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Three Worlds

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AEsob
  • AEsob

    Completely crazy

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  • Joined: 21 Mar 2014
  • India

#31

Posted 12 May 2016 - 01:31 AM Edited by AEsob, 16 May 2016 - 09:27 AM.

Okay. This was good.

 

I really enjoyed it.

 

Now, dialogue. I think you got a flair for it!

 

Intriguing little piece.

 

I liked Phil and Vic. I like how you give all of your characters distinct personalities and how they are flawed.

 

Keep it up!

 

AEsob

 

EDIT: No cheese there, just some in my brain.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

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  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#32

Posted 15 June 2016 - 09:39 PM Edited by Carbonox, 29 July 2016 - 11:34 PM.

VC2: Target Practice


Monday, 10AM

 

Ken Rosenberg liked coffee a lot. In days like this, it was an excellent stress relief – not as great as cocaine of course, but due to his associates’ current dire need to find said product, he really had no excuse to go around smoking that stuff away. Sitting in his office, occasionally walking around in circles for exercise, he yet again felt like panicking because Tommy hadn’t showed himself for quite a while, and even downing three cups in a relatively short time-frame didn’t quench the panic attack like he was hoping.

Maybe a fourth one would do the trick? Ken scrambled over to the coffeemaker, desperately steering his mind towards friendlier and safer topics, like gardening. If he had taken that up instead of going to law school, maybe he wouldn’t have to live in constant fear of the mob? No criminals he knew of would reach out to bother a casual turnip farmer and more or less force him into a partnership with dangerous implications – unless they wanted to use his land for raising narcotics instead! He proceeded to lightly laugh while shaking his head, disappointed in his tendency for negative thinking yet again...

Wait, who the f*ck is that? Ken was lucky not to spill his precious beverage all over the place when he realized a human-like shape loomed over him just off to the side, in just about a perfect position to whack him in the head when he least expected it---
“Ken, don’t tell me you’re having another one of your paranoid phases.” Tommy said, looking just as disappointed as the lawyer did.
“Tommy! Oh god, Tommy, you know how it is – it’s not a phase, it’s been going on ever since that gunfire erupted in the deal...” The relieved Ken headed back to his seat all while blabbering in his usual style. “Seriously, what are we gonna do next? I mean, with all due respect, you’ve gotten sloppy, and those injuries might keep you out of the play for a while... we, we just don’t have time to waste! Please tell me you at least---“
Tommy shut him up by showing off his new Tinkle mobile phone. “It wasn’t cheap, but gets me around.”
“That’s great! Now get in contact with the Colonel so you won’t need to use my money for all these purchases, huh?” Ken tried to appear calm again with his light chuckles, but gave off a more insecure vibe yet again.
“Already did, we’re meeting on the yacht today. Nice and private, no partygoers all over.”
“And... what’d the doctor say?”
“That I could be doing a lot worse. Ribs will be sore for some time, so all I gotta do is avoid hard physical exercise. Oh, and he’ll send the bill your way in a few days.”
“Ain’t that just wonderful... but hey, if you’re gonna insist on avoiding public services, that’s all fine by me, as long as we start making some progress real soon.”
“You just find out all you can about Leo Teal when I’m gone. The poor bastard gave away so much information, only to let me live – we better take full advantage of that.”
“Indeed, uhm, this Teal fellow seems quite like a narcissistic type... all I’d like is some assurance that I won’t get killed poking around for your information!”
“I don’t think anyone will be lying in wait at the cop station to take out the first guy putting his hands on that cook’s file, so calm the hell down.”

Without another word, Tommy was out of the office again, leaving the door open to allow fresh air to flow inside – and before he was even a block away, Ken had already slammed it back shut, and poured himself another cup of paranoia relief.
 

Saturday, 16PM

 

“Turn left here, Vic. I wanna show you where Marty operates.”
“Do I necessarily need to see it?”
“He might have some work for good guys like you. What can I say, it helps to know the place in advance.”

As the Walton proceeded south down the road to the docks, Vic got a good glimpse at a trailer park comprising of at least a dozen mobile homes, randomly scattered and subparly maintained. For a criminal organization that was supposed to have a decent bit of control over southern Little Havana, they didn’t have much of a professional vibe to them at first glance.
“Interesting story about those fellas – you see the showroom up the road?” Phil asked. The answer was self-explanatory – the Sunshine Autos lot was impossible to miss, being the only building on the roadside beyond the trailer park, at least until the next intersection. Vic slowed up to take a good long look inside, where fast, luxurious and just plain sexy cars had been placed in the most visible locations possible, inviting passers-by to take a much closer and more personal look.
“That company used to exist on a small-time dealership up where Marty’s gang’s holed up just now – and the trailer park was on that grassland behind the current *burp* showroom.”
“So I guess you want me to ask, what caused the switch?” Vic said.
“Some football star bought the lot, decided he wanted to make it high-profile... and the spot of this new site was just perfect for him. Of course, he was gonna tolerate no white trash harassing his *burp* wealthy customers – so he got Marty evicted by force. Money talks, and all that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want inbred extorters and – loan sharks, and what else – in my neighbor.” Vic stated, picking up the pace.
“Yeah, but Marty was there first, wasn’t he? Man, was he mad... swore a real vendetta against those entitled rich hags. Even *hic* threatened to disown Clyde ‘cause he moved his trailer immediately, with no resistance. Or was it Ernie? Ugh, they all look the same...”
“Hey, Phil. You’re ranting again.”
“Oh! That’s right! On to my good old home sweet home, I’ll give ya directions.” It was as if Phil had woken up from a dream, and after his next sip from the refilled flask, his speech began sounding a lot more coherent.


Monday, 10:30AM

 

When Tommy arrived at the familiar dock just on schedule, he could distinctly feel the environment was much more peaceful than ever before – no party music to be heard a distance away from the boat or the general feeling of being about to enter a highly crowded place, but only the ambience of the area, with few boats passing by every now and then and flocks of seagulls making their usual noise while sh*tting on unsuspecting pedestrians. Anyone else would’ve taken the moment to relax and appreciate the beauty of the world, but for Tommy, all this meant was he had a perfect time to rendezvous with a potential friend in privacy.

The seagulls did, however, manage to distract him just enough not to notice someone standing at the gate until he almost walked into the guy.
“Greetings! You must be, uhh, Vercetti was it? My name’s Riley – the Colonel told me to meet up with you and escort you over to the yacht.”
Oh great, just what I needed – more chefs. “Alright then, Riley, let’s get on the move.”
“Do you happen to have a taste for exotic game? I don’t want to come across as imposing, but boss was quite fond of the meal I made out of an anaconda.”
“Err, no thanks, I just ate.” Tommy said, going to great effort to suppress his stomach from growling right at that moment.
“That’s OK – anything else you’d like to entertain yourself with? Boss is busy with an important call at the moment, he’d like to extend his apologies as normally he never makes his guests wait, but this one came completely out of the blue...”
“You got any other guests right now?” Tommy asked, a certain descendant of Cortez in mind.
Riley looked dumbfounded. “Why would we? We arranged a private moment just for you.”
“Just checking, never mind that.”

Fortunately for Tommy, Cortez was done with his call well before he thought he’d be, and walked up to the top deck at the same time with Tommy and the bodyguard chef, looking particularly pleased with himself. The two of them shared usual formalities, Tommy refusing an exotic meal for the second time as he was directed to take a seat in one of the comfy lounge chairs Cortez kept around even outside of parties. A group of about five chefs, Riley included, congregated on the deck to keep an eye on things while still politely remaining outside hearing range.
“So, Mr. Vercetti, we’re back here with plenty of time on our hands to have a talk about – the incident.” Cortez said, somber tone noticeable in his voice.
“Of course. You didn’t mind me suggesting a meeting at this time, right?”
“I must admit, for a retired man I’m quite busy, and you should by all means consider yourself privileged to get any private time with me. Now, I don’t intend to disappoint you, but my men haven’t been able to get started with a thorough investigation yet.”
“Got any prime suspects? I’d like to hear some names.”
“A man at my standing doesn’t just go around pointing fingers at people – besides, if I was any more corruptible, old me would already have given you addresses of whoever I don’t like at this moment. That wouldn’t help your cause much, would it?” Cortez came off a bit scolding, and it maybe served Tommy right.
“Yeah, I understand...”
“Before we assign blame to the locals, I must instead ask you an important question: do you think there’s any possibility that enemies of yours from Liberty City followed you here and carried out the attack?”
“I dunno...” Tommy began fiddling a pen he found from the next table. “It was supposed to be a secret operation, at least that’s what my boss preached. And those rival families don’t have much time to send any good men that far from home just to screw it us, when they’ve got enough conflict at LC going on.”
“I’ll have to believe you about that then. I also hope you’ll believe me when I assure you that I haven’t spread the news of the deal to any unreliable parties.”
“But Colonel, it doesn’t matter. Even if you did, I won’t have any reason to blame you, you couldn’t have known---“
Cortez raised a hand, shutting him up. “Thomas, I’m glad our respect for each other as friends is mutual, but please, tone down the ass-kissing.”
“I’m not sucking up, it’s just---“
“Impatience?”
Tommy frowned. “When your life’s on the line, it’s kind of a natural reaction, ain’t it?”
“Of course, but it doesn’t lead us anywhere. I’m sure Mr. Forelli would appreciate a long but thought-out process over blindly charging after anything that might look like a clue.”
“Then I suppose you’ve never met him before.” Tommy retorted.
Cortez’s face widened into a smile. “That’s one way of looking at it. But now, amigo, your call earlier today about your own searches aroused my curiosity. Please, do describe your encounter with that Leo Teal character in as much detail as you can.”


Saturday, 17PM

 

“For f*ck’s sake, Phil, I know you’re drunk, but how can you still take an hour to find your old place?” Vic lamented when they finally drove up on what seemed to be the correct place, right at the southeastern corner of the harbor, where an alley led between two dilapitated buildings and around a corner into an open area that had crime scene markers all around it.
“Well, I can’t work sh*t when every damn building and *hic* block looks the same!”
“Whatever, man. This is it, right?”
“Damn sure! That’s where I used to keep my Perennial, man, that thing served me well. And that building on the left used to be my own shooting range. Place used to be packed with shooters tryin’ to beat my scores. Futile effort, I tell ya.”
“Sounds like something that made you a lot of money, why close it down?” Vic was out of the car by now to work his way past the ribbon, Phil following suite a lot slower.
“You know how it goes... cops found out about the place ‘cause some *burp* do-gooder of a snitch with no other purpose in life tipped them off – probably – and came askin’ for all these, uhh, permission forms and sh*t. You know what I mean?” He made writing gestures to drive his point home.
“And you had none?”
“I had some, it’s just they took their damn time and never showed an official green light. I swear, damn bureaucrats ain’t flexible in the slightest. All that matters is *hic* you write your name on – like – 461 different forms that all look the f*cking same and then hope the city council ain’t got their heads up their asses too deep when they make the decision ten months later... no, I ain’t kidding, I swear my sister delivered quicker than those.”
“I didn’t need that image in my head, man. Anyway, you mean it was pretty much an illegal range? Not that I’m gonna judge you or anything, but---”
“About as illegal as it gets. But whaddya know, I tend to care more for public demand than civil servants and their inhuman waiting times, you hear? Besides, Ammu-Nation ranges always used to have crazy-long queues. Maybe they still do...”

Vic kept nodding approvingly. He didn’t really need more of Phil’s stories, not right now at least, when his thoughts were drifting off towards Pete and his grueling fate – damn, he didn’t even get a proper chance to say goodbye, and even Lance hadn’t matured much despite the massacre. Around the corner was the sight that hit the nail on the head – three chalk outlines of human corpses, two of them belonging to the Forellis, the other to Pete, whose shape Vic was able to identify immediately.
“F*cking damn... that’s my brother’s final resting place right there.” he said, respectfully standing tall above the outlines.
“I *burp* couldn’t even imagine what losing a sibling must feel like. Ugh, you think this moment calls for a drink?”
“I think Pete deserves more respect than that, man. And I’m not drinking from your flask anyway.”

Several quiet moments passed, Vic recalling in his mind any positive memories he had of his brother, as if they would somehow cheer him up. One really f*cked up shade from the past was a conversation they once had about Pete and Lance’s dangerous lifestyle – Pete had half-jokingly asked Vic if he’d rather have him slowly waste away at home suffering from an incurable disease, or fall bravely in battle while being on top of his game. Back then, Vic actually picked the sudden death option in a heartbeat, but goddamn, this wasn’t “falling in battle”! It was a cowardly ambush, and Pete got shot without remorse before he could’ve even pulled out a gun, if he even carried one in the first place. Besides, never again having him around to occasionally hang out, chill, and recall the days when the brothers worried less about drugs and more about girls or cars... that was simply too much to swallow. Compared to this, Vic thought a disease – any disease, like asthma off the top of his head – would’ve been a blessing.

“So... you said we’d solve this, right? Find out what kinda scumbags were behind this?” Phil said after the two had been staring at the outlines for a good few minutes.
“It’d be the best favor I could ask for really.”
“Great, ‘cause something like this happening to my new best friend’s brother – on my old property – hurts to see like f*ck. You think there’s any bullets the cops forgot to pick up?”
Vic was left standing in place, a bit flabbergasted, all while Phil excitedly crouch-walked around the area, surveying it for evidence. “New best friend...?”
“Where do you think the shooters were?” Phil wondered after only a short search.
“Assuming the bodies ain’t been moved – it’s gotta be right there.” Vic said, pointing to a spot that stood out the most in the immediate surroundings: an open warehouse with several boxes stacked around in an irregular pattern, forming just the perfect cover for sneaky assassins.
“Huh, what goes around, comes around, I guess. That’s just where I used to store all my guns – didn’t know someone else still uses it after I cleared up.”
“We better scope it out then.”

Vic went forth first (being careful not to step over the outlines), his army pistol already loaded and Phil right behind him to give the appropriate shotgun treatment to anyone trying to jump them. Making swift movements to enter the warehouse, he met a relatively anti-climatic sight: apart from scattered trash, the area was about as empty as it could get. He also secured the nearest dark corner by first pointing his gun’s flashlight at it – though since the weak light was more or less swallowed by the blackness, he had to go take a closer look, but found nothing lurking in the shadows, just more of the same filth as before.
“Have schoolkids taken this place over or what? I mean, look at all the candy wrappers and *hic* soft drink cans. Makes me wanna settle back here, bring this place to its former glory...” Phil said in mild disgust, raising the cans off the floor and neatly arranging them over the tallest box stack.
“Mind concentrating on the matter at hand?”
“Anything can be evidence, Vic. Like what about that dirty footprint? Looks adult size to me.”
“Footprint? Hang on a sec...” Vic dropped everything he was doing (which wasn’t a lot) and crouched down to inspect the print while Phil now cleaned up the wrappers from around it.
“I ain’t no expert, but don’t that thing look like, uhh, something a cop or soldier would wear?” he muttered in passing.
“I think you’re right... it might just belong to some investigator.” Vic said in disappointment.
“Unless – hear me out – it was the DEA carrying off the attack!” The excitement returned to Phil’s voice once again.
“The DEA? Wouldn’t this kinda stuff be a bit below them? I mean, I don’t need you tellin’ me government agencies are bent, but that’s going a bit far.”
“Don’t you know they even exchange drugs for guns with the big players in town? Then they pretend they just seized a huge stash and get pay raises. People who do that would do anything long as there ain’t no risk of getting caught, I tell ya.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “Is that one of your conspiracy theories, or a tale of Jerry’s perhaps?”
“Jerry told me – and he knows his sh*t, ‘cause he’s got the connections. Damn, man, I didn’t think you’d be this reluctant to believe me.”

Vic just grunted in frustration, knowing better not to engage in an unnecessary argument when solving a triple murder was on the line. Phil probably realized the same, and sat down on the nearest box, looking a bit somber and trying to fire up a conversation again.
“You, uhh, ever eaten those EgoChaser bars?”
“Sure, the army even recommends them.” Vic said apathetically, soon finding out that apart from the single wet footprint, there was nothing convincing to be found. The least he could do was whip out his portable camera and snap a picture.
“What about that eCola stuff then?”
“No thanks, I’d rather keep my teeth in one piece.”
Phil cackled. “Son, lemme tell ya, I might consume boomshine like no one else and have teeth that look like a dig site, but they still do their job.”
“Boomshine? Don’t you mean moonshine?” It was no surprise that Phil had a few screws loose, but that was just a new low for him.
“No, no – definitely boomshine. It’s this *burp* revolutionary invention I made some years back. Real Nobel prize sh*t right there, so strong it turns any little bitch even from the Angels into a real man. Even the fumes get you so sh*t-faced you forget which way’s up. Hell, it helps me forget a load of things. Except my squad back in ‘Nam... their memory always lives on.”
“I wish Martinez was as loyal to his men as you.” Vic sighed, not wishing to go on about the “boomshine” any longer than he had to.
“Yeah, I still don’t get why he’d pick on you like he does – but we’ll find out eventually. By now, let’s just try and, y’know, lay low and avoid trouble.”
“Lay low? You must be talking to the wrong guy – I ain’t got no crazies gunning for my hide. Besides, I still got a gang of killers to find.”
“Good point! Man, I gotta get this damn straight... but uhh, anyway, before we leave, wanna resusciate my old days a bit and try some target practice?” Phil said, now pointing at that row of eCola cans he had laid in a pattern on a box.
“My aim’s just fine – and I’d rather not attract undue attention.”
“Come on now, there can never be such a thing as too much practice in a dangerous place like Vice City. And we’ll be long gone before anyone comes snooping, that’s for sure.”
Vic knew he had to stop giving in to people’s requests at some point, but this probably wouldn’t make his life much worse even if he said yes. “OK, but just for a bit. And only because you’ve got a point about this city.”
“Damn, they even got P’s & Q’s down there, makes me crave for something sweet for a change... ahem, I mean, go ahead. If you can, say, knock ‘em all down with one clip, I’ll owe you a drink.” Phil promised, earning a glare from Vic. “Just a beer, I mean – in case, y’know, boomshine ain’t your type of beverage...”


Monday, 10:45PM

 

“...and that’s when he told me to look up answers from you – or Gonzalez.”
Cortez harrumphed. “For someone ‘not involved in any way’, Teal seems to know about too many leads for his own good. I’d like to know how he has flown under the radar for this long.”
“Did Gonzalez know about the deal?” Tommy said.
“He has from the beginning – but let me paraphrase this by assuring you that I wouldn’t have let him in on this if I didn’t trust him completely.”
“I’m not pointing accusatory fingers, I’m rather thinking I could ask him some genuinely friendly questions.” Tommy did everything he could to not sound threatening to the non-present right hand man.
“Gonzalez? I’m afraid all he’s going to do is point those fingers all over the place, and potentially hinder your search. He can get rash if he needs to.” Cortez warned.
“I wouldn’t want to pass up on the chance though. Besides, if the worst happens and I never find the stolen money, I could always make that up by establishing a business relationship.”
“I admire your attitude and won’t stand on your way, but please, make no rushed decisions while you’re at it. I will take some time to put the pieces together, but when I do get results, they’ll be more reliable than anything you find from the streets.”
“Yeah, I understand. I got one more question about Gonzalez though.”
“I’m all ears.” Cortez said, taking a bite out of the snake on his plate.
“Well – Teal said something about him actually having a lot more contacts in the city’s underworld than you. Does that hold any water? He didn’t seem that excited to socialize just two days ago...”
“I definitely would like a chat with that man, possessing disproportionate amounts of unauthorized information.” Cortez prefaced, Tommy being glad he spent enough time in the prison library to not flinch at the sight of a bundle of big words. “But yes, it is more or less true. I do hold what people consider the best parties in town, but I mainly cater to the top tier only – you’d understand the reasoning if you saw what the crooks below them in the pecking order are like – in the meantime, Gonzalez prefers to reach out wherever he can. I don’t think there are any halfway profitable drug circles in town that he doesn’t associate with in some way...”
“Yeah, seems like a good way to get my foot between the door. Though I hear I might need your permission to actually get to him.” Tommy said with hopeful confidence.
“That permission will be granted as long as you promise something for me.” Cortez assured in the tone that made it clear that ‘something’ wouldn’t just be a little kiddie favor.

Tommy shrugged, having no way around that really. “Go on.”
“As excited as you seem about rushing to Gonzalez’s aid, there are also matters I personally need resolved. For instance, there is a courier working for me, about to arrive in town within a few days. He’s carrying some important technology I need delivered to my boat as subtly as possible.”
“Why would you trust me with a confidential job like this?” Tommy asked.
“The people in pursuit of him are smarter than they look or sound – I’ve had my share of scuffles with them before, and they’ve since done their homework, to the point where they know all of my men. You, however, are a brand new associate who only just set foot in this town – I doubt they’d ever know to expect you. I trust you’re able to complete the transaction smoothly and gain the chips without attracting undue attention.”
“I’m guessing it’s not a particularly tasty snack you’re after. Still, ain’t it a bit out of place that you’re pushing this much responsibility on me? All I’m here for is my merchandise, really.”
“I understand your concern, but I think you’ll find soon enough that here in Vice City, it’s difficult to gain a powerful man’s trust without some sort of a friendly favor.” Cortez explained as authoritatively as he could.
Tommy slowly nodded. “...I guess. But there’s one more thing I’d need settled first. That failed attack on Teal made me realize I’m a bit rusty after all that time inside, and might need a gun at the ready for future encounters. Any way you could get me one?”
“There’s an Ammu-Nation not too far from here – have a chat with Sammy behind the counter and I’m sure he can arrange you something. You’ve got some money to burn, right?”
“That’s nice and all, Colonel, except I’m a felon. I doubt even a conservative gun store would grant me sh*t without a permit.” Tommy stated in annoyance.
“That’s a good point. Maybe we’ll arrange a pick-up in some remote spot then.”
“Boss? It looks like your guest has arrived.” a chef intervened, it being the first time Tommy heard them speak since the conversation began.

In a bit of confusion, Tommy gazed over to the marina at the same time with Cortez to see a dark limousine scramble around trying to get itself parked. There wasn’t a whole lot of space in the area, and the ordeal was clearly taking some time.
“That was quick from him.” Cortez admitted.
“Wait, who? What’s going on?” Tommy demanded, feeling as though his meeting was about to be breached, something he’d had no reason to expect.
“My sincere apologies, Thomas, I should’ve noted the man I was on the phone with was on the way here for a business meeting. Err, did you by any chance meet Jason Gardner in the party?”
Tommy shrugged, having absolutely no clue who Cortez was referring to, and not recollecting the name being mentioned before. “Very interesting character, he is. He possesses so many great ideas, I have a feeling him and that Brighton will do great things to this city in the near future –even if the media has recently tried to taint him with all those unreasonable accusations about his past. I should introduce the two of you at some point.” the Colonel continued.
“When you say ‘at some point’ I don’t think you mean this very moment?”
“I’m afraid not, we’re in need of privacy just as any two honest businessmen would be. But indeed, my men will drop off a gun for you and I’ll let you know where to find it – it’s good you thought ahead about keeping yourself protected. Those agents don’t mess around with people they catch in the act.”
“Agents? Wait, what the---“
“Riley, can you escort Thomas again back to his bike? There’s probably no security risk, but I don’t take chances in this town...”
There wasn’t much of a choice for Tommy to make, and before he knew it, he’d already exchanged his goodbyes with Cortez and found himself walking the pier towards his bike, bypassing two sunglass-wearing men who determinantly marched in the opposing direction, and inadvertedly bumping shoulders with the taller one, presumably a bodyguard, who had bluntly refused to give him way. The man emitted a sharp hiss at him, something that Tommy assumed to be a threat, but didn’t think much more of it after he’d been dumped just outside the gates that promptly closed behind him.

Revving up his Freeway, he cursed his luck for all it was worth, before leaving the area.
 

Saturday, just where we left off...

 

“Damn, you’re a good shot, Vic. Uhh – not that I expected anything less, but y’know, the army taught you well.” was all Phil had to say after Vic had downed the three cans in five shots, having spent a good bit of time to calculate each of them.
“Not really the army, just all that drug empire sh*t I used to run with my brothers. But thanks anyway.”
“How about we kick it up a notch? Can you shoot one of these right outta my hand?” Phil asked, being completely serious too as he already grabbed a can and was about to get into a pose.
Vic rapidly shook his head and waved his hands around for added effect. “Whoa, I ain’t interested in taking foolish risks with your life. Please, let’s not throw it away like this just yet.”
“Damn, I seriously thought that was a good idea---“
“WHAT THE F*CK YOU DO HERE, YOU SCUM?” An unexpected yell surprised both of them just when Vic was about to unload his gun and call it a day – he instead ended up pointing it just outside the warehouse, where a short but obviously tempered Asian man was busy heaping abuse at them. After the initial shock, he lowered the pistol some, realizing the intruder was not just unarmed, but didn’t look like he was going to attack anyway.
“The hell? You know this guy, Phil?”
“I know enough that we better catch him right now. Quick!”

Phil was definitely right to say that, because in lack of a firearm, the man had pulled out a remote control device that caused the warehouse door to begin closing on them. Thanks to him announcing his presence, plus the slow speed of the door, both gunslingers were able to run out in time without being locked in however, and by rough calculation Phil could've fallen over twice in his fading drunkenness and still made it.

Vic dropped all pretence of having mercy or otherwise acting nice, loading a new clip into the gun in plain sight of the man, who took off running after his idea had failed. He was headed towards the safety of civilization in rapid manner, which Vic was having none of, as he unleashed several shots mainly aimed at his central mass, Phil sticking behind and deciding his friend was doing a good enough job on his own – besides, he hadn’t brought along a sufficiently ranged weapon anyway. Just before the Asian turned the corner, he finally collapsed – it was Vic’s last bullet that at last did the trick and struck him somewhere in the leg, impeding his process in one swift moment and leaving him screaming in agony. Before long, Vic had grabbed him by the shirt, and with the help of Phil, pulled the man back to the safety and tranquility of the abandoned area.

“Let go of me, you ni**er!” the man shouted at full volume while being restrained by a wall of Phil’s old shooting range building – he aimed a kick with his still healthy foot at the general direction of Vic’s nether regions, only to be blocked.
Vic let out an unintentional chuckle. “You really should watch your language, pal. I’m a pissed off soldier who used to be in the drug trade business.”
“Screw you! I tell you nothing!”
“I think he’s definitely from the Vice City Triads.” Phil said, doing his part by taking away the remote controller, just in case.
“I tell nothing! Go kill yourself!”
“Triads, huh? You know, me and the brothers used to be trade buddies with them.” Vic said in an interested tone, looking straight at Phil and ignoring the man’s temper tantrum. “Shame their standards have clearly slipped in more recent times.”
“If they slipped, they did that a long time ago. It’s these wide-eyed f*cks that kept trying to evict me for years, as if the docks were completely their property.”
“In that case, I apologize for associating with that scum.” Vic said formally, receiving enjoyment from the Triad losing his mind even further with each casual line of the conversation.
“You f*ck dogs in hell!”

“Alright, maybe it’s time we stopped messing around.” Vic grabbed hold of the Triad once again, nearly getting himself bitten by the gang member who fought about as hard as it was possible to do with severe pain from a gunshot. To pacify the diminutive threat, Phil shoved the barrel of his shotgun right up to the man’s head, squeezing it against the wall as well for good measure.
“Since your bosses have claimed this turf all for themselves, you oughta have a pretty good idea of what goes on in this area, right?” Vic started.
“Screw you! Screw you!” the Triad’s almost inaudible yells tried to interrupt the hearing.
“Such as what happened here to warrant a crime scene?” Phil went on.
“I tell nothing! My bosses kill me if I tell!”
“You do realize that you’re only drawing suspicion to your own boys by saying that?” Vic politely notified.
“Yeah, I’d *hic* watch your words if I was you, ‘cause if the situation calls for f*cking you guys’ sh*t up, I’mma do just that.” Phil said with notable pride.
“Stupid white drinker! I know you! You lose depot to us, then you come back and--- AUGH!”
“What the f*ck went on here? Start answering or I’ll bust your kneecaps.” Vic demanded, having smacked the Triad’s head on the rock-solid wall to shut him up.

“Ow! Crazy damn nigg--- alright, goddammit!” Vic’s raised fist kept him from quite finishing the slur. “I didn’t see sh*t, but my friend Zhou... no, he f*cking kill me if I---“
“We’ll worry about Zhou later. Now be a good boy.” the soldier said patronizingly.
The hostage sighed. “He saw from lookout, four people dealing. This is our turf, so he was gonna call backup. But then three men attacked. Killed almost all and took their stuff.”
“We already know that part. What did the men look like? Any distinguishing features?” Vic questioned.
“And where’d they go after that ordeal?” Phil followed up.
“Three looked like mobsters, one was---“
“The assailants, idiot!” The likely purposefully wrong answer earned the Triad a painful slap.
“How should we know? Zhou said a car escaped, they shot at car and gave up. Then they picked up stash and ran off through some alley.”
“We’re in here right now, so can you elaborate which alley it was?”
“I told you, I saw nothing, I was not there! Maybe that one!” the Triad shouted, pointing at the gap between the warehouse and another building next to it, which barely qualified as an alley and pointed to the open ocean, but could’ve been a plausible escape route, with buildings and containers providing cover from the eyes of the public.
“But you die if you go there.” he continued moments later.
Vic rolled his eyes.“Oh, what a surprise.”
“That’s counterfeit syndicate turf. They rip you to shreds! We have nice partnership. They hate scum who try harm us. Like you!”
“You know, you really instigated this whole thing. All we did was have some old-fashioned fun down here.” Phil said angrily, not seeming too worried about the warning.
“Nobody shoot in our turf! Nobody except us!” Another tantrum nearly caused him to pry himself out of Vic’s grip.

Another slap later, he was a bit more cooperative again, if not still hateful as ever – if a gaze could kill, he would’ve mutilated Vic and Phil several times over by this stage.
“Right, well it looks like we don’t have much more to gain from you. Let’s go have a chat with Zhou – you’ll know where to find him, don’t ya?” Vic said, some fake encouragement in his tone as he began to move his victim.
“F*ck you!” the Triad screamed, putting up the heaviest resistance so far. “I never sell Zhou out! NEVER!”
“Watch out, Vic, he’s got something in his pocket!” Phil yelled frantically, backing out rapidly as he spoke.
“DIE!” The blood-curdling scream combined with a live grenade that he pulled out was enough to drive Vic into the biggest adrenaline rush he’d had for some time – he too put all his focus on getting away from the suicidal maniac of a thug right now, which wasn’t easy because the Triad had clung on to him with all the strength he had, and it took a particularly mean straight punch to the face to get rid of him. Having covered a good few seconds worth of distance at his highest running speed, Vic dove to the floor and hoped for the best.

The explosion occurred just a fraction of a second before he could cover his ears, and losing his hearing to the noise was a gross understatement – that constant and ubiquitous ringing noise felt as though it was going to make his head explode, turn him insane if it didn’t come to an end soon–

“Hey, soldier. Wake up, I know you’re still there.” Phil’s voice sounded strange at first, strange and much farther away than it logically should’ve been–
“Vic. You didn’t get hit by any shrapnel, did you?” Now the world around Vic started to clear up as he opened his eyes for the first time since what had felt like a terrorist attack directed right at him and him only – gosh, that had been a melodramatic moment for him, one where he thought everything he’d done was in vain and he wouldn’t even have said proper goodbyes to Lance...
“Man, f*ck me. I’ve heard stories of what shellshock feels like, but to think it’s this bad...” he slurred out, being assisted to his feet by Phil.
“That was some Viet Cong sh*t right there. Taking one’s enemy with them if there’s no victory to be had – what a f*cking pussy, lemme tell ya.”
“So – is he – dead?” Vic asked, still leaning to the nearest wall and catching his breath. It felt as though there were so many things he almost had to re-learn on the spot before he could get back to functioning normally.
“See for yourself, make your judgement.” Phil said, spreading his arms to “offer” Vic the sight of a mess of blood and guts all over the place, exactly like what one would expect a human body to look like after such an explosion. The Triad’s teeth seemingly survived mostly intact, but he wasn’t going to be doing any talking without a functioning brain – speaking of which, some of the pink gooey matter had been caught up under Phil’s shoes, as Vic noticed when the gun runner raised one of his legs to stretch it out a little.

“Well, I guess that does it for today?” the mostly sobered up Phil asked when Vic had been examining the Triad’s remains for some time, speechlessly.
“Don’t think we’ll be able to reach that Zhou figure without a lead. And sure – I feel like laying down in the barracks for a whole day, man. If you could drop me off, that’d be great.”
“You’re gonna trust me to drive? I mean – of course. Man, it’s been a big day.”
“One more thing...” Vic said, finger up in the air as they were exiting the area. “What exactly was that ‘counterfeit syndicate’ sh*t all about?”
“Let’s not go there so you can get some sleep at night...” Phil said somberly.
Vic’s response was rightfully annoyed. “You’re only making me fear the unknown by doing that, Phil.”
“OK, how about I say they’re an odd bunch who pretty much share these docks with the Triads and make a living printing fake cash?”
“Do you think they got reason to come at us now?”
“We just killed the only patrolling Triad in the site – not like they got evidence we were here. And I don’t think they like to partake in gang wars the same way as the others.”
“Well, good – I really ain’t in the mood of fighting any more men now.” Vic mumbled, needing a bit of help getting past the ribbon.
“Heh, if you weren’t so exhausted with all these events, I’d tell you a fact about them that’ll blow your mind away like, uhh, a feather in the wind...”
“Real nice.” was all Vic had to say before almost stumbling to the seat of the Walton, where he proceeded to sit as comfortably as he could, not uttering another word for the entire rest of the day. He was looking for new experiences in Vice City, quite definitely, but this day’s supply was a lot more than he thought he could handle another time. Damn Martinez.

If only he’d known he’d have several days like this one in store for him too, with or without Martinez’s involvement.
 

The End.


Ziggy455
  • Ziggy455

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#33

Posted 21 June 2016 - 08:14 AM Edited by Ziggy455, 21 June 2016 - 08:16 AM.

Okay, Carbonox--this entire story is a behemoth of text, and since I've been away for a while, I figured I'd give you some feed on the entire thing. Starting with your first chapter. I know this is finished now but I think you've had almost no feedback apart from a few comments on the story itself so let's go a little depth with things. I'm going to do this by bullet points because it's extremely long and it's too easy to get lost in the text somewhere--for me at least.
 

Revenge.
 

That was what he had had in mind ever since his mother was murdered in a cowardly drive-by shooting, in front of her own house.
  • You have a knack for exposition. This means you're giving away information instead of telling it, and it's something that everybody does, including myself. What does this line do? Wouldn't it hit your audience more to find out further down the line, through some sort of speech instead? This means that you are spending less time focusing on exposition and more on dialogue which ultimately pushes the story forward.

 

The shooters were allegedly aiming at her oldest son instead, though – and it made sense, considering he was the leader of the third largest gang in the city, and still a well-known figure in the criminal underworld despite the gang’s recent shortcomings. This did not change anything though – the shooters had left a permanent dent on his family.

What a frightening coincidence it was, that he had only just returned home after a five-year absence, when the shooting happened. He was immediately thrust in the middle of a vicious turf war, in which the various sets started developing hostilities, many of his old friends had perished over the years, and the surviving ones did not seem to take kindly to how he had left his gang behind for those five years. In the past few weeks, he had done what he could to clear up his image in the eyes of his comrades. And it had worked, although the gang still found it difficult to regain their lost territory or even settle their civil war.

 

This feels like pure exposition here. You aren't showing the audience anything. You're telling me a big dump of text which, while relevant to the story, just cuts any action within the scene dead. You could have cut down this entire paragraph into a single line very easily:

 

What a frightening coincidence; he'd come from one war, stepped into another, and barely made it out with any sort of respect from either.

 

You are explaining what has happened, but you don't dump it all at once, and it keeps the flow going. Now we know he was in a war, we know things didn't go to plan, and you can fit in more of this information further down the line.

But now he was taking a day off – something he had got used to back in Liberty City, but which seemed like an unknown concept in these hoods. There was always something to do, whether it was big or small, and there was the added risk of the enemy gangs attempting to launch an assault at any time.

He was sitting in his bedroom, on the second floor of a two-story house, staring at the photos in the walls, and reminiscing the old days, when the gang wars were no less violent, but he actually could enjoy himself better, with the large family and tons of friends around. Admittedly, not much was left of those days, and that thought could have made even a grown man shed a tear – including him.

His name was Carl Johnson, but his brother and other friends simply referred to him as CJ.

He was not a particularly large or intimidating man by any means – rather, he had lost a lot of weight during his time in Liberty City, and was now quite thin and unmuscular. His build didn’t tell the whole story though, as he was also a rather experienced gunman and could handle himself in sticky situations.

 

 

SHOW DON'T TELL

Before I go any further with feedback, I need to explain something. I have had this issue myself and I continue to wrestle with it. It's a mistake all of us make and continue to make. There is a clear difference between SHOWING and TELLING. It is the difference between and engaging story and a wad of text like an instruction manual. Showing us a story means you write the story without telling us what is happening, you let the audience experience it. Still confused? Lemme throw an example at you.

 

Let's say we've got CJ, right? Carl Johnson. Let's use a simple example. Imagine Carl is standing in the middle of Grove Street on a sunny day and there's a balla in front of him.

 

Now, here's two examples, one SHOWING, and one TELLING.

 

TELLING

 

CJ punched the balla in the face.

 

Now, that's a solid sentence. Noun, verb. CJ punched. But it's bland--doesn't it look boring? There's no pazaaz. We just read a bare-bones explanation of what happened. Here's showing it now:

 

SHOWING

 

CJ balled his fist and smashed it across the balla's left cheek with a muffled, audible crack!

 

I didn't even use the word punch, but that sentence gave you an image didn't it? You saw the whack, you heard the crack. I just SHOWED you an event happening.

 

That is the core rule I'm trying to get across here, because a lot of your writing is pure telling, and pure exposition, which is completely fine when given in small doses, but your work is riddled with it. Take a look over your first chapter only and ask yourself "Am I showing or am I telling with this paragraph?" And then get back to me for some more feedback.

  • Carbonox, slimeball supreme and Fallcreek like this

Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

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#34

Posted 21 June 2016 - 11:27 PM

Solid feedback ziggy
When you come back, your come back big, don't you?
As soon as I finish the book in reading (which I'm not enjoying) in going to read this. Great to see another good writers giving advice again; I know I'm underperforming on that front lately.

Ziggy455
  • Ziggy455

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#35

Posted 22 June 2016 - 05:51 AM

Solid feedback ziggy
When you come back, your come back big, don't you?
As soon as I finish the book in reading (which I'm not enjoying) in going to read this. Great to see another good writers giving advice again; I know I'm underperforming on that front lately.

 

Solid feedback ziggy
When you come back, your come back big, don't you?
As soon as I finish the book in reading (which I'm not enjoying) in going to read this. Great to see another good writers giving advice again; I know I'm underperforming on that front lately.

 

I don't blame you! This thing is like an entire novel! I'll dig more into it when I've read the entire thing.


Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

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  • Most Creative [Writing] 2016
    Most Talented Writer 2015
    Most Talented Writer 2014
    Most Talented Writer 2013
    Best Story/Poem 2013 "The Storm"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2011 "Justice in Flames"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2010 "City of Lies"

#36

Posted 22 June 2016 - 09:27 AM

Solid feedback ziggy
When you come back, your come back big, don't you?
As soon as I finish the book in reading (which I'm not enjoying) in going to read this. Great to see another good writers giving advice again; I know I'm underperforming on that front lately.

 

Solid feedback ziggy
When you come back, your come back big, don't you?
As soon as I finish the book in reading (which I'm not enjoying) in going to read this. Great to see another good writers giving advice again; I know I'm underperforming on that front lately.

 
I don't blame you! This thing is like an entire novel! I'll dig more into it when I've read the entire thing.
Yeah but I was active when he posted chapter 1!

AEsob
  • AEsob

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#37

Posted 25 June 2016 - 04:34 PM

Man, this was great.

 

I wish I was in a condition to offer any analysis, but i am not.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

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#38

Posted 07 July 2016 - 01:04 PM Edited by Carbonox, 15 July 2016 - 11:54 AM.

OK, this was not originally the plan, but since the chapter would otherwise just get intimidatingly long, I've decided to utilize cutting things up into multiple parts more often. Like right here.

 

Oh, and also nice to see so many recent posts from a multitude of people that are not me. :D

 

SA16: Cracking Down - Part 1

 

It was like any morning in eastern Los Santos – the sun was shining, mockingbirds were singing and the Grove Street Families and Kilo Tray Ballas were shooting the sh*t out of each other. Normally that was considered part of everyday life and didn’t warrant much more than a short piece on the eleventh page of local newspapers, but there was something different about this – it wasn’t the usual amateurish face-off, but a clearly organized strike, orchestrated by Sweet Johnson, who’d sent a number of good men across the Los Santos River to claim a section of turf from Willowfield, right where the Families’ favorite Cluckin’ Bell joint stood. Sure, the attack was going to hurt the day’s revenue to the place, but after the tired, drugged and most importantly small defence force was eradicated, peace could resume in the area under some new command.

But like always, victory came at a prize, confirming that the world was indeed utterly stacked against them even in moments of success such as this one. The new rulers of the neighborhood could hardly begin securing the zone before a massive LSPD fleet rolled in, surrounding the immediate area of recent conflict and rounding up all green-wearing black folks in the area that hadn’t scrambled to a hiding spot quickly enough. Once they were gone, the Families were able to get back and send new reinforcements to watch over the new turf, but now without a good chunk of the original takeover crew – bad news for the sake of keeping hold of that place for longer than a few days.
“...and I swear that was no f*cking coincidence. The Balla bustas knew they was bein’ outgunned, so they rang up Tenpenny and got him to nail all those homies.” Sweet assured to Carl.

