The very attractive young woman sitting in my office was a blonde, raising the inevitable question: born or bottle? The good thing about green or purple hairs is that there is no question if it is natural or not. As we talked, Hank found excuses to come in three times.
“I’m Lisa Mona,” said the natural-or-not blonde. “I own and run the Palace of Beauty on Marie Antoinette Avenue. You may have heard of it.” I had not, but I suppose I could have ogled some of her customers, after their appointments, of course.
I asked the logical question: Why does a Palace of Beauty need a private investigator? I couldn’t protect all of her customers from aggressive males. Actually, I probably couldn’t protect even one of them unless her annoyer were small, old, and weak.
Ms. Mona clearly did not meet my age criterion for clients, but I had no other cases at the time, so I presumed that some of her customers did.
“A couple of weeks ago we began having incidents at the Palace: scissors fell apart during a clipping, the colours on bottles of dye were mislabeled, a nozzle came loose during a rinsing and sprayed several customers.” It sounded like some out-of-season Hallowe’en pranks.
“Do you have any enemies, anyone who would want to hurt your business?”
“No. most of our customers are women and they all seem satisfied.”
I saw one immediate difficulty for my investigation: I would want to observe the Palace in operation, but my thinning gray hair defied beautifying and if I spent too much time loitering there, I might be suspected of being a dirty old man spying on women. But what does a dirty old man look like? Staring? Panting? Drooling? More likely just like me.
The next morning I entered the Beauty Palace, pretending to be a salesman of make-up. I carried a briefcase into which I had tossed toothpaste, shaving cream, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush, and bottles of vitamin pills and aspirin, all looted from my medicine cabinet. Ms. Mona greeted me and showed me her place of business which seemed to consist mostly of glass – mirrors, cabinets, bottles – and reflected lights. Three chairs, each with a large adjustable tray attached, were occupied by middle-aged women. Opposite each chair was a sink with a gooseneck tap to which was attached a hose and nozzle. The cabinets, I assumed, were full of shampoos, rinses, dyes, nail polish, lipstick, and rouge of many hues, everything a customer might need or think she needs or just wants. All the glass reminded me of the saying about glass houses and stones.
The customers were being beautified by three attractive, pink-clad young women, all fine advertisements of their art. Three more customers patiently awaited their turns to be transformed into modern Venuses.
As we toured the Palace, I referred occasionally to the contents of my briefcase, hoping no one would try to look inside. “Do you have any passion-fruit-coloured rouge?” one of the beauticians asked.
“No, but I’ll see if I can get it for you,” I lied.
Everyone seemed too busy to perpetrate vandalism on the others’ customers and unlikely to do anything deleterious to her own.
I had a sudden inspiration for a production of a Shakespearean play, as I sometimes do, in this case Macbeth, in which the three witches were beauticians and the chief witch, Hecate, for contrast was my ex-wife. Before I could work out more details, however, I was startled by the entry of a man in workclothes from the back room. He was completely out of place in the Palace, being short, dark, and the exact antonym of handsome.