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Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)

In ancient Greece, a barber shop was a place where men went to get their hair and beards trimmed and styled. It was also a place to discuss the news and politics and hear the latest gossip. The women had nothing like it. They styled their hair at home. But for the men, a visit to a barber shop was a critical and enjoyable part of daily life. Any barber shop would do, but the best gossip could be found at the shops of the best barbers. Hercules knew his local barber was one of the best, and quite possibly the best barber in all of Greece.

Hercules was headed towards his local barber shop when he heard a piercing screech. Herc ran inside, looking to see who was hurt or injured. What he saw was a very (dandified is the only word that comes to mind) young man holding the side of his head.

"What seems to be the problem?" asked Herc.

"Look what he did to my head!" cried the young man. He dropped his hand.

Herc looked at the young man's head. Apparently the barber had cut off all the hair on one side. It did look very peculiar.

"That's not what you wanted?" Herc asked.

"Get serious, Hercules." The young man turned to the barber angrily. "You're a horrible barber! I'm going to tell everyone you did this. No one will ever come to your shop again!"

Herc knew for a fact that the barber was a wonderful barber. He had been cutting Herc's hair for years now with nary a problem. Herc looked at the barber in a puzzled sort of way. "Why did you do that?"

The barber looked both embarrassed and afraid. "I couldn't stop myself," he gulped. "It was like someone else had ahold of my hands and made me do it."

Herc immediately suspected one of the gods was involved. But which one? And who was the victim? The young man with the horrible haircut, or the barber whose reputation was now ruined? This looked like a case for The Hercules Detective Agency.

There were many ways the gods could change their appearance, but invisibility? That was not easy. Herc immediately thought of the Cap of Hades. Any of the gods could have borrowed the famous cap either with or without Hades permission. Still, a visit to his Uncle Hades, Lord of the Underworld, was a good place to start. First he had to get hired and then interview both of the men involved. Herc figured his best chance of getting hired was the barber who would be eager to save his reputation.

"Do you want me to find out what happened here?" Herc asked the barber with a small, reassuring smile.

"Yes!" the barber said miserably. "I can't afford to pay you, Hercules, but I can give you free haircuts."

"Deal," agreed Herc. He always liked to look his best. "Now, which one of you has made the gods angry?"

The young man and the barber looked at each other in alarm.

"I certainly haven't," announced the young man in a condescending tone.

"Neither have I," defended the barber.

"One of you has made the gods angry. We need to find out which one of you insulted a god, and which god it was that you angered. Think about everything you have done the last couple of days. Anyone you may have angered or insulted?"

"I messed up the beard of an old man yesterday," the barber volunteered. "He smelled like pepper and it made me sneeze right when I was trimming his beard. I took a really big piece out of one side. I had to cut his beard much shorter than he had requested to even everything out. It made him look years younger. He told me it was the best cut he ever had. So I don't think it was me," mused the barber. He stared at the young man.

The young man blushed. "I may have made fun of some street performers. They weren't very good." He gave the barber an apologetic glance. "I don't think it was me either, but it could have been me I guess."

Herc thought it over. "I'll start with the street performers," he decided. "Where did you see them?" Herc asked the young man.

"On the temple steps. I don't know if they're still there, but they were there this morning, right before I came in to get my hair cut." His voice drained away. "Oh my. It was me, wasn't it." He turned to the barber. "I should not have lost my temper without finding out some facts first. That was very wrong of me."

The barber nodded. He even worked up a smile. "I'll pay you, Hercules, no matter who caused this. We need to find out what happened and fix this if possible." He waved at the young man's head.

"Stay here," Hercules told the pair. "I'll see what I can do." Without wasting a second, Herc headed for the Underworld.

Hades was in an exceptionally good mood. He was wearing a new short beard and was actually looking quite nice according to his wife.

"Yes, it was me! I put on my cap of invisibility," Hades responded happily when Herc asked him. "I pushed the barber's hand, but that punk deserved it."

"My barber?" asked Herc, sounding confused.

"No, that little dandy who made fun of my lyre playing at the temple."

"But Uncle Hades, you don't play the lyre."

"I'm learning, Herc. It's never too late to learn. People should try new things. It's good for them. That's what my wife says."

"You have to fix this."

"No, why should I?"

Herc knew his uncle could become quite stubborn. Herc managed to look bored. "Because the best barber in all of Greece will never give your hair a cut or your beard a trim unless you do. In fact, he won't even let you enter his shop. Then how will you hear all the best gossip?" Herc asked, with just a hint of a yawn

That worried Hades. Herc could see it in his face."Well, for you, Hercules, I'll do it." Hades waved a hand. "There. It's fixed. But tell that punk if he ever makes fun of a street performer again, I'll hear about it. If he thinks his hair looked bad this time, with a wave of my hand, I could make it look worse. Much worse."

"I'll tell him," promised Herc. "Thank you for being so nice about this."

"Of course, Hercules. Anything for you."

By the time Hercules returned to the shop, the young man's hair had nearly magically grown in.

"Shall we risk a cut?" the barber asked the young man.

The young man leaped out of the barber chair. "I rather like it like this." He hurried out the door.

"Thank you, Hercules," the barber told Herc. "I don't know what you did, but I truly appreciate it."

"Think nothing of it," Hercules said, settling himself in the chair the young man had deserted. "Just a bit off the sides, I think, and maybe shortened the beard a bit."

"I know what you like, Herc." The barber smiled with relief. "Leave it to me."

Herc thought about what he could name this case. The Case of the Angry Young Man was too vague. The Case of the Really Bad Haircut? That wasn't too bad, but he could do better. I know, Herc thought to himself. The Case of the Bad Barber, that would get some attention. Herc had been planning for some time now to turn his memoirs into an epic poem. The Greeks were very fond of epic poems. He could ask his half-sister Calliope to do it. She was one of the muses, and the goddess of epic poetry. She would do a really good job of it. Herc had piled up quite a few cases she could use. Someday, he thought. But not today. Today, he decided, he would go fishing, which if you knew Hercules at all, you would know that fishing was one of his favorite things to do.