The brothers were once again on a man-date at Ten Green Bottles in order to discuss some more recent events regarding the gang. Despite some of Carl’s worst fears, Sweet hadn’t berated him for losing the race at all, let alone mentioned the whole event, rather placing focus on the good old Ballas now that they were back to commonplace conditions.
“At least I got good news too. Remember the last time we was in this joint?”
“Sure – we discussed topics of current interest, then got assaulted by the most ridiculous Balla pairing I ever seen.”
“Hey, we kicked their ass and defended the best hangout spot in the ‘hood.” Sweet corrected, sharing a rare smirk with the bartender while doing so. “And speakin’ of those topics, I uncovered new stuff since then that’s gonna help with our war effort.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Remember all that talk we had about the hooded pussy going around killin’ homies in the dead of the night? I think I finally got a fix on his location.”
“Hooded guy? He’s still out there? I mean, not to downplay the threat or anything, but he ain’t made his presence too known these last few weeks.”
“You think what you want, but someone snuck around at Tyrell’s backyard few nights back, and once he went to investigate, he didn’t come back.” Sweet’s tone was turning more ominous by each word. “Then, Bert said some guppies found his body in a ditch a few blocks down, all filled with cuts and a ‘GK’ sprayed on the wall above him. Y’know, stylized to appear as a threat.”
“And what made ‘em think it’s some creepy guy in a hood doing this sh*t, instead of just another Balla who got lucky? Like, did anyone see something out the ordinary?”
“First of all, it was white spray. None of our enemies wear that, and they’d be outta their mind not to represent, it’s part of the code. Second, Lil’ J was crashin’ on Tyrell’s couch and saw that weirdo definitely had a hood on, and looked neutral enough.”
“Well, why didn’t he---“
“He was piss-ass drunk.”
“Nevermind. OK, but ain’t white, like, a secondary color for the Ball-pushers? And hell, crack’s white too, so it could be---“
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I figured it was something like that too.” Sweet said somberly. “But anyway, to the good news. And the lead I been tryin’ to fill you in about. Remember what happened back when Chad and his niggas busted in?”
“We kicked they ass, that’s what you just said.” Carl answered with a smirk.
“No, no – remember that weird grandma who left just as the fightin’ started? Like, just days ago I realized I ain’t ever seen that f*ckin’ lady before. Something ain’t right, ‘cause why would someone like her hang out at our bar, and why do Ballas have so much respect for her they leave her alone?”
“Really?” Carl was almost laughing. “Where’s your all-round education and sh*t? You don't start sh*t with a black lady and live to tell your homies about it.”
“Oh yeah? How do we know she was black? Or even a lady at all? Had her face and body covered pretty well, huh? Almost for no reason?”
“Don’t those Middle Eastern chicks do that?”
“You gonna deny everything I have to say or what? Look, bro, way I see it, better scope things out pre-emptively than wait for that coward-ass nigga to cap someone else when I least expect. I’m gonna tail that old lady today and find answers – that’s it.”
“Guess that means you definitely ain’t coming along for what you got in store for me.”
“Hey, you got stripes to earn, bro.”
“I thought I already earned my stripes these last couple weeks?”
“You been workin’ for that Schrader more than us at that time. That sh*t don’t count.”

Carl understandably shuddered thinking about Schrader and the debt he’d accumulated, but fortunately Sweet didn’t notice.
“Anyway, don’t see why you’d complain anyway. All of us wanna see a crack warehouse taken down, right? ‘Specially when B Dup’s involved with it?” the elder brother remarked.
“Oh, yeah, sure, I ain’t complainin’. But uhh, I’m just a bit short on back-up. Apart from Ryder and Smoke, there ain’t much to choose from these days.”
“Just Ryder, I’m afraid. Smoke got food poisoning yesterday, that motherf*cker. I warned him that steak was expired, but y’know how he rolls... always so f*cking stubborn.”
“Wow, really? Sounds real convenient though, bein’ sick just when it’s time to land a hit on his favorite business...”
“The vomit at his kitchen says it’s the real deal. Anyway, if you ain’t complainin’, then at least quit worryin’, I got some people to back you up in there. I’d be crazy to send you and Ryder against a horde of the yay-pushers, it’d be suicide and it’d make no sense.”
“So who’s it gonna be? I doubt you can get Loc to join up ever since he---“
“Remember Horse? You ain’t seen him too often, I think, but he was with this plan in a heartbeat back when I told him.”
“Horse? You mean – that uhh, real tall guy, friend of yours when you grew up? Terrance – Singleton?” Carl asked with a touch of uncertainty, but was met with nods from Sweet as he went along.
“Yup. He’s been tryin’ to sort the slackers of the ‘hood out for a while now, but that ain’t going nowhere, so we made new arrangements. And then there’s Eddie, who said he and Rodney came to your aid at some dealer’s apartment to flush him out, and now he offering help again. You cool?”
“Sure, why not – how’s Rodney? Outta the hospital yet?”
“Just about. Oh, and when Billy heard of your discovery by some freak chance, he said he wants to join up as well.”
Carl almost jumped off his stool. “Hell no, Sweet! We had a deal – he’s yours problem ‘cause you’re the only one who wanted him. And that brat ain’t even potty-trained yet.”
“Bro, I didn’t say I was gonna let him in. Boy’s in over his head, and though I’d love to see him learn some things the hard way...” Sweet’s words only caused Carl to tense up further. “...this is too important to fail, so he’s stayin’ home.”
“Oh. Yeah, OK. Thank the motherf*ckin’ Almighty.”

“Hey, another thing – before you get on your way.” Sweet said when Carl was done with his drink, and was just about to leave. “Kane actually got in touch for the first time in forever. Nigga was real pissed about not just Willowfield, but some pusher called Steve bein’ murdered, and his partner and some established Balla client arrested as prime suspects.”
“Well, he deserves some shortcomings every once in a while. But why’d a Front Yard OG care for the Trays losin’ turf so much? Or are they more organized than I remember?”
“Didn’t I tell you some time after you came back about how they operate now?”
“Beats me. All you said was our sets was beefin’ like no other.”
“Ah, well...” Sweet downed the rest of his Logger, looking bitter. “The Ballas decided some time ago they was having none of that sh*t, that they’d get tighter and overwhelm us that way. So they started a coalition where each set would nominate an OG to rep ‘emselves in negotiations – and the gang as a whole would rotate in a new leader every year, keep things equal between ‘em all that way. Guess who won the inaugural vote.”
“If it ain’t the meanest son of a bitch in Front Yard history.” Carl said, definitely now understanding the reason behind Sweet’s grumpy mood.
“So uhh...” Carl continued some quiet moments later. “You see us doin’ something like that in the future, if we ever reunite the Families?”
“Well, I ain’t seen no convincing proof that it’s gonna work the same for us. Like, at the very least, some Seville OG’s should step down so we can negotiate in the first place. You remember that tattoo-face who always goes to the 8-Track races? What’s his name, Cayden?”
“I thought it was Jayden.” Carl corrected.
“Well, never-f*cking-mind. That guy ain’t welcome to any votes that affect our set’s future, that’s for sure. And then – there was Raymond.” Carl tried raising a finger in protest. “I know that nigga put a cap on two dealer-pimps, won us a turf and beat cousin Al’s record at the arcade, but that all was a lifetime ago. Now he just slacks off, smokes dope, acts paranoid, you know the drill. End of story.”
“Surprised you’d bring him up again.”
“Hey, I was making a point there, and the record bein’ shattered serves the deserter right.”
Carl cackled a bit, even if Sweet’s comment was in a way more depressing than outright unintentionally funny. “A’ight then... best that I get moving. Will be easier to focus on gang business after a job well done, right?”
“Happy fightin’, bro. Don’t accept second place this time.”

30 minutes later:

“Y’all ready for this?” Carl asked with a slightly cracking voice, checking his gun yet again as the van containing a more unusual party closed in on the drug stash behind the Unity Station.
“You asked that about thrice before.” Eddie complained from the driver’s seat.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I ain’t led an important attack for a good while, really.”
Ryder spread his arms. “Ain’t that a relief! I still don’t get why Sweet couldn’t trust me with this. I mean, I got five whole years of experience over you, mo’f*cker.”
Carl was going to start yelling at him for talking the same sh*t over and over again, but the man sitting opposite him beat him to it. “I remember a bunch of your antics these past years, y’know, Ryder. Don’t think you want me to revise...”
“F*ck off with your sh*t, Horse. First of all, I used to take crack as an example, ‘cause how would those young idiots ever learn otherwise?”
The elder gang member shook his head in disappointment. “You treat drugs like they’re a game. You think you’re immortal ‘cause you done all sorts of sh*t so long, but you don’t fool me. I seen the signs for years now – you grown into one lazy motherf*cka who goes against our core values and rides on his OG status!”
“Core values? What f*ckin’ so-called intellectual sh*t we got here?”
“Hell, we even lost eastern Idlewood to your incompetency! We was lucky to get your high ass outta there alive when the Ballas took over!” Horse went on.
“Homies, cut that out already! We got work to do!” Carl yelled out of necessity as the exchange went on and Ryder’s “arguments” were turning into the same kind of petty sh*t he said a lot in their one-on-one conversations.
“That’s right. See? That’s how a leader acts, breaks up useless fights and keeps us focused on the mission. Got a plan for the assault, CJ?” Horse asked, completely disregarding Ryder’s gestures that suggested he still wanted a final word in.
“Not really, other than the usual ‘go in guns blazing’ sh*t. I mean, the location ain’t ideal for a sneak attack, and they ain’t gonna let us in unless we’re B Dup.”
“Great! Leadin’ busta ain’t got a plan! This is going so great!” announced Ryder.
“I ain’t gonna descend to that childish level, boss, but I got my doubts about this too.” Eddie said, eyes fixated on Carl through the mirror.
“You woke up on the wrong foot or what? Now c’mon, look, guys. We’ve done this countless times before and lived to tell the tale. Scouts say they only got few guards in there, means we might even outnumber ‘em. It ain’t as bad as it could be.”
“So what’s it gonna be? Do I gotta plow through the door?” Eddie asked excitedly.
Carl smiled in a sadistic way. “That’s what we brought the battering ram for. We’ll get that thing fitted on this little alleyway just near the target...”

Sweet, meanwhile, wasn’t exactly as busy as Carl, for he had been informed by a regular that the grandma had some sort of a strict routine, and would typically arrive at the bar around dusk on weekdays. He was going to stick around all day if it meant not missing the opportunity, so he made himself comfortable and did whatever he could to pass time. Drinking excessively would only hamper his coordination, thus he brought out his pocket change and headed to the arcade machines to wipe Jayden’s record off the top of the sheet – little did he know the rumors about the difficulty level of Space Monkey were extraordinarily accurate.

Eddie, on the other hand, had the time of his life smashing right through the garage door like it was made of wet paper. Charging out of the back with an AK-47 in hand – a rarity for the Families even at these improved times – Carl put his insecurity aside even though this was the most uncertain and frightening part, rushing head-on into combat without knowing where exactly the enemies were positioned. He took no chances, sweeping his side of the room targeting any human-looking shapes in particular, while Ryder cleared the other side, Horse tossing a smoke grenade into the middle of the mess just to be sure.
“Found anyone? Can I come out yet?” Eddie yelled, having ducked as far down on his seat as a two-meter tall guy physically could.
“Well, I definitely got one – don’t look like no Balla though...” said Carl, noting one fallen body right where he’d just almost blindly fired, and heading closer while keeping his eyes open for anyone hiding behind the numerous boxes in the room – not to mention possible reinforcements from the wide-open doorway right in front of him.
“What’s that then, a Vago?” Horse asked, joining Carl to inspect the body. Eddie interpreted the lack of any further shooting as a sign of the coast being clear, and hopped out of the transport.
“Just an addict.” a disgusted Carl said after one good look.
“Something ain’t right, why’s this guy here?”
Carl shrugged, standing back up. “Broke in for his daily dose? F*ck if I know.”
“Then why ain’t he been found and shot by them?” Horse insisted.
“Could it be we showed at a perfect time? When they got no one guarding this joint?” Eddie suggested with hopefulness in his tone.
Horse shook his head immediately. “That’d be a move too stupid for the Ballas to make, ever since they organized themselves, that’s fo’ sure. CJ, cover me, let’s secure the rest of the place.”
“That’s the plan. Ryder – you stay here and watch our back. And Eddie – well, you watch Ryder.”
“The f*ck, busta?”

Trying to show a good example to Eddie at least, Carl didn’t dignify Ryder’s whining with a response, and went on his way without speaking another word. Ahead of him, Horse came face to face with a Balla sentry that had taken his time showing up, and fortunately had no gun in hand yet before taking a bullet to the face. Taking him out meant the hallway leading to another, similar-looking room was more or less secure, though just to be sure, Carl and Horse kicked open the two toilet doors about midway through. No unlucky soul was relieving themselves inside, but judging by the smell, someone had most definitely been in not long ago for a number two.

“Grove Street OG’s in the house!” Horse announced before a daring charge into the other room, throwing more smoke while Carl let his AK sing the song of death to whoever was unlucky enough to be hit. That included two people this time, who also seemingly accounted for the only remaining signs of life left in the building: only one of them being a Balla guard while the other was yet another junkie caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Carl wasn’t going to let his morals get in the way – he was doing a favor for society, after all, by taking one drug buyer off the market the hard way – but just why was he not dead long before this, being in plain sight inside a room with multiple guards?

“Definitely dead.” Horse muttered, having checked the body of the Balla after the smoke dissipated.
“That’s good an’ all, but let’s finish the job real quick. I got a bad feeling about this place...”
“I hear you, man. I’ll set charges in here, you go check on Ryder and I’ll follow ya with some more explosives.”
“You don’t want me to cover ya? They could burst in through that side door any moment.” Carl warned with some worry in his voice.
Horse took just one almost bored look at the door, before he began pushing a particularly heavy crate in front of it. He neither asked for help nor needed it, being done with the ordeal within mere seconds. “Not now they won’t.”
“That’s one way to get sh*t done, I guess... Make it a big-ass blast, homie.”
“Damn straight. Ever since I lost my lil’ brother to crack, I been waitin’ to give the dealers a taste of they own sh*t. Say, Sweet’s real lucky to still have you – you fought a good fight ever since you came back, or so the stories say.”
“I been through a lot fo’ sure, dunno how I’m still breathin’ though...” Carl admitted, words drifting off a bit before he remembered he had obligations elsewhere, and made a beeline for Ryder’s location.

Things got a little bit complicated, however, when he arrived to the sight of Ryder and Eddie disarmed and surrounded by a horde of Ballas – Carl counted at least fifteen – holding the best weapons money could buy on the black market, M249’s and SPAS-15’s included. Even with a few of them looking like the equipment was too much for them to handle, he wasn’t going to try and take advantage, particularly now that he’d been noticed and had a number of guns turned in his direction. To make matters worse, he almost immediately recognized the presumed leader of the group, still wearing that tribal shirt – along with the dimwitted best friend of his sticking by his side once again.
“Carl, my good old sparring buddy! Nice to see you again – I was already pondering where you might’ve wandered. I didn’t wish to start the party without you.” Chad said, right eye fixated right at the Families OG, with the left one now covered by an eyepatch.
“Put that peashooter away, pal, or we gon’ go shooty shooty bang bang on the bustas you brought on the gig!” Bruce added, hardly being able to resist jumping in place due to presumed excitement.

 

To Be Continued...


Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

  • Zaibatsu
  • Joined: 01 May 2009
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    Best Story/Poem 2013 "The Storm"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2011 "Justice in Flames"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2010 "City of Lies"

#39

Posted 19 July 2016 - 11:36 PM

Man, this was great.
 
I wish I was in a condition to offer any analysis, but i am not.

You should give it a go. I'm so far behind with this and a couple of others, I'm not going to do any teardowns until I catch up.

The amount of work carbonix and athende have done in their stories deserves more attention than its getting. I've got a long way to get there :(

Carbonox
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#40

Posted 20 July 2016 - 12:52 AM

 

Man, this was great.
 
I wish I was in a condition to offer any analysis, but i am not.

You should give it a go. I'm so far behind with this and a couple of others, I'm not going to do any teardowns until I catch up.

The amount of work carbonix and athende have done in their stories deserves more attention than its getting. I've got a long way to get there :(

 

Well, I guess I can't really force people to read this stuff, but if it helps your mind, I do know I have multiple regular readers, they're just not public about it. ;)


Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

  • Zaibatsu
  • Joined: 01 May 2009
  • None
  • Most Creative [Writing] 2016
    Most Talented Writer 2015
    Most Talented Writer 2014
    Most Talented Writer 2013
    Best Story/Poem 2013 "The Storm"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2011 "Justice in Flames"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2010 "City of Lies"

#41

Posted 20 July 2016 - 09:46 AM

That's great. Don't worry; I'm not reading under duress. It's just trying to find the time to go in depth with feedback; I can read the chapter in fifteen mins maybe, and can easily say 'it's good but could be better' but A) that doesn't help you grow, and B) your hard work here deserves more.

Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

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#42

Posted 03 August 2016 - 08:36 PM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:41 AM.

Why'd it take almost a month again? I have no real excuse, but anyway, on to the second part!

 

SA17: Cracking Down – Part 2

 

Sweet futilely spent multiple hours with the arcade, followed by a couple of more pleasant pool games before the target finally showed up, right on the hour like clockwork. “She” communicated with the barmaid quietly enough to leave her gender unconfirmed for now – looking for a chance to gain some insight, Sweet ordered one last beer and sat down on the nearest empty table. Somehow he made the drink last for all thirty minutes that the lady took downing her own while watching some British soap opera from the TV – something that would never fly for a self-respecting gangster, but maybe that was just part of the covert operation.

Sweet left the bar shortly after the grandma did, finding her cycling away at low speed to the direction of the train tracks. Getting into his Greenwood, he couldn’t recall another shadowing mission this slow-paced from anytime in the past – if the target was going home now, it had better not be too far away, as the idea of hunting down a killer he knew nothing about in the darkness of the night wasn’t an attractive concept, not even for a leader that was supposed to fear nothing. Whether he liked it or not, risks had to be acknowledged, and in foreign turf in particular, he could turn from predator to prey almost at any time.
He sighed, occasionally checking his surroundings as soon as he got over the tracks and out of the safe zone. “Good thing this f*ckin’ car at least got repainted.”

“Just what the hell is goin’ on here?” Carl had lowered his gun at the sight of the overwhelming crowd of enemies, but forgot to feel fear for the time being as there were so many questions surrounding the unexpected situation.
“There’s a horde of Ballas in a Balla warehouse, and you’re surprised, busta?” Ryder barked.
Chad smiled widely. “Your friend puts it quite well, Carl. We are just doing our job.”
“You know that pseudo-intellectual douchebag?” Ryder asked in continued outrage.
“Whoa! I didn’t realize some of the Families have learned long words too. Welcome to the club, whatever your name is.” Chad said and gave Ryder a sarcastic bow.
“Shocked to see us, huh, Big Shot?” Bruce demanded, waving his light machine gun kind of dangerously in front of the ambushed Families. Carl had to condition himself into remembering that the relatively nice racer he met that had the same name had no association with this prick, whom Sweet should’ve just finished off back at the bar.
“Actually I’m surprised Chad’s still standin’ – and conveniently pretends like he didn’t have that little mental breakdown last time we met.”
Bruce pointed his gun at Carl’s head, acting like he’d uttered the worst offense ever. “Shut yo’ trap, you lil’ c*ntflap!”
“Alright, calm down again. And Carl, my boy, if you knew what those white people at the hospital were capable of, you wouldn’t share your brother’s resentment of the outside world. You’ve really made me miss having my depth perception around, though – and that’s the main reason for my desire to exact retribution right here.”
“Eye for an eye, nigga! Which one should I take?” Bruce laughed maniacally, pointing the M249 back and forth across Carl’s face.
“Let’s just take both!” some other, unknown figure shouted.
“Silence!” Chad fired his own gun in the air, now visibly annoyed with his men. “What is with all of you and your senseless lust for blood? We have the brother of Grove Street’s leader by the balls over here, and none of you show any interest in getting answers out of him?”

Everyone fell dead silent, either feeling bad for letting their emotions get the better of them, or just resenting Chad for bossing them around excessively. “Right then. Carl, I have never seen the two of my men accompanying me and Bruce to Ten Green Bottles since our little brawl. What have you done to them, and where are they?”
“Never seen ‘em? Guess you ain’t got good enough peripheral vision.”
Ryder laughed; Eddie spread his arms while Chad and the other Ballas were taken aback a bit, though Ryder was quickly shut down by the nearest goon pushing a heavy shotgun’s barrel up against him.
“What’s peri-phe-ral vision?” Eddie asked, looking around the room in confusion.
“Shut the hell up!” Another shot in the air by Chad gave him a turn to speak. “I think you’re missing the point here just a little bit, Carl Johnson.” He spoke with the kind of aggression that caused spit to fly into Carl’s face. “I’m not asking nicely – I’m telling you to answer my questions properly, and you know there’s lots of bullets with your name on them in those guns for you to take if you refuse.”
“...No, really, it’s you missin’ the point. Why the f*ck should I bother answerin’ if these monkeys is gonna kill us all anyway when we done? And by the way, I got a shower back home too.”
“That’s racist!” a Balla cried out in anger.
“Well then, why won’t we see how you deal with different pressure? Ever since I found out I was going to live, one of my biggest dreams has been introducing you to the same type of pain as me. Question is, should I dig your eye out with a fork? Spoon? Or a broken bottle, like the one you used?” Chad told, indifferent to Carl having called his bluff.
“Do your worst.” Carl said bluntly, keeping his fear mostly hidden from the enemy. C’mon, Horse, you oughta heard this sh*t go down... do somethin’, anything to end this before it starts.

Chad smirked victoriously at the statement. “Winston, go get me some tools. The rest of you – be ready to open fire on our informant’s friends if he tries fighting back.”
“You a real agent movie villain, huh?” Carl asked with contempt, the Ballas flawlessly complying with their given orders.
“Except you’re no agent with a trick up your sleeve. You could always just give in and obediently answer me if eye-gouging starts to sound unpleasant.”
“Don’t think so.”
“Hey, uhh, if we all basically knockin’ on death’s door, how about we make some last minute confessions to each other?” Eddie made an out-of-the-blue suggestion.
Ryder sneered. “Man, I ain’t gonna confess sh*t!”
“Well, I am! I enjoyed the sh*t outta Gangstas in Mars, and even wrote a short fanfiction on it! I, uhh, know I shoulda used the time for spyin’, but my idea was just too good, and---“
“Hey, ho, wait a sec! What’s so damn weird about likin’ that piece?” Bruce interrupted.
Eddie shrugged in confusion. “Whaddya mean? All those critics an’ sh*t tore it down, said it was a real dog turd of a cash cow film.”
“Critics don’t matter sh*t!” another Balla shouted.
“Buncha white people trynna bring us all down!”
“That thing’s the motherf*ckin’ sh*t! Nigga, I love to watch that when high.”
“Yeah, me too!” Eddie said in excitement, forgetting about the gangs’ rivalry just this once. “Well – except for the ‘high’ part and all that.” he added immediately, making eye contact with Carl and nodding like crazy, even though his boss wasn’t exactly concerned about his drug use at this particular moment.
“Heh. Grove pussies don’t wanna do no drugs.” The Ballas’ tone switched back to a mocking one.
“They so weak they’d manage to die from one dose of reefer!”
“Yes, looks like you’re having great fun tormenting our victims. Just what’s taking Winston so long?” Chad asked impatiently.

The fire alarm started blaring. The immediate reaction of most Ballas was to cover their ears, one of them dropping his gun so awkwardly as he did it that it went off, a lone bullet flying between Bruce’s legs – the reaction of the young Balla was to point his gun at the culprit in panic, Chad along with only a few of his men keeping the Families at bay.
“Did they have a fourth member?” he questioned, with a touch of anger at his voice.
“I dunno...” Lots of unclear mumbling followed from the crowd, mostly inaudible from underneath the alarm.
“Uhh, boss, looks like it ain’t no prank.” a Balla, somewhat high based on his voice, said after taking a look through the corridor and noticing something that put Chad on high alert as well – large, gigantic even, flames burning down the other half of the warehouse and destroying part of the gang’s income as they spoke.
At the same time, Winston barged in from another side door that Carl had forgotten to clear. “Sorry I took so long, here’s the---“
“Not now! And what are the rest of you waiting for? Go do something about that fire before it spreads, and save whatever you can!” Chad shouted, eventually leaving just five Ballas in total to guard their hostages.
“If it’s who I think it is, he’s about to be in enormous trouble...” he mumbled in frustration, though Carl, Ryder and Eddie kept straight faces on and pretended they knew nothing about how the burning was initiated.

Get more water in here already, you lazy-asses!
Don’t boss me around like that, prick!
“Get that sh*t DONE!” Chad yelled his lungs out in disbelief, though the Families only found light amusement in the Ballas’ unorganized ramblings.
“No chucklin’ back there, green boys!” Bruce said smugly.
“Oh, indeed. If this place does go down the sh*tter, the same is about to happen to you three in due time. I have a special friend who’s been waiting for a face-to-face encounter with you almost as much as I have, and I won’t hesitate to bring you to him.” Chad asserted smugly.
Winston, who had been worriedly looking across the hallway at the flames for some time, began to take steps that way. “Ya think I should go help the homies just in case---“

The air exploded. Winston made a clumsy jump to dodge to the side as soon as he saw one of his comrades fly down the hall as if shot out of a cannon, though gravity brought him to ground level soon enough before reaching the other end of the warehouse – the panic didn’t end there however as the other Ballas began scrambling around in utter confusion, Chad being the only one to maintain his composure to some extent. Ryder wasted no time in knocking a shocked Balla down to run behind the van for cover – Eddie and Carl followed, the latter snagging the same gangster’s shotgun while barely dodging Chad’s machine gun fire.

“You think a lone shotgun is enough to protect you, huh?” Chad shouted with anger.
“You think the fire and explosion should prompt you to f*ck off an’ forget about your plans?” Carl responded, firing a blind shot after getting in position.
“I call your bluff, Carl. Who’s to say the explosion wasn’t a well-controlled one that only aimed to kill as many of my men as possible, and force the rest of us to flee for our lives?”
“I might wanna chime in and say you’s really overworking that sharp brain of yours.”

Horse’s appearance in the broken doorway that the van had bashed through earlier was quite a shock for Chad, even with his prior suspicions. The tall GSF member suddenly had a whole party of Ballas at gunpoint, most of them only now gathering themselves.
“Ain’t it nice how help always arrives just as we need it most?” Carl asked his friends.
“Horse? That wasn’t a face I expected to see. If this is your doing, well, you’re moving up on our list extremely fast right now.” Chad threatened with clenched teeth.
“Son, a spot on your ‘list’ ain’t nothin’ but an honor for a nigga like myself. You and your crew been f*cking the streets up long enough.”
“Interesting observation. Do you think your gang’s any better?” Chad said with a mysterious smirk before his face shifted back to anger. “Get off your high horse – and yes, I know that’s your nickname, and it was no intentional joke – and take a look around yourself. Situations like the one in 1985 when your good friends Sweet and Smoke put a pizza joint cashier into a coma for resisting their armed robbery really take away your credibility as moral authorities.”
Ryder scratched his head. “Damn, did this guy do his homework or what?”
“I’d love to out-argue your pseudo-intellectual ass to the ground, but I ain’t here for that. All I say is, at least we got some principles...” Horse said, tone gradually switching to the sad side.
“Pseudo-intellectual? Why does everyone call me that?”
“Well, you gotta admit even yourself, you a bit of an oddball among us.” Horse’s observation wound up getting him weird looks from Ballas and Families alike. “As in, gangstas in general.”
Chad harrumphed. “Either way, in case those of you behind the van are getting any funny ideas, the arrival of the – cavalry – changes nothing. I don’t intend to let any of you leave here alive and free at once.”
“You better.” Horse raised one of his hands up so everyone could clearly see the detonator he was holding. “Unless you wanna be the next to blow up.”
Chad’s laugh was malicious, but it was clear his voice was beginning to crack. “You wouldn’t dare – who’s to say you would survive the explosion any better?”
“Maybe we’s out of range right now – but you ain’t.”
“What’s to stop you from usin’ that thing anyway if you ran off with the little homies?” Winston asked, finally getting on his feet.
“Who that lil’ bitch callin’ a little homie?” Ryder was about to get up, just about being restrained by Carl and Eddie on either side.
“Whatever choice you make, boy, you better make fast – unless you enjoy heat.” Horse told Chad, who had begun to notice fire spreading down the corridor at rapid speed.

Sweet’s process was finally getting somewhere. He had to follow the cycling old lady for at least an hour before her journey came to an end at a complex of small detached houses in the middle of Jefferson. It wasn’t the most dangerous place around, but not the kind where one would want to get caught wearing green in the late hours either. For about the first time, Sweet happened to get held up by traffic in the region just enough to lose sight of the lady as she pulled up to one of the many identical-looking driveways. Taking a good peek at each one, he caught no movement in any of the yards, much to his chagrin – but having got this far, he wasn’t planning on calling it a day without even the slightest result.

At the end of the street, he turned around and drove by those all-too-identical houses once more, now on their side of the road, looking for signs of someone’s recent arrival – or even clues that would point to an elderly resident, just in case it was an all-out undercover operation going on. Flowers were a rare sight on the front porches, not being a popular choice for the young males that tended to inhabit this area, and some houses could be checked off the list by the very fact there was no backyard or garage to ride the bike into. Still, with plenty of decent candidates still remaining after he’d completed his second pass, it felt like a game of Russian roulette. One wrong guess and he was getting a random Balla’s gun to his face, with the law likely against him as well for trespassing or attempted burglary – if he lived long enough to see action taken.

Turning around again to do one more pass-through, swearing that would be the last time before someone got suspicious, Sweet was startled by one of the middle houses’ lights turning on just as he passed by. Seeing no figures in the window that gave him a clear view to the living room, he decided it was safe enough to park the car by the sidewalk and go take a hopeful look. The house looked like a good choice as the lawn was well managed, the flowers he’d been scoping out were placed all around the yard and there was a garage right at the end of the sidewalk, where a bike could’ve comfortably slipped.

Sweet took a moment to double-remind himself that despite the target looking and living like a harmless grandmother, he was dealing with someone that had probably at least four kills to his name (it was getting harder and harder to keep track) and could’ve noticed the Greenwood following him around. Knowing it was always possible for him not to come back from this journey, he did the sensible thing by leaving Carl a voicemail. Disappearing on a vague search with no trace was never a good idea.
“CJ, I might have a lead on the killer. 37 Springfield Ave, go check that sh*t out if you don’t see me at home...”

Sweet crossed the road, heartrate going up like crazy and sweat rolling down his forehead as he approached the door. He’d contemplated on sneaking around the back, but it wasn’t yet dark enough to make it through the yard unnoticed, and looking like a robber would likely be a very bad idea. Just one vigilant neighbor spotting him would be enough for all hell to break loose – no, he needed to act like he belonged here, knock on that front door like a good citizen, but simultaneously be ready for anything the killer might throw at him.

The waiting time after the knock was the worst part, especially after he began to hear the footsteps approaching from the other side. Sweet wasn’t completely sure of what to expect upon coming face to face with the resident, but in his mind he’d already drawn up the image of a slightly above average-built black male, maybe with a tattoo or two – and serious brain damage for daring to take the fight to the Families in such a cowardly manner.

What waited for him behind the door was an almost unexpected relief, except from a strict mission completionist standpoint.
“Oh, my! Never thought I’d see you here, Sean.”
“Uh – have we, like, met before?” Sweet asked awkwardly, scratching his head. This certainly was a black lady, the wrinkles on her face and the eyes’ shape were too natural to be the product of any mask, and the clearly frail bearing just added to the authenticity.
The woman had a laugh. “Oh, you young folks always goin’ places so much, you tend to forget the simplest things... of course I know you. Beverly’s boy, that’s what you is. I used to drop by every now and then, have a lovely lil’ chat... you was already all grown and busy with those ‘homies’ of yours.”
“No, wait a sec. You’re Monique, right?”
Another light chuckle followed. “Splendid – I knew you had it in ya. Please, come on in so we can catch up.”
“Uhh, wait.” Sweet applied minor resistance to the old lady pulling him inside. “I’d love to stay and chat too, but uhh, I was lookin’ for someone else and got the wrong house---“
“Nonsense. Fate clearly brought you here, and you – if anyone – is in desperate need of somethin’ to eat.” That having been said, Monique pulled him a lot harder past the threshold, and Sweet was treated to a sight of a house that was clearly too well-kept to have any chance in hell of being a serial killer’s hangout.

While Sweet was getting in touch with his polite side for a change, Carl’s situation was sticky in a highly different way, waiting behind the GSF’s van for a resolution to Chad and Horse’s stand-off. The smell of smoke was becoming more prominent in the air by the second, everyone but Horse showing distress at the fact – even Chad had to value his survival more than his pride, right.
“Alright then, Terrance – you win this round. Take your crew and make yourselves scarce.” he said, barely keeping a straight face as his remaining henchmen began to gather themselves, all with their heads down to lament the loss.
“You guys get in, I’ll hold ‘em at bay.” Horse said, sweeping his aim around the room as everyone other than Chad willingly lowered their weapons.
Eddie put his hands up in celebration. “Finally! I been itchin’ for steak for a long time now.”
Chad scowled. “Horse meat, I hope.”

Not more than three seconds later, he was forced to dive for his life as yet another explosion took the whole bunch of gangbangers by surprise, this one coming from above and bringing down a solid bit of the ceiling with it, which fell right on top of the spot where Chad had been standing a mere moment ago.
“Bad move, Sparkle-Pony!” Winston yelled, not wasting any time to pick up his gun and lay waste at the Families’ direction. Horse just about made it behind the van on time – but the plan for a peaceful exit went out of the window.
“Where’d you come up with that?” another Balla soldier asked in surprise, having re-armed himself as well.
“Doesn’t matter now. Spread out, flank the bastards!” Chad barked.
“Umm, boss – fire’s spreadin’ too as you speak. Kinda too fast for my liking.” a frightened Bruce commented, instead of following the order immediately.
“I WANT OUTTA HERE!” Winston quickly went to full panic mode when more debris fell from the ceiling, and rushed in the van’s direction like some headless chicken, ignoring Chad’s not-so-polite “requests” to do as he said.

“The hell’d you do, Horse? We had ‘em by the ballsacks, why you detonated another bomb anyway?” Carl asked in disgust, something Ryder and Eddie agreed with as well.
“Wasn’t my fault, CJ! I had no idea the fire would spread upstairs so fast!”
“Wait, there was a second floor?”
“Found a hidden ladder leadin’ up to some labs above. I set my other charge in there when I saw you was in a situation.”
“Well, heat rises. There’s your science lesson for the day – now someone figure out how to get us outta here in one piece!”
“Dunno about you two, but I’m startin’ to like Eddie’s idea of final confessions...” Ryder said in a tone that reeked of defeat – but before they could hear what he had to say, the van started up right next to them, and before either Carl or Horse had the chance to stop the thieving Winston, he had found reverse gear and backed it right out of the building through the same hole Eddie blasted through previously.

Well, almost. As luck would have it, Winston was a bit inaccurate in his movement, and took out additional parts of the wall next to the already big enough hole, which was good enough to bring down a weakened support beam and cause the entrance to cave in on anyone thinking about escaping via the same route. Not only that, but the loss of their temporary cover made the quartet feel quite defenseless.
“I’m startin’ to like that concept too now, Ryder...” Carl remarked before all four were forced to dive for cover as Chad, Bruce and their surviving soldiers began shooting once again, though by now the smoke was starting to fill up the room and obscure their vision.
“Motherf*cker just stole a bunch of our supplies!” Ryder shouted.
Chad took a few shots at the location of his voice, though they were absorbed by a box of drugs. “He acted cowardly and against orders, but the Ballas thank you for the donation nonetheless.”
“How about you give us a blood donation in return? Real big one, that is!” Carl shouted, in turn taking a shot in Chad’s direction. It was a bit rash, with him essentially blind-firing a shotgun, but it got the purple-wearing figure to back off.
“Uhh, Chad? I feel like my skin’s ‘bout to melt here!” Bruce complained while exchanging shots with Horse.
“Alright! If you whiners feel like a little puff of smoke is too much of a deterrent to capture a mostly defenseless enemy squad, then by all means, retreat to the underground passage! Just don’t expect many kind words from Kane...”
“Underground passage! That could be a way outta this mess, right?” Eddie asked hopefully from Ryder, now swaying his arms around to keep the thickening smoke out of his face.
“Sh’yeah, it’d do just fine if we didn’t need to share with the Ballas.”
“I’ll deal with ‘em. Watch this nigga’s finesse in clearin’ up a path.”

Carl wasn’t expecting big results, and promptly had to admit his surprise when he saw Eddie sneaking around like a ninja, keeping himself low for maximum visibility, and actually taking an escaping Balla by surprise just before he was about to leap into the now open hatch that looked quite like a sewer manhole. He managed to choke the Balla all the way to unconsciousness without much noise, save for the point where his gun fell to the ground with a thud. Dismissing that little detail, he scoped around for his next victim – only to come face-to-face with another young fellow in purple.
“Peekaboo!” Bruce said, suppressing a giggle as he now had an unarmed Eddie at gunpoint.
“Oh, f*ck... at least tell me you read my fanfiction?”
“No can do, Grave Street scum.”

The gunshot seemed extraordinarily loud, likely because Carl was well aware that it was not the survivable kind, Eddie’s ragdoll-like collapsing corpse serving as confirmation. As soon as he had processed what just went on, both he and Horse charged into Bruce’s direction, while he gave one last wave to his rivals and jumped down into the hatch, managing to close it behind him just before Carl would’ve been in position to kick the cover out of his reach.
“You’re just delaying your fate, scum!” Horse yelled down into the passage before jerking the cover out of its place again – and being forced to back off as a burst of bullets came flying straight up.
“I got more where that came from if you try followin’ me!” Bruce taunted.
“Please tell me you got pineapples, ‘cause I’d love to drop one as a parting gift.” Carl said with a massively furious tone, only for Horse to sadly shake his head.
“I heard that! And I’m done toyin’ with you bitch-asses. So long, Johnson, see ya in Ferguson!”

“At least they ain’t got any defects in the agitation department.” Carl muttered with a sigh as Bruce’s running steps on some sort of a wet surface began to distance themselves from him.
Horse took up the most authoritative voice he had – quite a convincing one, Carl had to admit. “OK, enough with this f*cking around sh*t! Just look where it got Eddie. The Ballas ain’t gonna let us use that corridor without a fight, and we ain’t prepared for sh*t like that. Besides our work’s mostly done now, so I’m gonna make us an exit in the old-fashioned way before we get in trouble with 5-0. Lend me the shotty, CJ.”
“But – what about Eddie? This ain’t no final restin’ place for a fine nigga like him.” Ryder complained from near a mainly intact drug crate.
“Then carry him outside instead of admirin’ that junk!” Horse shouted, and with the automatic shotgun now in hand, began blasting a hole into the weakened wall.

His decisive approach seemed to work, as even Ryder got off his usually lazy ass to do as told. It didn’t help Carl’s self-confidence much as he thought of himself as a plain incompetent leader, based on the experiences throughout the mission. Was this gang business his true calling after all, or was he just trying to fill boots much too large for him – was his destiny to stay down in the lower ranks and get ordered around? Questions bombarded him repeatedly, but he only found himself finding an answer to one – whether or not this was the right time to assess his standing, midway through the escape from a collapsing building where the smoke felt like it was burning his lungs out by the second. And the answer was a definite no.

“Things is confusing here, so let’s all rendezvous at that dark alley overlookin’ part of the sewer canal.” Horse ordered, having made the biggest hole he possibly could on the north wall, fortunately leading onto a mainly empty sidewalk now that the explosions had definitely scattered bystanders away from the scene. The hole was almost too small for a grown man to fit through, thus the process of escaping was slow – first out was Ryder, who then pulled the late Eddie through as well with Horse assisting from the other side. The elder gang member gathered all the leftover equipment – mainly guns – that he could find before crouch-walking, just to be safe, through and into fresh air, a much-needed relief after breathing a lot of the smoke.

Carl was about to leave the place last, having also collected a few guns to compensate for the loss of the van. With the mission almost over, as Horse had put it, he had no reason to expect any further complications – which was exactly why it caught him off guard so much when he suddenly felt an elbow wrap around his neck, only moments before he was about to climb out. Any immediate attempts to shout at the homies for assistance were suppressed by the grabber shoving a fist into his mouth, while dragging him backwards.
“Oh no, you don’t, CJ... we’re not done yet.” Chad’s voice muttered into his ear, something he could almost see coming since he was attacked.

