that one perfect lock Joe saved sitting on the marble counter below the mirror. Though the purple is all gone from my head, I still have blue tips at the ends of the two or three inch long hair on top. My undercut lays exposed, the design Joe had shaved in it, is now just a shadow since it has grown out.
I shake the cape to knock off the hair on my lap. I don’t want to sit there staring at it. I wish Joe’s sample lock wasn’t so visible on the counter.
“I’ll take the sides a little at a time till the tattoo isn’t visible.” Joe tells me. I just nod, what else can I do.
He picks up his clippers and places them at the back of my neck. He starts pushing them up my head. They are making an angry hum. The vibration of them sends mixed feeling through me. On the one hand, it feels good, on the other I know it’s taking away more of my hair.
“Good god, you’re making her hair even shorter than he made mine.” It’s the young guy who had Sam cut his hair for the job interview. It seems he is finished and is standing there wide eyed with his new business man’s cut, watching Joe shearing me. It’s not a comfortable feeling.
“If you don’t learn to speak more diplomatically at that interview tomorrow, you’re not going to do well. Come on over to the register.” Sam gives him some helpful advice, along with a stern look.
A flurry of short brown hair clipping falls down from my head. Joe steps back looks at where he ran the clippers and lets out a sigh. He goes to the counter and adjusts his clippers. He comes back and goes over the same spot again. I know he’s going shorter, and I swallow. I think it’s almost as short as it was after the expanding foam incident.
He steps back again, and this time seems satisfied, because he leaves the clippers the way they are. He starts running them up and down repeatedly. The buzzing fills my ears. He is pressing them into my head, not quite painfully. As the number of passes adds up though, my scalp is getting sore.
He is going around my ear with the clippers now, and I can see it’s incredibly short. Shorter than it was before he carved the tattoo into it. It’s just stubble. He has eliminated the shadow of the old design. He puts his clippers down.
He now runs his comb through the hair on top a few times while squirting water at it from his spray bottle. He adjusts the clippers again. He places the comb at the side where the two inches of blue tipped hair meets the buzzed off sides. He runs the clippers along the comb. The side begins to transition from stubble to an inch and a half as it goes upwards. Joe’s blending the top to the sides.
He works his way around pretty quickly now. The clippers making a szloop sound against the comb. My shoulders are being covered in a thick layer of blue and brown chunks of short hair.
When the transition area is all blended, he puts down the clippers again. He picks up his scissors and comes back behind me again. He pinches up a tiny lock of longer hair from the top and gives it a slight twist. He then snips it off just below where it is brown, removing all the blue. Then he does the same to another. This snipping procedure goes on and on.
After what seems like ages, the top begins to form its shape. It has good texture to it, and is no longer tipped in blue. Joe roughles it with his fingers and snips off a few stray blue strands with the tips of his scissors.
As much as I hate to think about it, the woman in the mirror seems a lot more like me, than the blue haired wild child had. Maybe part of the teenaged whining had been because I’d looked so much like a teenager. As much as I fussed about not wanting to cut it again, now that it’s almost done, it feels kind of good to recognize myself again.
He puts his scissor down, and picks up his smaller edging clippers. He pushes my head gently down and starts cleaning up the back. He runs them along my neckline, Flicking the clippers upward.
He finishes off by shaving the neckline clean. I feel the straight razor gliding down my neck in a curve, it reminds me of Tom stroking my neck. Then Joe wipes it off with a damp towel. Then runs the hair drier briefly over me.
He hands me the hand mirror to examine the back and I see he did the point at the back again like he did last time, keeping this one little detail from his masterpiece.
I run my hand along the back. The smooth neck giving way to the soft velvet feels so luxurious. It’s a good cut. God is it going to take a long time to grow out though.
I just wish Tom was here, and wipe away another tear. Then the door chime jingles. I look up towards it.
“Hey, honey. I made the arrest this morning. Captain said he gave you the morning off to take care of the blue hair, so I figured I’d find you here.” Tom smiled at me. “You look great.”
And with that I felt a million times better.
“I think we could get away with another hour or two before we go into the precinct.” Tom has that glint in his eye.