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The Hardy Boys get Haircuts by Manny
Remember the TV series starring Parker Stevenson as Frank and Sean Cassidy as Joe? They are coming to life in story form!
The Mystery of the Murdered Millionaire
"I think he knows he's being followed. See how he keeps looking over his shoulder?" Joe said to his brother Frank, sounding clearly alarmed.
"Don't be so loud! He'll be in no doubt if he hears you carrying on," Frank scolded.
The Hardy boys watched as their suspect paused, glanced around furtively, and then pushed the shop door open.
"He's gone into the barber shop!" Joe gasped.
The amateur detectives remained frozen, watching the red and white pole of the barber shop twirl.
"Scamper up closer and see what's going on inside," Frank told his younger, more impulsive brother.
As he crept forward, Joe's shiny brown hair shimmered in the afternoon sunlight. The high side part, complemented by feathered sides that covered his ears and a flow in back that passed the base of his collar, were indications the lad had never been near a traditional barbershop.
Joe walked slowly, trying to appear disinterested as he ambled past the glass door and large plate glass window. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man they'd been following. He was stuffing a bulky envelope into his jacket pocket while the barber took possession of the briefcase the suspect had carried.
Joe's heart raced! Had there been a hand-off, an exchange?! During his last glimpse into the shop, Joe saw the barber taking the briefcase into the back room.
Joe waited for what seemed like an eternity at the corner before casually meandering back past the barber shop to rejoin his brother.
The barber and the suspect were still conversing. A look of exasperation on the barber's face could not be concealed. He was shaking his head in the negative while the suspects hands flew about dramatically emphasizing an unintelligible point.
By the time Joe made it back to where Frank was, he had a theory. And, he was convinced the briefcase contained the evidence they would need to solve the mystery of the murdered reclusive millionaire whose family had started the oldest factory in town a century before.
"We have got to talk to the barber. More importantly, we need to get the briefcase!" Joe insisted.
"And what do you propose?" Frank asked skeptically, eying the shiny mane that made his brother stand out in a crowd.
Frank's own hair was also an object of pride. Longer and fuller even than Joe's, but not as glossy. It was lighter in color, a summer blond, and with the help of a blow dryer he could get it as puffy as his mother's bouffant, almost!
"A two-pronged approach. One of us will go in the front door and engaged the barber in some chatter while the other creeps in from the alley and grabs the briefcase," Joe said.
"Like steal it?" Frank replied, with a put-down tone.
Joe blinked his large brown eyes. He hadn't thought through the situation carefully enough. Frank was better at strategizing.
"I suppose I could just open it and look inside, if it's not locked, while you chat with the barber," Frank suggested.
"You mean you'll go in the back? I thought I would do that," Joe argued
"No way, he'll think I'm there for a haircut!" Frank exclaimed.
The younger brother pawed nervously at the thought of being made to sit in the big barber chair to get his styled locks shorn off!
Frank chuckled, imagining exactly the same scenario. Little Joe getting a standard short back 'n sides with a low side part and his hair slicked to the side with Brylcreme!
"Make something up...like ask if he is open on Saturdays. You have a fertile mind, you can figure out something," Frank said with a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.
"Why not say that I was looking for my grandfather, and describe the man with the brief case?" Joe countered.
"That's a great idea. It would lead to what we really need to know -- who that man is," Frank said.
Joe smiled widely. He seldom got such praise from Frank!
Frank tussled Joe's silken locks. "But if the barber starts heading into the back room, you do whatever is necessary to divert him, even if it means climbing up into the big barber chair! And here's $15 in case you need to pay for a haircut. I mean, if the barber starts talking and you need more time....getting a haircut might be the perfect way to chat and draw him out."
"Believe me, that is not the type of shop that specializes in fashionable hairstyles," Joe grumped. "Why not change roles -- you head in the front door and chat up the barber while I rifle through the briefcase in back?"
"Because I'm the older brother, and I decide who is doing what!" Frank said with an air of finality. "Give me a few minutes to get around in back through the alley."
Joe was on pins and needles as he approached the door of the barber shop. He had never been in one in his life! And the barber looked so authoritative with that white tunic buttoned up on his shoulder, like he was a doctor or a dentist. All painful experiences, for sure! Plus, the barber looked like an old fogey with his severe male pattern baldness that left a very narrow strip of auburn fringe growing around the side and back.