“So how’d you get to know Moms anyway?” Sweet asked, mouth almost full of meatloaf that was allegedly a nicer alternative to what Carl was having.
“We used to work for the same cleaning company. A minor age difference never bothered us one bit, and it wasn’t like we kept up much with our old friends, so I guess we turned to each other kinda naturally...” Monique explained while preparing even more food for her guest, the tone of the voice indicating she’d been feeling lonely for a fairly long time.
“Was you two friends all the way until – uhh – the event this year? I don’t think I remember seein’ you around for ten or so years.”
The elderly lady became noticably more aggressive in her work. “We lost contact long before that – and no, it had nothin’ to do with our personal relations. It was all thanks to groups of young men who felt the need to declare certain ‘hoods their turf. And as that went on, the two of us got caught on different sides of the border.”
Sweet got a brief stinging feeling in his heart, probably a deserved one. “I – uh – I’m sorry? You ain’t angry with me, right?”
“No, Sean, this ain’t anger. I know you too well you’s a good kid who just didn’t have a choice. You and Carl and all your siblings and friends... except maybe Lance, but I digress. Look, I ain’t angry, I’m just confused – what’s the point of all this? What is it that makes you and the others vandalize public walls with graffiti, or have pointless shootouts that only get young, talented boys dead or arrested? Why? Why won’t y’all just quit dividin’ one another by gang color and team up to make this sh*thole part of town better for everyone?”
“Drugs.” Sweet had been debating on how to present that answer for a moment, and it didn’t come across quite as he hoped. “I mean, not like we fightin’ over dealing space or anythin’ – we, the Families kinda want ‘em off our streets.”
Monique shook her head determinedly while he spoke. “You might have the moral ground over there, Sean, but you’re fightin’ a losing battle, no way around it.”
“Whaddya mean? I’ve cleaned out dealers left and right---“
“Sure you may have, but the damage has been done! It’s like what this one friend from Michigan used to say: ain’t no use cryin’ once the milk’s already been spilled. I hate crack as much as you and your friends do, Sean, but it ain’t goin’ away – not if you slaughter the entire dealer population, not if your Families take control of every block from the docks to Las Colinas – only way you can defeat crack is with some stronger and meaner product.”
“You seem to know your way around our business better than I thought.” Sweet said in surprise, as another plate was served in front of him as soon as he was done with the last.
“I’m not stupid, boy. I follow my media closely.”
“The Ballas don’t bother you or anythin’, right?”
“Why should they? All I ever hear from ‘em is compliments on my cookin’.”
“Mm. Yeah, I can get behind that.” Sweet said, focusing more on his food again – and taking a good, long, hard look at how his personal war had gone from a more neutral standpoint, even if he usually didn’t take kindly to being challenged. He thought back to all the dealers taken out by either him or the others – going all the way back to his very first victim – and how their deaths had given him a moment of satisfaction and probably disturbed the drug flow in a very limited area for a day or two... but if anything, the Balla turfs were only continuing to fill up with product in spite of that. Mason Alley used to be one of the few major crack den concentrations in the whole town, but now it felt like every neighborhood had a number of such places – even Families turf wasn’t entirely safe despite his men’s recently improved efficiency in weeding out dealers. But then there was the other side to the coin...

“I can’t just give it up.” he said in low spirits. “I mean, even if I quit fightin’ the dealers, the Ballas will never call a truce, this sh*t’s too far gone.”
“All that sounds just like what your cousin always told me he was afraid of. Didn’t you ever consider Aldrin’s advice on how to do your thing?”
That was exactly why Sweet hated being called out so much. “I didn’t have a lotta choices back then either. I worked wit’ what I had.”
“What became of him anyway? He was always such a well-mannered gentleman.”
“Cousin Al? He – uhh – well, he didn’t make it. Streets is tough on young boys.”
“Oh...” Monique became clearly upset, prompting Sweet to think twice about whether lying to save face was worth it in this situation. Oh well, if the milk’s spilled, better quit whinin’. Wait, how’d that go again...
“Yeah, it ain’t a nice story. But erm, I appreciate the hospitality, but gotta bail, I had a meeting and the other guy won’t be happy...” Sweet stated, noting it was getting dark – he was already rising up when the grandma immediately walked to him and firmly sat him down again.
“First, you must eat.”
“I already ate two plates, I’m full---“
“Blah! You’re too thin, Sean, just look at yourself! I remember Melvin and Terrance always had better eating habits, that’s why they’d outgrow you. Today you eat a proper meal, get that strength you gotta have these days.”
Yeah, I agree ‘bout Horse, but that damn Smoke’s lucky to not need a wheelchair...
“You not havin’ any yourself?”
“I already had a drink – it’s all I need for the evening. And I’m personally starting to get a bit tired of meatloaf myself...”

Carl knew he was going to be in a mess of trouble if he got dragged down the hatch, which seemed like Chad’s intention – thus he used all his strength to pry himself loose from his grip, finally succeeding when he backed up to a wall and began squeezing Chad against it, while elbowing him in the stomach multiple times. The Balla let out a wince of pain as Carl made some distance from him before turning around. Fitting through the hole would simply take too much time and allow him to catch up again – no, he had to fight off the man, just like in the bar.
“You’re slipping, Carl. If your peripheral vision was up-to-date, you could’ve seen me coming a lot more effectively.” Chad mocked.
“I thought a smart-ass nigga would be above cheap-ass insults like that. Or better yet, you shoulda known better to f*cking run when the house’s about to burn down.” he said with a frown.
“And I know that if I return to Kane with nothing, the mission will be a failure and I’ll be on the receiving end of a punishment. Taking you with me is easily the best way to avert that fate.”
Carl prepared himself for Chad’s charging attack just on time, dodging out of the way, though the Balla followed up with more attempts to knock him out – Carl held him off by grabbing his hands and trying to wrestle him to a wall again. On the way, Chad stepped over the body of an addict that Carl had shot a while ago.
“How’d you pushers let those druggies in and not even do a thing about it?” Carl laughed.
“It’s called killing two birds in one stone. They were dangerous men, ones that would stab a dealer for a mere gram of product – we decided to bring them in for a little tour at our facility, and waste a chunk of your bullets and maybe concentration once you’d show up.”
“So, you spied on me, huh?” Carl asked, aiming a kick at Chad’s lower body that he blocked with his own foot – other than that, their fight was in a bit of a stalemate.
“Not like there’s anything wrong with it.”
“And what of the Balla guards stationed in here? They meant to be bullet sponges too?”
Chad frowned. “Alas, something like that. In my defence, the average Balla is so, shall I say, intellectually challenged – as you saw a few moments ago – that sending a few on what amounts to a suicide mission is no big loss if it means ambushing your crew.”
Carl responded with an immediate laugh. “You reap what you sow, nigga. If your choice’s to join the Ballas, don’t cry when they ain’t blessed with a brain like yours.”

It was like Chad was struck with newfound strength as he broke the grip and landed a quick punch in Carl’s stomach, one that could’ve immobilized him if not for his binge training sessions at the Ganton Gym. The second punch was then successfully blocked, and the two began walking in circles around each other, even forgetting about the increasing lung pain from the smoke.
“Don’t talk about things you don’t understand!” Chad said impatiently. “The Ballas were the only people who had my back at the lowest point of my life, and for that, I’m more than glad to offer them my services.”
“Lowest point? What could that be? The day you met Bruce, I think.” Carl mocked.
“I’ll only tolerate so much trash-talking about my personal friends, and you’ve just crossed the line, you bitchy piece of sh*t.”
Dodging more of Chad’s punches, Carl wasn’t letting up. “Tell me somethin’, is you a real Balla anyway? You might be black and wear purple, but it takes more than that, don’t it?”
“Why don’t you ask the Vago I put in the hospital in my initiation test?”
“Ebonics, motherf*cker, do you speak it?”
Chad laughed at his face. “Since when has speaking your incoherent ‘language’ been a prerequisite to join up? And allow me to present another counter-question while we’re at it – high school diploma, motherf*cker, do you have it?”
Carl went red from a combination of anger and embarrassment, something that didn’t go unnoticed even if some of the color came from the fire burning away the foundation not too far from them. Chad had another laugh at his expense. “Yes, just like back in school, I did my homework all right. Between you, Sweet and Brian, you boys have a long and impressive list of school drop-outs, don’t you? Of course, sadly one of them was for premature lifelessness reasons, but still, doesn’t that reflect to your later lack of success as an organization? If you’d only learned how to manage money...”
What? If Chad hadn’t crossed the line before, he sure did it now.
“Burn in hell.” Carl hissed, shoving Chad’s next punch to the side and aggressively backhanding him right in the face, showing even some surprise that he actually made the hit connect. As Chad fell down to the floor, dazed from the impact, Carl continued to land hits wherever he could – he swore he’d break the man, rip out his other eye too, smash every bone in his body, make him feel the pain he so utterly deserved for his insolence...

Another explosion up above brought him to his senses and reminded him there was no time for that where he was standing. Carl was lucky to look up when he did, because even through the smoke, he was able to spot a support beam about to crumble and likely fall uncomfortably near where he was standing – and there was the wall of fire too, continuing to eat away at the building’s foundations and threatening to surround him. As the beam came down, Carl had already rushed away and left Chad behind – a slow death in the oven-like conditions served him just fine, even if it wasn’t as personal.

He spat in the direction in which he left Chad, spat as far as he could to add fuel to the fire, and ran like hell to the custom-made exit that was still luckily standing. Forcing himself through the narrow space in record time, Carl felt as though he had just entered heaven as he breathed in clear air for a welcome change, was able to see again (though all the lights around him felt almost too bright for now) and wasn’t being heated up from all directions like a sausage in a grill. Speaking of that, it almost left him hungry...

“So, how’s things?” he asked Horse and Ryder, who had been waiting in the agreed spot, much to his pleasure. He was just about on time as the first responders arrived only moments before he slipped into the alley.
Ryder predictably scowled. “What the hell took you? Found porn mags you just couldn’t leave alone?”
“Yeah, look who’s talkin’, the nigga who can’t even get laid for free. No, my old pal Chad just wanted to heat things up before we’d say our goodbyes.”
“Did you kill him?” Horse asked.
“I motherf*ckin’ hope so. Anyway, now what? We need a ride if we gonna get all this sh*t home...”
“It’s set up. Tarnell and Troy’ll be here in no time.”
“OK, well they can drop me off at Cluckin’ Bell or somethin’. Or wait, make it Well Stacked. I ain’t in the mood for any fried chicken after that experience...” Carl took a seat, all the exhaustion getting to him now that the adrenaline wore off.

It was already nearly pitch dark when Carl got back to Grove Street again, stomach full and stress levels back to normal. As much as he wanted to just tuck into bed and take a rest he thoroughly deserved, he felt it would be inappropriate not to first report his experiences to Sweet, whose home currently had the lights on.
“You here, bro?” Carl asked, opening the door that wasn’t locked after no one answered his knocks.
“Right here – in the living room...” a faint voice uttered, the tone indicating that something was badly wrong. Carl rushed to where it came from, finding Sweet lying on his couch, holding his stomach in clear pain while watching some late night horror film from the TV.
“What’s the matter, Sweet? You ain’t been shot, have you?” Carl shouted in distress.
“Hold your horses, CJ, I just ate too much.” Sweet groaned.
“You aspiring to have a body like Smoke’s?”
“Quit your bullsh*t already, bro! All you gotta know is, that lead to the serial killer was as much a dead end as you’d think. But don’t you think I’ve given up on the hunt yet... *cough* This was only a minor f*ckin’ setback.”
“Then what did you find that got you in pain? Burger Shot, King Knuts...?”
“You still remember Monique?” Sweet asked, turning the TV off as a screaming scene really disturbed the conversation.
Carl rolled his eyes. “Moms’ friend who used to think our gang business was some roleplay?”
“Well, you got quicker memory than me then. Yeah, she kinda was that old lady from the bar. Filled me in on how turf wars suck ass, yadda yadda yadda, and filled me up too.”
“Well, you take a rest.” Carl said, now with a faint laugh, about to exit when he remembered he had his own stories to share. “Oh, by the way, I met Chad and Bruce back there too.”
“I know, Horse explained some sh*t. Eddie got blasted, apparently...” Carl nodded sadly as Sweet mentioned it. “Any – uhh – hints they dropped, though?”
“On the spree killa? No.”
“The Balla supporter list, then?”
“Absolutely f*ck all. And don’t call it that, what happened to due process and sh*t?” Carl said with a hint of truth in the statement, though Sweet predictably dismissed it as a joke.
“Those folks can prove their innocence once we track ‘em down. But fine, get goin’, and lock the door. I ain’t gonna let guests in ‘till I can walk normally again...”

Meanwhile at 39 Springfield Ave, Jefferson...

“Well?”
“Well, what?”
“How about – how’d it go today?” a man with a gruff voice asked.
“I think I gotta look for alternative ideas from here on in. I’m pretty sure Sweet saw something was wrong about me – why else would he tail me all the way over here?” the other one said, coffee cup shaking in his hands as he spoke.
A frown quickly found its way to the friend’s face. “He didn’t confront you, did he?”
“No, he just... never showed up. But I kept the curtains closed in case he’d spy around and try to see my face, and had a gun at the ready – since you know I would take him if he tried anything – but nothing happened, so I then spied around and saw him leave the house next door instead, which I think means he’s either not too bright or just didn’t know where I went, since all the houses look the same and---“
“OK, enough. You really need to work on explaining things in less words than that.”
“You’re asking for a lot.” the house owner muttered.
“It’s just a matter of convenience. Anyway, you considered moving?”
“Only if they come back lurking again. Would hate to exchange this place for anything else – what with Monique always cookin’ up for me as a reward for looking after my ‘sick grandma’.”
“Just be careful with them from now on. Also, as much I appreciate your spying efforts, maybe it’s time we acknowledged the risks and called it quits. Besides, the killings are more your forte.”
He flashed an evil smile. “Oh, yes. Still plenty of marks to leave around town...”
“And I bet you wouldn’t miss sitting at that dirty bar in disguise and watching The Old and the Bored all the time just to maintain that façade.” his friend added jokingly.
“I guess I wouldn’t...” the killer said with a sigh. “Except I sorta began to enjoy that show.”
 

The End.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#43

Posted 28 August 2016 - 04:07 PM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:41 AM.

SA18: The Hills Have Ears – Part 1

 

Carl woke up to a panic attack. Realistic nightmares that represented current issues in his life were nothing new to him by this point, but the way they took his dream-self by complete surprise each time still frightened him just as badly as ever. Still a bit shaken up, Carl took the next few minutes re-assuring himself that Felix Schrader was not a cannibal that was going to gnaw on his nether regions while he was still fully conscious as punishment for failing to pay his debts – but only a shady businessman who could make him disappear with no one batting an eye.

Although Carl hadn’t just sat at home and been useless for the last couple of days, he felt that maybe, just maybe he’d been too negletful in trying to work his way out of the mess... but what were his options really? Working under the Families’ banner was mostly just a matter of earning respect, which couldn’t be cashed in anywhere as far as he knew, and running Schrader’s errands hadn’t opened a whole lot of doors for him like he’d hoped. It was a shame he had to think that, but having someone like Chad on his side could really have helped with the brainwork. Until then, Carl was going to have to work on his own, and intended to take a little morning walk around his turf to help his mind focus.

What he found outside, however, was a congregation once again. Carl knew that the cul-de-sac was generally a great place for those, but what were the odds that from time to time again, it’d be some of his closest friends that were meeting up right there? This time, apart from Sweet and Smoke – both of whom were in condition to walk around again, albeit the latter holding a barf bag for emergency situations – he recognized a bulk of even more faces, though.
“You know the drill, Horse. Show the kid some places, get him acquainted and sh*t. You two, well, tag along in case Ball-pushers get any ideas.” Sweet ordered.
“Wohoo! Let’s roll, ni**ers!” Billy shouted, hardly bothering to contain his excitement.
Horse gave him a firm fillip right away, beating Sweet to it. “Rule number one, you ain’t callin’ us that word. You better make it real big on our ranks before you even consider that again.”
“I see the standards of new recruits have gone up, as usual.” Carl said to get the crowd’s attention.
All of the six official members – including Ryder, who’d been obscured behind Smoke’s back – gave him the usual greetings, while Billy winced a bit as soon as he realized who was present. Good, Carl thought, ‘least he knows to fear someone in this crew.
“So what y’all on about here?”
“Billy’s about to see places with a buncha big homies.” Sweet announced.
“And maybe, just maybe, aid us in robbin’ a store when night falls.” Horse continued.
“Want me to be there and bail y’all out when he screws up?” Carl asked, earning laughs from mostly everyone, Billy just going red and choosing not to retort that.
“Pot, meet kettle.” Ryder said subtly.
Sweet went from amused to angry within seconds. “Now, Ryder, you don’t start your sh*t flingin’ again! And that’s an order!”
“I guess it’s a good time for me, Bert an’ Warren to get on the move then!” Horse proclaimed, gesturing everyone into the Glendale that had been parked nearby.

“So what’s on our agenda today?” Carl asked once the others had made their way out of sight, turning attention away from the sh*tstorm about to commence.
Sweet smirked. “What’s on the agenda, you say? Reunitin’ the Families, expandin’ our turf, findin’ me a new girlfriend... all kinds of sh*t really. There ain’t such a thing as a non-busy day anymore.”
“Say, what happened to the Seville girl anyway? I ain’t seen her since – well, back when I had to save y’all’s asses.”
“Couldn’t handle the set war, so we called it quits.” Sweet said, now a little somber.
“Well, you won’t have trouble with the search for new pussy, that’s fo’ sure. You’s like the playboy of the hood, you must have ten kids by now.” Carl said with a wink. Sweet, sadly, looked more offended than amused.
“All of ‘em with a different lady, too.” Smoke continued.
“Man, what’s it with y’all and... ugh, forget it. Let’s move to the good stuff. Believe it or not, CJ, I finally broke the hostages in purple that we stashed up ages ago.”
“What’d they have for ya?”
“Well, nothin’ much about any future events of course ‘cause they wasn’t there to plan any of that, but they say Kane’s had talks with some Latino gang boss from San Fierro for a long time now. And I believe the name matches someone you an’ Ryder had a run-in with...” Sweet explained.
“T-Bone Mendez.” Carl and Ryder said in unison right away. It wasn’t pleasant news, but at least they weren’t unaware of the potential danger.
“T-Bone ain’t the kinda motherf*cker you should go pissin’ off.” Smoke said shaking his head.
“He pissed us off first, though.” Ryder retorted with a sneer.
“Won’t make a difference to that ese.” Smoke insisted.

Midway through their conversation, a lot of things went on within a short amount of time.

Sweet took a call from Horse that he didn’t expect to get this soon after they’d embarked; meanwhile, John Carlson, who had just emerged from his modest little hovel, saw fit to loudly greet the four OG’s as if to remind them he still existed.
“Sweet, be careful back there. We just saw some---“ Horse told frantically.
Howdy, friends and neighbors! I was just wondering if any of you have spare berries I could put in my pie!” John’s voice towered over whatever warning was being issued.
“...I think they’re on their way to Grove Street...”
“Hold your horses, Horse, I can’t hear a f*cking thing, I’ll call you right back... YO, CAN YOU F*CKIN’ TONE IT DOWN BACK THERE?!”
“How else are you supposed to hear me though?” John asked, volume in sustainable levels at last now that he got closer to the group.
“I didn’t need to hear ya, ‘cause I was on the damn phone!” Sweet raged.
“Huh.” John said, giving him an offended shrug before walking right back where he came from. “I guess you’re having a bad day then.”
“What was the call about, anyway?” Carl asked the still growling Sweet, who stomped the pavement to channel his anger someplace other than his homies’ faces.
“Horse tried warnin’ us about some threat on the way. Ryder, get us some guns ready.”
“The threat ain’t possibly that thing?” Ryder asked, pointing at a large, dark shape that just arrived to the street behind Sweet.

It was definitely not the usual kind of transport seen on Grove Street – usually limousines only showed up in the Vinewood Boulevard region. Now, if the quartet was lucky, this vehicle contained some rich playboy or socialite that had gotten lost big time and was just begging to get robbed---
“Get in before it’s too late!” Andreas Richter shouted from the open window, just as the limo came to a stop next to the gangsters.
“Sh*t, CJ, what’d you get us into now?” Ryder whined.
“I don’t---“ Carl had no words for the current situation.
“JOHN! Call up the homies! We in deep sh*t!” Sweet screamed at his neighbor while he was still within hearing distance.
“You didn’t see or remember anything!” Andreas told John after he had turned around; the man only shrugged and continued on his way to his house.
“You four coming or what?” An unknown man, in gray like all the others inside, opened the door to let the Families inside. None of them having a gun in hand at the moment, and Andreas and his colleague having theirs clearly visible, it was probably best to do as they said, even though the Germans were more occupied scouting the outer perimeter of the area for some reason.

The four entered the car one by one, Andreas’ fellow high-ranking lieutenant Amadeus doing a quick personal search for everyone and even going as far as poking his head into Smoke’s bag – the bulky OG undoubtedly having hoped that it wasn’t completely empty at that moment.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Sweet demanded to know once all four had been sat down in the comfortable but ominous back area and the car was moving again.
Andreas looked confused, as did Amadeus, who remained with his partner while the unknown man went back to the front to sit next to the driver. “You mean Carl didn’t tell you?”
“I didn’t expect sh*t to go down like this!” Carl said as soon as the accusatory faces of his friends intensely turned to stare at him. He could feel the secrecy of his dumb decision beginning to fade.
“What are you talking about?” Andreas asked with only further confusion.
Sweet stood up, only to hit his head on the ceiling and embarrassedly descend back to his seat – but his anger remained. “How about the fact you just motherf*ckin’ kidnapped our asses? Is this how you respond to me when I say I ain’t interested in more of your work?”
“Oh dear. Amadeus, do you want to explain the situation, or should I?”
“No, wait. I – uhh – I must probably spill the beans myself.” Carl said quickly, much to the pleasure of Amadeus, who didn’t look like he was in the mood for long talks.
Andreas shrugged. “Whatever then, go ahead.”
Carl took what felt like the longest breath in his life, almost hoping to choke on it so he wouldn’t have to face his friends’ reaction. “I sorta borrowed money from Schrader so I could bet on myself in the race and help make us rich. But I swear, I had a real good, calculated plan to win, and it was no one but Hilary King who screwed it up, but anyway now I’m in debt and---“ He turned to Andreas after remembering they were stuck at the back of a limo. “Man, f*ck, whatever you got in store for me, you better not hurt my homies ‘cause they ain’t got nothin’ to do with this.”

Sweet, Ryder and Smoke had their eyes wide open from shock; Andreas, on the other hand, went from puzzled to amused as Carl went on, before finally erupting in uncontrolled laughter – Amadeus next to him chuckling a few times and shaking his head.
“You can’t be serious, can you? Oh god – you think we came here to kidnap your entire posse for that? Oh, for Christ’s sake, for a moment I thought you really were up to speed.”
“What the f*ck? CJ went out of his ways to borrow money? I thought you got raised better than that!” Sweet yelled in disbelief.
“See, I told ya! I’d never do somethin’ like this!” Ryder added.
“Guys, it ain’t no big deal, it’s my personal problem only---“
“Let’s all calm down here and tackle one issue at a time.” Andreas said – but as this had no effect on the shouting and the blaming, he and Amadeus had to pull out guns.
“This is still not a kidnapping, but we don’t tolerate sh*t like this in the company car. Now, you listen and fix your broken relationships at some other time.”
“Well, f*cking speak then!” a bitter Sweet said, crossing his arms.
“We admit that the way we picked you up wasn’t very tactful – but it was necessary as we spotted some threats in the immediate area.” A loud rattling noise began to accompany Andreas’ explanation, which his friend quickly caught on to.
“Look to the right if you don’t believe us.” Amadeus grunted.

Sweet was unlikely to drop his attitude no matter what, but at the very least he felt great relief when he realized he was looking at a band of angry Angels of Death members closing in on Grove Street from the safety of being behind dark tinted windows.
Andreas smiled as he saw the relief in the others’ faces too. “You would rather be here than out in the open, unarmed, and blissfully unaware of the approaching threat now, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, point taken. But it woulda been polite to say that immediately.” Smoke mumbled.
Andreas shrugged casually. “My mistake. Now, let’s move on, leave the Angels to their fruitless search, and proceed to point two. Carl, I admire both your honesty and the way you take responsibility for your own actions. But you need to learn to pay attention to detail, because if you did, you’d know you have two whole months to pay.”
“Don’t think it changes things much...” Carl said, concealing his face to his best ability.
“Good race you had there, though. I saw it on TV.” Amadeus told, prompting Carl to raise his head a little bit to establish eye contact. “Makes me think your driving talents could earn us the money back in no time.”
If I could get my confidence back, he thought, taking a deep sigh.
“So, from the way you speak, it seems you had more reasons to show up than just save our asses, huh? You better not force us to do more of your dirty work, ‘cause I ain’t interested.” Sweet said to Andreas in the meantime.
“Oh, we do have work for you. It’s optional if you want to participate or not, but at the very least, come receive the briefing from the mansion. It might interest you more than you think.”
“Mansion, huh?” Carl asked in surprise.

Mansion almost felt like too small a word to describe the eventual destination, the three-floored colossus of a building that towered over all the others in its vicinity, with the garden also complimenting this appearance with a fountain, neatly arranged flowerbeds and what appeared to be a tennis court a bit further ahead. Carl didn’t know if he was supposed to still be rooting for Schrader, but he still got a smug smile on his face thinking about this behemoth completely trumping Chesterfield’s smaller-scale estate.
“We goin’ inside?” he asked once the limo was parked on the driveway and Amadeus went ahead to open up the doors to the estate.
“Unless you’d rather we fetch a lunch basket and hold a damn picnic on the boss’s wasp-infested lawn, yes.”
“Hey, we don’t normally get permission to enter places like this. Just checkin’.”
“Sh’yeah, except most of the time we don’t need that.” Ryder added with a laugh that was quickly suppressed by Sweet hitting him. If that wasn’t enough, he nearly jumped when a massive German Shepherd poked its head around the corner of the mansion and immediately began to viciously bark at the group – Ryder and Carl were already backing up towards the limo again when they noticed it wasn’t roaming free, but on a barely noticeable leash held by a guard, who frankly didn’t look any more happy to see the guests than the dog.
“Cutter, shut up. Don’t you see they came with us?” Amadeus said in an annoyed tone.
“And have you properly had them checked?” the guard asked, his dog continuing to violently pull on the leash, just ready to tear at the flesh of whichever perceived intruder was first to be caught.
Andreas beat Amadeus to the response. “Being higher up in the ranks than you, I think we’re competent enough to know to do that. OK, come on in, and excuse me about that encounter.”
“By the way, CJ...” Sweet whispered in his ear ominously as they stepped over the threshold and through a metal detector, “I’ll deal with you soon as we done talkin’ with your friend.” Carl chose not to respond, but was bothered by the fact he was able to hear Sweet whispering something to Smoke as well right afterwards, and something told him he was the subject of that less-than-positive discussion.

“Welcome to my home – please, make yourself comfortable.” Schrader said formally once they had been escorted straight to the living room. Carl felt a sense of relief that he wasn’t acting at all pompous or condescending like he had (irrationally?) feared – rather, the well-dressed mansion owner took his time shaking everyone’s hands before directing them to the most comfortable couch in the room, facing a screen likely about to be used for presentation purposes. Judging by Sweet’s body language, he had possibly found just an ounce of respect for their employer despite the disparity in their living conditions.
“Seriously, I’m glad all four of you could make it. Not just for socializing reasons, but because we’ll need all the manpower we can possibly have.”
“Not like we had much choice.” Smoke grunted.
“And whatever job you got lined for us, it better be impressive ‘cause I don’t see why we should continue goin’ around pissin’ people off for your sake.” Sweet added.
Schrader walked over to a position straight in front of the couch and looked him in the eyes. “I think you’ll be interested all right, since this involves your old pals, the Ballas.”
“I thought you didn’t give two f*cks about ‘em? Or intended to send us after ‘em in the first place?” Carl pointed out.
“Whoa, shut up, CJ. You don’t happen to know somethin’ about them that we don’t?!”
“To answer your brother’s point, it’s true that I shouldn’t be sponsoring your wars against them, but we have an unexpected situation in our hands that might force us to take action.”
Sweet was urgent to speak up. “You’re startin’ to confuse the sh*t outta me. Just explain one thing at a time here.”
“Very well. Andreas, get the slideshow started. Amadeus – well, get ready to speak when your turn comes up.” Schrader told.
“Umm, I see we got guests here – anyone want a drink?” a young maid asked with a sweet but shy voice, having appeared in a doorway without anyone noticing.
All the others declined politely, but Carl raised a finger. “I could do with a Sprunk... if ya got any.”
“Sure, just hang on.”
“Nice, CJ. Felt like accumulatin’ more debt just to spite us?” Sweet said in his accusatory tone.
“Drinks are on the house, don’t get silly now.” Schrader corrected, with a faint laugh.
“I’ll need it for stress relief, anyway...” Carl quietly explained.

The screen lit up to interrupt the heating conversation, displaying a turquoise skull – a foreign icon for Carl, most definitely.
“If we’re going to discuss this job, it’s best to start by elaborating on the background.” Schrader said, moving out of the way so everyone could see the screen without obstruction.
Sweet snorted. “Didn’t know your underground mob, or whatever you call it, needs a logo.”
“Actually, it belongs to a joint force of San Fierro-based gangs known as the Loco Syndicate. Our knowledge of them is sort of limited, but what we do know is that their influence is spreading to Los Santos, and something needs to be done about it unless we want a bulk of new problems for us to worry about.”
“What they got to do with the Ballas?” Carl asked out loud, the others also thinking the same.
“Thanks to Amadeus’s exceptional spying work, we’ve learned that the syndicate is pursuing a partnership with those Ballas. If I’ve understood correctly, T-Bone Mendez, whose charming face you see here, is interested in buying a portion of the drugs manufactured here to then be distributed in San Fierro.” The slide changed to show the grumpy-looking Hispanic man in a photo likely taken without his knowledge.
Sweet’s face shifted to a smug smile. “Y’all got anything new to us? We kinda know all this sh*t, and we needed no fancy spyin’ either.”
Amadeus was definitely provoked judging by his tone. “And how about the Vagos? I doubt your self-righteous ass has dug up that much on them, ‘cause you’ve been busy acting pompous!”
Sweet stood up in an instant. “What was your name again? I swear I heard it before somewhere, and I think it had somethin’ to do with bad sh*t!”
“You don’t bring up my past like that!” Amadeus retorted, clearly ready for a fight. Carl found this worrying, primarily because the heavily-built German was likely to deck Sweet in one punch.
“One – err – Sprunk for the white tank top?” the maid’s silent voice spoke from the doorway once again, a bottle full of refreshment in hand.
“I believe that’s the call to break this up. Gentlemen, I understand we all can get on each other’s nerves sometimes, but I’m afraid we can’t carry on with our mutually beneficial plan if you can’t at least stay off each other’s throats in this peaceful environment.” Schrader kept a firm eye on Sweet in particular, who stood down mostly due to peer pressure, as Carl had his bottle delivered to him not long before the maid almost ran away from the scene. But as she did, Sweet found a reason to hop up yet again, with new ideas in mind...

“Balla associate! You was on the Balla associates list! CJ, why didn’t you tell me?” he yelled, finger pointed at Amadeus once again.
“I didn’t remember his full name!” Carl lied. It was a bit shallow, but at least no one blatantly saw through it.
“What’s going on this time?” Andreas was flabbergasted to say the least.
“What’s a Balla associate list, who crafted it up, why am I on it, and how’s one in your possession?”
“Man, that’s just some Tenpenny bullsh*t you take too seriously, bro. Like, I think that’s just a list of f*ckin’ targets he wants us to take care of so he an’ the Pulaski bitch can sleep easy at night.” Carl spoke up, feeling like he should’ve told that ages ago.
“Then how’s this clown gonna prove he don’t roll with the Ballas? His boss ain’t been too keen on fightin’ them, ain’t he?” Sweet insisted, even though he was fighting a losing battle.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. So because I don’t fight for turf with your enemies – and why should I, given we don’t fight for pieces of the same pie – that means my left hand man, out of all people in the city, is in league with them based on some arbitrary list by a bent C.R.A.S.H. officer?” Schrader cleared things up.
“Well – no, but...” Sweet was running out of responses.
“Well, donner-f*cking-wetter. I never thought cops were keeping an eye on my occasional meetings with their OG’s, but to keep things clear, I’ve got myself into their friend circle just so we can stay a step ahead of them and their allies with my intel. That’s exactly how we were able to set this job up, but now thanks to you sidetracking this goddamn conversation, I’m not even able to show you all the sh*t I’ve found out!”

In a rare event, likely relating to Smoke and Ryder not having said a word in his support as they hardly even knew what was going on, Sweet relented and took a seat once again.
“OK, Tenpenny mighta f*cked up suspectin’ you, and he mighta done that on purpose... but I just really gotta know what f*ckin’ snake is supplyin’ guns to those pushers.” he said with his head down.
Schrader looked surprised. “Guns? Can’t say I know much about the details, but it might sound like the handiwork of the Russian mob. Another hated enemy of ours, that bunch.”
“We can always investigate that.” Amadeus said with a shrug. “Not for that asshole’s sake, but to make sure they aren’t all collaborating behind our backs.”
“Perhaps we’ll do that, strictly at another time. Right now though, can we orientate our guests on what’s about to go down at last?”

The slide finally changed again, this time showing a cliff somewhere out in Red County, housing a mostly ordinary farm way above the adjacent roads.
“This is the Carter Ranch. Or Hilltop Farm, as most affectionately call it. It’s a location of great importance in the near future, because as my agent over in Dillimore says, this is where the Ballas and Rifa will undergo a deal this weekend – just to get to know each other a little better.” Schrader began.
“Why choose a populated farm for that sh*t when county’s full of empty space?” Carl asked, the others sharing his confusion.
Andreas smirked. “I knew someone would ask that. Thing is, it’s geographically one of the best places they could think of. If things get sticky, it’s real hard to escape... high drop on one side, badly kept paths on the other. They wanted it this way because from what we’ve heard, they don’t really have an awful lot of trust for one another... so I guess they figured if the location’s unsuitable for screwing the other party over and getting away with it, it’s perfect for them.”
“And when all that is taking place, the ranch head and all his family are busy at the annual Blueberry market. The ranch hands already got bribed, not that they had much choice, so there won’t be anyone bothering them.” Amadeus said.
“Except you guys...”
“...in a six-man crew.”
“Eh, we can make it happen by ourselves, right Smoke?” Sweet asked self-assuredly.
Schrader shook his head very firmly. “No, you can’t. When they said six-man crew, they meant a minimum of six. That’s how much it’ll take to cover all the possible escape routes while also launching a strong enough assault to take all parties involved down.”
“And that’s with a sniper on a hill across the road to provide covering fire.” Amadeus added.
“Any of you niggas know how to snipe?” Ryder asked, expecting Sweet at the very least to know his way around such things – but one by one, all shook their heads in response.
“I’m sure you’ve got qualified friends to help out, right? You’ll only need two anyway – and no need to mention me or my men as the employers, as you probably know...”
“Make it three. I got a medical condition.” Smoke said, pointing at his barf bag in case anyone hadn’t paid sufficient attention yet.
“Well, LB can help us at least! Y’all know LB, right?”
“Lamar has been good to us, yes. Though I wish you followed his example more and didn’t draw attention to yourself like a madman.” Schrader asserted.

“Sooooo... anythin’ else then?” Carl asked awkwardly when no one else had said a word.
“I can give Horse a call when he no longer busy. CJ, you phone up Cesar, he shouldn’t mind bustin’ some more Rifa heads.” Sweet ordered. Oh yeah, there was that little matter to be resolved as well... if Carl could get Cesar to at least talk to him, it’d be a great start.
“I’m glad you’re quickly coming up with options. I’d be happy to lend Amadeus to do the sharpshooting part, but you know how it is – I can’t take short-sighted risks for as long as he continues to associate with the enemy. Anyway, you know the drill – take whatever they’re dealing in, bring them to Andreas, and he’ll pay each and every one of you equally. The money involved in the trade is yours if you can grab it. Oh, and don’t worry if it’s drugs – the people I sell them to don’t really hang around in your area...”
“Fair enough.” Sweet stated bluntly.
“Just one thing, did the Vagos have somethin’ to do with this or what?” Carl’s question went on to light up the atmosphere once again.
“Damn, should’ve known we forgot something. We never have a perfect presentation, do we?” Andreas asked in almost serious disappointment.
“Guess so. Yeah, that was kinda a crucial part... because obviously, your crew will go in there as Vagos. With ski masks probably, so no one will notice your skin colors don’t match with a typical Vago ese, but that won’t pose a problem...” Amadeus’s monologue only went on for so long until he had to acknowledge the fact two of the GSF members had stood up to express opposition.
“That’s where I draw the line! We don’t wear f*ckin’ enemy colors!” Sweet yelled the loudest.
“Y’all got no clue what Grove 4 Life means, do ya?” Ryder echoed.
“Bro, it’s gotta be a covert op, how else we meant to get away with it?” Carl’s counter-argument only resulted in a shouting match, which was only settled by Schrader turning his radio to maximum volume. The opera music that likely blared all across the Vinewood Hills not only made the situation uncomfortable, but prevented anyone from hearing even their own thoughts.

When things calmed down again, Andreas stepped up in front of the screen. “Would you rather have both the Ballas and Rifa blame you for attacking them and be all over your asses...”
“...or three of your enemies all at each other’s throats, making your job easier from here on?” Amadeus offered.
“The Vagos’ friendship with the Ballas has rapidly advanced lately, and you might want to do something about it before your gang’s surrounded by unified enemies.” Schrader continued as Andreas went through slides until he found the one he was looking for: a gang territory map (surprisingly accurate, Carl had to say) showing Grove Street in a less-than-favorable position in case Sweet needed a reminder.
He scratched his head. “You ain’t leavin’ us much choice, huh?”
“I think there’s more than an adequate amount of choices here.” Schrader said. “All you need to do is swallow your pride really, but if that doesn’t work out, we’ll have to make do without you.”
“Hmph... how much will it be?”
“You’ll do anything for the right price after all, eh?” Andreas suggested with a smirk that was wiped out as soon as Sweet displayed his displeasure with his angriest frown. “Jokes aside, this is important enough that I’m thinking a six-figure sum to be split between your crew.” he said, Schrader’s nod indicating approval of the idea.
“A’ight, so we done now? Can we go?” Sweet asked, Carl knowing exactly what he thought – that he didn’t want his best men to be exposed to this environment too much and get spoiled by it...
“You can. But I wouldn’t recommend going back home until you’re certain the bikers have left...”
“Well, drop us off at Temple’s rec center then. I’ll call up LB too.”
“I gotta use the toilet.” Smoke said with his hand up.
“Andreas will guide you. And once again, really pleased to get to meet all of you. I’ll be in touch with the remaining details.” Schrader said, going through the handshake routine once more – Carl thought it was beginning to feel forced already, but rolled with it anyway.

Either Schrader had telepathic abilities or someone had pressed a button, because an additional guard had showed up to escort the group to the mansion’s exit – Sweet and Ryder made a determined beeline that way, but Carl felt a hand grab his shoulder before he could join them.
“Your friend looks like he’ll spend a while in the restroom. In the meantime, you might be interested in this...” Schrader offered him an open newspaper with an all-too-familiar picture of a man from his very recent past at the top of the article.

VERDANT BLUFFS EXPLOSION SUSPECT RELEASED

In lieu of incriminating evidence, Chad Myers, 27, of East Los Santos has been released from police custody.
Mr. Myers was arrested after responding officers found him loitering outside the burning Verdant Bluffs warehouse with minor injuries, but denied all allegations of being responsible for the attack that is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
In his testimony, Myers staunchly claimed that he was passing by when he saw members of the Grove Street Families gang enter the warehouse and attack the group of people inside, prompting him to intervene only to be overpowered and beaten, barely escaping the premises alive after the gang members set multiple bombs inside.
Officer Frank Tenpenny of the C.R.A.S.H. unit has also come out in support of Myers while heavily criticizing the actions of fellow policemen he deems rash and reckless.
- They only arrested him because he was a young black male at the crime scene, that’s it. I’ve met this kid before several times, and you couldn’t find a more talented, compassionate philantrophist of a young man from the whole community. Just look at everything he’s gone through trying to make things better – from having his eye slashed off by one of those cowardly hoodlums to getting beaten and burned when trying to save lives. And then the people show how grateful they are by treating him like a terrorist because he got caught up in someone else’s mess. Shame on you, Los Santos.


There was more to the article, but Carl was too angry to go through any further. Angrily tossing the paper over to the nearest table, he accidentally dropped his emptied Sprunk bottle as well and bent down to pick it up, muttering all the insults he knew at Tenpenny and Chad.
“How’d you do that?”
“Whuh?” Carl was as confused as Amadeus when he stood back up.
“Your neck, how are you able to bend it that far down?”
“I – uhh – I ain’t got no clue. Elastic bones or some sh*t?”
“I only go this far.” Amadeus said, doing a bow that looked like one of those that was common in Japanese culture, if Carl’s TV shows were to be trusted. “You haven’t gone to any of that yoga bullsh*t, have you?”
“Heard of it, but no. Hey, when you’d run with Ballas, did you ever meet---“
“I did try it, once. It was meant to be both spiritually and physically enhancing. Turned out to be a massive sh*tshow that people like us should never get involved in. The best part was at the end, when I twisted up the self-righteous instructor and pushed him down a f*cking cliff.”
“That’s – great?” Carl said, hesitantly giving him a thumb up.
“It wasn’t part of the schedule, but made the day for me. Now what were you on about?” Amadeus asked, grabbing the paper for himself to skim through the comics.
“Chad – uhh, Myers was it? You ever met him?”
“Is that even a question?” Amadeus let out a gruff laugh, which came across maybe a bit forced. “Whenever there’s a meeting with the boys that might matter, that douchebag is always there, trying to dominate the conversation. He uses so many four-syllable words probably to compensate for his homies’ lack of linguistic talent. And by the way, I learned ‘linguistic’ from him.”
Carl sighed. “That’s definitely the Chad I know...”
“You’ve got some history then?”
“Guess you could put it like that. Anyway, any chance you could keep an eye on the one-eyed lil’ professor whenever you can?”
“I already do, he looks like someone about to make his way up the ranks in a hurry.”
“As if I ain’t got enough problems...” Carl let out another disgruntled sigh.

