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2 - Too Much Off The Top

Case of the Partially Missing Barber

Posted on 19 March 2019

Kowalski screeched to a halt in front of Shears To You, a quaint little downtown barbershop that stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the more modern office supply stores and car dealerships. The thick bands of yellow tape that stretched across half the sidewalk did little to help it blend. Nor did the steady tide of forensics ants that ebbed in and out of the single narrow doorway.

Kowalski was a conscientious driver, so it was while fumbling with his buckle that he managed to upend his triple no fat espresso all over his trousers. Only the lightning fast reactions that a burning sensation in your nether regions can bestow allowed him to rescue a few sips, but the damage had been done. His forbidden forest was aflame, and no amount of Lice-B-Gone would save it this time.

He closed his eyes and thought of England (which happened to be the name of a well respected but confusingly titled pastry shop not two blocks away, conveniently imbuing the phrase with meaning to an ant). Then he took one of his precious remaining sips and let the warmth wash away some of the pain. The coffee, as already established, was mostly hot - but it was also mostly rum. And it really hit the spot.

Once the blaze had begun to smoulder, Kowalski’s priorities shifted to cleaning up the mess. Unfortunately, as much as it smelled of mould and often sheltered a passed out drunk, his car was not a laundromat. In desperation he flicked open the topmost of the case files that were piled haphazardly on the passenger seat. After a quick skim and having not recognised a thing in it he slipped what he hoped was an unimportant page out of the back, scrunched it into a loose ball, and scrubbed vigorously at his sorry trousers.

A few sheets later and he’d reduced the spill to just another stain. With things finally working out the way they were supposed to, he snatched up his notepad and badge and flung opened the door to a loud and reverberating -BANG-. A passing forensics ant glared reproachfully at him as he slipped out of the narrow opening to figure out what he’d hit.

A big red fire hydrant.

Those damn jockeys down at the fire department just put them wherever they wanted, like right in front of an active crime scene. And now Betsy, the only woman in his life to which he didn’t owe a dime in rent, had a fresh dent in her door. They’d met the day he graduated from detective school, him a wide eyed young ant and her recently confiscated from a crack dealer that was looking at more years than she had miles. In the two decades between then and now she’d never once let him down.

A more introspective ant than our titular hero might realise that the same could not be said in reverse, and try to better himself. He instead kicked the hydrant, then yelped around clutching his foot to the enjoyment of most of the forensics ants. From inside the barbershop, Spelter watched the scene unfold with one of those impending senses of dread usually reserved for a driver careening off of a bridge and into a volcano.

Once Kowalski had again recovered, and the forensics ants had returned to their traditional monotony, he huffed his way into the barbershop. Whatever Shears To You had been the day before - quaint, companionable, obsolete, whatever - it was now just a crime scene. The entrenched smell of tobacco and talc was drowned now by bleach. The clip clip of the shears had become the snap of a camera shutter and the burn of a flash. And in the centre of it all was one very dead ant, casually seated in a chair before the mirror and entirely missing from the waist up.

After long years of drunken battery, Kowalski’s stomach had learned to roll with the punches. As such, the first thing he thought of when seeing the mutilated corpse of the barber ant was which joke he was about to make. He sauntered past a scowling Spelter and said, “Looks like he took too much off-“

“Kowalski, glad you finally made it,” Spelter interrupted, in a tone that implied anything but. Detective Spelter was an ant so different from Kowalski you’d think their mother had been sleeping around. Which she had been. Where Kowalski was thin and wasted from decades of sampling every substance he could squeeze out of a leaf or a bottle, Spelter had the girth of someone expecting forty days of rain but lacking the ingenuity to build an ark.

That is to say he would float rather well.

Spelter’s likeness to a beach ball was not helped by his sadly deficient height, meaning he had to arch his neck to meet Kowalski’s vapid stare with his own acid glare. Thankfully Spelter had a face that was perfect for two things; looking down his nose at people and getting punched. Kowalski sorely wanted to do the latter.

“Almost didn’t see you there, Spelter,” Kowalski riffed without dropping a beat, but inside he was seething - he’d have to find another opportunity now to make that joke. Spelter’s eyes narrowed further at the dig, so Kowalski cut him off by doing his job for a change. “So what do we have here? Male, late forties, murdered?”

Spelter slicked his quivering antennae back against his greasy scalp before he lost his cool. Experience had taught him that losing his temper at Kowalski was like yelling at a turd that refuses to flush, you can scream yourself hoarse but the smell won’t go away until you take a stick to it. In the interest of ventilating his crime scene as soon as possible, he recited, “Herbert, fifty-two, owns the shop. Neighbours say he comes in early to open up. Today he comes in and blows his head off. Apparent suicide.”

Kowalski did a double take. How could this grizzly scene possibly be a suicide? “Blew it off with what? A grenade?”

“With a shotgun,” Spelter said flatly, pointing to a sawn-off sealed away in an evidence bag. It was a mean looking weapon to be sure, but unless it was loaded with dynamite there was no way it could have vaporised half the body.

“Is the head in a bag too then?” Kowalski asked curtly. The area around the body was a soupy red mess, but not half an ant’s worth.

