“What was that sound?” Father Mitch asked. He looked over at Tony, who was leaning back in a styling chair, staring at the ceiling.
Tony leaned forward and then stood. “It sounded like someone came into the building.”
Max opened his eyes. Napping seemed like the best thing to do while they waited for inspiration to strike. “What’s going on?”
“Someone’s out there,” Father said, cocking his head hoping to hear better.
“Here, hold this,” Tony said, handing Max the Hello Kitty phone as he walked toward the shop’s security gate. “Hit redial and see if Clare answers.”
Max looked at the ribbons and bows decorating the pink beaded case. Not only did it look like it belonged to a little girl, but it was also awkward to hold. He tapped the last number dialed. It connected.
“Hello,” a female answered.
“Clare?” Max asked.
“Max, is that you?”
The conversation was garbled, and then the call dropped. He looked at the face of the phone and saw it had gone black. The battery finally died. Max put the phone in his pants pocket and walked as quiet as he could to the service desk where Father was standing.
Max whispered. “I wonder if those thugs came back.”
A few of the birds in the store began to flutter around and squeal, as if whoever came into the store was disturbing them but not enough to send them into attack mode.
“Who is it, Tony?” Max asked, his voice just above a whisper.
Tony was holding onto the gate, feeling like he was gripping the bars of a jail cell. He looked back at Max and Father, standing behind the shelter of the counter and cash register. “I didn’t see anyone; they went the other way.”
“Maybe it’s Jack,” Father said, putting his elbows on the countertop.
“How’s he able to walk around without being besieged by those birds?” Max asked, pushing the glasses up his nose.
“Good question,” Tony said. He leaned forward against the patterned metal so he could get a better look at the far side of the store.
“Maybe you should yell so that whoever it is knows we’re here,” Max said. “I don’t want them to leave without helping to get us out of this place.”
“It could be Jack, some stranger, a zombie, or those kids,” Father said, rubbing the persistent ache in his wrists.
“Let’s hope it’s Jack,” Tony said. Then he shouted, “Jack, we’re back here.”
“You didn’t say it loud enough,” Max said, crossing his arms.
Tony hated it when Max told him what to do. Nonetheless, he shouted louder this time. “Jack, is that you?”
In the distance, they heard someone reply. “Tony, I’ll be right there.”
“It’s Jack,” Max said, grinning with excitement. He felt like dancing a jig, knowing their rescue was imminent.
They heard Jack running toward them. Tony shouted again, directing Jack to the salon. His footsteps grew louder as he approached the security gate. Tony unlocked it and let Jack in.
“Shit, Jack, why didn’t those birds attack you?” Max said, lighting a cigarette. “They attacked us.”
He sat Miss Foo on the floor. “It’s the dogs; the birds for some reason keep their distance from them, so that kept the birds away from me.”
“Let’s get out of here, then,” Max said. The cigarette in his hand was beginning to shake, again.
A big smile formed on Jack’s face when he realized the men had cleaned themselves up. “You guys look good.”
“Do you want a buzz cut and a shave, too?” Father asked, walking toward a beautician’s station.
“There’s no time,” Jack said. He walked to a mirror and looked at his messy shoulder length hair and scraggly beard.
“It’ll take two seconds,” Father insisted, clicking on the electric razor.
Jack looked at the shaver, shampoo, soap, and sink with running water. “Let’s do it, just don’t scalp me.”
“Make it fast, you two,” Max said. “I want to get out of here before those birds decide the dogs don’t scare them and they’re trapping us all.”
Before the dogs were finished exploring the shop, Jack had a clean shaved head and face. He slid his hand over his head and jawline. “Nice job, Father. If you ever need a new job, a barber would be a good one.”
“I’m not looking for a new job, but being a barber on the side suits me just fine.”
“Max, where’d you drop the professor’s medicine,” Tony asked. “We’ll need to pick it up on the way out.”
“It’s on the floor by the main entrance,” he said, putting out his cigarette.
“Sarah and Willis are waiting at the entrance in Father’s car,” Jack said. He looked at Max. “Do you plan to drive your Mustang?”
“Sure do,” he said. “My telescope is in the back, plus I’m not leaving my car behind.”
“You’ll want to put up your roof to help keep the birds away,” Jack said. “You can take Miss Foo and we’ll have Jibber go with us.”
“I’ll go with Max so that he can raise the roof while I hold Miss Foo,” Father said.
Tony cut a length of electrical cord from a hair dryer to use as a leash. He tied one end to Jibber’s collar and looped the other end in his hand. “I don’t want this dog getting away from us.”
Father picked up Miss Foo and the group walked out from the safe salon, into the store where the birds seemed more agitated than before.
“I hope they’re not wising up to our little scheme,” Max said. He looked at the little teacup poodle and mumbled, “Why do we get the little mouse of a dog for our protector?”