After Smoke was done with approximately the longest dump ever, the limousine ride out of the hills and back down amongst the less privileged was a quiet one. With Sweet having a multitude of reasons to be pissed off, Carl had no intention to initiate a conversation of any kind.
“Not everyone gets to be taken to the rec center by limo, huh?” Ryder asked when they came to a stop at last.
“Don’t get used to it.” Sweet growled, being the first to crawl out.
“You comin’ or what, CJ?” he added when his brother hadn’t made a move yet.
“Think I’ll drop by Cesar’s in person, let him know how sh*t’s goin’.” Another lie was necessary to avoid the company of homies that had become too resentful of him for his tastes.
“Sure you will. Don’t be a stranger, bro... we’ll be seein’ you around.”

The vehicle took a turn to the main street leading south.
“El Corona it is, then?” Andreas clarified.
“Y’all know your sh*t way better than you should. Anyway, just drop me somewhere ‘round here. I’ll be good.”
“Shame, we could’ve had a nice discussion on the way. You heard the call, Henry, stop the car.”
They were somewhere between the Market and Verona Beach areas, not far from Roboi’s either – a neutral enough zone for Carl’s liking. He took quick steps away from the Stretch after stepping out and blended in with the crowd, not that any of the busy people around him cared much about the limo or the passenger emerging from it.

He located the nearest alleyway that looked remote enough for his purposes and dialed the number. To think Cesar hadn’t spoken to him since the damned race practice day... that was going to change soon enough.
“Hey, CJ.” Cesar’s tired voice answered the call.
“Hey, Ces. Kendl a’ight?”
“Same as always. And I know you didn’t call just ‘cause of that.”
“Fair enough, my cover’s blown, whatever. Look, man, we can’t keep this up no more, it’s gettin’ childish. I f*cked up and I’ll take the blame for that---“
“Damn right you did. You’re lucky I ain’t told Kendl yet – she doesn’t need no more reasons to worry about your ass.” Cesar said, as spitefully as Carl had feared.
“She might learn soon enough. Sweet knows, and so do Ryder and Smoke.”
“And now you’re gonna ask for help payin’ that up?”
“Not like I got much of a choice. You at least gonna listen through the plan?”
Carl interpreted Cesar’s sigh as a yes, and explained the upcoming mission in detail. He knew that being employed by Schrader was a big red flag for the Azteca, but he couldn’t just leave him to find out about it himself once it was too late to back down...

“No way, man. You seriously gone too deep now.” Cesar said, not a hint of approval in his voice.
“C’mon, whatever happened to the backin’ you up every step of the way bullsh*t? I mean, you know I’d help you anytime if your car got impounded by cops or somethin’---”
“I talked about winning the race, not dealing with the consequence of your stupid f*cking risk! You think I wanna take my chances with any more of T-Bone’s men and run around with the German pendejos too? I got my limits, CJ, and this sh*t’s way beyond that. I hope you understand.”
“Man, f*ck...”
“And you’d think I still park my car on the street after the last incident? It won’t get impounded.”
“So – you won’t even think about this, then.”
“For the last time, no. I know when to pick my fights, and you know I could take your Balla dope dealers at any time, but I can’t go around poking the most dangerous f*cking bears in the state...”

Cesar hanging up on him after getting the final word in was expected, but still hurt like hell. So this was how it felt to be ostracized by nearly everyone around him for one sh*tty decision – and the crew was still not big enough to get the job done. If LB and Horse were to join in, they could hold their own, but Carl didn’t have the heart to ask any other homies to step up and put their lives in imminent danger just for his sake.
“F*ck my life.” He kicked a beer can in his feet as far as he could, and watched it bounce off the back wall of an apartment building with a mild bang.

Was there anyone on the planet he could trust to have his back even at the darkest moments?

Someone with a mutual hatred for the Ballas probably? Wait, hang on a sec...

Someone who would also have a need for Schrader’s money?

Someone who could relate to his situation better than anyone?

Kevin Williamson may have been past his prime and aged faster than a sh*tty video game, but giving the man a call and agreeing to meet up at his nearby place was the most satisfying choice Carl had made in recent memory.

 

To Be Continued.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#44

Posted 03 October 2016 - 01:07 AM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:40 AM.

And as another month has passed with no contributions, I'm back! Again, this piece became longer than expected, just over 16 Word pages. I may be overdoing things a bit.

 

SA19: The Hills Have Ears – Part 2

 

“I swear I ain’t sh*ttin’ you about this. That Schrader dude – who’s gonna lynch me now I said his name, I guess – has got what it takes to get you outta your mess. I think under his wing, you and me could really get sh*t done together, as a team... that’s what you wanted us to do when we first met, right?”
“Right – but it seems a bit bigger than what I had in mind.”
“At least we won’t need to worry about sh*tty pay here, long as we do a competent job. We can settle all your debt in no time. 500 grand, was it?”
“Uhh, 600 right now. I sorta tried to take matters into my own hands at a casino, and---“
“Oh, for f*ck’s sake...”


The conversation from two days ago that eventually convinced Kevin to jump aboard was still clearly imprinted in Carl’s memory as he stood up there, on a cliff just a rock’s throw away from the Hilltop Farm, where the moment of truth was just minutes away. Watching the surroundings of the ranch in hopes of seeing the Balla and Rifa cars arrive, Carl still couldn’t help but shake that awful feeling of uncertainty – was Kevin to be trusted? Yes, he was on Tenpenny’s list, but Amadeus was too, and he had turned out alright, unless there was some major conspiracy in play that he was blissfully unaware of. Trusting his life in the hands of someone who could’ve been promised debt reductions in exchange for dead enemy gang members by the Ballas was possibly a costly mistake... so he had better hope his offer was superior to that.

Or maybe he was just overly paranoid. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“See anything yet?” The robber joined him on the lookout spot, zipping his Vago-colored jacket.
“Only rednecks and tourists so far... what you wearin’ that for anyway? It’s just a little windy.”
“I’m not very used to cold temperatures.”
“I bet you used to spend the prime years of your life by spoilin’ yourself at hot tubs and brothels.” Carl let out a chuckle, but was met with a serious expression in return.
“I’d rather not discuss that.”

Carl frowned. He was probably needlessly curious, but the way Kevin refused to tell him the slightest details about his past life seemed odd and overly cautious. He was open enough the first time – Carl still remembered the remark about a friend who, like him, was into Cok-O-Pops – but something about his attitude whenever his youth came up made it obvious that he was holding back a chunk of information.
“Ready to light sh*t up?” Sweet moved up next to Carl as well, smoking one last cigarette to keep his nerves calm.
“I’m not sure if I still understand the whole picture – but screw it, I’m in.” Kevin said.
“What about you, CJ? You ain’t even spoken to us last few days, didn’t show to that meeting we was supposed to have... I’m worried about your attitude, bro.”
Carl continued to look away from him, angry as all hell. Of course he wasn’t going to fall for that trap! The way he saw it, he felt sh*tty enough about himself as it was, that he didn’t need Sweet and all the others to scream at him all at once to hammer it home.
“I just needed to get my head straight.” he said emotionlessly.
“It better be straight right now then. Get down here, you two, and we’ll recap our plan. Mr. K especially oughta listen properly this time.”

Walking down the slope to a depression where Ryder, LB and Horse were playing cards on a tree trunk, Carl’s annoyance switched to a slight hint of amusement. As bad as their relationship was for a change, he definitely didn’t want to give Sweet a stroke by offering another name from the blacklist (or purple list?) – thus presenting Kevin as this mysterious freelancer working for the highest bidder, known only by the name Mr. K. It was corny, but it worked out – save for the high expectations placed on him by all the others.
“OK, game’s over. Let’s get this over with so we can get outta these clothes ASAP.” Sweet ordered, placing a map of the area over the trunk. Ryder and LB both let out an unintentional laugh.
“And I didn’t mean it like that, motherf*ckers! Now, we gonna spread out and surround everyone involved in the deal, so that means we strike from three directions. Horse, you mount a heavy assault from the main entry road.”
“And the rest of you will no doubt ride into action from someplace else?” Horse asked with a slight frown.
“We will, and I didn’t f*ckin’ make fun of your name on purpose.” Sweet snapped, still stressed out for whatever of the many reasons. “So when you’s sprayin’ the motherf*ckers with that LMG you nabbed, me an’ Ryder gonna emerge from the field side. CJ an’ LB, you got the woods.”
LB stepped up with a confident nod. “We got it a’ight. Now, K, unless somethin’... really weird happens, don’t start shootin’ ‘til we do. Else they attention’s gonna be on you, and the Rifa might send trouble your way.”
“Preferably, shoot ‘em once they take cover behind the buildings and out of our sight.” Horse said.
“Their guns don’t have the range to reach my position, do they? I’m kind of out in the open in my sniping position.”
“Of that we ain’t exactly certain... you wanna be safe, shoot the boys with the biggest toys first.” LB recommended.

As the moment of the deal drew closer, everyone put on their masks and gloves – almost making them look like a professional heist crew – as the five gangsters went their separate ways to get ready for the ambush, with Kevin reporting via earpiece as a SUV full of Rifa took the turn to the farm, being followed minutes later by the Ballas. Overall, there were at least ten gang members involved, and they had all been able to slip to the ranch without being spotted by any curious passing locals – if only they knew that wasn’t the only problem to be worried about.
“Damn, it’s muddy.” Carl snarled as his best outdoor shoes were being tainted on every step.
“Don’t sweat, ‘least you ain’t gotta lie down in that sh*t like your sharpshooter friend.” LB remarked, signaling him to stop once they were close enough to the targets.
“Tell me somethin’, LB, how’d you ever hook up wit’ these Europeans? I know you reach out a lot, and I don’t blame ya, but... just felt like askin’.” Carl said, wondering how things would be for him right now if he’d never taken up Ryder’s – and by extension LB’s – suggestion.
“Feelin’ regretful, ain’t ya? I get what you mean though, that big man’s money sure can look attractive to an outsider...” LB tried to crack a smile, but Carl didn’t respond to that. “But if ya want the whole story, it all began back at the beach.”
He cleared his throat. “I was at the right place at the right time when this white boy started showin’ off, bossin’ everyone around ‘cause he was some push-up master or some sh*t. I was havin’ none of that in our own damn turf, so I challenged him.”
“Didn’t think Amadeus rolled that way.”
“Not him, some sh*tty junior member clearly bored of recruitin’. Looked a lot like one of those people who make that ‘metal’ music, where you scream into the mic an’ sh*t.”
Carl rolled his eyes. “So how’d recruitment go?”
“We had a draw in our push-up contest, then we brawled a bit and still found no winner. Anyway, he told me he was impressed, said his people would have work for niggas like myself. No, he didn’t say that word. But y’know, even though it was sus as f*ck and I didn’t even know his name, I rolled wit’ it, ‘cause you know just how f*cked our set is. So then one thing led to another, and---“
“Hey, can y’all hear me back here?” Sweet’s voice startled both of them as it came out of nowhere through their earpieces.
“Oops. Yeah, loud an’ clear, homie.” LB replied, followed by everyone else announcing their lack of problems as well.
“Well, ‘bout time something went right. Initials only from here on, boys... and hide your accents too, best you can.”
“Sí, hermano!” Carl said without thinking much. Sweet would’ve filliped him if they were anywhere close to one another, he was sure of it.
Ignoring the comment to his best ability, Sweet kept things serious. “H, we ready whenever you are. Keep ‘em away from the cars.”

Horse didn’t need to be told how to strategize. Having got himself relatively close without being spotted, he almost dove out of the bushes lining the uphill roadway and confidently readied himself for his first burst. He fired just as some of the Rifa dropped the ongoing conversation to point at his direction, but by then it was too late to preserve the life of his first victim, a Balla, who fell to the ground with three bulletholes in his upper back. Horse continued to storm up the hill with the best crouch-run he managed, finding some refuge from the retaliatory hail of bullets from behind the SUV.

His position was so overwhelmed by a hail of bullets that he couldn’t poke his head out for the slightest moment, but luckily the backup cavalry was quick to equalize the situation. Sweet and Ryder, conditioning themselves for the first time ever to not shoot at anything dressed in yellow, added fuel to the fire by shooting into the crowd from behind a fallen log, managing to down one Rifa and wound another one, who was dragged to cover behind a tractor by his angered ally, who shot about half a clip of pistol ammo at the direction of this new enemy wave, though all the bullets harmlessly bounced off the log as Sweet and Ryder kept their heads low.

Just when the remainder of the Rifa and Ballas – now teamed up without thinking about it much – thought they had all the attackers in sight and ready to be taken out, another two popped up from the forest side, where LB and Carl used still standing trees as cover to take more unexpected jump-out shots at the enemies. It was again a Balla’s turn to bite the dust when LB was able to land multiple critical strikes at the gangbanger who had thought he was safe from all attackers – this forced the enemy to retreat even further, and their body language brilliantly showed that they were running out of viable cover. As much as Carl had doubted the requirement of having six people on the job, he was now thoroughly convinced that this method made the assault much easier and kept the situation under constant control as the hostiles were constantly on the defensive. And the best part was still to come...

In desperation, one of the Rifa ran all the way behind the garage on the far eastern side to catch his breath and reload. His heart pounded so hard it was bound to break through the chest at that rate – the attack that resulted in the death of one of his comrades that he had to witness from close up didn’t do good for his psyche at all, and he almost felt too weak to return to battle. It was at this moment that he needed to choose between running away and being executed as a deserter sooner or later, or sticking around to fight even though it only meant prolonging his suffering before an inevitable loss...

Kevin eliminated the pressure of choice, and ensured the Rifa would never feel anything ever again, as he blasted off the first of his high-caliber bullets that tore through the man’s head as if it was wet paper. Four were already down, and the other six weren’t looking too strong either.

“We tearin’ them apart, but everyone, keep your eyes on the prize! Anyone see their merchandise by now?” Sweet demanded via radio.
“Uhh, I’m thinking those pendejos might be keepin’ their dinero inside los coches.” Horse proposed.
“For f*ck’s sake, are y’all this simple? You don’t need to speak broken Spanish to sound like real Vagos!” Sweet raged with little concern towards maintaining the façade.
“Speak of the devil, I see one of ‘em hauling a case just now!” Carl took some potshots that way as he said it, but couldn’t line up a decent shot.
Kevin came up on the radio for a change. “I see him as well. Better get back to cover, C, ‘cause this is gonna hurt.”

The Rifa was probably thinking he could run into the barn for safety, but didn’t make it that far as he came up in the store robber’s crosshairs less than halfway through. A loud bang, and he fell over in a bloody mess, while the bullet ricocheted off a rock into the barn door.
“Well, that’s one potential insult that has been rendered moot.” Kevin said to himself.
“Jesus, that sh*t packed a punch! Where’d you get the gun?” Carl shouted in excitement.
“A friend of mine provided.”
“Sounds like the kinda guy I’d like to associate with.” Carl exchanged smirks with LB.
“If you don’t mind a journey a long way from home to meet up, I don’t see why not.”

Carl put that thought at the back of his head and proceeded with the shooting. Only a few more targets down, and they could start making a move to the case... or that’s how he felt before hearing a very audible engine noise of a large vehicle coming up the path into the farm. Sweet was able to see the source as he was making a charge at the yard – and did not like the sight at all.
“HORSE, TAKE COVER!” he screamed his lungs out as Horse ran to the side as fast as his feet could carry him, the additional Rifa SUV narrowly missing out on the chance to run him over, and a large number of drive-by shooters forcing him into hiding behind a cow-shed.
“I thought we was meant to stick to initials.” Ryder snarked.
“I f*cking panicked, OK?!” Sweet raged, barely making it to a temporary shelter behind an outhouse and finding relief in the fact the vehicle didn’t try to come at him, the occupants rather all scrambling out to join the combat.
“Now who are these clowns, and who the f*ck called ‘em here?” he demanded, reloading his rifle.
LB shrugged, having no time to celebrate his first kill of the morning as he downed a Balla that had daringly attempted to approach his and Carl’s spot. “Not the local rednecks, that’s fo’ sure. There any Rifa settlements near here?”
“Intel said there ain’t supposed to be any Rifa in this whole county!” Carl cried out.
“Yeah? Well, your intel sucks! K, can’t you even the odds?”
“Sure thing, S. I just think C should move a bit left, to be sure.”
“Your left, or my left?”
“Uh – towards where L’s standing!”
“Oh great, a sniper who ain’t got a grasp on directions...” Ryder said mockingly, only to find himself admiring Kevin’s next headshot on a Rifa moving in to flank Sweet a second later.

“Guys, case – and a money bag – are on the run!” LB notified, spotting one of the Rifa running from the case’s earlier resting spot to the garage. It was by definition a dead end, but it was far enough away from the crew (and out of Kevin’s sights) to provide a bit of safety. In spite of him and Carl firing away some rounds at the straggler, he was able to enter the building and lock the doors behind him.
“Don’t worry about it, we’ll get him soon enough!” Sweet shouted. Another clip went in his gun, and another Rifa fell trying a desperate charge at him – it was a good thing Sweet reacted first, because the enemy’s shotgun could’ve done something ugly if it ever went off.
“Can we get back to why these extra assholes got here?” Horse asked, adding himself back into the shootout as well, if not a little shaken.
“Why we askin’ each other, when we could find out by shakin’ down the pussy who’s got our loot?” Carl pointed out.
“Yeah, everyone try and clear a path to that garage! H, you can go ‘round the other way, that shouldn’t get ya blasted.” LB told.
Sweet shook his head in anger. “I just think someone’s playin’ foul here...”

While the rest of the Rifa were busy with the ground battle that they were critically losing, Ramon Alvarez had it comparatively easy. Sneaking around on the perilous cliffs to the spot where the loud bullets were coming from, this Rifa look-out was ready to turn the tide of the battle in most dramatic fashion, and if possible, even turn that big gun against the people it currently protected. In ways, this young man wasn’t actually that different from Carl – he too had all sorts of aspirations even outside of his gang, something he could afford to do since he had earned his stripes in numerous turf wars earlier – but loyalty to T-Bone Mendez still came first, and if he could get this done, he would climb up the rankings like never before and get to even make decisions for the gang’s future with the boss-man himself---

Only steps away from placing his gun at Kevin’s head and pulling the trigger, his hopes and dreams dissipated in one short moment he didn’t even have time to process when the ground blew up from beneath his feet, leaving the unconscious man to bleed out. Kevin paused his duties only briefly to make sure he was down and out, and that there was no additional movement in the nearby hills.
“Claymore mines. Don’t go sniping without them.” he muttered to himself, then got back to work.

By the time he was able to point the scope in the right direction, only four enemies remained – check that, three, as LB gunned his way through another Rifa to reach the barn and clear it just in case, only finding a quadbike and some of the usual farming tools amongst the haystacks however.
“Man, cows sound stressed as f*ck.” Horse noted, the mooing of the animals inside their shed intensifying with each bullet fired.
Kevin sounded disheartened by the fact. “Let’s get this over with quickly so we don’t have to abuse them more than we have to.”
“I was thinkin’ more that Horse could open the doors and start a stampede...” Sweet murmured.
“Pragmatist, aren’t you?” Kevin snorted with some disgust.
“Ethics aside, not gonna happen. I can’t get to the doors unless you drop the goons, and when that’s done, there ain’t none left to get cattle-crushed.”
“Meh, I don’t mind stickin’ to the traditional ways.” Ryder said as his bullets struck one of the Rifa in the stomach, causing him to fall over in massive pain.
“Oh look, Ryder got one for a change.” Carl mocked, following in LB’s tracks guns blazing to remove another threat from the equation.
“At least I don’t owe a dangerous crime boss a sh*t-ton of money.”
Kevin’s tone said it all; he was already bored of Ryder. “Is he always like that?”
“Only 99% of the time, K, but back to business. Can ya blow the head off the fool who ran into this place?” LB asked, walking into Kevin’s crosshairs to point at the correct building.
“These things can definitely pierce the wall, but I’ll need an exact location.”
“You see anythin’ through the boards? There seem to be gaps here an’ there...” Carl suggested, walking around the perimeter with hopes of finding a particularly big one to look through.

In the meantime, Horse took out the last enemy save for the hiding one with a quick pistol shot to the head, clearing the entire area for his friends to freely move around in. It was certainly a huge relief for Ryder and Sweet, who’d been confined to fairly small pockets of cover for some time now.
“That wasn’t so tough.” Ryder had the nerve to say.
“About time! Now let’s quit f*ckin’ around and crack that door open!” Sweet yelled.
“Bro, I ain’t so sure that’s the best- wait, the f*ck’s that noise? It better not be---“
As prepared as Sweet was for another heated argument, he certainly couldn’t dismiss Carl’s observation now that he also heard that unmistakeable sound of police sirens, most likely heading their way.
“I guess a local callin’ for help was long overdue...” LB said, shaking his head as Ryder also finally stumbled to the vicinity of his friends.
“When I think of it, K was snipin’ eses from across a road. Guess that means a lot of witnesses.” Horse contemplated.
“I see some red and blue lights in Dillimore’s direction. You guys might wanna bail out of there while they’re still on the way.” Kevin warned.
“Not without the reward!” Sweet said adamantly.
“K, get outta there, use the getaway car and hide! We’ll call you whenever we gonna meet up...” Carl told with haste as the crew gathered themselves around the double doors of the garage. He wondered if the Rifa inside had heard much of the ordeal, but as long as they gunned him down without casualties of their own, it wouldn’t make a difference...

Carl and the others probably should’ve heard the faint rattle from inside before prying the doors open, but in their defense, the ever-so-ominous sirens were difficult not to focus on, and they were in a rush anyway. As soon as the garage was open, two headlights lit up in their faces, borderline blinding anyone looking right at them before the last of the Rifa zoomed right out of the building on an ATV, never to be seen again unless action was taken quickly---
“NO!” Sweet’s reaction was just what was to be expected; most of the crew managed to take shots at the runner, but he was moving too downright fast and erratically to be tagged by any of the bullets.
“Could he have left---“ Carl suggested hopefully.
“No, the loot was secured to that thing.” Horse said with regret.
LB took off to the barn. “We ain’t done yet! I saw another one of those in here!”
“You heard L!” Sweet led the rest of the men to the same direction, Horse sprinting past all of them to yank the barn’s doors wide open and help LB pull the vehicle out.
“He went down the field path!” Ryder announced, scoping out the quadbike – an easy job due to it leaving behind a huge cloud of dust. All of the others were in enough rush to not call him out for stating the obvious just so he wouldn’t have any part in heavy duties.
“There ya go, we started it already.” Horse said, coming out of the barn with the vehicle at record speed.
“Thanks, homie. Carl, you drive – you’re the racer an’ all.”
Carl didn’t enjoy pressure at a time like this, but there was no point in arguing, and he was intent to prove Ryder properly wrong regarding his driving skills – if that was at all possible. “Right, the rest of you, scatter right now! They’re almost here...”

With Horse taking off into the forest and Ryder and LB also managing to get on the move after some pondering, Carl was able to focus on the thing he knew how to do – well, allegedly, since the last time he rode one of these things was on some county paths with Aldrin and Tony years ago. Dodging around the fallen tree, he found it quite easy to follow the target once the distracting siren noises faded out, partly thanks to the tire tracks and dust cloud being left behind.

The Rifa up ahead was still in a state of shock, speeding up until he was certainly out of the sniper’s range, but still aware of possible additional attack parties, which weren’t out of the question either with a professional attack like this that only left one survivor standing. Worrying about how to explain this to T-Bone was low on the priority order compared to reaching the nearest settlement and hiding out until someone came over to pick him up... but first he had better make sure he wouldn’t get lost, as this path was only taking him farther and farther from the presumed location of Dillimore, and into the deeper county regions. He should’ve just got onto the main road when he had the chance – assuming there was one to begin with. Narrowly dodging an old man walking on the side of the trail and forcing him to jump into a ditch, the Rifa soon arrived to a river, flowing adjacent to the route.

Carl, on the other hand, closed the distance rapidly – if all went well, they’d be right next to the target before he even noticed them. He bypassed the same old man as well, who must’ve thought there was an illegal race going and tried to pitifully put a stop to it by chucking a rock at them. Sweet took the painful hit to his side and yelled from pain, vowing to put that asshole in his place and teach him a lesson or two about mob law once the mission was accomplished.

Only trailing the other ATV by some dozen meters, Carl nodded to Sweet, who got his SMG ready. One good burst from a little closer than this, and the enemy would fall – but in a cruel twist of fate, the Rifa just casually decided to turn to the left and onto a much worse-maintained path before he got a clear shot. Not to mention, he caught the approaching brothers in the corner of his eye while making the turn, and put the pedal to the metal – metaphorically speaking – in even worse panic than before. Sweet fired, but nothing came out of it anymore now that the runner was out of position, and he was at a bigger risk of hitting his brother anyway, courtesy of a bump immediately in the beginning of the trail.

“Where you think we are, Sweet?”
“Does it matter? Hell, how the f*ck should I know? Eyes on the road!” Sweet shouted. He didn’t understand why the otherwise so successful brother of his needed to waste his time asking stupid questions at a time like this, as if he hadn’t screwed around enough recently. Was he nervous? Trying too hard to prove himself, and as a result struggling with focus? It sort of made sense if Horse’s report about the somewhat shaky drug stash job was anything to go by... was it time to temporarily retire Carl from important duties?

His – and Carl’s – thinking was interrupted when they ran over another bump, this time a sizable rock, that caused both to fly upwards on their seat. The landing was as painful as Sweet’s yelp suggested, and Carl almost crashed trying to steer the vehicle in the right direction. Sweet got back to the shooting business once he had a good grip on the ATV again, and took pride in forcing the Rifa even deeper into the woods where there was almost no trail to drive on to begin with, just plenty of trees to dodge. The target zig-zagged between them in desperation, bullets narrowly wheezing past his upper body with Sweet’s aggressive yelling making his duress only worse.

Up ahead, there was another trail, one that they were approaching more or less diagonally. The Rifa made the best beeline he could in the direction of that, but Sweet had something else in mind – a relatively clean path, only disturbed by small amounts of foliage, that would eventually lead to that same trail and act as a shortcut to get in front of the target...
“Carl, stick to the left! We can get him that way!” he informed.

Carl was uncertain of whether that would work, but had no interest in taking a stand against Sweet’s orders in his current state. Besides, if they were thinking about the same thing, the shortcut looked rather brilliant – there was a little jump at the end, but nothing he couldn’t manage---

CRASH. One moment was all it took before Carl, Sweet and the quadbike went tumbling all over the place in a muddled pile just when they were at their most certain of success. Carl let out an agonized scream as he landed right arm first, even if the foliage somewhat softened the fall – Sweet wasn’t much more fortunate as he landed almost on his face at an anthill. The realization that they actually had wrecked just like that didn’t find its way into Carl’s head until many long and painful moments later, by the time the Rifa’s ATV could only be heard faintly as it was bound to disappear from sight, with it also going their only chance to receive a reward...

“Just what the f*ck was that?” Sweet lashed out, plucking angry insects off his face before he got stung into non-working condition.
Carl said nothing, being busy on a lookout as soon as he was back on his feet. The ATV had rolled over at least once, but still looked driveable, the worst damage likely being internal. Shoving vegetation aside to locate the tire tracks and their ending point, he arrived at the conclusion that the culprit was an almost perfectly hidden, thick and rock-solid motherf*cker of a tree root.

A tree root that could’ve been avoided if he never took Sweet’s designated path – but arguing about that choice didn’t belong to this moment, or day, or universe cycle.

Carl did what he considered to be the wisest thing and backed off to check on the ATV while Sweet began shaking as soon as he too saw the cause of the crash – it had been a while since Carl last saw that kind of shaking, and it usually resulted in a devastating explosion of swear words.

This time, the ensuing tantrum started off somewhat mild, with Sweet lamenting their constant failures that were often down to something as silly as dumb luck – Carl could get behind that – but once he picked up the momentum, he started to do what he did best and kick away at the pine tree that had denied them the chance of their lives.
“YOU – USELESS – WOODEN – PIECE – OF – SH*T – JUST – HAD – TO – GROW – ON – OUR – WAY – LIKE – A – SELF – IMPORTANT – MOTHER – F*CKER!” He added a kick at every word he uttered, all the while having the kind of expression that made it clear anyone who pointed out motherf*cker was a compound word would be next on his list.

Although any self-respecting animal from slugs to grizzlies would’ve cleared out and kept their distance from an enraged Sweet, one squirrel decided to tempt fate, likely disturbed from all the banging going on outside its home. Climbing down to the lowest branch, it made some confused noise that was clear enough to attract Sweet’s attention.
Chip-chip-chip what, dicksucker? Chip-chip-chip this!” he shouted. One accurately aimed bullet later, the lifeless rodent collapsed down into the ground, never to enjoy the taste of nuts again.

Still heavily breathing, Sweet stood over its body, a bit relieved now that he was able to channel his anger into shedding the blood of something disposable – that, Carl thought, was a sign that he’d soon calm down and become less awkward to be around. He himself cleaned up the crashed ATV a little and attempted to get it restarted – on the third try it finally budged, and although the engine noise sounded fainter and weaker than before, it could still be driven for the rest of their unflattering stay out in the country.
“Right... let’s get the f*ck outta here, regroup with the others. Follow the trail in case that asshole crashed too.” Sweet said upon hearing the engine start. Carl only gave him the traditional nod of agreement, and took off at a much reduced pace, neither of them exchanging words for what felt like hours as they made their way back to civilization, no trace of the Rifa runner anywhere along their route.

Carl was only able to get a cellphone signal once he arrived in Blueberry, a mostly unremarkable small town where the brothers non-verbally agreed to pick up something from the Well Stacked branch while calling the others to arrange a rendezvous. The first thing he saw while browsing his phone was that there had been a missed call from Kevin. Quickly taking it before Sweet accidentally saw his name on the screen, Carl was treated to something oddly ominous.
Carl, I don’t know where you’ve gone, but don’t go ANYWHERE near Dillimore, don’t call Ryder or LB – maybe not Horse either, I’ll try to get a hold of him – and just come see me at a place called the ‘Hanky Panky Point’. Hell, you could also call your contact and drop off the drugs, or whatever, over there as well, kill two birds in one stone. Don’t bother calling me back, my battery’s about to fall dead.

Carl made sure to forward the message to Sweet once they were back outside, enjoying their food on a secluded bench (a better choice than staying inside, anyway, as they were getting weird looks from the locals). He had a terribly bad feeling about what was happening, and that was a good enough reason to break the silence.
“Whaddya mean we shouldn’t call ‘em?” Sweet asked in borderline outrage.
“I really don’t know, but – but don’t worry, they probably just hidin’ and don’t need no noise to compromise ‘em right now, OK?”
“And what about Andy?” he continued, luckily buying into Carl’s weak assurances.
“I think I’m gonna give him a call, we need to at least tell him what happened and cancel the meet.” Carl’s response was apathetic.
“No, no, no, no, no. We gon’ meet him a’ight.” Sweet insisted.
“Bro, look, I really can’t let you kill him, we’d get f*cked in the ass---“
“Who said anything about killin’? I’m just gonna let him know exactly why it’s a good idea to reward us properly after a day’s work.”
Carl scowled. “That don’t exactly sound any better.”
“Excuse me, Carl? What was that? Should I remind you who your boss is?”
“I’m good...” he sighed.
“Now where’s that Hanky Panky Point anyway?”
“It’s this quiet hilltop next to Palomino Creek. I’ve been there before, it’s an excellent spot for – ahh, y’know what, let’s work out the details later.” Carl had a brief laugh while reminiscing his past experiences in the area, but Sweet barely acknowledged that, only caring about the upcoming rendezvous.

One call and a refilling meal later, they were on their way east, however Carl’s mind had not yet eased one bit, and in fact Sweet’s dangerously confident statements were only making things worse. What was he going to do if his brother’s actions broke his relations to Schrader’s gang? Would they only increase his debt out of spite if something happened? And last but not least importantly, he was in a rush to grill Kevin for information about Ryder and LB’s current situation before he’d drop dead from worry... Ryder may have been a dick who only became worse since Carl’s return, but the thought of permanently losing him still made his stomach turn from disgust whenever it surfaced.

Carl made two wrong turns along the way out of stress, and the brothers were forced to leave the quadbike in the bottom of the hill once it became evident the weakened engine couldn’t properly carry them up the slope – despite these minor tribulations, Sweet again remained silent throughout the journey, likely saving up his words for Andreas whenever he was due to arrive. So far, the only soul over the hill was Kevin, using a stick to draw shapes into the gravel out of boredom.
“Ah, hello, guys. I was on the fence about going out to look for you, but in this terrain it might well have been a poor choice.” he greeted, scrubbing away his drawing of some person along with the text underneath (Carl caught the word ‘dead’ – that better not have meant who he thought it was).
“To hell with formalities now. What the hell happened to our homies?” He let his temper get the better of him and even momentarily grabbed Kevin, who was quick to pry himself loose. All the while, Sweet stood behind his brother with his arms crossed, as if to validate his behavior.
“What now, man? You seriously thought I wouldn’t voluntarily tell you or something? Or did you just need a person not related to you to take out your anger on?”
“This whole mission’s gone down the sh*tter, so I think we all got our reasons to be pretty f*ckin’ pissed.” Sweet grunted.
“If that’s the case, I’m gonna need to ask you not to touch me, or throw anything at me, once I show what I’ve got over here. Just shoot squirrels down from trees or something, but leave the messenger alone at least.”

The statement was just as ominous as his earlier message, but the brothers agreed with one quick nod at one another. Kevin walked up to them with a video camera at hand.
“I know I should’ve done what you said and beelined out of there, but then you wouldn’t believe what I’ve got here.”
It was a bit hard to see the events unfold on the small screen, but once the device was rotated at a proper angle, the shocking truth was revealed all at once – in the middle were Ryder and LB, both unhappy and unmasked, as both were being handcuffed and searched by country cops, moments before being hauled into the back of a police SUV – all this happening just outside the farm’s entrance.

Sweet’s method of anger relief hadn’t changed, and he bluntly took his gun out, aiming a shot at the treetops, with no particular target in mind – or sight.
“What the f*ck? You just stood there filmin’ that sh*t and didn’t think to do something?” he yelled, technically not breaking the promise.
“Have you ever tried to have a stand-off with redneck officers? Trust me, even if I tried the negotiation route, those hillbillies would open fire as soon as they saw I wasn’t one of the locals that has bought them donuts and coffee in exchange for favors.”
“Either way, it wouldn’t have helped sh*t, bro.” Carl added sadly. “It’d take an army to break that sh*t up and barely get away with it.”
Sweet was still fuming. “So now what? Where’d they get taken, and what about Horse?”
“I’m getting to that, relax!” Kevin shouted. “The only cop station in this part of the county is at Dillimore, so that’ll be my reasonable guess. That’s why I said you shouldn’t venture to that town – I’d imagine the whole precinct is on a look-out for more masked fake Vagos.”
“We’d better ditch the disguises soon then.” Carl said, though that was mostly stating the obvious at this point.
“As for Horse, I never saw him being busted, but I’d exercise caution before I---“
“Hold on. Someone’s comin’.” Sweet interrupted, and taking a look down to the bottom of the hill, was able to deduce what was happening in an instant. “It’s him all right. Kept us waitin’, like a true white asshole.”
“Was it really necessary to bring race into the discussion?” Kevin asked with a frown as a black SUV that Carl had seen before began climbing up to their location.
“What’s that? Come complain to me when you got real issues to talk about, like systematic oppression, you f*ckin’ show-off. Now, I got bigger fish to fry.” He walked forth to meet Andreas and his entourage halfway.
Kevin turned towards Carl, making sure he was out of Sweet’s earshot. “The hell... is he always like this?”
“He’s opinionated, but he don’t normally bring that up. Guess this is just a whole new level of pissed.” Carl speculated.
“And how am I a show-off? If that’s all the thanks I’m going to get for covering your asses---“
“Seriously, I at least appreciate all the work you did back there. Ignore him, I think he’s trynna wind you up ‘cause misery loves company and sh*t.”
“I’ll tell you what his behavior’s like. It’s f*cking unreasonable. With all due respect to you, I think I’m not interested in associating with your brother any more than I already have.”
“I think that won’t be a problem. He’s probably gonna break all ties with Schrader if we don’t get paid now.”
“What do you mean we won’t get paid?” Kevin’s face turned pale in almost an instant. “You do have the loot, right? There was only one guy left holding on to it?”
“Actually... he got away.” Carl scratched his head awkwardly. “We did catch up to him, but terrain caught us by surprise. He took both the money and the case’s contents...”
“Man, sh*t! I really needed something to make things with the Ballas a bit less painful.”
“All ain’t lost yet... see if Sweet can sweet-talk ‘em into a settlement.” Carl said, not that he had much faith remembering how the biker mission turned out.

Andreas was all smiles when he exited the car and walked up to Sweet, but that faded in a blink of an eye as he noticed the gang leader was carrying nothing.
“So – what happened to the money? Drugs?” he asked in confusion.
“I’ll get to that soon, but first, we gotta make certain things clear.” an irritated Sweet told him.
“Then I’m all ears.” He kept a close eye on Sweet’s hands, unsure if he was trying to pull some kind of a trick, surprise attack even. “However, I thought we said there should’ve been six of you.”
“Would you believe that there really was? Problem is, our perfect plan went to hell when unexpected factors started to f*ck with it all of a sudden.”
“Unexpected factors?”
“The Rifa had backup right down the road that joined in. We got distracted, delayed, and one guy barricaded himself in safety wit’ all the spoils.”
“Surely he couldn’t have escaped?” Andreas was in quite a bit of disbelief.
“Don’t call me Shirley. And we had to rush things when five-O was closin’ in. He took off, we chased him with that piece of sh*t you saw on the bottom of this hill, and he got lucky. By now, he’s either in San Fierro suckin’ up to T-Bone, or still rampagin’ through the woods thinkin’ he still got a tail.”
Andreas prompted him to continue if he had anything else to say, a thoughtful expression on his face as Sweet spoke. “And as the cherry on top, Ryder and LB are in jail by now. With all the sh*t that’s happened to us, mostly thanks to your faulty intel, I’d say we expect a compensation.”
The look on the German’s face – as well as his tone – changed to apologetic, which all three knew was a bad sign. “While the reports on the police dispatch do imply you did an excellent job clearing out a farm’s worth of gang members, we did kind of agree that the payment would be for bringing their merchandise to us.”
“You don’t feel even an ounce of responsibility that your sh*tty scoutin’ left us vulnerable?”
“Still obsessed with that, then? Let me re-iterate something – we never actually ruled out the Rifa’s presence in this county. All that we could be sure of was that there was no evidence so far that they would operate here – only Los Santos, and even that information was acquired partly thanks to Carl clearing out their smuggling crew.”
“I didn’t do it on my own, though.” Carl said, feeling flattered.
“Doesn’t take anything away from the achievement. Now, in spite of those defeated looks on your faces, I’d say this mission was still more successful than you’d think.”
“How?” Kevin asked, a glimmer of newly-found hope in his mind.
“The reason is the pieces of garment you’re wearing. Assuming none of them – or, rather, just the sole survivor – realized you’re actually not Vagos, he’ll be reporting on the incident to his bosses right now and making it clear what gang the attackers were representing.”
“Don’t think he figured anything out.” Carl guessed, glancing over to Sweet but receiving nothing from him, the man still struggling to come to terms with their failure.
“Then we just might be able to expect a three-way conflict soon enough.”

Impatiently walking back and forth for a short while, Sweet finally gathered the words he needed to say. “So even with your damn conflict provoked, you really ain’t gonna pay us a dime?”
Andreas took a long, deep sigh. “I don’t like repeating myself, but here goes: we didn't offer to pay you blood money for the dead hostiles. We offered money in exchange for what they were dealing on that farm, and since that’s gone with the escaped Rifa, our deal is off. The casualties and ruined relations certainly are an advantage for your gang, but it’s not what we said we’d additionally reward you for. Though,” he added a bit more positively, “as a thank you for continuing to work for our benefit, and possibly confirming a Rifa presence in Red County, I think our boss will agree to reducing Carl’s debt.”
“So that’s all? Y’all just pat CJ’s back and call it a day? F*ck. That. CJ, we done here. If we go now, we’ll be home by supper.”
“Home? But what about Ryder an’ LB?”
“What can we do? You know there ain’t no such thing as a successful prison break. That’s why we just sucked it up and lived wit’ it when Big Devil or OG Loc went to jail. I’d rather just crash on my couch and forget this day ever existed...”
Walking down the hill, Sweet didn’t notice Carl was no longer walking right behind him until he opened his mouth. “Bro. Not so fast.”
“What’d you say?” Sweet was confrontational as soon as those words escaped Carl’s lips.
“Nothing that you should interpret as hostile. I just – well, let’s make this straight, OK? I know exactly how you feel ‘bout me right now.” Carl said, perhaps being a bit judgmental but at least not condescending. “You think I’m turnin’ into a liability who’s more trouble than he’s worth. Well, guess what, maybe I am. That’s why I think I’ll move on to a different line of work for a while.”
“What is this?”
“No, I ain’t defecting to the Germans. All I’m sayin’ is, least I could do for Ryder and LB is scope out Dillimore, find out how much is bein’ pinned on them, how much these cops actually know... that sorta thing. Trust me, it’ll be an improvement if we left Grove Street at the hands of you, Smoke – maybe Horse – for a couple of days.”
“Yeah, right, Horse, I gotta phone up that nigga soon...” Sweet mumbled for a while. “So it’s just scoutin’ you after? None of the risky sh*t that’s gonna put you outta action?”
“Exactly. I think I’ll drop by Grove for any supplies I need, but after that, you don’t gotta see me in another few days.”

