The Barbers Guild

Phil had seen to some of the most dangerous men in the world, but that didn’t stop him trembling as the door opened.

‘Evening guv’nor,’ Prisoner 5478 said after he entered, closely followed by Marv and Sam, the two biggest and meanest wardens in the prison.
‘Shut your hole,’ Marv said before clipping 5478’s skull loudly with his knuckles.

5478 scowled. Then bared his teeth. Not one muscle in Marv’s face moved in response. ‘Siddown’ he said, the two syllables running together in a cockney cascade.

Phil nodded to the two massive wardens, and they manoeuvred the prisoner forward and into the chair.

As Phil surveyed 5478’s head and tried to decide where to begin, Marv and Sam awkwardly eyed the wooden stool. Eventually Sam motioned that it was okay for Marv to sit down. Marv graciously accepted.

‘You going anywhere nice on your holidays this year?’ 5478 asked Phil.
‘Pardon?’ Phil said, perplexed.
‘It’s what barbers usually ask, innit?’
‘I suppose so,’ Phil said, fighting the urge to slice the murderer’s throat right now.
‘No point you asking me, since I’m in ‘ere for the rest of me natural, so I thought I’d ask you.’
‘I see,’ Phil said. He glanced at the two giants relaxing behind the dilapidated barber’s chair. Neither of them seemed to object to the conversation.

‘Minorca,’ Phil said. His hands shook as they approached the scruffy locks.
‘With the wife I presume?’
Phil hesitated.
‘Oh, beggin’ my pardon – how very un-PC of me. Are you a woofter?’
‘That’s enough of that,’ Sam said gruffly. ‘Shut your trap.’

5478 smiled at Phil. Then winked.
Phil did not respond.

Phil opened the scissors. The top blade reflected the overhead light.
He gulped and wondered if the noise of the thick saliva bottlenecking in his throat was as loud for everyone else as it was for him.

And then he plunged the scissors into 5478’s oesophagus. Blood poured out, like hot water from a kettle spout.

The two wardens watched silently.

Phil groaned as he pushed the heavy barber’s chair forward, so that as much of the blood as possible fell into the sink beneath the mirror. 5478 continued to make gurgling noises, some of which sounded like words. Phil yanked the murderer’s head around, closing the wound and stemming the blood flow.

‘Prisoner 5478 you have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the vilest of crimes. The Royal Guild of Barbers has, through a democratic and fair process, decided that this punishment will not suffice. I am sure, by now, you have guessed our proposed resolution.’

The skin around 5478’s eye sockets pulled taut, making it appear like the smooth skin of a man ten years younger.

Phil allowed the dead man’s head to return to its natural position and emptied him like a hot water bottle.

He turned and looked at Sam and Marv. None of the men said a word, and without even an acknowledgment of what had just happened, the two warders picked up the pale corpse and dragged it out of the barber’s room.

Alone again, Phil regarded himself in the mirror, and carefully adjusted the thin hair at the front of his scalp. Nearly ten years he’d been doing this and he still got nervous before each new undertaking. Was that silly?

The door opened once more. This time it was Sam and Eric.
Marv must be on cleanup duty this week, thought Phil. Poor bastard.

‘I don’t need a fucken’ haircut. Lookit me you pricks – I’m bald!’

Then prisoner 5479 saw the blood. And he screamed like a little girl who has just realised that her parents have gone forever.

Yes, thought Phil, the first client of the day was certainly the easiest.

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David Baillie is a freelance writer and artist. Born almost thirty years ago in Scotland, he now lives and works in the East End of London.

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