Beverly Smallwood thought it odd when three men, all wearing
paper sacks over their heads with just hate-filled eyes exposed, entered the
back door of the Magic Hair Salon. They entered so quietly that no one else,
including Rancine Mitchell, the shop owner, even noticed them.
Rancine Mitchell had done Beverly's make up and hair for the
high school prom
that was Beverly's first date with Tommy. Rancine had opened
the salon only two years earlier, quickly creating a thriving business. Beverly
watched Rancine as she worked on Mrs. Gann, whom Beverly guessed had to be
nearly seventy. Beverly clutched the locket that covered her heart underneath
her blouse and looked at the three men, standing perfectly still at the back
Rancine struggled with what little hair Mrs. Gann still had.
The beautician's hands were constant motion, just like her mouth. Rancine's
mouth went up and down like an accordion, which reminded Beverly of the
instrument sometimes used by her music leader at church. Rancine's own hair was
piled up high above her own head like she was headed to the high school prom.
Of course, that wasn't the case. Rancine had missed her own prom. She had told
Beverly several times how she had dropped out of school after the ninth grade
so she could marry Chad Baker. Chad had gotten a job pumping gas at the new
Conoco station, and it had seemed he was making all the money in the world. Her
marriage to Chad lasted seven years, before she caught him with another woman.
She then married Jimmy Don, and their marriage groaned on for five years. Now
she was married to Keith. That marriage had survived for six years, so far. She
vowed she'd get rid of Keith, too, if he didn't get off his can and get a job
soon. Beverly was amazed at how Rancine had no problem attracting men. Missing
two teeth, she carried no more than a hundred pounds on her five-foot four
frame. The deep scar over her left eye was inflicted with a beer bottle by a
jealous woman in a bar room fight.
Beverly started to say something to the three men, but was
unable to talk. Her hands were shaking. She pulled on her ear rings in a futile
effort to control the shaking.
The ear rings were a gift from Tommy, who had also given her
the powder blue locket that she wore next to her heart. Beverly loved ear rings
almost as much as she loved finger rings. She usually kept one on each finger,
with another five or so in her jewelry box. Of course, none of the rings were
very expensive. She examined the ring finger of her left hand. Tommy promised
to put a diamond ring there. Soon. As she looked back at the three men masked
in sacks, Beverly had a horrible premonition that she would never live to see a
The shop was full of customers. All three beauticians were
busy. Besides Mrs. Gann, two fortyish women whom Beverly did not know were in
the beautification process. Mrs. Fuller, Beverly's kindly neighbor, sat three
chairs away, flipping pages in a "true romance" magazine. Mrs. Fuller
was in her mid-fifties, but always kept a romance novel or a romance magazine
close by. The magazine had her in such a trance that Mrs. Fuller did not even
notice the three men, who had yet to speak.
Beverly gasped as one of them nodded and they all three
pulled guns out from underneath matching black jackets. Her gasp was so loud
that even Mrs. Fuller dropped her magazine to her lap.
The man in the center, the one who nodded, was the apparent
leader, and he spoke calmly, almost soothingly.
"This is a holdup. All the money in this shop is
For a moment, no one moved or spoke. Then, almost as in a
chorus, Beverly joined in the other women's frantic shrieking.
The gunman in charge appeared very agitated. "Get to
it!" He spit out several
words of profanity, some of which Beverly had never heard.
His voice was deep, but he sounded young, perhaps near her age.
One beautician jerked the cash drawer out so quickly that
she lost control of it and it crashed onto the floor, spilling the contents
over a wide area. Another of the robbers rapidly collected the money. When he
came to Rancine, he slammed her into the mirror so hard that it shattered. She
slumped to the floor and wailed in fear and pain. Customers threw cash and
change onto the floor.
Beverly rummaged through her own purse, pushing aside a
comb, a brush, a couple ink pens, a bottle of aspirin, her diary, some more ear
rings and finger rings and some tissues before her trembling hand found the
five-dollar bill that she had expected to use to pay Rancine. She jerked the
bill out of her purse.
The gunmen suddenly turned toward the rich woman who was
Mabel's customer. Beverly jerked again as all three men fired their guns in
concert. All three bullets struck the woman in the face, which exploded in
blood. The rich woman's lifeless body hit the floor with a loud thud.
Beverly fell to the floor and desperately sought refuge
underneath her own chair. Shrieks of horror from the women mixed with the
screamed profanity of the killers. The robbers then turned away from the rich
woman they had murdered. She was laying still lay face down on the floor in an
expanding pool of blood.
Beverly gasped in terror when she saw the ring on one
gunman's right hand. An unusual design decorated the ring. She was sure that it
was that boy Tommy had fought at school during their senior year.
The young man hesitated as his eyes locked with hers. He
leveled the glistening gun toward Beverly with the barrel only about six inches
from her face. With cold deliberation, he pulled back the hammer of the
revolver. She wanted to duck, or run, but she could not even move. Suddenly, a
fellow gunman grabbed him by the arm just as he pulled trigger.