Sweet didn’t understand himself – why was he still questioning Carl if this was precisely what he had wanted? Indeed, it was probably for the better if he gave the other, often overlooked, lieutenants some opportunities to shine. Carl could do with some fresh air to set his head straight, anyway.
“OK, you do what you gotta do then.” he said with an approving tone, but not without climbing the hill again to have a final word with Andreas, who’d been conversing with Kevin all that time. “And you – I’m done with your whole crew from here on out. Don’t contact me ever again, got it? I was better off without your errands anyway.”
Andreas merely nodded. “I believe that decision will benefit both of us, yes.”
Angry that he didn’t get any reason to properly yell at him without looking stupid, Sweet went back to head for the quad. “CJ, if you don’t mind, I think I wanna headbutt the road in peace. You and K still got your getaway car, so---“
“Oy, one more thing!” Andreas called out, remembering his subject at the last minute. “If I understand your gang color thing correctly, it might not be a good idea to go home wearing that. We’ve got some substitute scrubs you can grab, free of charge. Honestly.” He added the final word upon seeing the suspicion on Sweet’s face.

He shrugged and took a look at the back of the car, rummaging through the pile with aggression. “There ain’t no green in here?” he muttered, Carl and Kevin also gathering to the scene.
“Neutrality never hurt anyone.” Andreas remarked.
“Bunch of motherf*ckers...” As Sweet threw on a gray hoody and similarly colored jeans, Carl could imagine that the Germans’ lack of consideration for gang culture was going to be another thing for him to be angry about on the return trip.
“You got any socks that don’t look like Swiss cheese for me to grab?” It was now Kevin’s turn to go through the pile, looking more interested than he should’ve been. Carl felt a sense of sadness when seeing this, knowing just how tight his budget had to have been to accommodate debts.
“Like I said, anything you want is yours. We’re not a charity though, so don’t expect regular deliveries like this – well, unless we put you through another job that involves disguises.”
“When you speak of new jobs, I hope there’ll be something soon? And that Carl’s still around?”
Carl had a light chuckle at his own expense. “Don’t think I have much choice on the matter. But yeah, anything comes up, you can give both of us a call. Just be advised, I’ll be in Dillimore the next week to see if I can do anything about my homies.”
“Quite the admirable attitude, Carl. And if you’re staying in this county, we’re going to double-check this region for Rifa activity that might need taking care of. Until then, so long.”

Carl waved the SUV goodbye as Andreas, together with those three quiet henchmen that he’d conditioned himself to ignore, headed back the way they came, with Kevin currently packing up all the clean clothes he’d collected.
“So – Dillimore, huh? Do you have a more detailed plan for that?” he asked, tying his bag neatly shut and lifting it over his shoulder.
“I dunno. What’s there to it, other than findin’ out more about Ryder an’ LB?”
“Such as, where are you going to live? I doubt you’d volunteer to just spend your nights out in the wilderness, right? And how are you going to avoid receiving attention? People out here might easily associate you with the two black guys who just got arrested.”
Carl appeared dejected. “Sh*t, man, this is why I always get in trouble to begin with. I just can’t seem to – see the whole damn picture.”
“Don’t worry, you’re in luck. I just wanted to see your reaction.” Kevin smirked and motioned him to come along for the walk to Palomino Creek, where his getaway car was still (hopefully) waiting. “I know a shack, not too far from the community, that should work for you. Far as I know, it’s laid dormant for years, but just in case we’d better scour it for any signs of life before we settle you in.”
“How do you know random little shacks like those?”
“I am a criminal, aren’t I? Trust me, when you’re hiding from the law, you start to remember the terrain in immense detail. Now going back to your identity – I’d think you could cosplay as a lawyer, to get close to your friends, or maybe even a country musician, that could win the place to your side in an instant---“
“I guess you’ve never heard me sing?”
“So that’s a ‘no’ then?” Kevin laughed perhaps a bit harder than he should’ve. “Going back to the lawyer idea, though, these clothes we just picked up don’t look half bad. We make a nice combination out of it, add a nice haircut and pair of glasses – presto, you’re ready for some good old-fashioned ambulance chasing!”

And so, as the two of them left this town behind in a light blue, sparkling clean Fortune that they would be allowed to keep for a few days to get around, a new chapter was about to open up in Carl’s life. A leap at the unknown, so to speak, taking a massive risk in the process – but then what wouldn’t he do to ensure the welfare of his close friends, particularly in a situation where he felt like the one responsible for their condition – even if, on the back of his mind, he still suspected foul play somewhere on the background of this mission.
 

To Be Continued.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
  • Finland

#45

Posted 22 November 2016 - 01:33 AM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:41 AM.

VC3: Partners in Crime

 

”Mr. Vercetti?”
A knock and the sugary voice of the receptionist broke the silence that Tommy had been enjoying for a while, lying on his bed and allowing the ribs to heal for as long as no new information surfaced. Minutes, hours, he wasn’t exactly certain how long he’d been resting there.
“Yeah?” He raised his head to get a better look.
“Do you have a friend named Riley Jackson?”
Tommy was glad the name just about rang a bell before he could mutter a negative response. “Yes – why?”
“Well, he just dropped by at the lounge and said he wanted to send you a letter, along with this map that should help with any parking problems you may face.” She walked into the room and up to him to personally hand over the objects; despite his aching chest arguing otherwise, Tommy was quick to sit up.
“You can let him in if you want.” he stammered, examining the map with curiosity.
“He only dropped by to bring you these, then left in a hurry.”
“Huh. Alright.” Tommy gave her a look that implied he could use some privacy before looking closer into the matter.

Hello, friend! I know you’ve settled well into this town already, but I thought I’d get some details out of the way since you asked for them.

First of all, I hope you find the map useful. Personally, I always recommend parking it on the bottom floor – much less tedious to get back down that way.

Unlike in Idaho, the standards of the people around here are piss-poor. They often love to leave their trash lying around, even shove it under cars sometimes to avoid littering charges. Don’t be one of those guys.

Since you like chips so much, I suggest grabbing some from the corner store at 31 Ocean Beach Avenue – big sale coming up. The French guy who works there can be quite a character, but try not to let him piss you off. Just be really careful of the back alley, I once had a friend robbed in broad daylight at 2pm when he tried taking a shortcut over there. This city truly is a treacherous cesspit of petty crime, no matter what district you’re in.

Once you get to it, though, remember to bring some for me as well. We could also check out a bowling alley, a movie theater or something that evening – sure, it’s a bit mundane compared to the hyper-rich around here who can relax on a yacht whenever they please, but let’s at least be happy that some of the entertainment around here is affordable for us less fortunate folks too.

Yours truly, Riley J.


Tommy had to laugh. It was all clear in his mind that Cortez had instructed Riley to “keep things subtle” and the subordinate had followed the suggestion to the letter, resulting in something that looked like it was taken right out of a conversation between two secret agents, except it would be significantly easy to deduce for any unwelcome parties if it ended up in the wrong hands. The parking map was trickier, and didn’t seem to guide him anywhere in particular until he noticed that one of the locations, a multi-story garage a couple of blocks over, had been marked with a slightly different color from the rest – teal instead of plain blue.

Yellow Idaho, first floor of that lot, and there’s a gun underneath. Tommy burned the first part of the riddle in his brain as he went on his way, keeping the letter folded up in his pocket – not like there was any safer place to store such an important thing.

Taking note of the Collars & Cuffs clothes store just across an alley in case he needed to remember the location of this garage in the future, Tommy walked in, finding the lot to be much less busy than he expected – all the more reason to stash something here.

The Idaho was not difficult to find, its bright color standing out somewhat next to some plain-colored poorer people’s cars, but Tommy found himself waiting for an eternity and a half for a nearby morbidly fat tourist family to get out of their minivan and leave the garage already. He pretended to be the owner of the Idaho who’d lost his keys, praying that no one else would show up to disturb his privacy once the family was gone. He heard some sports car enter the garage, but it presumably chose a different area to park in, not showing up from either side.

His ribs once again disagreed with him as he reached underneath the car in search of the gun once all the whales had waddled to whatever restaurant was nearest. Tommy really had to bite his tooth trying to find something more significant than little pebbles without even a flashlight to aid him – and as if dictated by destiny, as soon as he felt the ever-so-familiar metal belonging to a gun’s handle for the first time in years, he heard that someone had walked right to where he was, most likely on purpose.
“Find anything yet?” The voice didn’t sound like it would belong to that familyman.
“I don’t need any help.” Tommy snarled.
“I thought you might. The Colonel doesn’t make his stashed guns easy to grab.”

Tommy nearly sprang up from his position, hitting his head on the next car in the process, to get a good look at the man who knew more than he should have. He already expected to see a weapon pointing at his head and yet another one of the city’s crooks taking advantage of his lack of foresight – but when he realized the dark-skinned man in a well-kept white suit was unarmed and showed no additional signs of aggression either, he could pull out the hidden pistol without worry.
“No one in the organization said I’d be receiving backup.” he said dismissively.
“Yes, I’m sure you can do whatever they throw at you without help just fine, but it may not always be wise. In a town like this, you gotta have someone who’s got your back.” There was a hint of eagerness in the stranger’s voice as Tommy stood up, examining his new Glock 17.
“My back’s just fine, brother...”
“Maybe now, but what if you get in trouble with the wrong kind eventually? Trust me, I’ve met Cortez as well and he’s the real deal, but out there you can’t really rely on him all the time.”
“I’m not planning to.” Tommy corrected.
“You really are hard to convince, aren’t you?”
“I just don’t see why I’d trust someone I still know nothing about.”

The stranger crossed his arms, obviously excited now that he’d get to the introductory bit. “Friend, the man you’re looking at is the only survivor of that drug deal gone horribly wrong, apart from you and whoever was driving you.”
“Come again?” Tommy tilted his head with suspicion.
“Exactly! That brings me to my real point... I’m sure this town’s full of potential people who could make your life easier, but with me you’d be assured there will be no sidetracking, no foreign agendas you don’t care about. I’m after the exact same stolen merchandise as you, Tommy, and I won’t rest until I find a proper lead.”
“How nice of you to address me by my name, without introducing yourself yet.”
“I was just getting to that. The name’s Lance.” He offered a hand, but Tommy left it unshaken for now.
“I think it’s odd that you’d seek me out like this, Lance. You had no prior idea what I’m like – you’re taking quite a risk here.”
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take. My brother is dead, and everyone in this craphole of a city is a suspect. Everyone except the two of us.”
“Even the Colonel?”
“He knows more about the deal than anybody – I’d say he’s in a prime position on the list.”
Tommy crossed his arms. “Are you saying I should disregard his investigations then, because he might be misleading me all along?”
“I’m saying to take it with a grain of salt.” Lance said. “At least until we can confirm he’s not the culprit.”
“And how do you know I’m not the mastermind behind the attack?”
“Simple. They were shooting at you too. It’s not exactly easy to stage a situation like that...”
“Fair enough. Apart from the Colonel, you got any other leads?”
“It’s still early, but little birds told me you’ve had a run-in with Leo Teal already, and that he’s not gonna be of assistance.”
“What the – Lance, I think you know your sh*t a little too well.” Tommy’s voice started to have a threatening tone to it.
“Kent Paul still hasn’t dropped dead with all the intel he’s carrying, so I think I’m good.”

A moment of silence followed. Tommy still wasn’t convinced that there was anything vouching for his new partner candidate’s trustworthiness except for his own word, and he had this awful gut feeling that Lance had, in some way, stalked him in the near past. If they were going to become a team where both could trust the other to have their back at any given moment, why would he wait this long to make his grand entrance? Tommy’s smug side would’ve had him believe Lance was simply scared, or at least intimidated by him – and that wouldn’t help his cause at all, as what would a scared man be good for on his quest? Either way, there was only one way to find out if he had his way with more than just fancy talking...

“Lance.” Tommy said assertively. “The reason the Colonel had me pick up this gun was because I’m about to do him a favor that just might involve putting it into good use. Why don’t you show up tomorrow alongside me and show me what you’ve got?”
“Sure. No problem.” Lance’s voice was emotionless.
“Is there really?”
“Well, not from my side. The Colonel didn’t seem too excited about the idea of us hooking up though. Keep this between you and me, but I think he might be---“
“Trying to cover up his guilt? Lance, we’ve gone through your theory already – I’m well aware of it, now quit shoving it into my face.”
“I was gonna say, maybe he suspects us as well, and is afraid one might try to kill the other if it means leaving no living witnesses from that scene.”
“Anyway, I like how nothing that goes between you and Cortez remains very private.” Tommy said with a smirk.
“It’s better than having any uncomfortable secrets between us, ain’t it?”
“Just don’t expect me to return the favor on that front. Now as for that mission---“
“I could drive you back to your hotel while you explain along the way?” Lance extended his hand to point out his white Infernus that, like the Idaho, stuck out from the middle of the other cars, but for slightly different reasons.
“Sure.” Tommy said, double-reminding himself that Lance would have a gun on his forehead if he ever deviated too far from the intended route, especially under the guise of taking a shortcut.
“By the way, you saw the Colonel’s daughter at any point? Great pair of boobs on her.” Lance told unexpectedly once he’d started the car.
“Interesting. I think you might make a good shooter indeed.” Tommy snarked.
“How so?”
“Because your eyesight’s clearly damn perfect.”

Tommy didn’t keep himself busy with anything in particular after Lance had dropped him off, all the way until noon the following day, a whole two hours before the meeting was supposed to be on. Within that timeframe, the only notable event was a frantic phonecall from Ken for a change – the lawyer was fretting in his usual style, but this time for good reason, as there were now Forelli goons shadowing him outside his office building all day (‘allegedly, as a good lawyer would say’, Tommy pointed out – for some reason Ken hated the joke). Tommy didn’t think they’d actually have a reason to do anything beyond that, but made a mental note to watch his back a little more attentively from now on. Maybe, with enough luck, he’d notice if he had a tail beside the one he just met.

His rendezvous with Lance took place in the Pole Position strip club of all places, just a short bike ride away. Leaving the Freeway at the hands of some underpaid valet to get it to a safer location than its previous owner had chosen, Tommy had no difficulty finding Lance inside the rather crowded place – even in the middle of all the red lights, he and his white suit stood out like a sore thumb.
“I didn’t know you had much time for this stuff.” he snarked, startling his new ‘partner’ who had been busy admiring some girl in a cowboy hat, on the main stage.
“There’s only so much research I can do on the streets... and tell me, ain’t it a bit of a waste of time if you come to Vice City only to never go out there and see what it’s got to offer?”
“It could be. Either way, you better be ready for whatever happens... I’m not looking to babysit anyone for as long as I stay here.”
“Hey baby, you up for a private dance?” Tommy turned away from Lance to see another one of the strippers talking to him – an inevitable state of affairs, he figured.
“Not right now, I’m busy.”
“Oh...” The girl was clearly disappointed, but wiped that expression off her face quickly to go propose the idea for someone else.
“Lance, you know what the problem is with all these public places?” Tommy asked, his friend’s eyes focused on the girl’s ass as she walked away.
“Too many ears? Just be cool, man, all those people are just as occupied with their stuff as we’re with ours.”
“And what’s to say someone wouldn’t be here specifically to spy on us? Like that biker on the table, or the cab driver near him? Even that stripper who just approached me might be after information. We gotta be more aware than this.”
“What are the options?” Lance said dismissively. “Going to your hotel room? That’d be just too blatant, someone would notice a pattern sooner or later. And the less people know where you live, the better.”
“Besides,” he went on before Tommy could say anything, “I really doubt anyone knows about our alliance, or doesn’t care about it enough to send people looking out for us.” His voice turned into a whisper. “If my speculations are correct, the party who did this is big enough that they think they got away with it, scot-free. No need to worry about anyone getting back at them.”
“You had better be damn right, because otherwise that line of thinking might get us killed, Lance.” Tommy said, feeling honestly disappointed. A man like Lance should know better about how the thought process of professional criminals really worked...
“By the way, goin’ back to the more casual sh*t... you really shouldn’t dismiss the private dances around here. I’ve been to places a lot worse than this...” Lance winked as he spoke.
“I’ll think of it when I don’t have imminent assignments on the schedule.”

Lance obviously disagreed, as by the time Tommy got himself a drink, he had snuck off into the back with another one of the Western-themed strippers. Just as Tommy remembered from his youth, a healthy bit of adult entertainment made time fly like a hummingbird, and perhaps so it was for Lance as well, who still hadn’t come back by half past one. Tommy swore he’d drag the bastard out of that area by force if he took even five minutes longer, regardless of what the security would think. Perhaps Lance did eventually check the clock and realize he was running late, as he then emerged back into sight just as Tommy’s patience was about to run bone-dry, sweating and walking awkwardly. Tommy needed no words to express his disapproval.

“OK, OK, right, the meeting. We’ll take the car.” Lance said with haste, leading him out of the club.
“Great, nothing like charging my parking bill up the ass in the meantime.”
“I know sh*t like that sucks ass, but honestly, if you drive that chopper bike like I think you do – we’re better off using something that exposes us a little less, if things really get as sticky as you make it out to be.”
“I thought you cared about your wheels a bit more than that.”
“At least I’m putting it to good use! Nothing like the posh playboys you’d meet on Starfish Island. A few dents and bullet holes at least prove this ride has been to places!”
“And gain the attention of cops, I presume?”
“Meh, my lawyer should be able to bail me out if that’s ever the case.”
“I wouldn’t be so reliant, but you do things your way then.” Tommy acknowledged.
“Do you have a lawyer? It’s kind of a good idea in this city.”
“No respect for my privacy then? I’m still not sure if I can trust you.”
“You have it your way then.” Lance said, frowning. “But that does sound like you have one, whose identity you’re tryin’ to protect.”

The alley that served as their destination was another one of those that stretched for a long distance between two busy roads, right behind the corner store mentioned in the letter along with multitudes of other businesses, and most importantly well out of sight of cops despite being right about in the heart of a high-value part of town. If Tommy had been superstitious, he would’ve seen this as a bad omen, but rather he thought of this as an opportunity for redemption. He had backup this time, and he doubted the courier would pose as much threat as Leo Teal if he ever became aggressive – this anticipation proved true when he saw him for the first time.

Either the man was just proud of his heritage, or he was of the dangerously flamboyant variety: between the beret, red sunglasses, curvy moustache and purple jacket with a black and white shirt underneath, he stood out like a sore thumb, and perhaps it was better for everyone that he kept a low profile during the meet-up.
Tommy walked up to him ahead of Lance. “Excuse me, you Cortez’s courier?”
“’Uh?” The man seemed unamused. “’E said there would only be one of you.”
“Plans changed. Besides, this ain’t the kinda town where it’s wise to walk into deals alone.”
“I, for one, ‘ave ‘ad enough changes of plans for ze day.” the Frenchman lamented. “Just ‘ow is this greasy alley supposed to be safer than the mall a rock’s throw away?”
“I don’t know, and decisions Cortez made without my knowledge aren’t my concern right now. Just hand over the damn chips and I can get them to his boat.”
The courier was unimpressed. “I am not very fond of the way you try to intimidate me. For all I know, you might well be one of them.”
“What ‘them’?” Lance demanded.
“You seriously can’t claim you don’t know! Bloodthirsty GIGN agents, ‘ot on my tail ever since I acquired these! And now I don’t know if you’re... well, at least you’re definitely not French, but...”
Tommy’s patience waned. “Listen, prick, if you can’t put your trust in us, I’d suggest you just take them to Cortez yourself and be done with it.”
“Now you don’t understand... if they catch me on the boat, it’ll confirm their suspicions that I’m in league with their sworn enemy, and I’m guaranteed to take a bullet to the face as soon as I leave! But for now, I’m just an independent thief they shouldn’t use lethal force on.”
“And what about us?” Tommy asked with a scowl.
“As long as they don’t catch us in the act, they’ll never know! Sure, some of them might be spying on Cortez, but it’s not like they’ll stop you and search your bodies. No authorization, you know.”
Tommy started pacing back and forth impatiently. “Alright, I think you’ve prepped us for the task ahead long enough. I’ll be careful with the merchandise as long as you let us get on our way.”
“Oui, absolutely right, I just – I’ll just give the Colonel a really quick call, OK? Clear things up a bit, because I just can’t risk things here...”
“Sure.” Lance said with a good bit of sarcasm, but also contempt. “We got no problem with assholes holding us up, right?”

He turned to nod at Tommy, but saw something unwanted in the corner of his eye as he did. Tommy evidently saw the same, because he immediately stopped walking and tensed up. Figures dressed in dark protective clothing, gathering to the scene from multiple directions behind the courier couldn’t possibly mean anything good.
“Ah, the Colonel! Pierre ‘ere, glad you could pick up so soon. I’m in a bit of a situation over ‘ere – no, nothing serious, just something that requires clearing up...”
“Frenchie?” Lance asked angrily. “Pierre, whatever? Are these friends of yours?”
“’Old up, friend, apparently there’s more commotion going on. Look, les amis, I don’t understand what--- oh, merde.”
Lance chuckled nervously. “I know enough French to say that’s a good way to put it.”
“GIGN operatives...” the courier gasped.
“Well, they’ve got some nerve.” Tommy muttered, seeing that some were carrying assault rifles.
“You American idiots! You led zem right to our location! I knew I shouldn’t ‘ave trusted you!” Pierre shouted, not waiting around for a response as he took off running in the safest direction he could find.
“What the- oh, no you don’t!” Lance sprinted after him as soon as he realized what was going on; Tommy refrained from following as his chest was starting to ache again, and that kind of physical exertion was unlikely to do him any good.

Pierre ran towards one specific passage with determination, but the agents had seemingly predicted this as it was also the most closely secured one – as he noticed this, he hesitated for just a moment to decide on a new direction to run, and that was enough for Lance to latch on to his legs as several agents raised their guns---

The courier came down surprisingly easily even though Lance hadn’t even properly pulled him yet, but the ugly truth came out once he saw that the man was already non-responsive – a distinctive hole in the side of his head told everything he needed to know. He’d somehow missed the noise of the shot in the heat of the action, but now that wasn’t the biggest concern.

“Both of you imperialist American pigs, freeze!” a soldier demanded, gun now pointed at Lance climbing up to his feet over the courier’s body.
“Zat is propertay of le government Francais! ‘And eet over!” continued another. Lance gazed at the briefcase that the dead man’s hand was still grasping onto, wondering if the contents were worth risking their lives, even for Cortez’s sake...

Bang. Bang. If the agents were willing to use deadly force on their good old thieving friend, Tommy had every reason to believe they would do the same to unknown accomplices, and acted pre-emptively to bring them down. They weren’t probably dead from just one pistol shot each, but incapacitated enough that Lance could pry the case off that cold hand in peace. Tommy jogged to his location, regretting it the moment he started as the stinging sensation came back.
“That’s one way to hone your shooting skills, eh Tommy?”
The mobster shrugged. “Pointing and firing at stationary targets is easy enough. It’s not something you just forget, not even after a jail spell.”
“So how do you think Cortez’ll react when he finds out his friend’s---“
“Worry about that later.” Tommy said, noticing that even more agents were starting to flood in from more directions now, including the passage that led to their car. “We better move.”
“And where exactly?” Lance inquired. The agents were approaching with extreme caution, not wanting to take needless risks or they’d end up like the previous two.
Tommy pointed at one of the lanes, opposite the road they’d arrived from. “That courier seemed really interested in that direction. If we’re lucky, he’s got an escape vehicle lined up.”
“That’s better than asking you to run in your current condition, I suppose.”
“I didn’t need reminders. Now, allow me to carry the chips and watch my back.”

Lance stared at Tommy, uncertain if he should trust him not to leave him hung out to dry – but there was no time for pondering as the GIGN closed in ever so slowly. As he handed over the briefcase, Tommy immediately got moving, with the fastest walking steps he could possibly take, one hand clutching onto the briefcase and the other carefully aiming the gun up ahead, ready to fire if he saw anything that looked like the French SWAT’s uniforms. Lance took his first shots of the day (excluding what he had at the strip club, of course) to try and scare the agents, keep them at bay... one of them, likely a rookie, did back off in fear, but the leader of the squad was only agitated by this and fired back. He was a bit more accurate with the assault rifle than what Lance was comfortable with, so he picked up his speed as well.

“I knew it!” Tommy chanted triumphantly, Lance almost firing an unwanted shot as he became startled.
“What’s up now?”
“Exactly as I thought, the French guy had a little form of transport stashed over here.” Lance took cover behind the corner of the building as he re-emerged into the street, and spotted a plain-colored but evidently fast sport bike that Tommy was pointing at.
“That motherf*cker! I bet he was gonna rip us off and make a break for it with that thing!”
Tommy sat on the bike and revved it up. “Are you gonna spend all this time cursing a dead man, or be thankful that he left us a means of escape?”
“Good point. Make some room for me too...” Lance took the most comfortable position he could behind Tommy, just as he began to see the first few chasers pop into view. “And floor it!

Lance and at least two GIGN troops exchanged fire as Tommy pulled a short wheelie before zooming into the street, holding on to the briefcase for all it was worth. Civilians in cars and on the sidewalk alike panicked, as usual, about the sight of urban warfare right in the middle of them, which made Tommy’s work a bit more difficult – not that it mattered, as they were out of range within seconds. Weaving through disarranged traffic, both knew right then that no one would have what it took to catch them on speed alone.

Later that evening...

At sunset, Vice City became a considerably different place. Only for the better if glory-seekers were concerned, as that was when all the neon lights began flooding Ocean Drive and other similar locations – but people with experience knew all too well that where the lights ended, misery began, especially for gullible fellows traveling alone.

The lack of the shiny beams and protective crowds wasn’t a problem for two men who were willing to put a merciless bullet in the head of anyone trying their luck with them. Fortunately for the city’s lowlives’ sake, the only person they encountered in the Marina was a drunkard too busy vomiting into the ocean to bat an eye. The big boat standing out among the rest was all lit up and appeared to have some life going on aboard, even though it wasn’t quite comparable to the usual parties.

“So my money will be well spent, right?” Cortez asked his current guest, shooing off his chefs that were frantically trying to tell him something.
“I don’t think you could invest it any better!” Avery Carrington chanted like a salesman. “There aren’t many places in this world more suited to gentlemen like yourself than Shady Acres.”
“I just hope your workers are more competent than whoever built my current residence. The plumbing issues are simply unbearable at times.”
“Speaking of plumbing, I’m sorry to inconvenience you, but I think I may need to take a quick leak. There’s a bathroom on this boat, right?” Avery said, already jumping up and down a bit nervously.
“I’m not going to make my guests empty their load into the ocean. Norman looks the least busy at the moment,” Cortez said and snapped his fingers to get the chef’s attention, “so he may guide you.”
“Of course.” the assigned chef said with a brief salute.
“Oh, and hello, Vercetti.” Avery greeted along the way, taking Tommy by a bit of a surprise – he resorted to a brief wave of the hand at the business mogul before he disappeared down the stairs.
“You know that guy?” Lance whispered.
“I’ve seen him once – didn’t think he even cared much about my presence. We’ll see where this goes.”

By the time Avery was gone, the attention was on Tommy and Lance proper once more. The chefs got back to expressing their displeasure to Cortez, now louder than before.
“Boss, we tried to stop them, but they just forced their way in---“
“Just give us permission and we’ll toss them overboard!”
“Enough.” Cortez raised a hand at them once more, before focusing on his guests. “Thomas, I hope this unexpected violation of privacy came for good reason.”
“We’ve got your chips.” Tommy mouthed off, handing over the briefcase while barely resisting the urge to call out Gardner for doing the exact same previously. “And we really weren’t in the mood to be turned away a second time in a row with foreign gunmen hot on our tail.”
“Turned away a second time?”
“You weren’t here when we showed up at daylight.” Lance spoke up now. “All that was here was some overzealous guard who’d had a really sh*t day or something, since he decided to take that out on us.”
“I – my, this is awkward – I was attending a meeting somewhere else and should’ve remembered to tell you... you didn’t do anything irrevocable at least, did you?”
Lance shrugged. “He’ll get over the international hand signals in a few days, I think.”
“And it’s not like I hit him with full force or anything. I’m more merciful than his screams and insults would imply.” Tommy added.

“So if that thing’s cleared up – why are they working together? Did you tell them to?” one chef asked another.
“No, I only sent Tommy the briefing! I thought you had something to do with it.”
“Speaking of the briefing,” Tommy interrupted, “the idea was clever, but the execution less than subtle. You need to work on that, Jackson.”
“Little.” Riley said.
“What do you mean ‘little’? If anything, it takes a lot of work to write up a message that a rival agent couldn’t decipher in five minutes.”
“No, my last name is actually Little. See? I knew you only knew me on a first name basis, so what I did was change up the additional details to ensure the letter would never be traced back to me!”
“Wouldn’t do you much good if the enemy knew Cortez was involved. I doubt there are other Rileys associated with him.” Tommy argued.
“Fine, fine, prove a point all you want. But the most important question remains: how did you two find each other, and whose fault was it?”
“I would like to know as well – for security reasons.” Cortez added, setting the briefcase aside now that he had reviewed its contents.
Lance stepped up. “First of all, it’s nobody’s ‘fault’, Riley, or whatever your name was. Secondly, it’s not even a bad thing, which you’re making it out to be. In a f*cked up city like this, the concept of two guys on a similar mission covering each other’s backs shouldn’t come as a surprise, let alone be condemned by people with no idea of how it is to be us right now.”
“Well, that was a speech if I ever saw one.” Tommy said.
Lance nodded. “It’s a useful skill to have in this job.”

“Very well then.” Cortez put his hands behind his back and started thoughtfully walking in circles, henchmen moving out of the way when necessary. “I’m not going to spend energy trying to argue that, so let me just give you youngsters some advice. This team-up clearly gives you confidence, but don’t let it become false confidence. Even as an armed pair, you’re greatly outnumbered and outgunned by every halfway relevant faction in this town – though I guess it should be considered remarkable that you survived the evident GIGN attack and evaded them throughout the day.”
“Yeah, we forgot to mention that Pierre wasn’t so lucky. He’s sleeping with the fishes – or, well, worms to be precise.” Tommy said.
“That is a tragedy, and I wish you’d use more respectful language regarding it.” Cortez said blamingly, though Tommy felt little regret.
“In any case, now that his merchandise is safe and sound here, I trust you’ll refer me – us – to Gonzalez as you promised?”
Cortez’s voice sounded a tad tired. “You truly have the memory span of an elephant, Thomas. I am a man of my word though, so you will hear from him soon enough. Just be ready to come back here if anything previously unknown comes up or if I contact you... alright?”
“Yeah, I can work that out.”
“One last thing though!” Lance called out again, his tone now more aggressive. “Why exactly were you intending on keeping us separate again? What security reasons were behind all that?”

A toilet was flushed and a tap turned on below them; on the deck, Tommy was about to punch Lance for his sudden outburst, but Cortez showed a lot more calmness.
“I believe those sounds indicate that that is a question for another day. I’m terribly sorry for both of you that we cannot go on, but again the scheduled meeting has to take priority over the sudden, rash one. Esteban, if you would be so kind as to escort them...”
“Oh, and don’t you worry about us. We might look like we’d go out of our ways to look for fights, but we were brought up better than that. It’s why we’re still alive.” Lance added, the chef he recognized as the one most often assigned to give him instructions now stepping up from the crowd to do his job.
“I know. Just make sure if you do ever need to rough someone up, that it’s not someone on my payroll again – I hate to pay unnecessary hospital bills when things could be settled more nicely by just walking away.”

“So, what do you think?” Lance asked, both now sitting on a bench by the beach, which was just as deserted as any unlit part of town at this time of day.
“He seemed a bit pompous today,” Tommy observed, “but that could go down to us interrupting his housing arrangement.”
“Did anything about him scream guilty to you?”
“Not really – why, were you specifically baiting him for clues?”
“Yeah, sort of. Come on though, even you should notice he kept avoiding that one question. Now I know you hate to hear that over and over again, but something about it is fishy.”
“I liked the more innocuous theory better.” Tommy growled. “The one about him only keeping us apart so we wouldn’t kill each other.”
“Suit yourself then. Hey, why didn’t you ask him about the investigation progress?”
“Because in all that commotion, I could hardly pick a moment to bring it up, and he didn’t look like he had anything new to offer anyway. Then, before we knew it, we had that prick of a chef shooing us off.”
“That really wasn’t too nice of him.” Lance said, shaking his head. The conversation came to a brief halt as they watched the same drunkard they’d seen before now staggering past them.

“So – shame about your car.” Tommy said.
“No worries, insurance will take care of that if the French fries did as much as lay a finger on it. Just to be sure, you wanna give me a ride to where we left it, see if it’s still in one piece?”
“Wouldn’t that be one of the rash things the Colonel specifically won’t want us to do? It’s not like the agents would just give up their search and go home when night falls.”
“You got any clothes beside that Hawaiian shirt?” Lance asked.
“I got a suit for Cortez’s party on my first day here.”
“Good enough. I say we both grab a fresh set of clothes and your chopper bike. Then put on some helmets, and we can cruise right past their bloody noses...”
“...and they’ll be none the wiser. I suppose that could work – but that reminds me of something real nasty.” Tommy said, suddenly feeling agitated as all hell.
“What’s wrong?”
“My damn bike has been sitting in the strip club’s paid parking space all day long.”

 

The End.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

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  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#46

Posted 02 January 2017 - 01:37 AM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:42 AM.

Yay, first chapter to a story posted altogether in this section in 2017! Do I win anything?

 

VC4: Trailer Trash Trials

 

As some wise frog once said, it wasn’t easy being green.

With past events – recent and distant alike – in mind, Vic felt like rephrasing that as “it’s not easy being a Vance”.

The biggest obstacle on his path right this very second was the difficulty of settling back to his normal life within the military’s ranks. A headache continued to plague him, courtesy of the Triad suicide bomber, and his superiors were understandably of low opinion of a soldier incurring an injury during free time that hindered his ability to do his job – particularly due to being forced to play it off as something incurred after a night of heavy partying. Thus, now he was stuck sorting endless papers in the offices and dying of boredom, but maybe he deserved it for being so gullible with Martinez...

A figure walking the corridor stopped at the doorway of the room Vic was working in – he paused for a moment to have a look, hoping it wasn’t a supervisor about to yell at him for concentrating poorly.

“So this is what they made you do, eh Victor?”
“George?” Vic said almost in disbelief, now face to face with the man that was arguably the closest thing he had to a friend within the base’s walls. He was one of the shortest and most harmless-looking soldiers in the entire city, but knew how to make his presence known like no one else.
“In the flesh. I knew the bosses were uptight, but damn, you really drew the short end of the stick. At least Trevor got to clean out reserve guns – sure, it gets tedious after a hundred or two, but you know how much he loves them...”
“Hey, if you bothered to come all the way here, why not offer a hand?”
George was taken aback. “I’d – rather not interfere with the progress, I’d only mess things up.”
“Fine.” Vic said, rolling his eyes as he grabbed a snack bar from his backpack that was lying a bit hazardously next to his chair. “But at the very least I’m taking a pause. Especially if you got something else to say...”
“Well, I was only supposed to bring you this from Martinez.” George showed him an envelope, but pulled it away before Vic could grab hold of it. “But first, have you seen Trevor or Edward recently? My searches have been fruitless.”
“No, I’ve been stuck doing this sh*t all day long now. Didn’t get much time to check up on them back at the barracks.”
“Ain’t that a bitch. You haven’t even hit the gym?”
“Schedule’s tight, no chance.”
“Damn it... Maybe they’ll be at tonight’s lecture, though. You’re coming for that at least, right?”
“I doubt it. What’s it about anyway?” Vic inquired, his gaze still fully focused on the envelope.
“Pretty much anything an ambitious soldier needs to know. Survival skills in a hostile environment, close quarters combat, that kinda stuff.” George said, newfound excitement in his voice. “They brought in some private military veteran to talk about that.”
“Private military? Since when have they been tolerated ‘round these parts?”
“Ever since they couldn’t find anyone equally qualified, I guess. Seriously, this guy – Michael Masters was his name – knows his sh*t in a way none of our men do, with all due respect.”
“Catchy. But again, the bosses would like to keep me on a really tight leash, so you may be on your own for that. In the meantime, that message...?”

George looked around with confusion, before noticing the item in question was still in his hand.
“Oh yeah... Wouldn’t want to get in unnecessary trouble for withholding it on purpose, huh?” he laughed nervously, handing it over.
“The only one you’d have to worry about is me and my right hook.” Vic said dryly.
“I’ll make a mental note to avoid being on the receiving end of that. But anyway, care to discuss one more point before I allow you to get back to work?”
“Sure – and no need to make it quick.”
“I see.” George scratched his badly shaved beard, looking more thoughtful than ever. “What exactly is it that goes on between you and Martinez?”
“Come again? Aren’t things like this supposed to be private?” Vic asked confrontationally.
“No need to take offense, it’s just – well, it’s no state secret you two have had your fair share of meetings lately.”
“If you need to know, I’m discussing my future career aspirations.” Vic lied with eloquence.
“Really?” George wasn’t buying any of it. “I didn’t think he would be a very qualified person for that sorta counseling – as I bet you’d know, having seen him so often.”
“He’s not, it’s just strictly unofficial business going on between us. Don’t worry about that, but rather my physical fitness if I get stuck doing this sh*t full-time.”

George’s expression continued to be most doubtful; Vic prayed that it was not because he suspected anything absolutely criminal, but just something like him having the privilege of getting to watch porn in Martinez’s office whenever he found time. Sometimes he even wished that was the case for as long as no barnyard animals appeared in the clips.

“Then that’s the way it is. Take care now, Victor, and make sure that if you catch a glimpse of those two lameheads, you let them know I’m looking for them. I’ve got important things for them to tell.”
Vic shrugged. “What kinda things? I could be your messenger while I’m at it.”
“It’s kinda inside stuff. Hard to explain very quickly. Anyway, gotta run – shooting range awaits!”

Vic shook his head. As well as he normally fitted into George’s friend circle – having a six-letter name helped not to stand out – sometimes he still felt like an outsider, all because he had arrived at the base much later than them and wasn’t familiar with everything they did or had done together. All that exclusion made him almost want to stop putting up with them and find new friends instead, but as much as he hated to admit it, they were – half the time, at least – some of the most mature people on the base: the exact kind of company he was in need of. Most of the soldiers at his barracks were more like juvenile Lances, the kind that would both become bored to death if a serious conversation went on for more than two seconds, and find some of the dumbest possible ways to bring trouble upon themselves and anyone around them.

Ah well, on to the letter. Vic dreaded opening it, but if he didn’t, Martinez would find a way to ruin his career and life by extension out of spite. He knew that all too well...

Vic, I’ve assigned you another off-day next Friday, as I hear that headache hasn’t been letting up. I hope you use that time wisely to see that lonely friend of yours. You have my blessing to grab my bike again.

- Sgt. Martinez (and really, you don’t need to salute me!)


“Really, Jerry?” Vic asked aloud. “Lonely friend. If he’s so lonely, why don’t you ever keep him company, you prick?”

Vic didn’t see George or the others at all before Friday morning, when he changed to his civilian outfit and left the base behind once again on the Streetfighter; a relief as that meant no uncomfortable questions about Martinez’s secretive message. By now, he knew the approximate route to Phil’s place and also made sure to take it as quickly as possible, because a difficult-to-describe feeling of dread kept sneaking its way into his brain as he passed through the gang-infested zones – almost as though his deeper instincts were warning him of a great danger, particularly when passing by large groups of Haitian and Cuban gangsters alike. Either word had gotten out already that a military man had wreaked havoc in the area and they were on a lookout for anyone fitting the profile, or they were just casing him as a victim of bike theft. Vic certainly wasn’t taking chances either way, and shamelessly ran red lights for the entire distance.

“So – anyone home?” he called out, parking the Streetfighter right in the middle of Phil’s yard. He still disliked the place as much as he did last time – it hadn’t been cleaned up at all since then, the signs were ominous as ever regardless of his new friendship with the owner, and speaking of him, Phil probably did this on purpose every time. He was nowhere to be seen or heard, but would probably emerge whenever a guest least expected it, just to give a heart attack to any of those who were in the depot without permission.

“Whuh? Who’s there?” Phil asked, sh*t-faced as ever, disproving Vic’s theory on the spot as he stumbled out of his trailer and nearly tripped on the threshold. He had no gun on him, just a bottle of the thing he called boomshine – things were better that way.
“Your friend, Vic. You wanted to see me, right?” Vic said. If Phil didn’t recognize him at all because of a clothes change, he’d haul the drunkard’s ass to a rehab clinic that very second.
“Victor *hic* Vance? Oh, for sure I did, but – it was supposed to be on Friday, right?”
“This is Friday, you moron.”
Phil scratched his head. “Really? Huh... then where’d Thursday go?”
“Knock it off. Our last antics already got me in trouble back at base, and I’m really not up to wasting this day away ‘cause you can’t even give me basic instructions.”
“Actually, Vic...” Phil raised a finger, holding on to a beam for support. “I don’t need to, since *hic* it’s not me that needs help.”
“Not you? Then who, your neighbor?”
“My brother-in-law – *hic* Marty J. Williams.” he said hoarsely.
“Marty? Not the trailer park hillbilly---“ Vic wanted to add wifebeater trash, but that was a harsh verdict on someone he’d only seen in pictures.

