The Good Samaritan
“I’m telling you, sweetie. Richard moved the chairs. Again.”
“The ghost. Who else moves around a 200-pound massage chair for fun?”
“Again, with your stupid ghost. Ever since the seance, you’ve been acting like a nut job.” Ken flipped through a tacky beauty magazine, dated from the early 2000s. Every few minutes, he glanced up at Cindy, counting out the two registers in the lobby. He wondered, how did she and Darla move the massage chairs back into place that morning? Neither broke 5 ft height mark. He doubted the story altogether. Of course, her miraculous ghost moved chairs the night he didn’t work. Maybe her brother was in on the prank.
Cindy slammed the register shut and zipped up the money bag. Her dark red lips pressed into a frown whenever Ken mocked her about the ghost topic. “How do nut jobs and ghosts correlate? You saw what happened at the seance. The wax heaters, they…”
“ — Short circuited. Darla is stingy and bought cheap models. You don’t have ghosts, babe.” Ken threw aside the magazine and followed Cindy into the back office. He rested his hand on her shoulder but she brushed him off. Ken rolled his eyes. Between the pout and the attitude, she was a proper child some days. “What do you want me to say? That ghosts are real? Doesn’t change the problem, we all know what it is.”
“You think I’m crazy and you hate Darla. Stingy or not, good luck finding someone who can do eyebrows blindfolded. I’m not getting rid of her under any circumstances.”
Despite her sharp words, Ken leaned in and kissed her hair. Shellac and vanilla clung to each shaft, making his eyes water. Even in the backroom with the industrial filters, the air was heavy with chemicals. Cindy locked the safe, double-checking it before reclining in her squeaky chair. It would be Ken’s turn to take the seat in a few minutes.
Propped up on top of the safe was a CCTV system, with cameras facing the lobby, street, and alleys. With the recent break-ins along the promenade, Cindy considered it a worthwhile investment. Ken deemed it worthless: all the targets were jewellers, luxury shops, and cafes. If he wanted to look into the lobby, he only needed to tilt his head. Besides the safe, Ken deemed nothing in Cindy’s so-called haunted salon theft-worthy. Cindy ranted about vitamin C creams, tools, and even the chairs. Ken only half listened, uninterested in arguing. It was her salon.
Cindy lingered at the door; her frown gone. “Please stay safe. Promise me that if something happens…”
Ken kissed her forehead. “I won’t piss off your ghost. If anything happens, I’ll call the police. Now go home.” Ken held the door open for Cindy. He watched her climb into her car, parked three steps away from the side door. He waited for her to turn the corner before he locked up. Ken rolled his eyes. Ghosts. What the hell was next? Ken wished it was haunted — he needed the entertainment while he waited for his contact to call him.
Ken sat down in his chair, trying hard not to stare at himself on the CCTV screens. He glanced down at the screen of his charging phone every now and again. He flipped through a wedding magazine, “forgotten” by Cindy that morning. Darla was obsessed with the cameras for some strange reason. He couldn’t risk looking suspicious. Although, did reading his girlfriend’s wedding magazine look at all normal?
A noise in the waxing studio startled him. A jar smashing, tin rolling to a stop. “Who’s out there?” Ken shouted. Ken stopped in the studio’s doorway, examining the blue-lit room with his flashlight. Dark blue liquid spilled out from several jars across the marble linoleum. He cursed. The camera light flicked behind him. Darla would yell at him if he didn’t clean it. But he hadn’t the slightest clue what it was.
Ken flipped through the tall stack of MSDS tucked into a blue binder behind the counter. He struggled to find his chemical in question, his eyes watering over from the tiny print. He wished Cindy would get internet: a simple search would make his work far easier. He glanced up.
By then, the spill spread into the hallway. Ken wasn’t too keen on cleaning it and dallying was making things worse. His phone rang, startling him. “What’s taking you so long?” He demanded.
“Can’t you at least say hi, buddy?” Tyler’s voiced crackled over the speaker. “I’m finishing up at the Schwartz’s. Are you certain crazy wax lady won’t recognize me?”
“If you wear a mask, you’re good.” Moron. Ken quickly added, “Stick to the plan. Darla’s coming in early tomorrow to open shop for a wedding party. Get here now so we can be done hours ahead.”
“Chill, captain. It’ll be another three hours. The police are looking for me.”
“The police will patrol the street in an hour. Get your ass over here now. This time, make it look like an actual break-in.” Ken hung up.
Darla emptied the safe, 7 am, every day of the week. She was also arriving at least a half-hour early for her wedding party. It was pivotal Ken and Tyler robbed them quickly: just a few hours ago, some local celebrity bought up most of Cindy’s in-house skin creams and perfumes. With whatever stock remained in the backroom, Ken, and Tyler would clear 1,500 in this one hit alone. With Schwartz’s, the two men would earn ten grand each in a single night — their best hit in weeks. Maybe Cindy would get that Tiffany ring she bookmarked…
He didn’t feel guilt: insurance existed for a reason, but something nagged at him. Perhaps it was the adrenaline, knowing this was his last major hit at least until the hunt died down. Cindy had damn good insurance. If anything, Ken was doing her a favour.