Joe swallowed and worked up enough courage to push the door open.
The barber eyed the timid, frightened lad curiously. That hair would be a treat to cut! Undoubtedly, sent by a strict parent or school authority....
"Come on in. There will be no wait for your haircut, young man. Take a seat!" the barber ordered.
Joe could hear some rustling sound coming from the back.
The barber appeared to hear the same and started to turn...
"No wait for a haircut?!" Joe exclaimed loudly to divert attention from the back. "That's great!"
The barber's head swiveled back to the lad; he grinned as he eye the silken locks, so ripe for the clippers.
"But, I don't do girly styles here," the barber warned.
"Oh, I see," Joe stammered. "Well, then, perhaps you can help with what I'm really in need of -- to find my grandfather."
The barber laughed. "You lost your grandfather?" he bellowed, amused.
Joe could hear Frank in back. It sounded like one of the briefcase locks had snapped open with strong spring action. Then he heard a second, more muffled thud.
The barber's attention again was diverted to the back.
"He's about 5'8", stocky, with dark wavy hair and was last seen wearing a beige trench coat and carrying an attache case," Joe blurted out anxiously.
"Nope, haven't seen anyone that meets that description," the barber said quickly, eying Joe suspiciously.
"But, he could be in danger," Joe babbled impulsively.
"Look, son, I'm a barber. I give haircuts. I'm not a private detective. So, either you take a seat in that chair by the window or I'm going to close up shop for the day and go home early." The barber fixed his gaze on Joe and motioned curtly to the chair.
Joe was caught in a conundrum. His hair! His lovely hair!! The way his heavy forelock fell across his eye.... He was such a pretty boy, and liked being one. But, the last thing he wanted was for the barber to close up shop and go home.
"I suppose I do need a trim," Joe said reluctantly.
Joe made one last attempt before climbing up into the big chair. "Someone said they saw a man who matched my grandfather's description enter your shop a few minutes ago."
"Oh...." the barber sighed. "Hop up in the chair and once I have you all caped up I'll tell you all about him."
As Joe climbed up the big metal footrest, his legs felt like jelly. The excitement to find out more about the mystery man dovetailed with the fear of sitting in a traditional barber chair for the first time.
The barber gave a very disapproving "tsk, tsk" as he tugged at Joe's fashionable mullet. "You'll look much better with a nice crisp taper, young man," he declared.
Joe had no idea what that meant, precisely, although he realized the reference was to his impending haircut.
The big white cape sailed into place and was secured tightly -- too tightly! -- around the neck with a huge metal clip.
The barber combed all of Joe's hair straight down. The bangs covered his eyes. Joe was left in the dark.
Then he felt the scissors above his eyebrows.
SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!
The watched in horror as his long bangs fell away. He was left with severely angled bangs. They started near the eyebrow on one side and were cut diagonally to the opposite point near the hairline. The first mound of shiny, cut hair piled up in his lap!
"The man who came in here a few minutes ago could not be your grandfather," the barber said with an air of certainty.
He took the scissors to the mullet in back. Joe could feel the cold blade right at his nape.
SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!
Joe watched in horror as his carefully cultivated mullet fell, with a large shorn lock resting in a forlorn manner on his shoulder. A blast of cool air on his exposed neck sent a shiver down Joe's spine.
"That man, you see, is my brother. And, since no one in our family would ever permit a young lad to look like a young lady with girly hair, I am more than certain he is NOT your grandfather," the barber stated emphatically.
To emphasize his point he gave one last whack with the scissors and held up a chunk of shorn hair before dropping it to the floor.
Joe felt stunned as his head was pushed forward and down. A click announced the imminent assault of the electric hair clippers. The barber pushed the chattering teeth forcefully up the exposed neck, into the thick mane of hair. The steely teeth chewed effortlessly through Joe's treasured locks. Tightly, up to the occipital bone, and then gradually away, crafting a very short, tight taper up the back of Joe's head.
The barber repeated his torturous journey with the clippers a few times before letting Joe sit up straight again.
"And, besides, he doesn't have grandchildren. He's a priest, a Catholic priest!" the barber exclaimed.