Phil simultaneously shook his head and hand, looking incoherent as ever. “I had no choice! Well, if you wanna get technical, then maybe I did, but it’s too late to change things now.”
“Alright, fill me in...” Vic said, standing before him with his arms crossed.
“He just dropped by the other day to make sure I was doing *hic* OK, and I was really drunk – like, unusually drunk, to be clear – and may have mentioned you when I told him how my day went.”
“OK, well, I’m gonna pass on that one. I only ever signed up for this to help you survive through everyday life, not run errands for every crook on the mainland.”
“Please, Vic, consider!” Phil begged. “Marty was really clear that he needs *hic* guys like you. There ain’t many around that will throw themselves into crazy adventures like the one we had.”
“And how are you gonna assure me that he and his boys won’t just shoot me on sight?”
“Marty ain’t like that. No, really, Louise says he’s really grown as a person since they first met. Just recently he’s been ‘dignifying’ his interests a lot, and that includes contacts too.”
“Diversifying?” Vic corrected.
“Yeah, don’t ask me what that means.” Phil said with a chuckle. “But I told you about the Cabrones and how they do *hic* favors for him, right? He won’t discriminate or anything – and would you know, he also said he just wants you to try it out, working under his wing, I mean, and decide yourself if you like it or not.”
“So absolutely no ulterior motives?”
“No, no, no. Who knows, you and Marty could become best friends, you could even open up his mind some more. Wanna go right now?”
“I’m already ‘best friends’ with someone who has an awfully similar name, and look where it got me.” Vic muttered angrily. “But the quicker we get done with it, the better, I suppose.”
“Great! We taking the *hic* Walton. You get the honor to drive.”
“Maybe I should indeed.”
“I could easily do so myself *hic* but the cops never seem to agree.” Phil complained, stumbling over to the truck to open its doors, and after much pondering and weighing the options he had, leaving the boomshine behind.

Trailer Park, Southern Little Havana

If Phil wasn’t with him, Vic would’ve turned his back in an instant to the unwelcoming sight that was Marty’s humble abode. Pickup trucks, uncollected trash and Confederate flags littered the trailer park no matter where he looked, and the agitated barking of a large dog was clearly audible as he pulled up to the front of the most important-looking trailer.

“Don’t worry about that, it’s just something they play on a loop to scare off trespassers. You can notice it if you listen long enough.” Phil assured.
“For some reason, dogs aren’t even my biggest worry right now. You mind knocking on the door?”
“Come on, man... I knew you’d say that, but Marty’s always told me he likes guys who ain’t afraid to present themselves to him, in his turf. Go on, I’ll just – keep watch back here.”
“This all smells real fishy...” Vic muttered, removing his seatbelt and getting out of the car while trying to spend as long as possible doing it.

Heading to Marty’s doorstep, Vic had the ever lingering feeling that he was being watched from multiple directions. There wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere nearby, but all signs pointed to the possibility that several pairs of eyes were scoping him out from behind the conspicuously closed curtains of the neighboring trailers. He gave the door a long, hard series of knocks, knowing he’d certainly been detected already, and trying to suspiciously sneak around in these guys’ territory was a great way to disappear without a trace.

Thinking of all sorts of convincing phrases to say to give off the best possible first impression, Vic was equally as surprised as the woman who opened the door of the trailer for him when their eyes first met. He swore this had to be Phil’s sister, but had no idea what to say to her if she was alone – was it safe to discuss Marty’s undoubtedly illegal business without him present, and with someone who looked innocent enough to have nothing to do with it?

“Uh – hi.” Vic said, realizing seconds later that it wasn’t really the conversation starter he’d been aiming for.
“Who are you?” the woman asked. She didn’t seem that hateful – just a bit quiet, maybe even afraid for some reason.
“The name’s Victor Vance. I’m looking for---“
“All you’re gonna find out here is trouble, Victor. Especially if Marty finds you.” she said apathetically.
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem. He’s who I came here to meet, and---“

What the f*ck, Louise?” A new voice spoke over him, belonging to an almost bald, thick-mustached man who had emerged from around the corner, oil stains on his checkered overshirt. “I thought I made it clear you’re not supposed to bring in any of your damn guy friends?!”
“He’s not my friend, Marty, I don’t even know him!” Louise defended herself.
“That makes it a whole load f*cking better, doesn’t it?” he screamed and spat to the ground in anger.

If this is Marty, Vic thought as the scene unfolded, then we’re off to a f*cking wonderful start. Apart from the fact he had a bully’s voice and stumbled like he’d been drinking, Vic’s theory of him being a domestic abuser didn’t sound far off at all. He took the moment to check on Phil, and saw that the damn slacker had picked up a comic book now, not paying any attention at all to the ordeal going on mere feet away from him.

“Now, boy, you get gone.” Marty ordered all of a sudden midway through the couple’s shouting match, instantly bringing his voice down to a deeper level.
“He said something about wanting to meet you!” Louise shouted before Vic could even make an effort to turn around.
Marty almost exploded. “Didn’t I just tell you to shut up? Get the f*ck back inside and cook something already! Is a shouting match all I’m gonna get for fixing the truck all day?”
“You know what---“ Louise was undoubtedly going to say something nasty, but a deadly stare from Marty stopped that plan on its tracks, and she retreated further back into the trailer.
“Exactly. Now what about you, boy? What do you want?”
“Work – apparently.” Vic said.
Marty scoffed. “I ain’t hiring.”
“Yeah? Well, Phil Cassidy said otherwise.” Vic snapped. He could notice Louise almost sneaking back into view as soon as the words escaped his mouth.
“Phil? Phil f*cking Cassidy? You a friend of his?” Marty demanded.
“Of course – he’s right there, if you wanna ask him.”

Pointing at the Walton, Vic was more than satisfied to see Marty’s mouth spread wide open from shock – right before he let out a massive laugh, nearly bending over backwards. For some reason, Louise only made a nearly inaudible sigh in the background; Vic would’ve thought she’d be happier to see her brother considering daily life with Marty had to be toxic.

“You got some balls, boy, you know that? I like it... not everyone comes here acting as confident as you. And that’s precisely why they ain’t getting hired.”
“I thought you just said there’s no work.” Vic pointed out.
“Forget about that – uh, slip-up and get to the important bits. I’m Marty Jay Williams, leader of the Trailer Park Mafia. You?”
“Victor Vance, or Vic for short.” He noticed that Marty made no effort to shake his hand.
“I see...” Marty thoroughly inspected him from head to toe, something that made him feel uncomfortable even if there was no touching.
“The military’s taught you well then, huh?” he finally asked as Phil was making his way to the scene for the first time. “Real intimidating stature – that’s gonna help if you’re working under me. And here comes the reference, right on time!”
“Nice seeing you too, Marty. I – uhh – heard shouting from here, was everything okay?” Phil asked awkwardly. Vic asked him in his mind why he had taken so long to show up if that was the case.
“There’s nothing to worry about. Louise just couldn’t hear me over the vacuum cleaner, ain’t that right, snooky wookums?” Marty asked with a creepy wink.

Vic cringed. It was one thing to completely change his behavior with his wife while Phil was around, and another to go so far out of character while doing it that it should give away his true nature to any man in the world – besides Phil, of course. Just as he thought it couldn’t get any worse, Louise let out a happy “yes” and got back to her housework as if nothing bad had happened between the couple all day.

“Good to hear. So how’s business?” Phil asked, oblivious as all hell.
“I actually thought I’d go out and show your man how I run things around here. I tell ya, boy, if you’re half as good as Phil here says, we’re gonna have one beautiful partnership.”
“I can hardly wait.” Vic said, rolling his eyes.
“Anything you want me to do? I could come along too!” Phil suggested.
“No, I’ve been thinking I want to do this trial run just together with your boy. Get well acquainted without any distractions, and all that. You could help me by checking out my office down the street though. I’ve heard some gang of undesirables have been seen nearby, as if to survey a target for an attack.” Marty said, pointing somewhere to the south.
“I thought I could just stay here, see what Louise is up to?”
“We all would prefer that, but right now Hank and the other boys need all the help they can get, and my wife’s extremely busy inside. There’ll be time for socializing later.”

Marty was convincing enough that Phil had nothing to say in objection – just the way the redneck intended, no doubt. Vic wondered if anyone was ever going to call him out on that, and how long he could watch from the side before doing it himself.
“Now then, let’s the two of us get moving. You can drive, Vince.”
“It’s Vic.”
“Whatever... I’ve been thinking, first off we should drop by at the Café Under the Tree over at Little Haiti.” Marty said, presenting his vehicle, a Bobcat that absolutely looked like it needed his constant maintenance to remain the least bit driveable. “You know the place, right?”

Truthfully, Vic did not, but the instructions on how to get there were simple enough to follow. On the way, Marty insisted they discuss his business as that was the whole reason for them getting together – it only solidified Vic’s low opinion of the man as his “looking after people who look after him” sounded an awful lot like a politically correct description of a protection racket.

“This is the place.” Marty pointed out eventually, motioning for Vic to stop at the side of the road. The joint looked nice enough from the outside – the small café had been neatly tucked between the bridge to Leaf Links and the adjacent road, and was so clean and well-kept that it stood out from amongst the surrounding buildings. At the same time, Marty’s mannerisms made Vic feel like he was about to bring the idyllic site down for negligible pay.

“I guess we ain’t here to pick up a coffee?” Vic asked eventually.
“No, we are not. Before we make any moves whatsoever, answer me this – do you know anything about the Sunshine Crew?”
“That a local music group?”
Marty laughed maliciously. “You’re even less experienced than I thought. I could lecture you all day, but for now, you only need to know two things. First, they’re scum.”
“They’re scum.” Vic repeated with a hint of sarcasm that Marty did not catch.
“Second, they’re incredibly resistant scum. I dunno what kinda voodoo they’re practicing in the depths of their turf, but sometimes they act like they’re impervious to pain. Rule of thumb, to get those dumb sh*ts off your back, either blow their brains out or crush their limbs. My men prefer the former; that’s how to make sure they don’t come back to haunt us.”
“So what about them? Is this their hangout spot or something?”
“Do I need to explain everything?” Marty asked, visibly frustrated. “All you have to know is I’m involved in a bunch of disagreements over turf with them, and they’re profiting off that little pit stop a bit more than I’d like.”
“Is it a front for their operations?”
“Actually, it only pays them protection money, but close enough. Get in there and show the owner some reasons to start directing those payments to a very pissed entrepreneur from the trailer park in their stead.”
“Really?”
“There’s a bat on the bed if you’d like a little more smashing power.” Marty said dismissively.
“What’s in it for me?” Vic shouted, having none of this crap from a man he’d known for an hour.
“Oh, a real demanding type we got here, don’t we?” Marty’s expression changed to a sinister smile, instead of a blind rage that Vic had expected based on past events.
“Call me whatever you want, but you better start motivating me a lot better unless you wanna drive back home yourself, without me.”

Marty shook his head. “You know, pal, I’m not the small-time, thinking-too-high-of-himself kinda guy. Me and my connections are known throughout this part of town for being able to get sh*t done.”
“Your threats don’t scare me.” Vic said bluntly.
“What threats? You misunderstand me. What I’m trying to say is, I’ll throw you a juicy bone: if you play ball and serve my business well, we’ll see to it that your effort to hunt down your brother’s killer is well funded.”
“God, did Phil tell you everything?”
“Only the basics, really. Though if you two really only met once, I suppose that was everything he knew...”
“Great. OK, I’ll see what I can do, but you better keep quiet about this. I don’t want my legit career to get any more endangered than it already is.”
“If that’s it, then why not endanger the Sunshine people’s business over there next? Remember, you see any jumpin’ in to defend the site, you sik ‘em.”
“You’re not coming?”
“Why would I employ a dog, then bark myself?”

Even with disappointed thoughts racing through his head as he let yet another asshole boss him around, Vic decided to humor him just this once – it must’ve taken him weeks to come up with that one sharp sentence, and who knew how angry he could get if it didn’t have the desired effect? This is just one go at it, he repeated in his thoughts, I’ll just do this for Phil and then get back to base, forget about this freak, and let Martinez know my time as the man who couldn’t say NO is over.

“Hello, sir, what would you like?” the Haitian behind the counter said in a friendly voice. Vic had a quick look around the café: no customers were present, just as he liked. Witnesses were about the last thing he wanted from this day.
“How about a warm cup full of protection money for Marty Jay Williams?” Vic asked, avoiding looking the man in the eyes just so he wouldn’t feel too sh*tty about what was happening. He openly waved around the bat that he’d been keeping hidden behind his back for added effect.
The vendor gasped. “No – please – the Sunshine Crew are already sucking me dry. There’s just no way I can---“
“Then you simply cut ‘em off from your life. Don’t make this too difficult now...”

Even though the frightened man was not going to, it was not a decision he’d get to make completely by himself. This was made all too clear when two Haitian gangsters in matching blue clothes showed up at the doorstep, both armed with bats, one of them spiked. The guy holding the latter looked like the leader of the pair, being older, taller, filled with gang tattoos and frankly, more intimidating.

“Either my eyes or ears gotta be failin’ me. There’s no way we got a Dominican bitch trynna threaten one of our stores in the name of the rednecks!” the spiked bat wielder said.
“Time to make an example outta him!” the other shouted, spitting at Vic’s feet.

Vic gripped his own bat more tightly, staring in the eyes of his attackers – he would never have expected to put Marty’s lesson into practice this soon, but these punks just left him no choice. An additional problem was that his military training never really gave any guidelines for fighting multiple opponents, just made it clear that he should never find himself in such a situation in the first place.

It was improvisation time. The men approached him at the same time, trying to force him into a corner. Rather than take an inevitable hit, Vic snatched a coffee cup from the counter next to him, and pretended to throw it into the face of the guy in the left, only to suddenly land a hit on the right one instead, then following up with a clean swing at the upper body of the original target. He stepped over the stunned and fallen Haitian, blocking a swing from the spiked bat coming from the right as he did, and soon found out about their damage resilience the hard way as the shorter man rose from the ground with little effort, and with hardly any change except more aggression.

Vic ducked to dodge the next attack from the spiked bat, which knocked the cash register off the counter, causing the shopkeeper to flee in terror into the toilet. More and more blows were exchanged afterwards as Vic blocked about half of them and swiftly moved out of the way of the other half. The frustrated Haitians ended up smashing up the café even worse than Vic would have if it ever came to that, but didn’t even care in their adrenaline-fueled rampage.

Playtime had to end eventually, and the chance arose when the more aggressive one of the duo smashed up a flowerpot in a corner in another failed hit, getting his bat’s spikes stuck on the wall. Vic side-stepped away, also dodging a vertical attack from the younger Haitian, who was now left between Vic and his friend as a meat shield of sorts. Vic didn’t wait for either to regain their composure before audibly smashing the man’s skull open with the best horizontal swing he’d thrown so far – the Haitian collapsing like an utter ragdoll was a sign of certain, permanent victory this time around.

“Emmanuel!” the older gang member yelled in more despair than Vic would’ve thought he was capable of.
“Now it’s one on one – fair enough if you ask me.”
“You have no idea what you’ve done!” The Haitian lunged towards him so fast that Vic only barely averted danger.
“The Sunshine Crew will not forget!” he shouted, voice on the verge of breaking any second.
“I think you might.”

One bang, and the second Haitian went limp, a gunshot wound right at his back speaking more than a thousand words about his fate.

“That looked pretty close.” Marty said nonchalantly, holstering his pistol as he placed his foot over the gang member’s body as if to declare victory.
Vic took a few long, deep breaths as well as a seat in the nearest booth now that the adrenaline was starting to wither, and his feet were feeling like spaghetti – understandable with all the exercise he’d just done.

That, and he was angry as f*ck. “How did it take you so long? You were right there the whole time!”
“It was your trial, wasn’t it? Besides, you did pretty well by yourself.”
Before Vic could think of some kind of a comeback, Marty went to the counter, knocking heavily on it. “Anyone still home? The fight’s over, time to talk business!”
The shopkeeper took his time getting out of the toilet, knowing all too well what was coming up. “Marty Jay Williams, right? Err, we can settle this peacefully, right?”
“I ain’t got no interest in hurting future partners, pal. Now Vic, this is the boring part where I make us some money, so you can wait in the truck if you want.” Marty said.
Vic rolled his eyes. “On it. You might wanna put a whole bunch of guards here though – I got a feeling those Sunshine boys won’t like it when their turf gets invaded.”
“Whoa there, pal! I hired an enforcer, not a tactician. I’ll decide what I do with my stores!”
“Whatever, you do what you want then.”

He went to sit on the driver’s seat, knowing Marty wouldn’t be bothered to take the wheel when heading back home either. Vic only got to enjoy listening to some V-Rock and fiddle his locker key out of boredom for a few minutes before his employer made his way back outside, now probably rich enough to tune up his truck for show-off purposes.

“Got a good deal?”
“Better than any other stores I’ve taken recently.” Marty said vigorously. “You know, you’ve been a good wingman today. Maybe I’ll have more jobs in line for you.”
“OK.” Vic said, not commenting on the sudden mood swing. “Time to go back home?”
“Just follow this street first, towards the print works. I wanna show you where the Sunshines’ most feared thugs reside.”

As he rounded the corner past the café, Vic was treated to a hopeless sight of dozens upon dozens of run down, barely inhabitable houses that looked like they were taken straight out of a third world country. Even though he had no positive thoughts to spare for the thugs he’d just fought, he wondered how many of those most feared gang members, whom Marty was presenting to him like animals in a zoo, could’ve led an honest life had they been dealt a different hand from the get-go. Even Haiti itself had to be nicer than this part of town.

“Interesting... hold on, Vic, pull over, pull over.” Marty said in a rush, having inspected the houses with more precision than Vic thought was necessary. He followed the order regardless, clumsily parking the truck halfway on the street and halfway on someone’s front yard, having really no choice in lack of a sidewalk.
“Now, Vic, how’d you find your first experience with the Sunshines?”
“Pretty decent. Just left me wondering if they’re this crazy when not protecting their assets.”
“I think you might find them to be exactly that. But you don’t fear them, right?”
Vic frowned. “Doubt it. Long as I ain’t expected to fight off another pair without a gun.”
“Good enough. Now look – that green house directly to our left, that’s the residence of Jacques J. One of their and, dare I say, the whole mainland Vice City’s most infamous enforcers. The kind that make weaker men sh*t themselves by just approaching them. Now, it looks like he’s thrown a party of some kind, ‘cause I can see a balloon still hanging on his porch. If you can call that a porch, of course...”
“Pot, meet kettle.” Vic said quietly.
“At least I chose to voluntarily live in a trailer! Besides, mine is more than comfy enough as it is... extra space would just spoil me anyway, make me forget my roots.”
“OK, so you wanna pay Jacques a visit or what? Why are we here?”
“Don’t you get it? This is an impromptu test for you. Plenty can say they ain’t scared of the Sunshines, but will back out soon as someone calls them out on their bullsh*t. Right now, I wanna see you show your fearlessness, and your accuracy, as you pop that balloon right out from underneath the big bad hood’s nose.”
“There any bonus points if I also pop the house owner’s head?” Vic asked.

Marty laughed like he had just heard a good joke. “I already like you more than I ever thought I would! But no, let’s focus on material damage on this run. Once we officially declare a war, Jacques and all his buddies are gonna be free game, though. Now take that shot.”

Vic rolled down the window, taking more time to aim than he really needed, for a good impression’s sake. The shot itself wasn’t anything special, but it made Marty tap his back with pride when it scattered red rubber all around the spot where the balloon once hung. The mission, if he could even call it that, was successful – not that he expected anything less.

“Solid as always! Now let’s head back to the trailer – just watch out for the Sunshines’ cars on the way. They’re easy to tell apart, they always drive these dark red, almost sh*t-brown lowriders...”
“What, like that one?” Vic asked, spotting a Voodoo pulling out of one yard up ahead in what looked like a rush.
“Oh, f*ck. They don’t look too happy – whoop ‘er ‘round.”
What?” Vic stared at him in confusion as a hand peeked out from the open driver’s side window, holding a sub-machine gun.
Turn around!

Making a mental note to himself to purchase an English-Southern-English dictionary next time he turned up at a bookstore, Vic followed the order, the trails of the first few bullets fired at them visible on the side. To his surprise, Marty wasn’t dawdling this time and had already drawn his pistol once more to answer to the Haitians’ gunfire.

“That was quick of them, wasn’t it?” he asked.
“Bit busy here!” Vic yelled, barely keeping the truck on the road as the Voodoo rear-ended him with a bang.
“I don’t see Jacques in there. Then again, he’s more of an intimidate the enemies when they’re caught type of guy.”
Vic made a sharp turn to a side alley, causing a young couple to fling themselves against the nearby building’s wall. “Just making sure that won’t happen, don’t mind me!”

With the Voodoo breathing down hard on his neck, Vic somehow found a way out of the alleys and was just about to turn for the junkyard, when another similar car, this time a black one, emerged from the side, nearly T-boning him. Marty’s inadequate shooting didn’t help things either, and Vic let his frustration be known.

“These punks are organized, Marty! It would’ve been nice to know!”
“It’s weird, right? I knew we’d have some sorta tail after smashing sh*t up at that café, but for them to strike this quickly? It’s unheard of.”
“You knew we had a tail?” Vic demanded, making his way up another side path that led him across a stable-looking, but hardly wide enough red bridge across the water.
“Consider this an exercise in spacial awareness! I can’t always be there to spot threats for you.” Marty argued, before raising his fist in triumph as the initial pursuers in the red car failed to navigate the bridge and fell through a gap.

Vic didn’t dignify that with a response, and searched for an opening between the buildings to get back to the streets as the black Voodoo caught up once more, trying to ram him into the drink, something he was able to hold off by suddenly braking and cutting hard to the left, which got him on the other side of the chaser. As he spotted a traffic congestion further to the left, he made another sharp turn in quick succession, running over some debris lying all over the path and launching the Bobcat slightly in the air.

“Careful where you’re going, this thing don’t come with airbags.” Marty said.
“And that car behind us ain’t coming in peace! You got a plan, or am I leadin’ it to the park for your guys to shoot at?”

The question was more than likely to spark outrage from Marty’s side, but Vic never had to hear any of it as they witnessed the amazing sight of the Voodoo plowing over the same pile of debris and fly up even higher, awkwardly landing on its left side, from where things could only get worse for the occupants. When it finally rolled upside down, there was time for both to catch their breath and even share a laugh at the Haitians’ expense. Regardless, it was best to drive away from the scene quickly before anyone crawled out of the wreck and still had bullets in their gun.

“Well shoot my dog and call me Sally! You calculated all of that, didn’t you?” Marty asked with genuine impression, patting Vic’s back a bit more violently than necessary.
“I wish I did – and I didn’t know you had a dog, Sally.”
“For God’s sake, do I need to explain everything to you?”
Vic shook his head. “Relax, I know that wasn’t a literal saying. Just thought I’d crack a joke...”
“Be careful now, pal. You did well for yourself, I’ll give you that, but I don’t like jokers.” Marty warned.
“F*ck it, whatever. I get it when my commentary’s not welcome.”
“Good. Now drop me off – there better be food on the plate ready for my arrival.”
Vic’s rage got the better of him just as he thought he was done calling Marty out on something every two minutes. “And what if there’s not? Fine, put me through whatever hoops you have, but how about cutting your damn wife some slack?”

Marty had the gall to look surprised about the topic being brought up. “Simmer down right there, pal. I hired an enforcer, not a moral guardian.” he said, taking a nice and comfortable posture on the seat as if to remind who was boss. “My personal life is especially none of your damn business. Whatever happened to those good old-fashioned henchmen who only took my damn money and shut up about other people’s matters?”
“Really though, what exactly is the point of you guys having such a miserable marriage? Neither of you seems to have too much fun with it...” Vic insisted.
“You’ve only seen us once and think you’re some sort of an expert? I – ugh, you know what, Vic? When – if – you get yourself a wife, it won’t be long before you realize just how important it is to keep her in control. You have my word on that.”
Vic banged the horn as a reckless Sabre driver cut him off, just as he was angry enough as it was. “Because to hell with mutual happiness and good times, right? All for the sake of some outdated hierarchy bullsh*t – or maybe just a bit of power hunger?”
Marty let out a chuckle. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and that utopia of yours will become reality, but I wouldn’t count on it. Not in this world. I certainly wasn’t lucky – I swear that dumb bitch needs to be saved from herself all the time. Is it my fault if that gradually pisses me off?”
“If she’s a dumb bitch, why’d you even bother in the first place?”
“No one else was willing to bear the next generation of Williamses, to control these streets long after I’ve taken my last breath.” Marty said nonchalantly.
“I’ll take your word for it.” Vic mocked.
“Good. Now, this is where all these arguments end. You will keep your mouth shut the rest of the way and quit bothering me about things you have no control over, or you can kiss the future of this partnership goodbye.”

Vic didn’t understand himself sometimes. There was nothing – nothing! – he even double-checked his memory banks – forcing him to continue putting up with Marty, or just keep that option open, and he still rolled with it, now a couple thousand bucks richer and waiting for his next call. Sure, the honestly far too gullible Phil was going to be ecstatic about the two working together, but Vic was having some serious moral issues accepting money from – hell, helping a domestic abuser like that.

Come to think of it, was he being a hypocrite now? The protection racket Marty ran didn’t bother him nearly as much as his conduct with his spouse... but Vic was a career criminal, so that kind of action was all familiar and necessary for survival, it was the abuse of the weak that was taking things too far... and the café’s keeper wasn’t weak? Well, yes, he was, but there was hardly any personal connection – no, just no.

There were too many moral dilemmas hanging in the air for him to handle. All he hoped was that he could now get his mind off Marty for a good few days and focus on the nicer things in life. Such as the honest – if not a little sh*tty – living that awaited him behind the good old Fort Baxter’s walls.

“George.” Vic said blandly, finding his buddy all by himself in the barracks, kneeling next to his bed.
“Victor! Oh God, you nearly gave me a stroke. It’s all good, boys, no Sarge in sight!” George yelled towards the locker room, pulling himself up.
“What do you mean? You guys hiding for some reason?” Vic quizzed, taking a seat on his own bed just as two other, taller shapes emerged from the direction George had spoken at.
“Just Peppah. He decided it’s this house’s turn to go clean the toilets. Only we managed to go unnoticed.” said Trevor, the group’s senior member who also tended to have the most colorful personality, and whose beard was rapidly growing once again.
“Surprising really, that no one snitched on us.” George wondered.
“Nah, everyone here knows snitches end up in ditches.” the baby-faced Edward said.
“Especially that asskisser Tyler. Some just never learn.” Trevor reminded with the others sharing their opinions as well, with the snowball rolling into an absolute non-stop conversation, in the middle of which Vic could hardly even hear his own thoughts.

“Right, guys, it’s been a blast but I really need some rest, OK?” he spoke over the three of them, who only then realized he hadn’t been able to say anything for quite a while.
“Oi, Victor, there’s still unfinished business before we can let you into the dream world. We didn’t see you at the lecture.” George pointed out.
“Yeah, you did not.”
George made a blatantly fake sad face. “So that’s it? No questions, no interest whatsoever?”
Vic sighed loudly. “Alright, how was the combat master?”
“Stately.” Edward said.
“Radical!” Trevor followed.
“Magnificent even. Seriously, that guy taught us more in two hours than anyone on this damned base could in two years. I’m starting to think private armies are more my thing if they produce badasses like that.” George explained, finding it difficult to remain calm as he was constantly trying to make half-assed hand gestures to show his excitement.
“Be careful what you wish for. I don’t think he became that way through a very comfortable lifestyle.” Vic said with a fully serious tone.
“No sh*t. I don’t think Mr. Masters wears that eyepatch just for cosmetic purposes.” Edward said, sounding just as impressed as his mates.
George sat on his own bed as well. “I know what you’re saying, Victor, I just – seek some more excitement for this bland life I lead within these walls. That guy really looks like someone who could provide.”
“And I’ll repeat myself: be careful what you wish for. It’s not necessarily that pretty out there, even if---“
“Just a gigantic shame Masters didn’t demonstrate that suplex move on a human target. Like that righteous asshole Steven – or even Brayden! He always thinks too highly of himself.” Trevor bemoaned.
“You know what he said, it’s a gigantic security risk even if there’s a soft mat underneath. That sh*t shatters skulls.” Edward reminded.
“Is there a problem with Brayden’s skull getting shattered?” Trevor asked.
“Morally? No, but this place sadly has rules in place to protect the weak who keep endangering themselves by pissing off the wrong people.” George said regrettably.

Soon enough, all three were once again talking all over themselves about anything that came to mind, never staying on one subject and constantly going off on a tangent. By the time they started discussing Pt. Places’ wife and Vic was borderline asleep, George came to an awful realization.

“Aw, sh*t, man. We did it again, didn’t we?” he asked.
“Hey, don’t mind me. Just one question – were you praying when I came in?” Vic mumbled.
“Praying? Oh, sure. I need all the help I can get in this hellish place.” George replied.
“Weird – I didn’t know you had such a thing as a quiet voice.” Vic said, drifting off.
“Oh, f*ck you.”


The End.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#47

Posted 21 January 2017 - 11:56 PM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:42 AM.

Right-o, time to finally show some love for the third of the settings. Hopefully this won't f*ck all the dynamics up completely lol.

 

LC0: Another Day in the Office

 

It was just one average fall day among others in Liberty City. Slight but constant wind, minor humidity and clouds covering the sun almost all the time were an unfortunate but nonetheless accepted norm in this city. The weather was depressing, but it had to be accepted as part of the everyday life if one wanted to settle in this part of the country – along with some even more grim factors, such as the skyrocketing crime rates throughout a number of boroughs.

The smart people of the worst city in America knew better than to meddle in the affairs of well-connected maniacs, and that was precisely why the three shady men in clean black suits strolling along a sidewalk in western Portland were able to do so with no interference. The most fearful switched to the other side of the street to keep out of their way, and cars let them pass without a problem whenever they came to a crossing.

Just as Toni Cipriani liked.

“This is the spot right here, Toni.” Aldo Bassani – a Leone capo leading the group – stopped him, pointing to the dead-end L-shaped alleyway that had been closed off from the public with a sturdy metal gate.
“It damned better be. I’m not sure whether to trust the intel on this one.”
“When was the last time Lil’ Fattie has lied to us again?” Aldo asked.
“Exactly.” Rocco said, having seen Toni’s puzzled expression. “He knows what’s at stake if he tries pulling a fast one on us.”
“Even if he’s telling us the truth, there’s still the small matter of getting past this obstacle.” Toni said, peering through the gate as he did. It was almost too quiet and empty in the back street that the Sindaccos were supposed to be guarding for all its worth.
“That thing won’t hold us for long. Care to give me a little boost, Aldo?” Rocco requested.
“No problem, brother. Just watch your back while you open the gate.”

Toni remained on guard as Aldo carried his brother on his shoulders to help him to the other side. He trembled a bit under the weight, but the younger Bassani was able to scale the wall with minimal effort, relieving Aldo of the pressure within seconds.

“Reminds you of our apple-stealing days, don’t it?” Rocco said once his feet were back on solid ground again.
The capo had a poignant, nostalgic look on his face. “Oh, the humble beginnings of a great career. How are the streets looking, Toni?”
“Emptier than Vincenzo’s head. You getting the gate open soon?”
“Don’t rush me! Both of you know I don’t work well under pressure... oh, wow. There’s not even any security mechanisms in here. Stupid Sindaccos made this all too easy.” Rocco said with mild amusement, moving the gate out of the way with a mere push of a button.
“Don’t make fun of them just yet.” Aldo said, stealing the words right out of Toni’s mouth.

Going in deeper, the alley widened a lot, looking almost abandoned as some boxes were haphazardly lying here and there in the middle of the wide area, though at least most dumpsters still stood next to the buildings’ walls where they belonged. The five lockups scattered all around the perimeter, however, were of the Leone mobsters’ primary interest.

“Anyone know which of these is the right one again?” Toni asked gruffly.
“Quoting Lil’ Fattie, they’re keeping the armored van in a lockup at this spot. Apparently he couldn’t be f*cked to research more closely than that.” Rocco said with disappointment.
“All is not lost yet. We just need to keep our voices down and pick our poison carefully. One wrong move, and we may get torn to shreds by angry gunmen before we know it.” Aldo said, eyes darting across the whole yard making sure there were no weapons pointed their way from the windows as he spoke.
“Do you think he is guarding this place as well?” Rocco asked.
“If so, we’re blasting him to bits with everyone else. It’s not rocket science.” Toni said with a voice devoid of fear.
“I’d be more careful if I was you. People who take out two made men aren’t to be taken lightly.” Aldo warned, just as Rocco was starting to strut straight forward.
“When you’re done telling scary bedtime stories, watch my back, ladies. I have a good feeling that garage is the right one.”
“Wait, why?”
“It’s straight ahead of the entryway! Those trucks turn like battleships, so I don’t see why they’d complicate things.”
“Well, I’ve heard worse logic in the past...” Aldo admitted with a shrug.

Toni and Aldo had their guns at the ready and pointed at the shutter while Rocco spent numerous agonizing seconds prying it open – but the tenseness disappeared just as quickly when the contents of the lockup were revealed, only featuring armed mobsters on the pages of the stacks of comic books at best.

“Damn, it’s like a second hand bookstore in here!” Rocco said, going through the comics a little too intensively for the others’ tastes.
“Brother, focus!” Aldo hissed, before turning his attention to Toni, who now scoped out the next most probable garage to open. “So anyway, how are you feeling about this?”
“Honestly?” Toni laughed mildly. “It’s pathetic. Stealing the Sindaccos’ take from a bank job may be productive, but this is no way to earn respect. We look like scavengers doing this.”
“I hear you, but our track record with doing it ourselves ain’t the best one around...”
“Hey, it was Rocco who triggered the dye pack.” Toni said, picking the perfect moment to say it too as the plaintiff joined them at that very moment.
“Aldo, I thought you promised to never bring that up again!” Rocco whined, the other two shushing at him immediately.
“It was this naughty son of a bitch who did it, not me.” Aldo said jokingly, before getting back to business. “Anyway, Toni, do you think you could find more success in the search?”
He shrugged. “I’ll try.”

To Toni’s surprise, just as he was heading to open the farthest away shutter, something as innocent as a puddle on the pavement wound up affecting his decision. As he stepped into it and briefly looked down at his shoes, shaking off a bit of the moisture, he spotted some distinguished tire tracks – left by really big tires, too – that hadn’t quite yet completely vanished, and led to the lockup just about in front of his nose.

“Whoa. Change of plans, guys.” he said, showing the evidence to the other two once they caught up to him.
Aldo was quick to come forward. “Good observation. Do you mind if I take on the opening duties? I’ll remember to credit you for finding the take, I promise.”
“Whatever. Not like I get someone offering to do heavy liftings for me everyday.”

The trio could already smell the money in the air before Aldo was done with the lifting. It was taking a toll on his aching back, but the sight of the bottom part of a dark blue Gruppe Sechs van on the other side gave him the will to go on. Rocco was jumping up and down as soon as he spotted it – but Toni had no time to join the celebrations as he saw something else down there as well: a pair of legs, facing the door as if the person inside was waiting for this...

“ALDO, LOOK OUT!” Toni screamed, but far, far too late as Aldo just shoved the now open shutter up into the ceiling at that same moment, coming face to face with the man he least wanted to see, a big grin already on his face.
“Christ, it’s McLaggen!” Aldo didn’t even have a gun out when he truly needed it – and reaching for it was futile as the gunman opened fire at his upper body, tearing his internal organs apart right before Toni and Rocco’s eyes. Without even the slightest bit of resistance left in him, he slumped backwards, head cracking open as he hit the pavement.

“That was my brother, you f*cking maniac!” Rocco shrieked in panic.
“Yes... quite heartbreaking, ain’t it? Come here, let me end the suffering...” the blonde thug said, now flanked by a group of Sindaccos that had been alarmed by the gunfire.
Rocco pointed his sub-machine gun at him, unaware or just ignorant of the looming danger. “Like hell!”
“Rocco, get down!” Toni yelled, pulling him to safety behind a storage unit near an Italian restaurant’s open back door as the Sindaccos and their distinguished ally all took their best shots at them – one of McLaggen’s bullets just barely tagged Rocco’s ankle before he was fully in cover.

“What the hell did you do, Toni? You denied my vengeance!” he shouted miserably.
“There’s too many of them for us... and you need medical attention.” Toni said, peeking out of cover and counting at least five heavily armed gunmen.
“Because of you, asshole!”
“Would you rather be in need of an autopsy? Look, Rocco, I know this is terrible for you, but we’re in no position to take them right now! I promise, sooner or later we’ll get McLaggen for this...”

10 days later...

Toni had lost count ages ago of how many days had passed since that last assignment. From the sudden and violent end to one of the few nice capos in the whole organization to his daring escape with Rocco through the restaurant and all the way to a hospital, not forgetting about coming face to face with the Sindaccos’ new attack dog either – it was a long list of things to process, but at least there was plenty of time too, as nobody had yet given him a call to usher him back to work. Vincenzo had to be really busy at the time, as otherwise he would’ve chewed Toni out already over the phone and threatened to report his unproductivity to the Don. Any genuine regard for Aldo or his family wasn’t going to cross that man's mind for a second, but he was going to conjure up some fake emotions to get a slight bit more on Mr. Leone’s good side. That Toni could be absolutely certain of.

Though there was little he could do to topple Vincenzo’s position as the asshole capo in the mob, at least Toni had his way of spiting him by simply beginning to slowly tolerate his “home sweet home” better and better. This minimalistic gift from “Daddy Vincenzo” was obviously intended to keep him down and crudely remind him of his current place, but at least the sh*thole was beginning to look more like a sh*thole with potential. There was a nice view to the street so that he could observe the lower ranking henchmen’s business, and just having a garage to hold his current personal transport was quite a luxury in this part of town.

The main pet peeve of the place had nothing to do with Vincenzo, but rather the big painting of a stern old lady looking down on her son, which Toni was supposed to keep in the most visible spot of the house or else he’d face complaints from his so-called friends about having no respect for his family. Ma Cipriani sometimes felt like a female Vincenzo that he just couldn’t tune out no matter how hard he wanted to.

But out of all the things on his mind, the most troubling right now had to be Joseph McLaggen. As Toni sat down on the couch and surfed the channels until he found a mildly interesting, if not obscure street race going down on the other side of the country, he again asked himself the question he’d always failed to find an answer for: what on earth was his deal supposed to be? An Italian he was not, which he could tell a mile away even without hearing his voice, and he didn’t even represent the Sindaccos when it came to clothing. He’d only seen the man once before the fateful day, and that was another battle situation where there was no time to exchange news. Even Lil’ Fattie, who was regarded as the best informant in the whole of Portland, had nothing on his background. The blonde had just appeared at some point, and fought with the Sindaccos for a number of calendar years. Of course it was nothing new that a mob would use thugs from smaller gangs as extra muscle when needed, but McLaggen didn’t even seem to fit any other gang in the entire city... and they must’ve had a lot more trust in him than an average Diablo or Balla, considering his placement as a safeguard for their money van.

The door creaked open while he was still engulfed in thought. Toni was so spooked he almost fell forward on his face; he was certain he had locked it last time, and no one had any business walking in without knocking first anyway.

“You’re home, right Toni?” said the sharp voice of an Italian gentleman slightly older than him, just as the house’s owner popped out from behind the corner, gun drawn.
The gun came down just as quickly as it had been raised. “Luigi? For f*ck’s sake, man, I thought your manners were better than this!”
“Look, sorry if I forgot some crucial part of the etiquette.” Luigi Goterelli said, pulling the door shut behind him. “I’m a little bit on edge right now.”
“On edge? What for?”
“It’s my Ma again. Same old story really. Finally snapped and decided I ain’t welcome to stay at her place anymore. I know it’s a lot to ask for, but – ‘cause you’re the one guy in here who can relate to my life better than anyone, you mind if I crash at this place for tonight?”
“Oh. Yeah, that could be good. I don’t have heaps of space, but you can sleep on the couch.” Toni offered.
Luigi gratefully shook his hand, moving to the living room. “Absolutely, absolutely. No rush though – as you know, I’m a bit nocturnal. Side effect of the things I do for work...”
“So what was it that made your Ma so angry?”
“In a bit. Is that a VCRC race going on? Who do you cheer for?” he asked, noticing the TV screen.
“No one really, I don’t know those drivers. But I know for a fact I’d cheer against him if Dan Sucho was involved.”
“What a prick, huh?” Luigi said apathetically. “You know, those two cars I’ve never seen before – the Elegy and ZR, I mean. Those must be some good newcomers in there.”
“I guess.” Toni said, coming back from a quick step to the kitchen, with a beer in hand for both of them.
“Oh, nice, nothing like a cold drink for this time of day. You sure know what strings to pull – no less than five minutes ago, I was still feeling like I could kill someone for looking at me wrong. Now, I’d just punch them in the face, but leave them to see another day, one experience wiser.”

Toni twisted his can open, joining Luigi on the couch. “So you mind telling me what was it that pushed your mother over the line?”
“I think it’s just the disappointment over the way I ain’t found a woman or made grandkids for her yet.” Luigi said raspily. “At least, it seemed to be the topic she sulked over most. She just won’t understand the way I lead my life though – you know, all of you Leones know that I could have any bitch I ever wanted, if I had the slightest touch of interest in a long-term relationship. That’d interfere too much with my line of work though, so gotta make sacrifices.”
“Family is the worst sometimes. Good luck convincing my Ma that finding a woman is easily the least of my problems at this stage.”
“I hear you, man. And you know, looking at boss and Maria doesn’t give a very rosy impression of what it’s like.” Luigi said, followed by a long gulp.
“Or realistic, to be honest. She’s a damn gold digger.”
“So are a lot of other people in Portland. I’d discuss this all night, but there’s more important topics to get out of the way first.”
“Go on.” Toni said uncertainly.

