Talking Instuction Manual

"Well if you're not going to kill me," the man says, "then you may as well not even have a gun."

"The gun is here in case I abruptly change my mind," I say. "Which could happen on a whim." This seems to shut him up. "Now, I'm not finished with my questions."

"Well that's too bad," he spits, "because you've only got another ten seconds before my sons show up."

"Your sons?" I ask. "What, is your whole family into the crazed psychiatrist business?"

"I'm not a psychiatrist, you idiot," he says. "And don't speak bad of my sons or I'll have them kill you. Actually, I think there's no way they're not going to kill you. Even I wouldn't be able to stop them."

I tap the gun against his temple in thought. Damn. Do we really need more guns in this dank alleyway? Someone might actually get shot. To be more precise, I might end up killing someone. And I don't like guns to start with. They're rather graceless. My skills lie more in the field of stealth than in action hero bullet dodging anyway. I mean, I can do the action hero thing when needed, but it can get a little painful when my fists and karate chops get involved. Which they will since I have a natural tendency to avoid shooting people.

So I stand up and decide to blunder off down some random alleyway like a lost dullard. Of course, that is what I hope it will look like. In reality, I merely round the first corner, scale the following drainpipe like a cat up a tree, and then watch the family reunion from the roof.

It turns out, the sons are just as amusing as their father. One is tall, one is medium, and one is midget-like short. They're all buff with tattoos that look to be out of a comic book, and their hair styles are all identical: red with a flick of grease. I watch from the roof as they surround their father with jostling leather and crunching steel-toed boots, offering caring remarks of empathy and brushing their father off like a bunch of hand maidens.

"Did he hurt you?" asked the tallest of the sons.

"Of course not Jimmy, but he's got the skull."

"That's the one you wanted for mom's birthday right?"

The fat man gave his son a scornful look. "No Jimmy, it's the one I've been working to steal from the museum for the past two months. That hired man stole it in one night, and I couldn't even wrestle it from him."

"Well next time, pa," replies Jimmy.

"Right, right," the father replies. Then they walk from the alleys to the main road. I follow in silence from the rooftop, determined to trace them back to their lair.

Then I slip down the building with help from a few balcony railings, and soon spot the black vehicle they're heading for. I move out of the shade of the alleyway but stop as a voice speaks in my mind.

Don't follow the liar, says the skull.

I hold the skull up and give it an irritated look. "You're still talking to me?" I ask. "I thought the voice in my head was the voice of instruction for my mission..."

The Voice always comes from the Wanted Object, replies the skull. Now follow the instructions. First, do you see the red car down the road? Go hop in. The keys are on your belt.

I do as he tells me.

The liar says that something bad has happened to the Boss. Deliver me to the Second Man to be safe. Hurry now.

I start the engine and hit the gas, but I can't help pulling out immediately behind the black vehicle.

Do not follow the liar. You have not been hired for that mission. Stick to your orders.

"Orders from a bloody skull?" I ask.

Orders from he who hired you. He who has your memories. See? Not only insurance, but motivation.

I curse and begin to follow the skull's directions to the Second Man, whoever he is. But to my growing suspicion, the black vehicle stays directly in front of me the whole way.

"Has this been covered in the talking instruction manual?" I ask of the skull as I watch the black vehicle head up the Second Man's driveway.

The talking instruction manual doesn't reply. I look to the skull which sits in the front passenger seat. It is no longer grinning.

The End

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