The barber folded Joe's ear down and began tapering around it with the clippers. Sheaves of his beautiful hair fell to the cape. His stomach churned anxiously as he watched the barber cut his hair shorter and shorter.
"He stopped by to tell me his news," the barber continued. "He'll be performing the funeral for that reclusive millionaire who was found murdered. And, I shouldn't tell you this, but..."
The barber hesitated.
"But what?" Joe urged him to continue as he watched the clippers decimate the other side of his head. So much hair was on the cape, he could hardly tell it was white.
"The fortune is going to go to...." the barber continued cautiously.
Then he snapped off the clippers and reached for some thinning shears.
"Way too much hair up here," he said as he began lifting and whacking away with reckless abandon at Joe's diminishing mane.
"Who is the fortune going to?" Joe insisted.
The barber thinned Joe's hair repeatedly. Lift, chop, comb. Lift, chop, comb. Lift, chop comb. The bangs also got reduced in bulk by almost half. Joe looked with remorse at the thin wisps that remained. His once mighty forelock sweeping over his hazel eyes was but a memory now.
"It's confidential. Priest are told confidential things, you know. But I shouldn't be repeating it to a young lad, even if he looks like a clean-cut, respectable boy," the barber said.
It seemed like the haircut was ending. The barber took a dollop of smelly cream and worked it into Joe's hair. The low side part and slicked look made him appear like a 10-year old in 1965!
"Let me show you how it is in back. I can taper it tighter, if you'd like," the barber said.
He held up a mirror. Joe was aghast at the awfully short taper in back. How long would it take for him to grow it out? And his neck was a creamy white!
"Well?" the barber asked.
Joe felt nauseous. "It looks okay," he murmured.
The barber began whisking away with a duster that had been plied with talcum powder.
Then Joe got an idea. He blurted out, "The millionaire's fortune is going to your brother's parish!"
The barber smiled.
"You knew all along!" he exclaimed.
"But, nothing can happen until the murder mystery has been resolved," the barber said.
Joe got very animated.
"Maybe my brother and I can help solve it!" he replied. "That's why we were following your brother. He was seen leaving the crime scene before the police arrived."
The barber grimaced momentarily. His smile withered and did not return.
"You look so much better with your hair cut short, don't you think?" the barber asked as he applied some witch hazel to Joe's neck.
A jolt shot through Joe's body. The sting of the lotion was unexpected!
The barber's hands remained strangely on Joe's neck, first rubbing and then pressing....almost like he was going to...strangle him!
Joe panicked and began struggling for breath.
"Yes, you did a very good job," Joe said hastily. "But, now I must go."
"I suppose you could meet my brother. But, he can't know that I've told you at all about the millionaire's bequest. It would have to seem like a coincidence," the barber said. "He's stopping by tomorrow morning for a trim when the shop opens."
"I'll bring my brother in for a haircut at that time. His hair is even longer than mine," Joe said, smiling to himself at the thought of Frank's big massive hair being peeled off by the barber.
"Very well, then. Tomorrow morning at 8:30," the barber said as Joe handed him the $15 dollars for the haircut -- the exact amount.
Joe left the shop in a great stage of agitation! Perhaps he had only imagined the barber was on the verge of strangling him. On the other hand, perhaps the barber was luring him back with his brother to do them both in!
To distract himself, Joe began exploring his new haircut with his hand. He could not stop touching his clipped nape as he ran to find Frank.
Frank burst into peals of laughter when he saw Joe's haircut!
"Oh, look at you! A total NERD! Such a geek!! Let me see the damage in back!" Frank cackled.
This was the first of the many "shock and mock" moments poor Joe would experience in the coming days.
"Does it look that bad?" Joe whimpered.
"And it smells awful too!" Frank piled on.
"I was actually liking the smell," Joe sniffed. "And the feel of the taper at the nape is amazing."
Joe felt it for the umpteenth time. Once again, rubbing the bristles against the grain gave him a secret thrill.
"What was in the briefcase?" Joe asked.
"A priest's cossack, with blood on one sleave!" Frank exclaimed. "We were right! That man is the murderer."
"He's the barber's brother, or so I was told! They don't look a bit alike," Joe added. "And, we are going to meet him. Tomorrow morning at 8:30!"