Ken shut the binder, his eyes watering. Dish soap would do. He needed to clean up before he suffocated. Ken dragged the mop bucket, filled with warm water to the waxing room from the washroom. He stopped, splashing water on his sneakers.
The liquid was almost dry, its sour smell still heavy through the studio. A body’s outline lay face down, mangled, in the liquid. “Not funny,” Ken shouted. Something else fell from the shelves. Ken backed up, splashing soapy water across the floor. He took out his cellphone, shooting a text to Tyler.
What the hell are you doing? Ken slid through the water and poked the body outline with his shoe. It was still wet. Question was, where were the prankster’s footprints?
Ken rolled his eyes. This was his last gig. Tyler’s idiocy would have them in jail before they retired from crime. Ken leaned on his mop and called Tyler, who picked up on the second ring. “We don’t have time for your stupid pranks. Stop breaking shit.” Ken said.
“What are you going on about?” Tyler asked. “I’m like five blocks away.”
“You were just behind me. What the hell is the zombie movie prop doing on the floor?”
“I don’t know. It isn’t me. Maybe it’s your girlfriend’s ghost?”
Ken’s heart sank. Cindy would plan a prank like this. How much did she hear…? “We’re bust, get lost. ASAP.” He hung up. Ken cursed and threw his mop aside. He walked around the shop, checking each door. The only sound was his runners squeaking on the floors.
“Hello?” Ken tested every door before double locking them. He heard the washroom door rattling and quickly braced it. Whoever was in there wasn’t getting out. To his relief, the noise stopped almost instantly.
He stopped by the office and checked the phone. No one had dialled the police. Not on this phone, at least. “Okay, you win. I believe in ghosts now, Cindy. Cindy?” Cindy was a nice girl, but when she wanted to be difficult, she damn well succeeded. Ken shrugged. “I’m not letting you out until you answer me.”
He finished cleaning the waxing studio. He waited for the floor to dry, now stained a dark blue. Cindy still hadn’t come out of the washroom and he was almost certain he imagined half the night.
With a yawn, Ken dragged the mop to the washroom, pushing the door open. He dumped the mop bucket down the tub and hung the mop above the drain. In the stainless steel, he saw a shadow. Ken fell backwards into a sink.
A blue body of an old man, with black and white strings for hair dangling over his shoulders, hung from the ceiling. He stared back at Ken, his black-tooth mouth opened. His eyes oozed while his right hand, rotting and missing nails, reached for Ken’s face.
Ken screamed. He dashed to the front door, stumbling face-first into the glass. After tripping over the leopard print bench in his flight, he pounced, bloody and bruised, into the passenger seat of a black truck.
“What’s the matter?” Tyler asked.
“Drive! Drive!” Ken was only half inside when it took off, police cars chasing them down the street at lightning speed. None of them noticed the blue man, watching from the shattered window, melting as the sun began to rise.
“I’ll be damned. This is one of the best setups I’ve ever seen.” Officer Hollandaise packed up the recording equipment and Cindy’s CCTV equipment.
“When do we get the reward money?” Darla demanded, tapping her foot. She glanced at the clock. It was only another two hours before her wedding party showed up and she hadn’t started prepping for the event.
“In a few days when the investigation team gets to it.” Hollandaise replied. “How did you know your boyfriend was behind the crime sprees?”
“Some questionable texts I read on his phone. I think at this point, I’d preferred if he cheated.” Cindy replied. Several RCMP officers left her office, giving Cindy friendly salutes. She relaxed: looks like she caught him in time.
“Everything looks wonderful.” Hollandaise flipped his notebook shut. He was the last one to stay. “But here’s a little suggestion: get the studio professionally cleaned. It smells like a morgue in here.”
“Ah, men, what do you know?” Darla huffed. “It’s hair dye. You are chasing serial robbers but are afraid of a little perm?”
Hollandaise rolled his eyes and shook both their hands. “Excellent work, ladies. Your boyfriend and his friend will be on bail by tomorrow night. That is if you want to see him.”
Cynthia snorted. “After this? He’s on his own. Thanks anyway.” Cynthia locked the door behind Hollandaise. Cindy was giddy.
“I told you that boy was trouble. Men who spend more on their hair than their retirement savings are crazy. What happens? He tries to rob us.” Darla grumbled.
“Oh, don’t lecture me. He was cute. Besides, 30,000 dollar reward, and he came right to us! Besides, I’m sure Richard was happy to stretch his legs.”
“Don’t bring another one around. The last thing we need is for the neighbours to spot Richard.”
“He’s lovely, I don’t know why you keep him locked up all the time. Besides, I think there’s more money in tip-offs than perms and waxing.”
“Don’t tempt me. I already put my down payment on the new house.” Darla smiled. She swept up the last of the glass while Cindy boarded the front windows with cardboard boxes.
A little clay statue sat by the register, a pot of incense burning beside it. Darla blew stray ashes off the statue’s blank terra cotta face. Darla spoke to him in a tongue that sounded a little like Latin and demonic gargling. “Richard, are you interested in another gig? I hear there’s a murderer on the loose in Little Paris. 75,000 for tip-offs.”
The last ashes of the incense burned out. A few seconds later, a crack appeared on the clay statue’s face, leaving a coy smile spreading from cheek to cheek.