“Don’t take this as an invasion of privacy, but word’s out you ain’t done so much as leave St. Marks once for the last week. I realize that what happened to Aldo was shocking and everything, and all of us are still incredulous about it, but that ain’t a way to---“
Toni shook his head. “I’m not sulking. I just don’t feel like I have a place to go now my party leader is gone, and his bro’s still recovering.”
“Well, uhh – yeah, I obviously knew that, a man like you doesn’t spend this long mourning---“
“Though I admit, Rocco will probably kill me when he gets out of hospital and finds out I’ve made no progress. Not that I could help it, of course.”
“Progress in what?” the pimp asked, noticing his drink had run out.
“Finding McLaggen and letting him know what the likes of us think of the likes of him.”
“Sounds like a chore that’s not really suited for just one man. You know, if you’d like to get back to work and avoid Vincenzo, why not give a certain other Joey a call?”
“For real?” Toni had never before thought of that.
“Why would I tell you lies? His car boosting operation is bigger than you’d think, you know. It just hasn’t been the same ever since his key man – Charlie or something – upped and left, and even though driving probably ain’t among your primary interests...”
“...I could still contribute according to my abilities? Maybe, but not at the expense of the war effort. We need to find a way to end things before any more of us fall.”
“If you want peace, prepare for war?” Luigi asked thoughtfully. “Well, on that front, I still maintain that if we took over their bar over at Red Light, we could easily drive them to lose their business in this part of town and push them all the way to Staunton.”
“You still keeping your hopes up that you’ll be promoted to club manager one day?”
“Why not? It’s below me to be stuck selling girls on the street like a cheapskate all my life. Sometimes I consider getting into the protection racket business instead, but that’d just be a waste for as long as we ain’t allowed to touch the Hunters' laundromat.”
“Yeah, they’re always doing well.” Toni admitted. “But I just suppose the Don’s word is law in this case. You know the drill, Maria always goes there, knows those people, doesn’t want them to get involved in our sh*t... it’s madness.”
“At least the Hunters are decent contributors to the community.” Luigi said just as the hard-charging Sabre Turbo flat out took someone else out of the race.
“Don’t they have a son working in the security business? Aaron, or something?”
“Corey. In the Staunton division of Gruppe Sechs, if memory serves.” Luigi recalled.
“At least it was in the ballpark.” Toni said with a hint of frustration. “You think he could turn a blind eye to us if we ever needed to relieve some big corporation of excess funds?”
“Maybe he could. Try convincing his dozens of workmates to do the same, though.”

The buddies continued enjoying a good time throughout the evening, grabbing more beers and speculating on why one competitor in the race was sabotaged out of a win by a crane – Luigi even managed to solve the final troublemaker of a word in Toni’s incomplete crossword puzzle. He didn’t even remember the last time he’d been able to chill like this, but considering how nice it felt, maybe it called for change in his general life habits. The problems he had were, after all, a little big for one man to take care of by himself.

“Hey, time to switch channels, Antonio. News are coming on, and I like to stay up-to-date.” Luigi said out of the blue, while some fisticuffs were going on post-race.
“Right in the middle of the best part, of course.” Toni said, but indulged him regardless.

Breaking news. Legislations have been passed to re-introduce death penalty via lethal injection to the State of Liberty.” the LCN anchor stated, the ticker below also supporting the claim that sounded so outrageous, it may well have been an April Fools’ joke.
“That just might complicate things.” Luigi said, deep worry noticeable from beneath the joking exterior.
“Wonder if it’s about time to start calling in favors. A few stings on Sindaccos might just put them outta the game permanently this time.” Toni added while some politicians he only knew by name were being interviewed about it.
In Liberty City, the news were also received positively among the city council. Mayor Roger C. Hole supports the statute, commenting that death penalty is ‘ultimately the only working method to discourage the youth from taking the wrong path in life’ and that ‘there are many completely unrehabilitable future recidivists locked up in prisons statewide awaiting a new chance that they should not be entitled for’...
“I mean, he has a point, but for as long as he’s not in our pocket, there’s plenty of reasons to worry.” Toni commented, grabbing yet another beer to help swallow the truth.
Commissioner Gregory Savage has reacted with equal support,” the report continued as a picture of a thickly moustached, slightly fat man popped up on the screen, “having noted that many of those serving time in the Liberty State Correctional Facility are ‘beyond salvation’, speaking from experience after lengthy interactions with several of them. According to Savage, ‘the first to take the needle should, without contest, be David Devlin’, a Diablo street gang associate who has been tried for over 20 murders, although has only been deemed guilty for one: the cold-blooded murder of former accomplice Juan Ramirez, his last victim before being caught by Savage.

“Doctor Devil...” Luigi snarled hatefully at the archived video feed of the trial of a dark-haired young man, who stood up straight the whole time despite almost the entire courthouse watching him with glances of reproof.
“He got three of our own, right?” Toni asked, uncertain about the details of one of the many incidents taking place during his stay out of town.
“It was the worst act of butchery I’ve ever known.” Luigi spoke with a low voice. “And I’m speaking as someone who’s still perfectly aware of the Harwood incident 15 years ago.”
“Do you think the Harwood guy is still in confinement? He ran with the Forellis, right?”
“He has to be dead already. He was just an impressionable kid that wouldn’t last a minute without having the element of surprise, and we all know that ain’t the case with prison fights.”
Toni scratched his head. “If you say so. Do we have any of our guys at immediate risk? Savage has been kinda aggressive with our operations recently.”
“There shouldn’t be any definite incriminating proof on our men at this point. 8-Ball’s still inside, but I think that was for something other than his explosive antics, and he should be running free again in no time.”
“We better get him back soon enough. He’s a downright guru when it comes to bombs.”
“Important assets in our job, those things.” Luigi said, accompanied by a faint laugh for a change.

More news reports followed after the main subject had taken up the majority of the airtime, but Toni and Luigi no longer found anything that directly affected their lives, save for maybe the Cocks' hard-fought victory in a pre-season match against the Beavers. Over the evening, with the progression of time came fatigue, which wasn’t going to get any better no matter how many more drinks were taken.

“Think I’m going to bed.” Toni said with a yawn. “Don’t keep me awake all night, now.”
“Mind if I grab and warm up any food, if you got some in the fridge?”
“Yeah, whatever. There’s probably some leftovers from yesterday in there, if the sensitive diva of a stomach of yours won’t mind.”
Luigi laughed more openly. “I’m used to more adequate VIP treatment, but I’ll forgive you long as you don’t surprise me with the sight of some unlucky mobster in there.”
“I can dream, but that won’t be the case yet. Johnny and Fabio Sindacco are gonna be my special guests eventually, though.”
“What about McLaggen?”
“He’ll fit better in Rocco’s freezer.” Toni said, stuffing himself into the cramped toilet next to brush his alarmingly yellow teeth. While complimenting this place in his thoughts earlier, he’d unfortunately forgotten about this little closet that made him feel like a sardine.

Toni fell asleep listening to Luigi cackling at some sitcom, almost being able to predict whenever he’d crack up next, and imagining how the concept of working with Joey was going to turn out – going even as far as being able to get his mind off the stressfully fruitless revenge plans.

Now, if only his driving skill was up to par in the same vein as Luigi’s ability to annoy him with that laughing.
 

The End.

  • slimeball supreme likes this

Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#48

Posted 25 February 2017 - 02:01 AM Edited by Carbonox, 26 February 2017 - 02:42 AM.

LC1: Family is the Worst

 

The call came like lightning from a clear sky. At first, Toni mistook it for a horribly mistimed alarm clock, feeling so exhausted upon waking up from his deep dreams that he couldn’t even keep his eyes open properly – and then there was the matter of his phone being a good few steps away from the bed. The ringtone wouldn’t give up and was only going to get louder the longer he took, so his only choice was to drag himself up even when every cell in his body was in robust opposition.

Toni slipped on his scattered clothes and came crashing on the floor with a hard thud, vocally cursing his luck and disregarding Luigi’s noise complaints from beyond the door as he snatched the phone and dragged himself back to bed. Some sunlight was beaming into the room through the blinds, but it didn’t matter as his natural time to wake up was still in the distant horizon.

“Who is it?” he asked grimly.
“Toni! Is this how you respond to your Ma now? All rude and obnoxious, just like the people you call you friends?” the old woman’s voice scolded him, as ever.
“Ma? Oh sh*t, I’m – really sorry, been sleeping badly and I---“
“So this is how you do it now? Complain about your petty little issues to your aging mother? I thought I raised you better than this, Antonio! I had it far more difficult than you when I was young, but do you see me whining about little things to someone less fortunate than me?!”
“No, Ma, it’s nothing like – look, if you need help with anything, I’ll be right over.” Toni swore, feeling more energized all of a sudden, not that he was likely to stay that way.
“Do you think I’m nothing more than a weak old lady who needs your help all the time to survive?”
“Of course not, but this call seemed urgent.” Toni argued.
“Every call from me is urgent, I’m your mother for God’s sake!” she shouted. “Now listen carefully. I have a real problem, and because you put me through great shame by allowing Aldo to die, it’s only right that you urgently help me out.”
“Are you at the restaurant? I’ll be over soon...”
“That’d be right over and nothing less if I wasn’t busy right now! I need to visit the bank, the repair shop and the mall, and you know how long those incompetent retail workers always take to handle my things---“
“But you’ll be back by evening, right?” Toni insisted.
“It’s you who needs to worry about showing up. Fail to come over by midnight, and you can consider yourself written out of my will...” Ma said without a hint of a joking tone in her speech, not that there ever was one.
“I – sure, I understand.”

Moments after, Toni threw himself onto the bed, so angry that he struggled to catch any sleep again regardless of fatigue.

The following morning – or rather midday, after further evaluation – wasn’t any more rosy. Toni was denied a chance to relieve himself of some uncomfortable pressure by a locked bathroom door, and had to hop-dance throughout the apartment as if it was club night for five solid minutes, waiting for Luigi to take a nearly everlasting dump (and finish reading the comic book as well – the occasional sound of flapping pages gave that one away).

When his turn finally came, he didn’t even say hi to his temporary roommate, rushing inside and immediately feeling like he could suffocate on the smell that had taken over the tiny little bathroom. Squirting out the remains of yesterday's beers took him ages, but was made a little more bearable by inserting a clothespin on the nose. The long session gave him an opportunity to think about life’s deepest questions, such as why the stench of his own fecal matter never bothered him in the same way as that of others.

“Guess you’re in no rush to go see Joey?” Luigi asked minutes later, when Toni finally came stumbling out and headed to fix himself some breakfast.
“Gib be a bweak. Can’d go anywhewe widh an empdy sdobach.”
“Suit yourself. I could do with an apology for waking me up prematurely, though...”
“Dhad’s endirely on by Ba. Fabily weally is dhe wowsd.” Toni said, aggressively slamming an egg on the table’s corner and having some of the yolk drip onto the floor.
Luigi nodded in agreement. “You gonna wear that new trinket when you head outside?”

Toni foolishly stared at him for ages, not understanding what the fuss was about this time, until he started to pay attention to the pain on his nose that he’d become used to and forgotten by now. He removed the clothespin and nonchalantly tossed it right over to Luigi, who made a decent mid-air catch.

“Sorry, I ain’t one for wearing anything too fancy. You can keep it – it suits you better, anyway.”
Luigi spun the object in his hand. “Let me guess, you’d like me to seal my mouth with it because my cunning wits are too much for you to handle?”
“If that delusion helps you sleep at night, I won’t stand on its way.” Toni stated.
“Alright then! By the way, I know this goes without saying, but if you somehow manage to run into Vincenzo out there, just ignore any agitating crap he has to say to you. He sure likes to f*ck with people’s heads when they step outta line...”

“...trashed by priced Banshee out of plain spite, never called me since then – this guy’s on a f*cking child’s level, Joey, for crying out loud!”
Yeah, Vinnie, that’s just how it went. Keep on believing. Toni sat idle on a chair in Joey’s office, scrolling through his girl calendar, with no intention of participating in the heated discussion (where all of the heat was coming from Vincenzo and him only). If he’d just been able to sleep uninterrupted, he could’ve been at the scene sooner and averted all this mess – Toni wasn’t fully certain, but he felt that this was what the ‘butterfly effect’ stood for.

“Look, I really don’t have anythin’ else to say on the matter. You got your opinion, I got mine. Now get back to whatever you’re up to and don’t f*ckin’ try to have a say in mine.” Joey said, spinning a wrench in his hand that he sadly wasn’t going to use anytime soon to bludgeon sense into Vincenzo’s head.
“You know, maybe you’re right.” Vincenzo said, gaze shifting between Joey and Toni. “You two do deserve each other. What business do I have getting between you anyway? I’m only the man who’s worked his ass off for Mr. Leone every day of the week without rest – why bother wasting any of that time to associate with an ungrateful prick and a disappointment in the family?”
“What’d you just say to me?” Joey demanded, going red with anger in an instant.
“I didn’t say anything that the boss would disagree with, that’s for sure.”
Joey gritted his teeth. “Get the f*ck out of my establishment, and don’t ever come back.”
“I was going to on my own terms, thank you very much.” Vincenzo said provocatively. “And you, Toni, I’ll be seeing you around soon enough. Might just not be with very good news to tell.”
Toni’s curiosity was woken just enough for him to open his mouth. “What’s on your mind?”
“That ‘sh*thole’, as you’d call it, that you call home. Do you know how much money I burned on that damn thing just to make you comfortable in this city?” His voice was steadily rising once more. “Since you’re just currently freeloading on everyone else’s expense, I’m thinking of putting that accommodation to better use and house some more grateful and promising men in your place. Whether they’ll let you stick around in exchange for working full-time as their maid, I won’t know.”
“I’d love to see you try and kick me out.” Toni snarled, feeling more happy on the inside than he should have about the verbal fisticuffs.
“I know you look like a monkey, but I didn’t know you got the brain capacity of one, too. Never read the small print? I own the property and I may kick anyone out for any reason! You should be glad I’m as mature as this, not having spited you yet!”
“Mature enough to call people names, that’s for sure. Goodbye Lucky – I’ll stick to worrying about real things, thank you very much.”
“I’d prepare to pay up if I was you. It’s the wisest long term solution, unless you’ve got enough humility in you to crawl to my door and ask to be let back to work, you little sh*t.” Vincenzo said to conclude the meeting, and walked out willfully ignorant of Toni’s extended middle finger.

“I woulda hit him if he wasn’t made, you know.” Joey told him, setting the wrench down on the table not one second after the door slammed shut.
“And I would’ve condoned it. You think he has any sorta case with the apartment thing?”
“Not sure. I don’t think he’d send henchmen to throw you out, that might cause a bit too much drama. We’re in no position to alienate any of our own.”
“I wouldn’t defect to the Sindaccos no matter what, but I know what you mean. It’s pretty sh*tty to have men like him at the head of the war effort.”
“I’ll tell you what, I love my father to death, but sometimes I question his ability to appoint good men in high positions. It’s bad enough we gotta deal with Romano for an underboss, and then we get even worse capos, like Vinnie, walking all over us on their pathetic power trips.”
Toni raised his eyebrows, prompting Joey to go on. “Not talkin’ sh*t about Aldo though, he was one of the good ones. Sucks to lose him knowin’ some kinda sh*thead will probably take his spot.”
“Don’t you ever feel that you could’ve taken the place of one of those made men if you made different life choices?” Toni asked.
“I could say the same about you, knowin’ how well your career was goin’ before you went for that foolish hit and brought all sorts of heat down onto yourself. And that’s exactly why neither of us is very qualified to criticize the other’s life choices, don’t ya think?”
“I’m not gonna escalate things here.” Toni admitted. “I came looking for work, that’s it.”
“And work you will find.” Joey said, taking a nice and comfortable seat from his favorite office chair. “Question is, what exactly are you looking for?”

Toni shrugged. “I’m confused, I thought there was only one kind really.”
Joey responded with a bit of forced laughter. “You wish. I’ve been drowning in all sorts of troubles these past few weeks, right after my most trusted wingman upped and left.”
“Let’s hear it then.”
“I’ve got a band of lousy dock workers who fancy themselves real dominant, far behind on their payment on a van, threatenin’ to burn my place down if I try to repossess the thing, typical sh*t really. Then, get this, there’s a wannabe street vigilante f*ckin’ sh*t up at Newport, thinkin’ he’s Gordon f*cking Moorehead or something. Now I don’t give a sh*t what he does in there ‘cause it’ll only hurt the other two families, but he owes me a big penny for the car he’s patrollin’ the streets with. He must be loaded with cash since he’s got a good bit of other equipment too, so no excuse for not checking in with me yet.”
“Unless he’s also indebted to the people he got that other stuff from.”
“Doesn’t matter; my debts come first. Anyway, I’m also preparing the armored car project so you soldiers can have something sturdy to pop Sindacco heads out of, but high quality parts are in short supply. I could use the help of someone as crazy as you in grabbing that sh*t.”
“Now that’s a project I can happily get behind.” Toni said, cracking a genuine smile for the first time.
“Wait up, there’s more. Dealers from some new gang are pushing a new drug, something called SPANK, on these streets. For as long as the Leones aren’t benefiting from it, those punks aren’t welcome, and I trust you know how to make them get the message.”
“I wouldn’t be a mobster if I didn’t.”
“Splendid. Also, even though Savage’s purged out a lot of trustworthy boys in blue by now, there’s still a few that we could do our own deals with to keep our backs covered – but that’s for later, when I actually get in proper contact. In the meantime, there’s one more repossession job I got, but it’s a little dodgy. Some Diablo from Hepburn Heights should’ve paid his bills already, but he ain’t reported in for days. His pimped out car’s been sitting pretty on the same parking lot ever since our last communication, and I’d like to claim it back, but I can’t promise you it ain’t some sort of trap.”
Toni frowned at him. “You kinda gotta expect that if you do business with the Diablos.”
“Hey, money is money no matter where it comes from. I doubt you’d refuse if Johnny Sindacco threw a million bucks at you.” Joey said defensively.
“Getting free money out of a sworn enemy’s pocket is a bit different from selling our goods to them.”
“Whatever, I’ll make a mental note of that in the future. In the meantime, you gonna pick your poison?”
Toni didn’t take a long time to think. “Much as I feel like shooting someone right now, there’s something important coming up later today, so I can’t take all day. Sign me up for that Diablo repossession, it’s about time we stood up to them.”
“No problemo. A convertible Stallion it is – I think they painted it orange – and I’ll show the exact spot on the map in just a sec, but first I gotta know, how’s your driving again?”

For no reason in particular, Toni had a flashback of his very first day back in town, which seemed like it had been forever ago.

Still unused to the handling of the Kuruma, Toni clipped a streetlight and almost ran head-on into a van he hadn’t expected to get anywhere near that quickly.
“Jesus, Toni, you drive like a bitch!” Vincenzo screamed, covering his head on the backseat.
Ignoring his rant, Toni drove for a moment in the wrong lane before remembering that this route wouldn’t get him anywhere near the Atlantic Quays, and spun the car around so suddenly that an ice cream truck was forced to dodge and almost plunged down the subway staircase.


“I’ve been making improvements.” he was able to say without lying.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Toni took Joey by complete surprise upon coming back about two hours later, the car looking like it had been brought through a compactor, and its driver having so much dirt on him that he made the mechanic’s oil-stained clothes look tidy. Toni’s Leone suit was drenched in blood that he’d tried to clean off only to make things worse, and something white had been smeared on his face; Joey almost expected to find a knife sticking to his back when he climbed out of what once used to be a Stallion and would’ve now passed as a Manana.

“Any complications then?” Joey asked out of sheer curiosity.
“The whole thing was an ambush.” Toni started, coughing as he sat in Joey’s chair despite the nonverbal protest from the mechanic. “The only reason I’m not ripping you a new one right now is unlike Vinnie, you warned me ahead of time.”
“I don’t need to be told what a great employer I am. Your story, though, please – I’m really dying to know how all that managed to happen.”
Toni grabbed a beer that Joey offered from the fridge. “First some backstory. I guess you weren’t informed of it, but your customer was pimping something other than cars too, and was caught and sent up the river for it just days ago.”
“Hm, I guess that’s a decent reason to not answer my calls...”
“But in any case, his friends must’ve known it was gonna be repossessed eventually, because they were staking out the car. Fighting off three Diablos takes a toll on you – particularly when they fought like Devlin had taught them a few tricks.” Toni explained, pointing at the blood stains.
“And, uhh, the state of the ride?”
“It was stuck in gear, and by the time I’d fixed the issue, more of the Diablos had showed up. What can I say – there’s only so much I could do to protect it from damage. A rear wheel popping didn’t help things much either.”
Joey stared at the Stallion with a bit of despair, having fat chance of being able to re-sell it in the near future. “That does it then, I guess – but what the hell’s the white stuff?”
“Oh.” Toni wiped the last of it away, having not paid attention to it for a while. “It’s a long story, but there’s this ice cream driver who must’ve recognized me and still held a grudge. Joke’s on him though, vanilla’s among my favorite flavors.”

Joey was clearly preparing to say something, but chickened out continuously as he kept pacing back and forth, scoping out the car to estimate the severity of the damage, not that its condition left much up for interpretation at all.

“Well... I’ll be constructive.” he said at last, after Toni was done with his beer. “You ain’t no slouch for overcomin’ all that adversity, it’s just that my last wingman would always come back to me with even wilder stories, some of them confirmed by the news later, and yet still kept the wheels somewhat close to mint condition.”
“Except I didn’t turn up at a Pay’n Spray right after the chase to patch up the worst damages.” a sour Toni protested.
“I don’t think it works that way... and I goddamn said I was gonna be constructive, so don’t complain to me or nothin’. Though for now, I could mainly do with your help indoors.”
“I got a few hours still to burn, so shoot.”
Joey pointed to the side. “There’s some papers over there, in them shelves... I never could give enough f*cks to arrange them, even though it’s probably gonna make my job easier. You get to it, and I’ll be forever grateful and sh*t.”

Toni was going to insert some kind of a comment about getting even worse duties than with Vincenzo, but just this once he didn’t mind a calm sitting down job right after going to hell and back with the Stallion. It wasn’t like he wasn’t going to take a reasonable bit of money off Joey’s hands by doing this, anyway.

Although the ‘calm’ part was disputed as soon as Joey began to fix the car, swearing profusely every two seconds while at it.

By the time the less action-packed part of the day was done, Toni had enough time to drop at home as the sun began setting (managing not to knock his Sentinel around on the way) and grab himself some nice, clean clothes so Ma would at least have one less reason to complain. All he wished was that he could un-see the sight of a naked Luigi taking up the couch and viewing a women’s long jump competition – at least his new roommate had made himself somewhat useful too by filling up the fridge while he was gone. All that left a lot to be desired was his taste of food; Toni wasn’t very excited about having to eat meatballs all week to beat the expiration dates of all the boxes.

Momma’s Restaurant was closed and devoid of outsiders when he arrived. The parking lot was as difficult to navigate as ever before, and the already completely spotless tables and a setting more festive than it needed to be set a mood that complimented the miserably perfectionist attitude of the establishment’s owner. Toni imagined she’d stir up a sh*tstorm if she were to notice his footprints that littered the otherwise pristine exterior floor.

“Oh, so the alleged son finally shows up.” the familiar voice uttered before Toni even saw her, startling him briefly.
“I thought my timing was just about what we agreed on?” he asked, facing the woman for a change rather than shouting up at a window. She was even more frail-looking than he recalled, certainly more than in his painting, but made up for it with a never-yielding nature.
“I’ve spent all too long waiting for you, worried that you’ll never show up, bringing me shame yet again.”
“Well, here I am, ready to do whatever you’d like me to do.” Toni said, getting tired of the time-wasting belittlements.
“You’re even more thin than I remember. You’ll never be fit to take the fight to the damned Sindaccos if you don’t eat, Toni! Which brings me to that problem I have...”

Toni was prepared to assassinate Giovanni Casa if it came to that, but instead, Ma presented to him a gigantic casserole dish of meatloaf. “The other day, I overheard the Casanovas saying that my cooking has become worse. I’m not going to let such foolish rumors become fact when I’ve got a reputation to uphold, so you’ll get the honor of being my judge.”
“Your judge?” Toni repeated.
“I need you to eat all these meals I’ve prepared specially for you, and find out just what’s wrong with the taste.” Ma explained with a fully serious tone. “That way, next time those snobheads grace this restaurant with their presence, they’ll be in for a surprise that’ll change their minds for good – and for once I’m not talking about poison in the meal.”
Toni’s disgruntled groan did not go unnoticed. “What now? Do I need to bring a mirror to prove how malnourished you are?”
“Actually...” Toni was already feeling weird and out of his comfort zone by speaking up against her. “I was expecting something a bit more urgent, like a matter of life and death.”
His mother was taken aback for the shortest time, before reverting back to her abusive self in a heartbeat. “Of course I have problems like that as well. It’s just too bad I have no real men in the family anymore to take care of them.”
“I’m only good for testing out your meatloaf?” Toni summed up. “I mean, that’s better than nothing, but your call made me expect bigger things.”
“My reputation’s a trivial worry for you? Quit being stupid and embarrassing me once more, and eat the damn food.

Toni would’ve liked to exchange this very moment for another action-packed repossession – not only was the amount of food so excessive that it was going to make him gain fat in no time, but meatloaf had to be among his least favorites of all time. Couldn’t Ma have tried to impress her friends with chicken and rice, like normal people?

About an eternity later, following a subpar meal and apparently subpar review due to Ma launching another tirade of what a bad son he was (Oh, I’m terribly sorry for not being a qualified food critic to satisfy your needs, he thought), Toni hit the illuminated streets to make his way home straight away, feeling like he could consume nothing anymore without vomiting all of it immediately. Thus, all he was going to do was chill out for the rest of the evening, much like last time, only without any more tension now that Luigi had settled in and made himself at home. The rest of St. Marks seemed pretty quiet at this time, suggesting that everyone else had the same kind of pastime in mind as he did – only they weren’t being held back by toxic people they couldn’t say “no” to.

But in spite of his earlier underestimations, there was one more trial to go through first.

“Toni, you know this chump?” Luigi’s serious tone was a surprise to him, but an even bigger revelation was that there was now yet another man standing around in the living room like some bodyguard. He was definitely a Leone mobster, but of the younger variety, lacking any facial hair and looking more like a schoolyard bully than an actual criminal. His basic expression made it appear he was constantly on edge and just waiting to pick a fight with someone looking at him wrong.

“How’d this motherf*cker get in here?” Toni asked, deliberately directing the question at Luigi.
“I walked. Helps to have a key as well.” The intruder’s voice was just as pretentious and condescending as his appearance suggested.
Toni took a threatening step towards him. “Who gave you that?”
“And why are you still here? I told you someone else f*cking occupies this place already!” Luigi shouted.
“The name’s Loris, thanks a lot for politely asking. And I’m just here to scope out my future quarters that Vincenzo was kind enough to offer.”
“Vin--- oh, no f*cking way.” Toni said, approaching the junior member with an extended finger. “You go right back to him and let him know---“
Loris was only amused by his antics. “Go ahead! Land a good punch and get evicted even quicker!” he yelled back at Toni, spit flying out of the mouth.
“Times sure have changed, ain’t they? People used to have respect for their elders.” Luigi said, standing on Toni’s side and subtly forcing Loris to back towards the door.
“Of course I respect them!” he screeched. “Just not washed up phonies like him.”
“Out of all people who’ve treated me like garbage since I came back, you just might be the most insignificant.” Toni whispered in his most intimidating voice. “Now slither back into whatever hole you crawled from, or you’ll find out the hard way that contracts don’t hold me back when I really become angry.”
“A – a hundred thousand bucks.” Loris said with a dorky smile, holding on to the last remnants of his composure as he did.
“Excuse me?” both older men asked simultaneously.
“A hundred thousand – t-that’s how much Vinnie wants you to pay him, for all of his time you’ve wasted, and all the misery you’ve caused. O-otherwise I get this apartment.”

Luigi burst out laughing; what he just heard felt like the funniest joke in the world all the way until he noticed Toni hadn’t joined him. He paused before Toni even got the idea of telling him off.

“Do I look like someone who’ll pay up to some narcissist trying to assert control?” Toni demanded, remaining calm somehow.
Loris looked like he was measuring him. “Honestly, you look like someone who’s gonna complain to the Don right away because your boss is being nasty to you.”
“Kid, you done hurling insults yet? Or are you gonna push your luck?” Luigi intervened.
The juvenile Leone made a face. “I know you lame-asses won’t do anything to me. All talk and no action, both of you! But I guess I’ll be on my way anyway, I’ve seen enough by now.”
“Yeah, run back to Vinnie and blow him some more, maybe he’ll reward you with a sleek new car as well.” Toni delivered.
“F*ck you! At least I know how to make friends in high places!” Loris yelled with that painful shrieking sound again, and stomped right out about as theatrically as was possible.

“Well, that was... an experience.” Luigi said right after the noises of him speeding down the stairs dissipated. “Was he actually serious about the demands? What are you gonna do now?”
Toni headed to the kitchen, gathering his breath. “I’m gonna grab a drink and share some thoughts that have cropped up recently. You’re a good listener, right?”
“As good as that kid was at talking big.”
“That makes me glad.” Toni said laconically, switching the TV off with an aggressive flick of the remote as Luigi took a seat from a soft stool.

“First of all... today’s interactions with Ma just reaffirmed my statement that family is the worst.”
“You got that right.” Luigi said, thumbing up the assertion.
“But now that this – this – miserable rookie came along, I’m convinced that it’s true in a bit of a different sense.”
“Our crime family is the worst?” Luigi observed.
“Precisely.” Toni said right after a long gulp. “I really thought I’d ended that Vincenzo saga weeks ago, but he just can’t seem to let go. And the way I see it, I can’t be making any moves on our rivals unless I take care of adversity within my own gang first.”
“No ass-kissing is gonna be involved, right?”
“F*cking A. Now I don’t give a f*ck about what the kid had to say – there’s an easy and a hard way around this, and it makes no sense not to give the easy one a shot first. The less work I put into settling Vinnie’s bullsh*t, the better.”
“You’ll ask Mr. Leone to settle this?”
“Yes. It’s a f*cking one and five zeroes – far outta my league these days. If he’s sensible, he’ll put Lucky in his place and grant me the peace of mind I need at this time.” Toni said, slamming his fist on the table to show how much he meant business.
“And the hard way? You considered getting a new place?”
“New places cost money – again, money I don’t have. All I could get is some sh*thole from Hepburn Heights without running water and with the added risk of getting stabbed at any time of day. Going back to Ma’s and tolerating her 24/7 won’t be a sensible choice either.”
“Then... what else is there?”

Toni finished his beer before giving him his most determined look yet. “We’ve got a score to take.”

 

To Be Continued.


Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

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#49

Posted 26 February 2017 - 02:28 PM

I've only had time to scan these, and not dedicated the large chunk of time to read and catch up, then critique but keep up the good work.

Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

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#50

Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:35 PM Edited by Carbonox, 05 June 2017 - 10:39 PM.

This took plain too long, no way around it. Also, it'll be kinda dialogue-heavy, but I suppose it's been the norm with previous ones too.

 

LC2: The Third Wheel

 

Straight to the east of the St. Marks district, surrounded by undeveloped hilly landmass stood Salvatore Leone’s mansion, offering a fantastic view to the lighthouse island, ocean and the distant mainland alike. That alone was enough to make it one of the most sought after residences in this section of town, so perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that it was currently under strict ownership of a mob leader, known for dealing with unwanted trespassers with extreme prejudice.

One man who had no time to admire the sights was Toni Cipriani. Once a promising member of the mob, a potential future underboss and a thorn in the sides of rival gangs, now reduced to a full-time punching bag to the new made men, who struggled to regain his former reputation, he definitely had much to complain about to the Don, regardless of the lingering feeling of uncertainty. The busy matters that went on between Salvatore and some politicians were no joke and it would be suicidal to get in the way, but who else was going to have the power to curb his unsustainable situation?

Walking between the pylons that restricted vehicle access to the patio, Toni bypassed a group of mobsters he only knew by face, all of them whispering something to one another at the sight of him – likely nothing good, but he wasn’t going to confront a group where all members were probably still ranked higher than him.

“How much more uninformed could you be?” Salvatore raged at the landline phone in his office. “I’m not canceling the meeting with Massimo – do you even have any idea how important he is? No, you’re not fired, what kind of a bad boss do you take me for? You just need to get a damn grip, you’re young enough to pass as my goddamned son, yet you’re the senile one here! Get things in proper order, then get back to me!” He slammed the phone down hard as if that made his problems go away.

“So, Toni, what brings you here?” Salvatore gestured for him to sit down, rediscovering his calmness in an instant.
“Something that’s hurting our uniformity. I understand you’ve got a lot to handle in here, but---“
“When I’m not busy with a meeting, I’m busy arranging them. That is true. However, you had me at uniformity, so talk.”
Toni took a while to structure his speech; he should’ve practiced it a bit beforehand at least. “I haven’t gotten along with Vincenzo like I’d hoped over the past month, and our problems just went through the ceiling when he’s started to demand outrageous sums from me, or I’m going to be evicted.”
“You don’t want me to pay your rent, do you?” Salvatore asked, perhaps not fully seriously.
“As much of an honor that would be, I’ll be OK with just calling quits on this whole bullsh*t. None of his petty squabbling is doing the family any good, and this is just about the final straw.”

Salvatore stood up, turning his back to Toni to look out of the window. “Funny, Vincenzo also approached me the other day about you. He had lots to say about your, and I quote, ‘disregard for rules and hierarchy’, ‘lack of focus on the matters at hand’ and the part that’s not very open for interpretation: the crushing of his prized car at the conclusion of your partnership.”
“So, whose story is more plausible?” Toni questioned.
Salvatore rolled his eyes. “F*ck if I care. This is like high school drama all over again, except it seems to not be a girl you’re fighting for. If any of this is true, all I can say is I expected better.”
“I really tried, though. I tried to get along with him, from the moment you called me out on my hasty judgment. But either the damage had been already done, or he just hated me from the start regardless, ‘cause nothing was ever good enough for him.”
“Something tells me I should’ve invited you here long ago to share some wisdom and warn that he may indeed be toxic and vengeful to those he doesn’t like, before you took that Banshee to its final ride.” Salvatore said, his voice rife with disappointment, but whether that was for himself or Toni was up for interpretation.
“I’m gonna say, I got a bit carried away by the thrill of the moment there---“
“Well, honestly, we’ve got no shortage of drug cars in this town, but it was the symbolism about that move that bothered me. You really went out of your way to damage the family’s income just to deal revenge on one of us?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t very smart of me.” Toni said, really running out of phrases to keep the Don happy if the one incident kept being brought up.
“And I can trust that you won’t do anything of that caliber again, capiche? Now, on to your impending housing problem, or so I understand...”

Toni leaned forward; it was finally time for the good stuff.

“What do you propose I do without it coming across as blatant favoritism?” Salvatore inquired, resulting in imminent disappointment from Toni’s side. “After all the time he spent earning my trust, I don’t think it’d bode well for Vincenzo to find out I betrayed his by voiding a legal contract. Yes, I’ve seen what it entails.”
Toni recalled the time when he hastily signed the document regarding the apartment, thinking he had no choice in the matter but also didn’t suspect Vincenzo of any wrongdoing. His apathy at that time only contributed to the now growing rage.
“Then what choices do I have?” he asked in desperation.
“Antonio, relax, please. I’m not done yet. Your mother, as you know, is a fine woman with a great business, but she too is becoming affected by the curse that we call aging. Her only son being there to help with the restaurant would mean the world to her...”
Toni forced himself not to groan. “Actually, from my recent interactions with her, I could tell that she’d be most proud of an independent son.” he managed to say in response to what sounded like an advertisement speech.
“Really? I could’ve sworn...” Salvatore eyed him as if to detect signs of him lying. “Oh well, you probably do know her better than me. Doesn’t sound like a typical parent in this demographic, though. It’s like a Don that would be most proud of a son who chooses a life in the car fixing industry.”
“Yeah, it’s – an anomaly all right.” Toni said, trying to sound calm.
“I hope you won’t repeat your question about other choices anytime soon.” Salvatore told, seeing right through his façade this time. “You have to understand, at this point of time, that I really like you, think you have a good future no matter what my men are saying out there, and I hate to see you in such a precarious position. So don’t think for a moment that I’m at a loss of options because I would be trying to spite you over that crushing incident, which we can happily put behind us as far as I’m concerned.”
“That’s alright.” Toni’s voice came out annoyingly quiet and insignificant, making him feel like a schoolboy in the principal’s office right after a scolding.
“But having been in this business for years, I know that the best course of action regarding your situation is to settle it with minimal intervention from my part. Vincenzo likes to act like a young child – a child who’ll never be able to get over his rivalry with the neighbor’s boy if all their fights are broken up by ignorant adults before they can truly end.”
“You’re not saying I should meet him in the ring and settle our differences that way? I’ll sign right up if that’s the case.”
“Don’t be stupid. I was considering something different – do you foresee any possibilities of making enough money in the near future?”
“I might. If the Sindaccos could do it, why not me?” Toni said with a shrug.
“That’s excellent. If you’re able to raise the sum he’s demanding, I recommend you do pay him off and cut all contact afterwards. If he still tries something after that, he’ll be in major trouble with me.”
Toni felt like his trust in Salvatore was returning at once, manifesting itself with a smile on his face that tried not to be too malicious. “I’ll roll with that. I wasn’t planning on giving up my place to his new spoiled brat of a protégé anyway, if you know what I mean.”
“I know exactly who you’re talking about, and it worries me that he fully represents the state of the next generation of wiseguys.” Salvatore conveyed, scratching his walrus-like moustache.
“Yeah.” Toni stood up, feeling he had nothing to add. “I’d have plenty to say about that prick, but I guess I should be on my way to find recruits.”
Salvatore leaned forward again. “Just promise me one thing... Don’t let Rocco become anything like him. He’s a good kid with a much better upbringing, that’s for sure, but such a traumatic event is bound to affect his personality. He might even grow reckless, and that’s not something I or his parents can stop.”
“But I can – how, exactly?”
“You’re closer to his level, thus he’ll be more compelled to listen to you. Also, dare I say, he considers you a bit of a role model.” Salvatore explained. “Finally, I suspect you only brought up the question so you could hear a bit of compliments from me.”
“I won’t incriminate myself any further then. Got any recommendations for my crew?”
“Look for lone wolves, wherever you can find them. The risks are at an all-time high nowadays, and I wouldn’t be comfortable putting a large number of my eggs in one basket.”
“I’ll see what I can dig up.” Toni stood up to leave after Salvatore’s nod implied there was nothing more to discuss.
“Come see me again once I give you the call...” Salvatore said to his back.

Toni wasn’t as let down as he thought he would be. In fact, he had a hard time trying to disguise his excitement over the fact he was going to get a piece of some real action for once, while explaining the details of the encounter to Luigi. The reason for raising the money still sucked, but he wouldn’t be thinking about Vincenzo’s face or even more enraging voice while holding up a fearful store attendant – or even a banker – wait, screw that, he needed to be more subtle or he’d find himself surrounded by impassable roadblocks of cherry tops everywhere. Regardless, it would place the Leones back on the map and Luigi would make some starting money for the eventual business of his dreams, so he was easily won over for the official crew.

“...although I do wonder how I’ll manage to keep a serious face all the time. It’s quite a happy place, that club I’m envisioning, after all.”
“Just envision the inevitable situation where people start messing with your girls, and you’ll start having a tough time cracking a smile of any sort.” Toni said tiredly, leading the way into the shabby apartment complex.
Luigi was taken aback. “That’s a real mood swinger for sure. Since I’ll be mostly busy, could I count on you to take care of the scum that would do such a thing?”
“Ain’t that a job for hired muscle at the very bottom of the barrel? Now, focus on the matter at hand or your ideas won’t ever see the light of day, capiche?”
“A’ight, a’ight, you don’t need to capiche me to---“
“Wait up, what the f*ck?” Toni saw that the door to his place was just the slighest bit ajar. “Did you forget to lock it?”
“I thought you were the last to leave in the morning. Remember that fuss about the missing toothbrush?”
An enraged Toni raised his hand. “Shut the hell up. If we got another troublemaker on our hands that Vinnie’s offered my safehouse to, it’s about time to let sheer force do the talking.”

Toni snuck inside, finding the lights on in the living room; he moved to the kitchen to avoid being jumped from the conspicuously slightly open door of the bedroom. From there, he was able to locate the invader of the day, sitting on the couch with a beer in hand and a hockey game playing on TV as if it were his own home.

“Before you break any of my bones, care to hear my side of the story?” said the Leone mobster whose clean-cut suit didn’t lie about his loyalties.
Toni contained his astonishment. “Mickey Hamfists.”
“That’s my name. You’ve got really good reception here, I must say. No more of the ‘missing a crucial play when the TV randomly goes apesh*t’ crap that always goes on where I live.”
“Does this look like a sports bar to you?” Toni asked angrily, not minding the fact he was talking to one of the family’s deadliest assassins. “Or a public place altogether?”
Mickey finally had the courtesy to face them. “Little birds told me you spend most of your time home nowadays. I came here to find this apartment empty, so why not make myself at home knowing you’ll be back soon enough?”
“I love how everyone suddenly cares for my personal life like never before.” Toni snarked.
“Hey, you’ve got potential and everyone knows it better than you’d think. I came to make you an offer – both of you, if you’re up to it.”
“We’ve got our hands full with a project of our own, thank you very much.” Toni said dismissively.
Mickey stood up, insistently shaking his head. “I’m not leaving until I’ve had my voice heard, not with all the effort I saw to reach you. Rather than f*ck around with Joey and his hundred and one untrustworthy customers, you could put your talents to better use and help me with some higher grade liabilities.”
“You’d like to go and off Paulie Sindacco with us?”
“If Sal had given me permission, I would already have gone for it.” Mickey said, frowning. “But the bare minimum we can do is land a hit on one of their made men. Can’t let the departure of one of ours go unpunished.”
Toni sighed, knowing all too well the offer was too interesting to skip. “Anyone in mind?”
“Silvio Primanti is a known creep, sex addict, all that stuff, and most importantly a supervisor to the Sindaccos’ clubs in Red Light. Taking him out should not just greatly weaken the ring, but relieve JD O’Toole of a pair of watchful eyes at his back.”
“He’ll either be relieved, or badly saddened with the loss of someone he can relate to.”
“He won’t be, Primanti is too much of a dick.”