Frank smiled broadly.
"Oh, Joe! You're amazing! And your haircut doesn't look so horrible," Frank said as he gave Joe a slight bro hug.
"Good! Because you're getting the same haircut tomorrow morning!" Joe giggled with delight.
He plunged his fingers into Frank's showy mane and grasped it playfully.
"Perhaps a brushcut for you? It will give you more time in the chair to get the information we need!" Joe said.
"I am NOT cutting my hair, at least not into such a dorky length," Frank stammered, trying to smooth his cool cat hair back into place.
"I'm sort of getting used to short hair," Joe said bashfully, almost feeling ashamed to admit it.
Frank touched the stiff strands that were plastered to the side.
"That's an awfully straight, smart side part," he smirked.
The next morning Frank whined plenty about getting a haircut at the barber shop. But, Joe was not having any of it. They both knew that going to the barber shop was a must if they were to solve the mystery of the murdered millionaire.
As Frank finished up with the blow-dryer, he examined his leonine mane and gave out a poignant sigh. "It will grow back, I suppose...."
Joe had to resort to using a huge blast of his mother's hairspray to get his hair to stay plastered to the side.
"Maybe the barber can sell you some of the cream he put in your hair, Joe," his brother said as he watched Joe admire his new look in the mirror. "It made it so shiny!"
The boys discussed a strategy as they headed to the barber shop. Frank agreed to let Joe take the lead in orchestrating the visit on the condition he do everything possible to have the barber just trim his hair. Of course, both boys realized that would probably not be possible.... Frank's fingers plied his hair nervously on their final approach to his date with the clippers.
Only the barber was in the shop when the Hardy boys entered.
"I see, you brought your brother!" the barber exclaimed with delight as he surveyed the mass of fluffy hair on Frank's head.
Joe's locks were still on the floor in a pile next to the trashcan. Obviously, the barber had left in a hurry without tidying up completely.
"There's my hair," Joe said. "But, where's your brother?"
"Oh, coming, I imagine. Now, hop up in the chair, fellow. What's your name?" the barber asked.
"Frank," he replied.
The longhaired lad looked at himself nervously in the mirror.
"Oh, my brother was wondering if you sell that cream for his hair," Frank said, to stall for time.
"Here's a tube that's not got too much left in it you can have. You can buy more at the drug store," the barber said. "So, did your haircut make a hit at home?"
"Frank's all excited about it," Joe said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Good! Let's get him caped up! Take a seat fellow," the barber instructed.
"Oh, is there a restroom, I can use?" Frank asked, knowing full well there was one in the back area.
"Yes, just behind that curtain there, to the right," the barber said.
Frank went into the back and quickly noticed the briefcase was MISSING! He began rummaging through a large basket labeled 'laundry,' hoping to find the bloodied cassock hidden beneath a dozen or so white capes.
Suddenly, the barber jerked the curtain open and Frank was caught in the act of snooping!
"The toilet is there! Not in that basket!" he snapped. "Or perhaps your are looking for something?"
The jingle at the front door announced the arrival of a client in the barber shop.
"Vincent? I'm here for my trim," a voice called out.
"Take a seat in the waiting area. Another client is first. He's just needed to use the toilet before he gets his haircut," the barber said.
He pointed to the shop and Frank reluctantly shuffled out into the blaze of neon towards the dreaded chair.
"You're the priest at Saint Uh, that big church, uh," Joe stammered, trying to engage the man sitting next to him who did not look anything like the barber.
"Of Holy Cross," the priest said.
"Oh, near that big mansion where that millionaire, the recluse lives...uh, lived," Joe said.
Frank was listening intently and didn't want to say anything to break the conversation Joe was having with the suspicious man.
The cape flew into place and was fastened tightly into place.
"Like your brother's?" the barber asked.
Frank gulped and nodded in the affirmative. His hair! On the chopping block. Yet, Joe seemed so upbeat about his new look....
The barber yanked a comb through the long locks.
"My goodness, how does a lad stay away from the barber shop so long?" the barber commented.
"Better late than never," the priest quipped. "When boys come to confession with long hair like that, it takes a few Hail Mary's and a trip to the barbershop for full absolution!"
The long bangs hung past the tip of Frank's nose.
SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!
