The Second Man lives in a three-story townhouse squished between two other three-story townhouses. The entire row of townhouses is a rainbow of garish colors, green and pink and blue.
The Second Man lives in a yellow house with pink shutters and happy purple flower boxes. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.
Fatty's sleek black car glides up the driveway, looking completely out of place. Like a spider in a happy meal. I get a good view of the fat man and his offspring as I drive slowly by. They don't even notice. Did they not expect me to tail them? Losers.
I turn a corner and park in an empty driveway behind some privacy hedges.
"Ok, you," I say pointedly to the skull. "What the eff do I do now?"
"You told me to go come here," I remind it. "You told me not to follow the liar, but the liar came here. How am I supposed to give you to the Second Man if the bad guy is right there?"
Something clicked in my brain. The liar did something to the boss to get this skull. Now I have it. What's his next move? He would know the skull would tell me to go to the Second Man. And now he's there first, with his sons. Four against one.
In my head: the fat man's grin when he told me about the boss. Something bad happened to him.
I groan. "I have to rescue this guy, don't I?"
If it's possible for a skull to look patronizing, it's doing it now.
Very good, Allan. Go get the Second Man.
"Sh*t," I snarl. "Dammit!"
I kick the inside of the car in helpless frustration and climb out.
I leave the skull under a bush. I don't want to risk taking it with me, but I don't want to leave it in the car, either.
I stalk down the street toward The Second Man's house, my feet pounding in time to the complaining in my head.
I. Want. To. Go. Home.
Never mind I don't know where home is.
I'm not sure if you've ever had this feeling, the feeling of not knowing where home is or who you are, but it's a bit overwhelming. It's a bit like being lost in a store when you're little and you can't find your mommy. Mixed with running around alone and scared in the dark. Mixed with playing hide and seek and never being found. Mixed with that dream you have when you're being chased by something big and hungry and you can't get your feet to move.
Or maybe that's just me.
Thinking like this is only going to lead down the road to panic, so I stop. I'll deal with it later. First, the skull. Then, I'll get my memories back. I have to.
I sneak/creep my way behind the row of houses and find the back of the only lemon yellow one with pink shutters. There's only one window on the first floor. I peer through it.
The room is dark and I can't see very well, but I can tell it's empty. It looks like a dining room, with a big table in the middle surrounded by chairs.
The window is pushed halfway open. If I were involved in some kind of illegal skull-trafficking ring I would keep my windows closed, but, hey, maybe the Second Man doesn't have air conditioning.
The window slides up all the way without a sound and I skillfully slip through it, obviously something I picked up with my ninja training, and proceed to trip over a chair.
Brilliant, Allan. Next time just waltz in the front door with a boom box and some roman candles.
I freeze on the floor, waiting for the fat man and his homicidal circus of tattooed demon spawn (whew, that's a mouthful) to burst into the room and pinch me to death, or something.
But no. Behind the closed door I hear raised voices. Most likely nobody heard me.
People are arguing.
"I'm asking you if you've seen him!" That's the fat man.
"For the fifth time, what the hell are you talking about?" A voice I don't recognize.
"The thief, damn you!! I know he's here!"
"Why would he be here?!"
I hear glass breaking. "There's nowhere else he would be." The fat man's voice is quiet but still frightening.
"That was mine," the new voice says, equally calm and frightening. Then I hear nothing. I picture eyes narrowing and spark zooming between the two men. I'm assuming the new voice I'm hearing is the Second Man. If so, he sounds about as old as I am, maybe a little older.
After a few loaded seconds the Second Man speaks. "Why are you here, Dick?"
Dick is such a perfect name for the fat man, I feel like I should've known. Heh. Dick.
"The thief betrayed us," Dick says.
The Second Man makes a disbelieving noise.
"I know it's improbable," the liar goes on, "but something fishy is happening here."
"Oh, really?" Sarcasm.
"He has the skull," the fat man continues, "but he's disappeared. And the boss..."
"You haven't seen?"
The room is still again, like right before a storm, and then,
"What happened to Andrei?"
"Now, Noah..." Dick sounds nervous now. I can picture him taking a step back with his hands up to make peace.
"What. Happened. To. Andrei."
"I-I don't know! I wasn't there!"
The Second Man snarls wordlessly.
SLAM! The sound of a body hitting a wall. "HEY!" Jimmy yells, and then a cacophony of footsteps and the unmistakeable sound of fists hitting flesh.
I can't stand it anymore. I open the door.