Normally, all the lights in the fancy shops on Millionaire Row go out around midnight, no one willing to work later than that. All except for one, the barber shop on Fifth Ave. For whatever reason, its lights were still shining brightly long into the night despite the rainy dreariness outside. It almost felt like someone was having a party inside. And in a way, someone was.
The sound the man’s fingernails made as they were slowly ripped from their nail bed was something akin to the sound of a zipper, or perhaps worn-out velcro, and it was barely heard amidst the sound of music filling the barber shop, along with the hos and hums of the gigantic masked man standing over him holding a bucket full of fingernails and a bloody pair of tweezers. Oh, and the screaming. That was rather loud as well, no matter how much the masked man tried to muffle it with a hot wet towel.
The masked man lifted his goalie mask and smiled apologetically. Truth be told, he actually had a very beautiful face.
“Come on, Mr. Sanders, be reasonable. By the way, do you like being called Mr. Sanders? Or would you rather be called Shep? I’d rather be called Shep personally, but I don’t know if that’s what you like-”
“Fuck you, you sadistic psychopath!” Shep Sanders spat as the masked man lifted the towel, his voice raw with pain. The razor blades that had been hammered in between his teeth should’ve been making it really hard to talk indeed, but somehow Shep was managing.
The masked man just sighed, wearing that same apologetic smile.
“Now now, Mr. Sanders- You know what? I’m just gonna call you Shep- Shep, talking back isn’t going to get us anywhere. Now all I need you to say is one little world. One little word, and all of this-”
The masked man picked up a hammer and beat his captive’s shin with it. Now that was two legs he couldn’t walk on. Shep Sanders’ screams began anew.
“-can stop. Just one word, Shep. It’s not that hard.”
“No! You’ll never get me to agree to sell out to that… that thing! I’d rather die!”
The masked man sighed, and lowered his hockey mask again.
“Alright. But I’m telling ya, this is gonna get messy.”
The masked man put the towel back on Shep Sanders’ face and reached for the flat iron plugged into the wall. He tapped against it lightly, checking the temperature of the metal plate. Judging it to be adequately hot, he walked back over to Shep Sanders, holding the heated metal instrument ever so lightly over his face.
“Cuz you see, my employers are paying me extra to make this slow. They don’t want you dead just yet. Not until the demon says so anyway. So they told me don’t use any sharp instruments, don’t hit him anywhere people are gonna see it, don’t do any permanent damage, yadda yadda. They even told me I couldn’t use any of my favorite tools sos I wouldn’t ah, ‘accidentally’ kill you before I got you to say ‘yes’ to the dress, so to speak. So I’m sorry to say this, but uh… well, let’s just say this is gonna hurt.”
He pressed the hot flat iron directly onto Shep Sander’s exposed chest, the hair crisping and burning away instantly in a foul-smelling puff as his flesh began to singe in the shape of a triangle. This time, not even the wet towel could muffle the sound of Shep’s desperate screaming.
“Oh, now that’s a shiner!” the masked man said as he removed the iron, revealing an ugly glistening blister. He lifted the towel again to see if his torture doll had anything new to say, but all he got was some pained sputtering.
“Come on Shep ol’ buddy ol’ pal, just say it. Say the magic words and you’ll be free,” the masked man said, holding the flat iron tantalizingly close to Shep Sanders’ skin as if threatening to resume the burning.
“Abraca-go fuck yourself,” Shep said, coughing.
“Hmmmm… Abraca-go fuck myself, you say? Nah, sorry. That’s not what I wanted to hear.”
He stuck the flat iron on Shep’s stomach, moving it around in circles. Shep writhed and squirmed, but there was nowhere to go, and no more breath left in him to scream with. He just grunted and squealed.
“You know Shep, it occurs to me we’re not getting anywhere,” the masked man said. “We’ve been at this for… how long, exactly? Two hours? Two hours, yeah. And yet I feel like we’re not any closer to you saying that one little word I need you to say for me, so howsabout we speed it up a bit? You see, I was planning on doing this thing where I’d draw a little line down your chest with the flat iron until we got to your balls, but that’s just gonna take too much time. Sooooooo…”
He reached for a pair of scissors and a straight razor, and Shep’s eyes widened. “No please! Stop! I’ll do it, I’ll say yes!”
The masked man’s eyes widened. “Ohhhhh? Mind repeating that for me, just for confirmation?”
“I said yes! I’ll do it! I’ll do whatever you want! Just not that! You gotta be fucking kidding me with this shit…“ the man hiccupped, sobbing.
“That’s the spirit!” the masked man said, setting aside his tools. “Now was that so hard, Mr. Sanders?”
Reaching for a bucket of cold water he’d been keeping on hand, the masked man splashed the iron burn on his chest to cool it and keep it from scarring. Shep Sanders squirmed, but the cold water felt good against the scalding burn. Blood washed off him and slowly spun around the drains built into the tiled floor, leaving no evidence of the fun times they’d had in there. He supposed that had been planned.
The phone rang, barely noticeable above the radio. The masked man quickly turned the dial off and hurried over to answer the phone.
“Figaro’s Barber Shop, how may I help you?”
“Fig, it’s me.”
“Oh, heya Johnny. What’s up?”
The voice on the other end of the line hissed. “You idiot! I told you not to use my real name!”
“Sorry, sorry,” Figaro said lazily.
“How’s that job coming along?”
“It’s coming along great! I just finished up, actually. And to think I didn’t have to use my chainsaw for this!”
Shep Sanders slowly turned his head around, and was horrified to find the man had actually been keeping a chainsaw on hand, tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of the shop where no one would’ve seen it.
“You weren’t supposed to use your chainsaw to begin with, you idiot. Quit talking about that like it’s a good thing.”
“I don’t think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s a good thing at all. I like using my chainsaw.”
“Would you just-” The voice on the other end of the line sighed. “Listen. The boss is calling you in.”
“Doesn’t matter. He says he wants you to pack up your stuff and buy a couple of train tickets to Arizona. They’re last minute, you should get a good price. You’ll be taking a friend along with you too, so make sure you pick him up before you go.”
“Sounds good,” Figaro said, twirling his blonde, curly locks. “Anything else?”
“Yeah, one more thing. He says you can bring the chainsaw.”
Figaro hung up the phone. Slowly, a smile crept up his face.