Frank watched in horror as his long bangs fell away. He was left with severely angled, short bangs. The first mound of cut, coarse hair piled up in his lap!
"Yes, my church is less than a block from the mansion," the priest told Joe. "In fact, I was the one who discovered him dead!"
The barber took the scissors to the Frank's mane. He watched with a sick churning in his stomach as the barber began snipping around the ears and then taking off all the length in back.
SNIP, SNIP, SNIP! SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!!
The shorn locks displayed on the white cape looked so forlorn and pointless. A blast of cool air on his exposed neck sent a shiver down Frank's spine.
"You discovered him dead?!" Joe repeated, in shock.
"I came to administer the eucharist to him. The housekeeper said he was still in his bedroom, that he had not come down yet, but that sometimes he slept in late," the priest continued.
The barber reached for the clippers.
Frank's head was pushed forward and down, into a penitent position.
The priest paused as both he and Joe watched with glee as mounds of Frank's hair fell in sheaves to the barber shop's linoleum floor.
"He's getting a proper haircut, I see," the priest remarked in an approving tone.
"You should've seen that lad next to you yesterday. A real pretty boy with a modern, awful look that he wanted to shed," the barber clucked. "And he brought in his brother today."
"Just like Andrew bringing his brother Peter to Jesus," the priest laughed. "Brothers have such close bonds!"
"You two are brothers?" Joe asked the priest.
"Well, we call ourselves brothers. We grew up in the same orphanage. That's where we first met the murdered millionaire. He was one of the chief financial supporters of the orphanage," the priest explained.
The barber folded Frank's ear down as he took the clippers around it and cleared off all the growth.
"And, he became very fond of us," the barber added. "He said that if Vincent went to seminary, he would pay for me to go to barber college. So, in a way, he decided our careers for us."
"He could be kind one minute and controlling the next," the priest said absentmindedly.
"You have even thicker hair than your brother!" the barber exclaimed as he reached from the thinning shears. "You know, I think you'd do better with a crewcut. How about it? Take all this on top down close -- clipper over comb, with just a tidy bumper in front. How about it?"
"And you found him in a pool of blood?" Joe blurted out.
"What?!" the priest asked, with a shocked tone.
"No, I found him dead, in his bed. He must have died in his sleep," the priest said.
"But the blood on the sleave of your cassock," Joe stammered, tipping his hand.
The priest jumped to his feet! "How do you know about that?" he demanded.
There was tension in the shop. Everyone seemed paralyzed.
Frank ended the uncomfortable interlude by saying, "Yes, I think a crewcut will be a good look for me."
"So you were the one who rifled through the back of the shop while I was cutting your brother's hair yesterday!" the barber exclaimed, as he went into overdrive with the clippers.
"I can explain that," the priest stammered.
The haircut continued in silence. Shorter and shorter and shorter Frank's hair was cut.
"Well?" Joe demanded.
It was as if the priest were making it up as he explained, "There was blood coming out of his mouth, and my sleave must have gotten some on it when I was seeing whether he was alive or dead."
The haircut was almost over. So much hair came off! By the end of it, Frank looked like he was in the military with a very tidy brushcut!
Frank blinked as he surveyed his made-over image in the mirror -- a little peahead with eyes close together and ears that stuck out. A hideous look for him, but a look that made him feel bold and authoritative!
"Then why are the police saying it's murder?" Frank asked pointedly, as the cape came off.
In a flash, the priest ran out the front door. Joe scrambled and pursued him on foot.
The barber began to babble. "He didn't mean to kill the old man. It's just when he went to give him the host that dirty bugger tried to do what he would do to us when we were in the orphanage. Yes, he grabbed a heavy candlestick and clubbed the pervert. But he didn't mean to kill him...."
Frank puffed up his chest and crossed his arms. "Call the police and tell them!" he ordered.
The barber complied meekly.
Just as the police car roared up to the barber shop, Joe returned, hauling the suspected murder with his arm wrenched behind his back.
"The Hardy boys do it again!" the police chief clucked as the story was revealed to him in detail.
"But, I think the big news will be your new haircuts, boys! You look so sharp! Next time, though, ask for a flattop," he suggested as he removed his cap to display the most awesome plush top the boys had ever seen.
"You bet!" the chimed out in unison.