The ringing phone drags me from a deep slumber.
“Jacqui, get your ass down to the Wahl Gallery now, there’s been a burglary”.
I shake off the sleep and head down there, but not before spending 20 minutes lovingly grooming my waist length blond hair; a totally impractical style for a police officer. It’s no wonder that Inspector Careca dislikes me; her own iron grey crop is a constant reproach.
The stolen picture was worth 20 million Euros. Von Glatze’s “Lady holding scissors whilst contemplating her long black hair” was the prize exhibit and now it’s missing. We searched high and low but could find no clues, not even any DNA traces.
Sergeant Rapada says the burglar’s methods remind her of similar crimes committed a few years ago by the notorious cat burglar, Ursula Chauve, but it turns out that Ursula has a cast iron alibi: she moved to Spain after her release from prison and was there when the latest burglary occurred.
But, we discover another lead. Ursula onced shared a prison cell with a young woman called Kel Dazlak, who still lives in our town. Kel’s pre-prison photos show her with long black hair, but her most recent ones show her with almost no hair: a half-inch buzzcut.
Sergeant Rapada remembers that Ursula Chauve was originally captured because she left DNA evidence at her last crime scene, a strand of her long auburn hair, and that after her imprisonment she shaved off her hair, promising never to grow it again so as to never give the cops easy evidence again. Is that a coincidence? Did Kel learn from Ursula’s lesson?
The Inspector tasks us to watch Kel. We learn that she now runs a barbershop, called “Nohairdontcare”. Sergeant Rapada and I rent a room in an office block opposite from where we can keep an eye on her.
This is hard for me. The room is hot and sweaty and there is no shower or other washing facilities. My heavy hair is a constant burden. I look with envy at Sergeant Rapada’s close pixie cut, yet I have always been proud of my long hair and I cannot bear the thought of cutting it shorter. I will just have to suffer the heat because the thought of cutting my hair is worse.
Eveyday I watch men and women, some with very long hair, entering Kel’s barbershop and all leaving with very short, or no, hair. Kel does nothing by half measures. This is torture, but I’m determined to resist. Just a few more days and I can escape this gruesome temptation.
We get a break. On day 4 of our watch we see a familiar face entering Kel’s shop. This is Abigail Calva, the daughter of a local gangster and one of his lieutenants. Her older photos in our file show a young woman with long chestnut coloured hair, but now she has a platinum coloured buzzcut. She looks stunning. I am, to my surprise, shocked. Will this weather ever cool down! Will this job never end? When will this temptation cease?
“We need to place a bug in that barbershop. We need to know what Abigail and Kel are talking about”, says Inspector Careca.
She looks at me with a grim smile: “Jacqui, I want you to plant it. You’ll need a convincing cover story when you go in and that means going over there as a customer. You better take this seriously – that hair has to go. I’m tired of telling you about it and I don’t want to have to tell you again.”
On day 5 I walk towards Kel’s barbershop. My legs feel like jelly. My sweaty, damp hair is in a pony tail and reaches far down my back. What am I going to do?
I take a seat in the waiting area. Kel smiles at me briefly before shifting her attention back to the middle-aged woman currently sitting in the barber’s chair.
I notice, with heart in mouth, that Kel’s head is completely hairless today, shaved smooth and bare. A few minutes later she catches me staring and she smiles back and winks.
I notice with uneasy interest that long strands of brown hair are lying in a heap on the ground beneath the customer who is now in the chair. She now sports an ultrashort flat-top. She looks very happy when she rises from the chair.
Damn, it’s my turn now.
“So, what do you have in mind today”, says Kel with a broad smile, as she wraps a cape around me.
“I..,I…I don’t really know…I mean, I was meaning to ask for something shorter but I…”, my words trailed off.
Kel smiled and said, “Well obviously you want something shorter or why else would you come here. I know! How about something like this? I think you’d like it?” She pointed to at her own head.
And then, remembering why I was there: “Please, not that…at least…not yet – (wait, what? did I just say “not yet”?) – Oh hell, I can’t go through with this. Cou…could you just take it a little shorter; a few inches and I’ll see how I feel about that…PLEASE?” My eyes welled with tears.
Kel dropped her smile and said, after some moments hesitation, “Okay, I’ll go easy on you, just a few inches today, but I warn you, you’ll be sorry. Remember, this is a barbershop. It’s called “Nohairdontcare”, think about that before you come again.”
“Ok, thanks. Just a few inches. Up to the middle of my back but no more”.
She squinted at me without smiling and began to work with her scissors.
While she did so, I stuck the bug to the underside of the chair.
With an uncertain relief I noted that she did what I had asked. She shortened my hair to the middle of my back, but she did not look happy. As I turned to leave, she called out. Pointing a set of electric hair clippers at my hair, she said: “Hey, the next time you come back here, all of that is coming off. Don’t forget.”
My own unspoken thoughts were: “The next time I come back here, it’ll be to transfer you to your sorry ass to a new job: prison barber.”
The operation was a success so far. The bug was working fine and all we had to do was await Abigail’s return.
This happened 3 days later. We heard Abigail say that she had still no news about the “next job” but that Kel should keep herself ready. Abigail said that she would return in 3 days time at 5pm with more definite information. This was it. All we had to do was wait and listen and then we would have them.
3 days later.
“What do you mean the bug is broken”, I squealed.
“It’s not working, I tell you”, says an exasperated Sergeant Rapada, “It’s not broadcasting. You’ll have to go back in, and quickly, Abigail will be here in 2 hours.”
I feel sick.
“NO…why can’t you do it?”
“Kel knows me. I arrested her before. If I go, it’ll give the game away. Besides, the Inspector told you to handle the bug. Do you want me to call her to remind you? Besides, you saw how angry she was when you came back last time with that poor excuse of a haircut. Go and get it done properly this time. That’s an order.”
“Ummh, ok, I’ll go, keep your hair on. Where’s the spare bug?”, I say with a thumping heart.
“Good luck”, says Sergeant Rapada, with a sly smile.
I enter the shop. Only Kel is present and she smiles broadly when she recognises me. Her bare, tanned scalp gleams in the sunlight that streams through the window. When she smiles, she is beautiful.
“Told you so”, she says, “Are you ready now?”
I breathe deeply.
“Yes. Do your worst”, I say grimly.
“Don’t be like that, you’ll love it, I promise. I’ve never looked back and nor will you.”
After she wraps a cape around me I replace the old bug with the new one. Job done. Perhaps I should get up now and leave. Pretend to have a panic attack, or something. Yet, I do not move.
She stands behind me with electric clippers in hand.
“Down the middle?”
And so it goes. Within 2 minutes she has reduced my golden glory to mere stubble, and within another 10 minutes she has removed even that.
Long years of vanity, effort and expense are consigned, in a few minutes, to a dustbin.
I am bald. I am elated. I am free. I am beautiful.
Later, Abigail visits Kel as arranged, and unexpectedly leaves as a completely bald woman too. Two complete headshaves in one day! Sergeant Rapada looks on enviously. Within a year she will follow our path.
And the job really is done. Abigail reveals that the next heist is at the HeadBlade Gallery. They want Von Glatze’s final masterpiece, “Smiling lady rubbing her smooth bald head”, worth 30 million Euros. We catch them in the act.
A year has passed since those events occurred. I’ve been promoted to Sergeant. Sergeant Kojacqui, as my colleagues teasingly call me now.
Kel was right: I do love it. I have never looked back. I am never going back.