Shave and a Haircut

By: Jason Cline

The antique bell chimed as the door opened. A powerfully built man who appeared to be in his late fifties smiled and ushered the young family in, "Welcome…welcome. Please come in. You must be my eleven o'clock. You're early! Come in…come in"

The man was tall and smartly dressed, wearing pressed slacks and a button down short sleeved shirt. The woman was wearing a flower print sundress and wedge sandals. But it was the young boy who drew the barber's attention. "You must be Reggie." the man said with a kindly smile.

Reggie was a dirty blonde haired cherub of a child with big brown eyes and a stylish jumper. He clung to his mother's skirt as he looked around the barber shop eyes wide taking it all in. When the older man crouched down to his level Reggie ducked behind his mother and peeked out at him eliciting a deep laugh from the barber. "It's alright son…I won't hurt you."

Reggie's father looked around the shop idly as his mother explained, "So sorry we're early but we have pictures this afternoon and they bumped up the time and…"

The barber waved her off, "Not a problem. I do have one appointment this morning but as soon as they are done I'm all yours."

The barber smiled kindly at Reggie, "How old are you Reggie?"

"Seven." The boy said from behind his mother's skirts.

The barber nodded sagely, "Seven? Wow…big man. I may have to check your chin for whiskers. Maybe throw in a shave with that haircut eh?" The boy smiled, as did his parents.

The antique bell chimed again. The young couple looked towards the door and their smiles went wooden. Two gutter punks sauntered into the shop. The man in front was whip thin with a teased mowhawk died bright red and piercings all over is face but the most frightening part of his appearance was a huge cyberarm that was obviously meant for someone much larger than he was, possibly an ork or a troll. He smiled at the young family displaying crooked teeth. His companion, an actual ork, was no less intimidating standing nearly two meters tall and heavily muscled. The ork wore large pistol at his hip not quite covered by his coat and carried a strange looking briefcase with him. The ork gave the room a casual once over as he entered and then adopted an air of bored indifference.

The barber's eyes widened slightly at the display but he quickly smiled and approached the two men. "Gentlemen welcome please head on back and see my associate, I'll be with you shortly."

The human sneered, "You da barber?"

"That I am." The barber answered ushering the two towards a door that led to the back. "I'll be right with you." His voice taking on a strained note and shooting an apologetic look to the young family. The man with the mowhawk winked at the young woman before pushing his way through the door.

The barber visibly composed himself before turning to the young family. "I am so sorry…please just give me a few minutes to complete this business and I will be right with you." He shot a somewhat pleading look at the husband, "You know how it is…" Then he turned and disappeared through himself.

The door led to a short hallway lined with boxes of shaving cream, shampoo and various other tools of the trade. The hallway ended at another door with a sophisticated maglock. The barber stepped through the door and into his office. The man with the mowhawk was lounging in an expensive plush chair, one leg over the armrest. The ork was still standing near the door and he looked up lazily as the barber entered. Seated behind the desk was the barber's associate Patricio dressed in a finely tailored dark suit and offering only a blank expression to the room's occupants.

The barber crossed the room and Patricio gave up his seat, taking a standing position behind and to the left of the barber. The barber folded his hands on the desk and smiled, "So…to business then? What have you brought me?"

The human looked over at the ork who set the briefcase he was carrying down on the desk and opened it. A puff of mist accompanied the opening indicating that the contents were being kept cold. Inside the case were four large vials of a milky white substance. Once the barber had seen the vials the ork closed the case again then stepped back to the doorway leaving the case on the desk.

"Ok…what is it?" the barber asked.

"Barghest seamen." the mowhawked man answered with a grin.

"Barghest seamen?" the barber replied.

"That's right." the man said with the pleased look of a prepubescent boy torturing his sister with a toad.

"And how did you come by this…Barghest seamen?" the barber asked.

"Fell off a truck." the ork said tossing a look at his companion.

"Doesn't it all?" the barber replied eyeing the ork. He leaned back in his chair and tapped his fingers together for a moment. "I don't know…not much of a market for that sort of thing in New Orleans but I might be able to move it. It'll take time though and I'm not paying up front. Let's say sixty forty and you get paid when I do."

The mowhawked man practically leapt to his feet, "Sixty percent?!" He stepped forward and placed his mismatched fists on the table in front of the barber, leaning forward to scowl down at him. "I think you can do better than that old man!" he growled. The ork at the doorway casually placed his hand on the butt of his pistol and maintained his air of indifference.

The barber looked up into the man's eyes and then reached up and grabbed his mowhawk and slammed his head down on his desk, yanking him forward onto the desk so he was spread eagle with his feet just off the ground and twisting his head to the side so he was looking at his companion. The ork had his pistol out and halfway up when he noticed the red dot on his chest right above his heart. He cut his eyes to the left and saw the business end of the Colt Manhunter that Patricio had trained on him. The dot moved slowly and steadily from his chest to a spot right between the ork's eyes and he wisely dropped his gun on the floor.

Thirty centimeters of cyberspur extended from the massive cyberarm attached to the man's right shoulder but he froze as he felt the cold touch of steel on his windpipe from the barber's straight razor. Everything went still and quiet and the soft tones of light jazz could be heard from the front of the store.

"Who do you think you are talking to?" the barber asked casually. His tone was light and belied the razor blade that rested on the young man's neck.

"You're nobody. The only reason you are even *here* today is because I owe your uncle a favor. And you think you can negotiate with me? Me!" the blade drew a tiny trickle of blood from the mowhawked man's neck.

"Let me tell you something kid just because you managed to scrounge up enough cred to have some back alley slicer jam a bunch of used third rate cyberware in you don't make you a Showdowrunner."

Silence again. No one moved. Then the barber sucked his teeth and said, "Ok…here's what's going to happen. I'm going to try to find a buyer and we're going to split the take seventy thirty…and just to be clear since you are so new to all this that's seventy percent for *me* and thirty percent for *you*. And if you ever show me such disrespect again I will force feed you that Barghest spunk and sell your sister to Organleggers." He removed the razor from the man's neck and sat back down in his chair.

Slowly the mowhawked man raised his head from the desk. The barber watched his face as he agonized over what to do and finally decided not to press his luck. Without a word he left, making a show of turning his back to the barber in an attempt to convey his lack of fear…an attempt that was undermined by the slight shaking of his movements. The ork started to retrieve his gun but a shake of Patricio's head stopped him. Then he too turned and left. Patricio followed them out and by the time he had returned to the office the briefcase with the Barghest seamen had been hidden away in some out of sight storage area and the barber was quietly sipping a scotch.

"Kids…" the barber said shaking his head.

Patricio said nothing.

"Still…exotic animals are all the rage in Indonesia right now. If these samples are high quality I imagine we will turn a decent profit. Mr. Mowhawk..."

"Richard." Patricio supplied.

"…Richard was exactly what I expected but the ork…"

"Neil" Patricio said without a hint of a smile.

"You're shitting me? Neil? Really? Who let her name her son after a trid character?" the barber shook his head. "Neil handled himself well. He may turn out to be useful in the future. Keep an eye on him."

The barber drained his scotch, "Well…I've got customers waiting…"

The barber made his way back to the front room and opened the door with a smile. "So sorry to keep you waiting. So Reggie…shave and a haircut?"