“Bits of it are,” Spelter said through clenched teeth. With a glance at the forensics ants, he stepped up to Kowalski and whispered, “Look, do we have a problem here? Because last I checked you’re an hour late to the scene and your breath still reeks of the liquor store bargain bin. You’re here because the Captain ordered it. Not because I want or need you. This is my crime scene.” He jabbed his finger in the air for emphasis, before speaking slowly and clearly like one would to a child that keeps sticking the fork in the toaster, “This. Was. A. Suicide.”

Kowalski, however, refused to be flushed.

“A suicide? We’ll see. And my breath has nothing on your pit stains. Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said dramatically, holding his notepad up between them and flicking it open to an empty page. The first page. “I’ve got some notes to take.” He turned stubbornly on his heel and marched over to the body, without so much as a ‘Mother provides’. Through the mirror he saw Spelter turning red with rage.

For the next few minutes Kowalski busied himself around the body. He was sure to nod both seriously and regularly at the notepad, in case Spelter happened to glance his way, but it was good for little else. He’d forgotten his pencil in the car and he couldn’t go get it now. He wasn’t sure what he’d write anyway. Torso severed from bellybutton up, lint nowhere to be found. It’s not like the scene would be easy to forget.

It was as these pointless thoughts were going through his head that Kowalski noticed something. Something so obvious that even a drunk, useless ant like himself couldn’t miss. A deep hole in Herbert’s side, just below the ragged flesh of his torn belly, that had wept blood down his pants while his heart had still been beating.

A hole made by a massive fang.

In that moment Kowalski did what was possibly the most intelligent thing that can be credited to his entire sorry existence. He did nothing. He showed no excitement, he showed no surprise. He most certainly didn’t raise the alarm. Out of the corner of his eye, Spelter watched him do nothing. The forensics ant behind him saw him do nothing. And then he was past the hole and in the clear.

Kowalski looked up from his notepad and yelled out, “Hey Spelter! Looks like he took too much off the top!”

Changelog
  • Those damn jockeys down at the fire department just put them anywhere they wanted, like right in front of an active crime scene. And now Betsy, the only woman in his life to which he didn't owe a dime in rent, had a fresh dent in her door. They'd met the day he graduated from detective school, him a wide eyed young ant and her recently confiscated from a crack dealer that was looking at more years than she had miles. In the twenty years between then and now she'd never once let him down.
  • Those damn jockeys down at the fire department just put them wherever they wanted, like right in front of an active crime scene. And now Betsy, the only woman in his life to which he didn't owe a dime in rent, had a fresh dent in her door. They'd met the day he graduated from detective school, him a wide eyed young ant and her recently confiscated from a crack dealer that was looking at more years than she had miles. In the two decades between then and now she'd never once let him down.
  • Once Kowalski had again recovered, and the forensics ants had returned to their traditional monotony, he huffed his way into the barbershop. Whatever *Shears To You* had been the day before - quaint, companionable, antiquated, whatever - it was now just a crime scene. The steeped smell of tobacco and talc was drowned out by bleach. The *clip clip* of the shears had become the snap of a camera shutter and the burn of a flash. And in the centre of it all was one very dead ant, casually seated in a chair before the mirror and entirely missing from the waist up.
  • Once Kowalski had again recovered, and the forensics ants had returned to their traditional monotony, he huffed his way into the barbershop. Whatever *Shears To You* had been the day before - quaint, companionable, obsolete, whatever - it was now just a crime scene. The entrenched smell of tobacco and talc was drowned now by bleach. The *clip clip* of the shears had become the snap of a camera shutter and the burn of a flash. And in the centre of it all was one very dead ant, casually seated in a chair before the mirror and entirely missing from the waist up.
  • "A suicide? We'll see. And *my breath has nothing on your pit stains*. Now if you'll excuse me," he said dramatically, holding his notepad up between them and flicking it open to an empty page. The first page. "I've got some notes to take." He turned stubbornly on his heel and marched over to the body. Through the mirror he saw Spelter turning red with rage.
  • "A suicide? We'll see. And *my breath has nothing on your pit stains*. Now if you'll excuse me," he said dramatically, holding his notepad up between them and flicking it open to an empty page. The first page. "I've got some notes to take." He turned stubbornly on his heel and marched over to the body, without so much as a 'Mother provides'. Through the mirror he saw Spelter turning red with rage.
  • It was as these pointless thoughts were going through his head that Kowalski noticed something. Something so obvious that even a drunk, useless ant like himself couldn't miss. A deep hole in Herbert's side, just below the ragged flesh of his torn belly, that had wept blood down his pants while his heart had still been pumping.
  • It was as these pointless thoughts were going through his head that Kowalski noticed something. Something so obvious that even a drunk, useless ant like himself couldn't miss. A deep hole in Herbert's side, just below the ragged flesh of his torn belly, that had wept blood down his pants while his heart had still been beating.
  • In that moment Kowalski did what was possibly the most intelligent thing that can be credited to his entire sorry existence. He did nothing. He showed no excitement, he showed no surprise. Out of the corner of his eye, Spelter watched him do nothing. The forensics ant behind him saw him do nothing. And then he was past the hole and in the clear.
  • In that moment Kowalski did what was possibly the most intelligent thing that can be credited to his entire sorry existence. He did nothing. He showed no excitement, he showed no surprise. He most certainly didn't raise the alarm. Out of the corner of his eye, Spelter watched him do nothing. The forensics ant behind him saw him do nothing. And then he was past the hole and in the clear.