The Vanishing Hairdresser
by Bill Kowaleski
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
When Sean returned to their cabin, it was already dark, but then darkness comes early in February. Cindy had been sitting in front of the television, nursing a glass of the special wine that Sean always brought back with him when he went to his mysterious business meetings in Chicago. As soon as he entered, she sprang up. “Got a call from Gustafson. You’ll never guess what he found out.”
“Something on those dogs, I’ll bet.”
“Gunpowder residue. But he says that doesn’t prove much. Everybody up here has guns and uses them.”
“Like Gina,” said Sean. “She sure knew how to use a gun. I’m not convinced that the Northerners are so innocent here. They’re an unprincipled bunch.”
“And you’re so pure? Both clans are drug dealers, after all.”
“And you’re hanging out with a drug dealer, babe. I like to think of us as providing a product that our people want. But my clan doesn’t hurt anyone. The Northerners are different. Look at Gina. She killed a fellow clan member, and she almost killed you and me.”
Cindy nodded. Sean paid her a lot of money to be his lookout. That was why she still worked at the Tall Timber: just about every newcomer ate there, and she found out all she could about them.
But Gina had shaken her, made her yearn for her former simpler, impoverished life. Gina had tried to kill both of them, and would have succeeded if Sean hadn’t been one step ahead of her. But then, what could you expect from criminals? Even though oak resin was perfectly legal on Earth, it was a dangerous, addictive drug on Sirius Prime, and now that the woods around her home town had been discovered, more and more Sirians were arriving, creating rivalries that grew more and more dangerous.
“It’s time we both got out of this,” said Cindy. “You’ve got big bags full of that gold your cartel pays you with. Couldn’t you do like Gerry Anderssen and open a legitimate business somewhere?”
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. But I’m not like Gerry. All I’ve got to keep me here on Earth is you. I want to go back home, but you’d never be able to live there.”
“Then stay here. Let’s move to Hawaii. It’ll remind you of home.”
He crawled into the love seat beside her and hugged her tightly. “I really care for you. But you know, I could live another two hundred years. We won’t grow old together. Thirty years from now you’ll have different needs than mine. I’ll have to move on. Is that what you want?”
She couldn’t think that far ahead. Thirty years seemed forever. She wanted something now. The future could take care of itself.
“That guy Wolf today, he said you were weird for humans. Do they think you’re some kind of pervert? Sometimes I think I am, for loving you.”
“These disguises are really like a second skin, a living layer that transmits feeling, and allows us to express emotions facially just as humans do. So no, you’re not perverted. You’re just responding to what you see and feel, which seems perfectly human. But me, well, maybe I am perverted, by the standards of my own kind.”
“We could never have children,” said Cindy, her voice wistful.
“Nor can gay couples. Nor can people with certain medical conditions. But we could arrange something, maybe in-vitro fertilization with a human donor, so you could bear a child that you could raise here on Earth.”
She sighed. It was all too much. How did her life ever get this complicated? Just then the phone rang. Cindy picked it up.
“Hey Cindy,” Gustafson’s deep voice said. “Got a favor to ask.”
“Could you take care of these dogs for a few days? Maybe arrange to take them to the Humane Society or something?”
An hour later three bundles of unbridled energy were charging about the small cabin. They ate voraciously, then snuffled around outside under Cindy’s watchful eye. She feared that a bear or even a large owl could take them, and so stood in the frigid winter night watching. Back inside, they just kept going, charging onto and off of Cindy’s and Sean’s laps and interfering with television.
Finally Sean stood up. “Let’s take them back to their house, let them sniff around there for a while. Maybe it’ll calm them down.”
And so they drove the two miles up County Route DK into town, arriving in bright moonlight at the Olson’s dark house. Next door, lights blazed on both floors of the Axelsons’. The basement windows, half-obscured by snow, also shone brightly.
As soon as Sean opened the car door, the dogs poured out, scampering toward their home, but within seconds they converged on one of the Axelsons’ basement windows, where they launched into a sustained chorus of yapping.
“Hush!” said Cindy. “They might be in bed already.”
The door of the house opened and Otto Axelson appeared in his Cossack hat, rubber galoshes, and blue parka. Just behind him, his wife stood in her green coat.
“Where did you find them?” Otto asked as he walked toward Cindy. The dogs took one look at Otto and scampered away, hiding under the porch of their darkened house.
“Oh, hi, Otto. They were foraging in the Tall Timber’s garbage. Did you hear about the Olsons? Police found their pickup in the woods, abandoned.”
Otto didn’t seem too surprised and didn’t say anything. Instead he watched the dogs suspiciously. One had re-emerged and was back at the brightly lit basement window, yapping.
“Get that damned dog away from my house, and get them out of here!” Otto shouted. “We want to get some sleep.”
“You sleep with the lights on?” asked Sean.
Otto grunted and walked back to his house. His wife had already disappeared back inside. He slammed the door without saying another word.
After Cindy had rounded up the schnauzers, Sean put the car in gear.
“Hey,” said Cindy. “The cabin is the other way.”
“Yeah. But we’re going to the police station.”
“Nobody’s there now. Calls go to the State Patrol this time of night.”
“You’ve got Gustafson’s number. Tell him to get right over there.”
She did, unsure why Sean was so determined to see the Sheriff immediately.
Gustafson was trudging along the sidewalk toward the station as they pulled into the parking lot. He lived less than a block away.
“So Sean, why the urgency?” Gustafson asked.
“Can you get a cadaver dog in that house tonight? You’ve got to act fast, before they move the bodies!”
“What house, what bodies? You’re not making any sense, young man.”
“When we let those dogs out of the car, they made a beeline to a basement window of the Axelsons’. They were obsessed with that window. Why? Because their masters are down there. Probably dead.”
Copyright © 2014 by Bill Kowaleski