Walking past Mickey to go look out the window, Toni made himself look quite a bit more thoughtful than he really was – truthfully he already knew the answer to what he was going to ask.
“Will that hit add a six-figure sum to my bank account?”
“Six figures?” Mickey was lucky not to gag as he burst into sudden laughter. “Are you crazy?”
“Anything less won’t do it for a payment that I’m concerned with right now. I won’t say no to your proposal, but raising that money comes first, or I soon won’t have a couch for you to rest your ass on. Or any living quarters for that matter.”
“He’s not joking.” Luigi added when Mickey looked straight at him with a puzzled expression.
“That’s...” Mickey scratched his chin. “That’s not gonna be very nice then.”
“You know what would be nice? A bit of inspiration for which place to strike.” Toni nonchalantly told him.
“Strike? You’re gonna solve your problems with a handful of domestic terrorism then?”
“ROB!” Toni’s fed-up scream brought silence into his and the neighbors’ apartments in one fell swoop.
“Uhh – maybe our discussion points are getting a bit sensitive. You guys mind if we go outside for a drive, talk things through over there?” Luigi asked, his voice down.
“I’m down with that.” Mickey said, recovering from the shock. “There’s room for me as well in your automobile, right?”
“In the trunk.” Toni replied.
“Then it’s a deal.” Mickey put his arms around both men’s shoulders and guided them right out the door, Toni only barely managing to flick the light switch before the momentum carried him out of reach.

Mickey had somehow claimed a place on the front seat, demoting Luigi by the time they were emerging from the depressing alley into the streets that were bathing in sunlight for a change, giving the concrete jungle an almost beautiful look, though Toni was highly bothered by said light almost blinding him even with the sunscreen on.

“Drop by Punk Noodles in Chinatown, Toni. It’s about time we got ourselves something nutritious.” Mickey said in a tone that was probably more bossy than he realized.
Toni frowned. “Oh, so now we’re gonna get something to eat? Never had the idea to ask us if we’re up to it before dragging us to the car?”
“Just do what I say and you’ll see. You want a location to rob for 100 grand, huh?”
“Sure, but the take will need to be at least twice as big. Gotta pay off the minions too.”
“Now I’m just a minion?” Luigi harrumphed, pretending to take offense in the most melodramatic way.
“Alright, so Goterelli’s in your crew – that’s better than nothing, I guess – but do you have any plans beyond that?” Mickey asked skeptically.
Toni shook his head. “Loose, disconnected ideas at best. I don’t think it can really be anything smaller than a jewelry store if we intend to walk out with that much?”
“That’s the way it is. I’d love to rid some shady Sindacco club of their ill-gotten gains, but even if we broke through their high security vaults, there wouldn’t be much for us to grab. They’re just f*ckin’ decoys, the big cash is safe and sound somewhere they’ve never told JD about.” Mickey banged his fist into the door in frustration.
“I don’t care who I’m taking from as long as I meet the quota. In the meantime, we all know you’ve got connections, so how about you hook me up with candidates for the crew?”
“Why get to that when we don’t even have a location cased out? In the meantime”, he continued, annoyingly mimicking Toni, “what sorta meals do you want?”

With takeaway boxes in hand, the party parked on the side of the street just behind the diner to eat, despite Toni’s anxiety over the fact they were almost right in the heart of Triad territory – any gang member walking by would recognize them from the suits without fail as long as they had functioning eyes. For some reason Mickey insisted that this was a perfect spot, but this didn’t stop Toni and Luigi from checking if there were any men in dark blue approaching from any direction, particularly the barricaded alley to their right.

“You won’t be above breaking into a well armored bank vault, will you?” Mickey asked, mouth full of food.
“Like the one right in front of us? Come the f*ck on, there’s too many problems to list.”
“You wanted a score? That’s a score right there, with one of the best risk/reward factors in town. Or would you rather go plundering LibCryo?”
“The sperm bank? What business have I got there?”
“Hey, from what I’ve heard, it’s a rapidly growing industry. LibCryo’s even made it into BAWSAQ.” Luigi chimed in.
“And they advertise on the radio, with lots of different slogans.” Mickey continued.
“Perhaps we should just focus on---“ Toni tried to interrupt.
“My favorite is ‘You pleasure it, we treasure it’.” Luigi said.
“OK, you seriously need to learn to know when you’re straying into the ‘too much information’ zone.” Toni slated him, suddenly not feeling very hungry anymore.

Those in need of a wallet refill came and went from the ATM’s on the bank’s front side, shoppers with large bags on both hands left the alleyway, and a delivery boy who looked to be in a big rush sped away from the diner as fast as the scooter let him – all of these people going on about their daily lives were blissfully unaware that these men had some nasty plans in mind, possibly regarding their own savings in the building that was supposed to be the most secure in the district.

“So let’s go through this step by step. What factors do you think stand on our way the most, for this score right here?” Mickey asked.
“For one, the alley’s barricaded, so we lose one direction we could’ve escaped to. It also makes it easier for the cops to block off the area.”
“That pretty much leaves out a traditional blatant attack, indeed. It doesn’t mean we should just discount this target right away, though.”
“Well, if the vault’s as well protected as Sonny Forelli, what’s the damn point?”
“We should take a look around. Come on, it won’t be a long way to walk around the building.” Mickey ushered, unbuckling his seatbelts.
“I’m not done yet!” Luigi shouted, frantically trying to speed up his masticating.
“You don’t need to, we can make it just fine ourselves. I’ve been dying for some one-on-one time with Cipriani, anyway.”
“No better way to spend your day. You know the drill, just watch the car and shoot any would-be thieves in the back of the head. If sh*t gets messy, you know who to call.” Toni said.
“JD?” Luigi asked with a smirk.
“At your own risk.” Toni said, closing his door.

Following the wall of the building the bank was a part of, Mickey led him past numerous small-time businesses whose names Toni couldn’t read, into an insignificant-looking minor alley just off the pedestrian streets, where a presumed Triad graffiti was the only thing decorating the walls, and randomly placed cardboard boxes and cigarette stumps littered the ground. A peek around the next turn revealed that this alley hadn’t quite been forgotten about so badly by city developers that it would’ve been unbarricaded – no cars were going to get here either, but the street was only a stone’s throw away for someone with a really weak arm.

“Do you smoke?” Mickey asked, bringing out his own pack of Debonaires.
“Nah. Can’t even stand the smell.”
“Well, lean on the wall next to me, and try to survive.”
“I doubt this is a regular smoke break...” Toni mumbled.
“You’re right. See that, just between us...” Mickey ran his finger along the concrete wall. “It’s barely visible, but there’s a crack developing at this spot. A major structural weakness for something that’s expected to be ultra-secure.”
“What’s on the other side though? I wouldn’t like to end up in just a poker room at the back of a laundromat--- and wait, how’d you find this so quickly? You been scoping this area out before?”
“You caught me.” Mickey admitted. “What happened was, when you were still out of town, a few of our guys and I were already staking this bank out for robbery, and I ended up familiarizing myself with the perimeter a lot. The whole idea then went to sh*t when both Samuele and Carmine got caught up in a sting – separate offense though, no one ever found out about this plan.”
Toni grinned. “Which you’d just love to put into action now, with me.”
“What would be better? And to get back to your first question, I’ve knocked on this wall countless times and have never been told to get f*cked from the other side. It’s a good enough clue,” Mickey took a pause to inhale and puff, “but just to be sure, we’ll need to have a look at the blueprints of the whole building.”
“No easy task, I presume. Any other prep work?”
“We’ll of course need high quality getaway cars and that aforementioned crew...” Mickey thoughtfully stared at the opposite wall before turning to Toni again. “Can I just get your word that you’ll help out with the Sindacco hit if I hook you up with some good people?”
“Fair enough. Just that one, then we’ll negotiate separately for any other jobs.”
“Pleasure doing business with you. Let’s get back to the car – no unwanted ears in there.”

“Was your conversation fruitful?” Luigi asked immediately when the Sentinel’s doors opened again. Nothing had changed about the setting since they had left, including the fact he still wasn’t done with the food. Toni had the feeling that he wasn’t the biggest fan of noodles out there.
“You could call it that. We’ve got a plan that we’d like to put up on a board.” Mickey said confidently.
“Before you tell me, I actually invented one by myself. Why not toss sleeping gas into the air duct and walk in with exterminator uniforms – you know, to justify our presence – and empty the vault with practically no resistance, and no one to sound the alarm?”

Toni and Mickey looked at each other for the longest time before turning back to Luigi.

“Holy sh*t, that’s actually not bad.” Toni began.
“No, but it does have a drawback. Only the government possesses any sort of sleeping gas, and nabbing some for ourselves would be a heist in itself that doesn’t pay jack sh*t. Unless it’s being driven in the same van with a large wad of cash... but no, we’d never find something like that out, no matter how much resources we throw at spying.”
“I take it you’ve got something different in mind then?” Luigi asked.
Mickey cleared his throat. “By my calculations, since I’ve got a lot of other things to do and would rather hang back and take a smaller piece of the pie for Antonio’s sake, you’ll need an extra gunman or two, perhaps an explosives expert, and a getaway driver unless one of you wants to be it yourself. Maybe make it two of those as well if the load’s too big to be carried in one car.”
“You’ll definitely need to find us an explosive nerd. 8-Ball won’t get out before the deadline.” Toni was quick to say.
“Even if he did, it wouldn’t do you any good. Remember his arrest? One of Liberty’s finest ‘accidentally’ (Mickey made some blatant quotation marks with his hands) poured boiling fat onto his hands when trying to restrain the poor fool.”
Toni almost swerved to the wrong lane as he shuddered with disgust. “What the f*ck? I definitely missed that part.”
Luigi looked downbeat as well. “It was a pretty ugly thing to hear about for sure. I looked it up, it appears he was actually arrested for illegal gun possessions, but rumor has it that the LCPD had an idea of what his business entailed, and wanted to stop him from ever building bombs again once he were to walk free.”
“I doubt it’s gonna stop him permanently, thank f*ck. Though he might’ve lost some of the delicacy in his work.” Mickey said.

Having lost some more of his trust in the local law enforcement, Toni moved back on to the main subject. “So, the plan then? You said something about a bunch of blueprints?”
“One of you is gonna need to sneak over to the city planning department and snap a picture of them. Not steal them, or it’ll be noticed before the operative in question is back at home.”
“Operative? You make this look like some military scheme.”
“Don’t latch on to single words. Though if you must know, I used it because a good bit of subtle professionalism never hurts in this line of work. Now, the getaway cars – we’ll need something fast and hard for them to stop, as well as a route that guarantees a clean getaway. The Callahan Bridge or any of the upstate roads are out of the question, they’re too easy to block off.”
“Should we also disable the alarms? Every little thing helps.” Luigi proposed.
“It might require an extra operative and take up too much work for too little gain. People will notice the break-in as soon as we blow up the wall, so short of bribing everyone within range, there’s nothing that’s gonna stop or even remotely slow down the charge of the boys in blue.”
“That’s assuming that explosives on that weak wall are the answer. We’ll need the schematics before making the final decision.”
“Correct, so I suppose I’ll hold off on deciding who’ll be in the crew until then. In the meantime, you two should split duties. One goes to – I dunno – sweep floors under a fake name to get close to the blueprints, and the other nabs the cars with Joey. Some armor layers, bulletproof tires and stronger suspension won’t hurt, to name a few things we’ll need.”
“Driving might still not be my strong suit, but I’ll take it. Can’t do any worse than last time.” Toni said quickly.
“You’ll sacrifice my pride and dignity then?” Luigi looked offended for a second. “Nah, maybe it’s the way to go – I’m a lousy driver, which is why you don’t see me behind that wheel.”
Mickey nodded to him. “It’s settled. I’ll have the boys forge you a new identity soon enough – you just make sure that you smuggle a camera into the cleaning cart and keep a close eye on the surroundings.”
“Will it be that simple? They’ll just throw the job at me on sight?”
“If you kiss enough ass in the interview, definitely. You know, just say the my life goal has always been to clean behind everyone in this company drivel and you’re hired on the spot.” Toni proposed.
“Hey now, maybe be a little less in-your-face about it. That one sounds borderline sarcastic.” Mickey warned.
“That’s implying the narcissistic higher-up f*ckwads have an idea what sarcasm is. To them, it’s just positive reinforcement that they expect from everyone they meet.” Toni said, perhaps a bit bitterly but fully meaning everything.
Mickey snickered. “I still stand behind my words, but a-f*cking-men to that.”

Toni was only one turn away from his home, when he abruptly laid on the brakes. Luigi’s finished food went flying over the seat and into Mickey’s lap, introducing the other two to some colorful, exotic curse words.

“What now?” Mickey snarled when the initial shock was over, chucking the box back to where it belonged.
“Should we really be using my place as the planning center? The walls have ears when you live in a complex like that.” Toni said, numerous cars honking at him and the driver of a black Stallion shaking his fist through an open window.
“No matter how you look at it, mine’s no better.” Mickey said regretfully. “In fact, I have this neighbor who, I swear, could hear a bee sneezing in my kitchen and scream about it for ten---“
“You’ve got major problems if you’ve got bees flying around in your quarters. Also, how about Joey’s garage? Or your Ma’s? Not mine though, she’s still mad enough not to be answering my calls. Or maybe she’s had a heart attack... I might need to check up eventually.” Luigi pondered.
“Joey gets too many visitors, we’d be exposed far too easily – and Ma certainly wouldn’t snitch, but would demand a cut for hosting us. An excessively big cut, to be clear.”
“Looks like you’re outta luck then, Toni.” Luigi said, trying to sound sympathetic.
“Unless...” Toni scratched his chin, still ignoring the cars behind them even though the Stallion was beginning to ram his rear end. “8-Ball’s shack up in Harwood is all empty at this point of time, ain’t it?”
“No, I hear lots of vacationers are going there this time of the year.” Mickey said, only retaining his deadpan expression until Toni had turned to look at him. “Of course not, knucklehead! But whether cops still check it out for further illegal activity, that I truly don’t know.”
“If someone’s using the bomb shop for their own purposes, it’s time for us to convince them otherwise, then.” Toni floored it right as he was finished, almost giving Luigi a heart attack. He proceeded to swerve around traffic and run red lights to make up for previously lost time, the road rager in the Stallion closely following him and repeating all of his moves, screaming at him to come back – only Mickey paid any sort of attention, though.
“I was saying it could be a popular spot for drug deals, lynchings, what have you...”
“Those lowlifes will need a change of scenery then. We’ll set up shop there, keep it occupied 24/7, maybe even store getaway cars if he’s got extra garage space...” Toni listed, enthusiasm growing in his speech.
“Who’s gonna keep it occupied?” Luigi asked as Mickey took some potshots at the Stallion driver, who made a hasty turn to a different road just a few intersections before the bomb shop, bouncing off the wall surrounding the gas station and locking up one of his tires.
“The one who doesn’t have a permanent home at this very moment. Also, Mickey, just because I’m breaking a few rules doesn’t mean you should draw extra attention to us.”
“You’d kick me off your spacious couch and make me live in there?” Luigi complained.
“Where’s the problem? 8-Ball’s got a TV and all, you could watch any porn clips all you want and no one will be there to judge you. Except maybe the Capital Autos people, but... they’re too scared of us to do anything. Hell, maybe we should extort them once we find some free time.”
“It’s a nice proposition.” Mickey said, a mischievous smile on his face.
“And I’ll let you come back as soon as the job’s done. This is just a temporary setting, I promise.” Toni added, a bit afraid of starting any bad blood – Luigi did have a habit of pretending to take more offense about things than he really did, but this case seemed more serious.

8-Ball’s yard was in the same kind of sad state as one would expect from anything that had been abandoned for some time: only the miscellaneous debris remained as any personal belongings that could be used against him had probably been carried off long ago by detectives. It truly was a strange case of city design – or lack of it – that something this barren could exist so close to the thriving car dealership.

“Hey, if he doesn’t get out after all or goes out of business, wouldn’t this be a good spot for a club?” Mickey joked at Luigi. “You could dispose of unwanted people quietly over at the crusher, and trains could bring tired dock workers straight over here.” He pointed at the even longer abandoned train tunnel behind the perimeter fence, earning a punch to the shoulder once Luigi saw what was being referred to.
“F*ck with my delicate hopes and dreams some more, and you’ll get to explore my planned aquarium from the inside.” he groaned disapprovingly.
“Shut your mouths and bring out the guns.” Toni said. “The lights are on – there might be someone inside.”

Although he could’ve opted for a more cinematic way of barging inside, the door turned out to be unlocked – trusting his instinct that there was no guard with a gun at the ready on the other side in the case of unwelcome guests, he yanked it open and pressed his way forward through the first room, pointed his gun at the next only to find it empty, and turned around for the third and final one just in time to come face to face with the “intruder”, whom he luckily recognized before letting the lead do the talking: there was after all no mistaking this baby-faced, heavily overweight fellow who seemed to have more eyes than a spider for anyone else.

“Practicing for a Sindacco raid, Toni?” Lil’ Fattie asked, nearly unfazed by the gun that had been directed at his chubby face for the briefest moment.
“Umm... not quite.” Toni was at a bit of a loss for words.
“’Cause you know, there would be plenty of drug operations still in need of disrupting, but none of you seem to have taken the initiative.”
“The firepower differential might still be just a bit skewed in their favor.” Toni blurted out, his allies now joining him after the lack of gunshots indicated an all clear situation.
“It’ll only grow if you don’t kill off their business, you know.” the informant reminded.
“Oh, great... this guy.” Mickey said as soon as he’d peeked around the corner to see who Toni was talking to.
“How are you in here out of all places? Without a car, no less?” Luigi wanted to know.
“Just because I look like a – miserable meatball, or whatever you people are gonna insult me with next, doesn’t mean I couldn’t take a damn walk from time to time!” Lil’ Fattie screamed with an all-red face, something that Mickey considered the best kind of fun anytime it happened.
“Maybe Luigi was more puzzled about what you’re doing here.” Toni said before anything escalated.
“Nothing much.” Lil’ Fattie took a deep breath and sat down. “Only looking to see if there’s any clues of Norman Vitale using this location to hide his drugs.”
Mickey was the most astonished. “That Forelli goon who looks like a chimp? What the f*ck for? Right on our backyard?”
“If you looked things up more, you’d know he was real close with some of the Harwood Butcher’s victims. Only makes sense that he’d come here to the site of death for me. Maybe he thinks of it as a pilgrimage of some sort – and the subtlety of the location helps too.” Lil’ Fattie had to rest again, having trouble with long speeches as usual.
“Well, you better hope you’re finished with the investigation. We’re here to – clean up, for the eventual return of our friend.” Toni lied.
“I’ve found this.” His obese ally showed him an oddly large keychain, shaped like a hand making a sign-of-the-horns gesture, that looked like something could be stored inside. “And a voucher for Bolt Burger! Don’t know if this is 8-Ball’s or Norman’s, but... still, you guys are gonna be nice enough to let me have it, right?”
“I dunno, burgers just might shorten your lifespan even more than messing around in a crazy racketeer’s drug stash. Why don’t we keep it for now,” Mickey said, snatching the voucher right from between the sausage-like fingers, “and hand it back over as a reward when you’ve got something on an even bigger target than Vitale.”
“Sounds good to me. Although if my math’s correct, it’s set to expire in two months.” Toni pointed out, reading the card over his shoulder.
“It’s – uhh – not a problem. Anyone in particular you’re after?” Lil’ Fattie asked nervously.
“It might not be smart to go for Forelli targets while they’re weakening the Sindaccos across the river as we speak.” Toni said, the other two nodding in agreement. “So, look up any Sindacco made men besides Primanti. We might have that creep figured out already.”

Lil’ Fattie made his way outside, still a bit depressed over the voucher, but with the trust of all three mobsters strongly behind him. Toni even made a mental note to himself to look forward to hearing from him sooner than he would expect. Beneath that exterior sure was a well-motivated worker if he’d ever seen one...

“So, pretty nice digs, huh?” Mickey said, the three of them now paying proper attention to the house for the first time. It may have been a minimalistic place, but it felt like home, and almost everything save for the occasional fallen flowerpot was still intact, like it had been left uninhabited just the other day. All the dust, however, needed vacuuming as soon as possible – it was really starting to irritate Toni’s throat, just standing around in the living room.
“The TV works, so that’s a plus.” Luigi said. “Though it’s just not got the picture quality that Toni has...”
“Look on the bright side! It gives every program you watch that mysterious sort of feeling. Like film noir, you’re familiar with that sh*t, right?” Mickey insisted.
“You’re gonna need more than film noir to sell this idea to me. What about the tap water?”
“Can’t be worse than the state of the local seawater.”
Toni’s massive sneeze caught the attention of the two again. “While you two are getting acquainted with this house, why don’t you clean up a little and find a place to set up the planning board? Away from the windows, if at all possible.”
“Where are you going? It’s obviously a three-man job.” Mickey said as Toni was pacing straight towards the door.
“Uhh – good f*cking question, I suppose. Just leave any exterior work for me though, I can’t handle this air for much longer.”
“I don’t wanna sound like a lazy f*cker, but we should be moderate with the clean-up.” Luigi chimed in. “It’ll be bad for our secrecy if someone notices a clear difference.”
Mickey grinned at the statement. “There’s two sides to that coin; you’ll need to be moderate with your TV time unless you can conceal the light. Now, L, you go vacuuming and I’ll deal with the robbery data. Toni, I’d make you clean up the outside and work your finger to the bone, but that’s out of the question if we indeed want to keep up a semi-abandoned look. Just check if there’s anything of value out there that Lil’ Fattie overlooked, and go on your merry way – I’ll find my way back home all right myself.”

Averting experience the splendor of heavy physical duty for very little and meaningless gain was like winning the lottery, as Toni simply skimmed over the junk pile finding nothing of more interest than a half-empty Munky Juice can that may have been loaded with something other than its original content, and a little duffel bag under a seat of a wrecked school bus, containing exactly $18.25 that would be contributed for the heist budget if necessary.

Ah yes, the heist. Having a coherent plan for it as well as the lack of Luigi’s well-meaning, but obnoxious, presence on his couch meant he was going to be able to retain peace of mind throughout the evening and night alike.

As long as Ma wouldn’t call once again.
 

The End.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

  • Daily Globe
  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
  • Finland

#51

Posted 06 June 2017 - 01:39 AM Edited by Carbonox, 06 June 2017 - 01:43 AM.

Say it three times fast.

 

SA20: Rural Rivalry

 

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Would you look at that suit?
What’s that boy doin’ prancin’ like that around here?
My momma always said, don’t trust folk who dress like that. She got to kiss her cows goodbye when one came to town, so I should know.

Every passing comment or mere impressed glance from the local hicks put a wider and wider smile on Carl’s face. None of the reactions to his presence in Dillimore were particularly positive, but more importantly his disguise was doing their intended job – while he still didn’t belong in this environment, people’s suspicions were a lot more limited and he certainly wasn’t seen as a petty criminal casing a target that was in need of a citizen’s arrest. Gone were his unkempt hair and beard courtesy of the local barber, while in came the nicest possible outfit from Schrader’s surplus clothing pile, coupled with Kevin’s Fortune that he had driven to town and a pair of nerdy glasses.

As he enjoyed the quiet respect being spared his way for a change, a certain other lingering feeling found its way to Carl’s head – no, something more significant than the discomfort that came with the rigid clothes. What would life be like if he had studied hard in his youth and made it to law school?

No, seriously, it was the kind of crazy mind game he liked to think about at this point of time. He could’ve made a fortune out of people smart enough not to try and represent themselves in court, and his family – and maybe more people around them – would be able to bathe in money and leave their problems in the ‘hood far behind. Not to mention, it wasn’t like he’d get bored of the impressed looks whenever he walked the streets anytime soon.

But who was he kidding – he knew plenty of reasons why that wasn’t happening. Out on the streets, a book’s good for nothin’ but covering your head, and it ain’t even too good with that, Sweet always used to say when the subject of education was a more topical issue, and even without that attitude spreading to Carl, good grades weren’t going to be some guarantee of a successful career. Even if they were, any attempt to reach them would stop at a brick wall that was his utter lack of interest. The endless assignments that took a toll on his personal life (which the school board must’ve been trying to eliminate for all it was worth to force him and all his peers to devote their entire existence to studying) certainly were what did it for him. As sad as it was to admit, he would’ve needed a work ethic like Chad’s to pull through that nonsense. Having met Chad, he didn’t want to know what kind of a douchebag it would’ve made him.

Life as a criminal was so much easier. Perhaps jumping to it straight away was short-sighted and stupid, and it didn’t always bring bread to the table as recent weeks had proven, but he was having fun whenever cash wasn’t slipping away through his fingers, and that was the main thing, right?

As important as his lawyer assignment was, a little obstacle by the name of anxiety stood hard on Carl’s path. He was abundantly of the opinion that he needed a beer or two to gain the courage necessary to step into the hornet’s nest, where there was no guarantee that the disguise would work flawlessly or that he wouldn’t get stung.

The bar, known as the Welcome Pump, stood at the far northern point of Dillimore and appeared to be the only hang-out spot available here, just driving home the point of how different this was from living in the city. The first time Carl had seen it, at least a dozen chopper bikes were all neatly parked outside – he was not going to deal with their riders and their alcohol-fueled aggression, so for a bit of time he pretended to be lost and further explored the town. On the east side was some kind of a nice, quiet neighborhood where he only felt like disturbing the peace by walking through – with the rest of the town being mainly bland warehouses and stores, there was nothing that he could’ve pretended to be highly interested in and spend a handful of time observing.

The bikers made their departure very well-known with the noise that reached out to Carl several blocks away; the coast all clear, he closed in on the bar once more, being mindful of such small-town wonders as a tractor towing another tractor as he made his final street crossing.

Carl felt more welcome in the bar than he did anywhere outside; the atmosphere was relaxed, like the patrons came here not to pick fights and get themselves sh*t-faced, but to just chill out for the day and share whatever stories they had to tell. Some broken bottles did lie all over the floor that Carl was forced to dodge, but if the ambience was anything to go by, the gang of bikers had taken any previous unrest in this place with them.

“One Patriot.” Carl said to the apathetic barman, who was happy enough to have his cleaning duties interrupted by something mildly more interesting.
“Coming right up, sir.”

The very first sip of the cold beverage made Carl’s taste buds feel like dancing out of utter joy; the brain would be set to catch up with a wider mixture of reactions later. Being in a strange location with no friends in sight still ruined the satisfaction somewhat – it was going to be real awkward to just sit at the counter quietly and unclimatically leave once the Patriot was finished. Sneaking quick looks to the rest of the patrons between drinks, Carl only just now noticed no one was actually speaking at all; for a place where at least a third of the tables were occupied, it sure tried its hardest to act like a ghost town.

While the largest demographic by a long shot was the same old hicks, one other figure stood out; and to them, Carl was evidently doing the same. Sitting at the farthest part of the bar was an unexpectedly pretty young cowgirl, shooting interested if not a bit tempting looks right at him. Carl got some sort of chills from the whole subtle encounter that he hadn’t felt for seemingly the longest time – not only that, but sneaking up on him was an urge to suddenly do something stupid and weird to make an impression.

Seeing his own reflection from the drink, Carl quickly took off his glasses, having noticed that as smart as they made him look, they equally dragged him down on the attractiveness scale. The girl smirked as they made eye contact again; Carl took it as a good sign, but couldn’t wrap his head around the question of why it had to be so tough to stand up and go chit-chat about something. Never mind whether he even had proper time for this – Ryder and LB’s voices were almost screaming at his head to come help them out ASAP, and yet the only thing he could coherently think about was the need to find out who she was...

“Frankly, you’ve got fat chance, mate.”

The sound of a masculine voice up close to his ear made him stupidly jitter. Carl turned around to see a man of a very odd appearance for this place looking back at him – how he hadn’t noticed this person before was hard to justify as that was how badly he fitted in. Long pitch-black hair with a red dyed streak extended as far as below his shoulder level, there were traces of make-up in his dark eyes, piercings in both ears, and a massive tattoo depicting some sort of a beast took up his entire left arm. With the clean-cut shirt he was wearing to contrast all of the rest, he was like the edgy youngster of the family that had been forced to put on something nice for a wedding, and went with the bare minimum.

“You’re not lost, are you? There’s no AC/DC concerts anywhere near here.” Carl confronted him, almost forcing the “ain’t” to not come out – influential company or not, he had to sound professional at all times in this suit.
“You know just what I’m here for. And I’m telling you to forget about it, ‘cause it’s me she’s into.”
“You? I’d laugh if that wasn’t the most pathetic sh*t I’ve heard all my---“

The rival suitor leaned heavily on Carl’s head, extending a wave at the girl’s direction – and she proceeded to wave back with amusement. Carl felt convinced that the world was going to sh*t if men like him were able to land dates whenever they wanted.

He shoved the arm off with considerable force, facing the freak once more. “Touch me again, and you won’t know what hit you.”
“Nothing personal in it, CJ, and you should know it. I’m just taking out my frustrations on the time when you stood me up.” he casually responded.

WHAT THE F*CK HOW DOES HE KNOW? And stop blowing my damn cover!

“Uhh... why don’t you sit down.” Carl said with a calm and collected voice, even as he was raging to the point of fuming deep inside.
“It’s what I was gonna do anyway. Can’t resist the products of this place for much longer now. Bartender, one Logger over here!” the man called out. “Besides... this is as good a time as any to have a talk.”
“That’s alright, start talking then.”
“Man, you’re being moody. I was given the impression you were more laid back.”
Carl shrugged. He had no idea how to proceed in a conversation like this.
“Yup... hard to believe this is the first time we’ve ever met. I guess second time’s the charm in our case.” Daniel said, spinning his fingers.

That made it a bit easier on him, though a question lingered in Carl’s brain about whether this man had badly mistaken him for someone else. There was the distinct possibility as well that he’d met or at least seen this person before, but couldn’t make a solid connection to any recent context. Worst of all, if there was a misunderstanding, he had better subtly make it clear before any details were shared, and maybe they could both peacefully back out of the situation.

“Best to introduce myself properly, then. Carl Johnson.” Carl extended his hand.
“Daniel Daedalus, not that you wouldn’t know by now.” The other man’s shake was firm and dominant. “Not that I mind, of course – I like saying my own name a lot.”
“Daedalus?” Carl scoffed.
“You can’t claim you didn’t--- oh, unless you thought it was just a pseudonym I use in order to sound cool. Which is a complete and utter lie.” Daniel’s voice was overly defensive.
“So how’d you know who to come talking to?” Carl asked, staying ambiguous.
“Are you kidding me? I thought you were supposed to be the senior member. It’s like a crime against fashion if our kind didn’t do their best to look formal in a public setting... though I think you overdid it a little. We’re not going to prom or anything.”
“Thanks, I really needed a review of my attire at a time like this.” Carl drank almost all of his remaining beer in one long gulp. “But with that out of the way, what’s our assignment gonna be again?”
“Something really smells fishy about this.” Daniel said quietly.
“I’m not gonna follow that up with any punchline if that’s what you---“
“And where’s my damn drink, I’m thirsty?!” The sudden outburst was luckily expressed to the bartender, who lazily took a look to Daniel’s general direction.
“There was a problem with the faucets, be more f*cking patient.” said the angry tender.

Daniel only picked no further fight with the sole present employee when his “fishy stuff” was yet to be uncovered. Carl really wanted to invent a quick excuse to slip out of the bar, but where could he have gone from there, with the Fortune parked blocks away and with work still to do in this very town?

“Right. Right.” The power of the Logger made Daniel calm down some for starters, but he was still unnervingly shaking; never a good sign if Carl’s former experiences were an indication.
“I’m gonna ask you a single question. A really f*cking beginner level one. I expect you to take the damn thing seriously, and answer it to your absolute best ability.”
“Come at me then. I’m not as dumb as you think, mind you.” Carl said confidently.
Daniel was blunt in his questioning. “What kind of a man would put ketchup on a sauerkraut?”
“What?” Carl asked instinctively.
“I f*cking knew it.” Daniel’s expression faded into a scowl right away.
“Knew what? I ain’t even---“
“You’re an impostor.” Daniel whispered. “I don’t know what you’ve done to the real CJ, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough, you little espionaging piece of sh*t... Now show some respect for the innocent people around you and move your ass outside so I can give you a proper spy’s treatment.”

The tattooed arm closed in for a grapple; Carl, with the help of his fighting experience, saw this coming in advance and snatched it in his own firm grip first, standing up to ensure a better chance of holding his ground.

“Motherf*cker, stay back.” he hissed. He wouldn’t tell the man twice.
“You think you can talk your way outta this?” Daniel said, his voice also down. In a fit of rage, he tried to land a devastating punch with his free fist, but Carl somehow caught that as well, putting them in a bit of a stalemate.
“You think I wouldn’t kick your ass to the next solar system?” Carl retorted.
“The time for playing dumb is over, spy.” Daniel pried his left hand loose and got a grip on Carl’s collar, amid resistance. “The reward for would-be infiltrators is death.”
“Enough with the false accusations...” Carl warned. The two of them were now circling each other on the open floor, just waiting for the right window to pounce and land the first hit. All the eyes in the establishment were on this impending brawl of the two strangers now, and depending on how much of their discussion they overheard, it could’ve been over anything from music tastes to the use of condiments on pastries.

Yet again Daniel forcefully freed an arm, now the right one that he aimed for a hit on Carl’s face; for someone as good as him at breaking a grapple, Carl thought it was the weakest punch he’d ever taken from an adult. He still wasn’t going to allow another one through and raised his left arm to defend from the next strike, Daniel’s knuckles harmlessly bouncing right off his bone. It was Carl’s turn to have a go at his nose, but Daniel crouched as soon as he saw the fist coming, then went for a swift counter-hit elbow first, which contacted Carl’s mouth.

The hit was as awkward as it was dirty, but was also far more painful than the first, and he thought something may have cracked as a result. Seeing how quick his rival was at dodging punches, Carl switched strategy after recalling exactly where they were having their little scuffle. He swiveled in place so that he was now facing the entrance, before steering Daniel right over the still not cleaned glass shards – the fool had no idea what had hit his foot before absolute, agonizing twinge took over, and he was forced to shove Carl backwards to take the short break he was in desperate need of. The fight hadn’t even been intense enough for adrenaline to kick in and help him ignore this torture, and after starting off so well, he was all of a sudden at the mercy of the enemy.

“Who are you working for?” he gasped.
“Someone who’ll be real upset if I’m unable to pay my debts.” Carl said, midway through a charging attempt.
Daniel stopped dead on his tracks, and it was clear that it wasn’t solely for pain reasons either. Still in ‘fight or flight’ mode, Carl was even mildly disappointed that the battle wasn’t reinstated.
“You haven’t done any racing recently, have you?” Daniel questioned.
“What’s it to you?” Carl said, smiling smugly. Daniel was clearly aware of recent events more than he even came to expect.
“Come on, boys, you don’t need to beat each other to a pulp for my sake.” This voice, a really soft and soothing one, belonged to the girl that both had already almost forgotten about, getting in between the two to separate them – best for her to think that was all there was to the fight.
“Heh, I’m just toughening up this frat boy. Preparing him for the dangers of the dating world.” Carl replied, accompanied with a quick malicious smile at Daniel’s direction.
Daniel scowled. “Aren’t there any ambulances down the road for you to chase?”
“And now you two are just being petty, like a pair of schoolgirls. If your dispute is this bad, why don’t you come with me and deal with it like we always do in these parts?”
“A horseshoe throwing competition?” Carl proposed with a shrug.
“That’s just lame. I’m talking a little shooting challenge.” the girl chirped. “If the two of you can at least beat me, that should already be a major step for – bigger things, eventually enough.”
“Shooting, huh? I ain’t sure about that...” Carl said. He really didn’t have time for this – as tempting as her seductive tone was.
“Knew it!” Daniel asserted triumphantly. “So, what do I win?”
“Excuse me?” Carl asked, the country girl being equally confused.
“Carl gave up already before the contest began, which means I won by default...”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I said nothing like that. In fact, I’m gonna look like a great Western gunslinger next to your sorry ass when we done.” Carl angrily spoke over him.
“Then let’s get going!” The girl excitedly pointed both in the right direction, which was the door. “My name’s Helena Wankstein, by the way... thanks for asking, gentlemen.”

Back outside, Carl’s slightly horny mind already made up a justification; he’d use this as practice for whatever his next firefight would be, while teaching Daedalus a well-deserved lesson by the side. If he picked up a girlfriend out of it, that would cure some of his loneliness problems while spending time in the middle of nowhere as well, though he had to wait and see if it could evolve into any sort of long-term stuff.

“Follow me to the shooting spot.” she said, walking slightly ahead of the two. “You know, I’m a lot more excited about the variety you bring to this area than I thought.”
“She’s talking in singular, to me.” Daniel whispered as the two were far enough behind to be out of hearing range.
“You sure like to keep your hopes up. Didn’t Schrader ever pull you aside and show you how hard the real world is on smug punks?”
“Is that an insecure loser I hear? Coming second in the big race wasn’t enough, you want to be humiliated on the gun range too? I saw how you wanted to back out... what, did the Grove Street Families not raise you better than that?”
Carl felt really violated by now. “What is with the information? Why don’t you climb up to the rooftops and shout my social security number to the entire town?”
“Intimidated yet? Make no mistake, nothing escapes my notice. It’s a nice little trait I inherited from my father – no wonder he’s such a big deal on the east coast, nothing like anything your gang has to offer.” Daniel said condescendingly.

“Alright, this is the spot right here... wait a second, I’ll arrange the targets.” Helena said, having led the duo to a small backyard of an equally small, heavily derelict and most likely abandoned residence at the edge of the town. They weren’t too far away from the center – some stores were visible just across the nearest street – but in an obscure enough spot that a little gunfire wouldn’t put the general populace at risk.

“You know,” Carl began quietly again, “whenever someone boasts about their dad’s achievements, I take that as a sign they’ve got nothing of their own to be proud of.”
Daniel cackled. “And whenever someone complains about the topics I bring up, I take that as a sign they’re bitter and jealous.”
“Though I am impressed by your dad’s willpower. If I ever had produced garbage like you, I’d have thrown myself off a bridge long ago.” Carl snapped.
“Don’t you talk sh*t about my family.” Daniel warned, gritting his teeth.
“Then don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”
“You’re lucky I have enough dignity not to state some uncomfortable truths about yours...”
“Well, boys, who wants to go first?” Helena yet again took them by surprise; it really wasn’t what she wanted, the two of them being at each other’s throats all the time while she was all out of focus whenever she wasn’t speaking.
“Playtime it is then.” Carl said, taking the first turn.

Die, little glass Balla fool! Big Smoke’s words echoed in his head as he ignored Daniel’s pressure-inducing gaze to his best ability. The first round would put all the competitors to a test one by one, shooting as many of the bottles as possible with six bullets. The gun assigned for him was a decently maintained Single Action Army, which packed a massive punch but was still easy to point where needed – no wonder it won over so many people back at the Wild West. Being a bit unused to professional level shooting, Carl caught four bottles, but had two highly frustrating near misses, both of which must’ve been accompanied by a triumphant gesture by Daniel.

“The SAA, huh? Nice gun you picked; I’m familiar with this, you know.” Daniel said once it became his turn and the tool found its way to his hand.
“Careful not to let the hair distract you.” Carl said.

The misleading worked; Daniel was obviously under a lot of pressure and made some mistakes, bringing him to four hits as well, though the last shot striking a bottle dead center was bound to give him a confidence boost. Helena went last, and was unexpectedly solid and stable with the gun, but eventually got the misses that Carl had secretly hoped to see from the start – another four targets went down, but no more.

“Careful, dudes. You’re dangerously close to losing to a girl.” Helena psyched them up.
“I’m just holding back a little so that c*nt won’t lose his self-esteem.” Daniel said, deadpan.
Carl frowned. “C*nt? What are you, English?”
“What’s wrong with a bit of diverse language? Unlike you, I’m not bound by unspoken rules of what should and shouldn’t be said... now, another round awaits.”
“I was about to announce that myself. How about a re-run of the last one, just to be sure there was no fluke?” Helena said.
Daniel stepped up, strategically in front of Carl. “This time, I’m going first, babe. Gotta set a proper benchmark for this clown.”
“For someone who’s supposed to know the ins and outs of the SAA, you’ve been a f*ck-up so far.” Carl said once the next six bottles were lined up again.
“You can eat those words and down them with Sprunk when I’m done... but enough talk. Die, little glass Primos!”

A rumbling noise that gradually grew in volume was starting to engulf the entire area; Carl thought very little of it until it became accompanied by gunfire that didn’t come from Daniel. Promptly, Helena grabbed the shoulder of the shooter, asking him to hold up for a bit.

“What’s going on?” Carl asked, the additional sounds of screaming, fleeing pedestrians causing some unwanted distress. If there was one thing he didn’t want, it was being caught up in a random, possibly drunken shootout like this...
“You two, get your backs against that wall and keep outta sight. I think they’re heading to the storefront.” Helena ordered, suddenly losing any flirty tone she may have once had. Even Daniel cut the bullsh*t for once and did what was told.
She peeked her head out around the corner, as the rumbling stopped. “Sh*t, just as I thought.”
“Bikers came back?” Carl proposed.
“These are from the Fitzpatrick brothers’ gang. Quadbikes, not choppers, by the way.”
“I think I heard of them.” Daniel said.
Helena gritted her teeth in disgust. “Anyone who stays long enough around here will. They’re like the bullies of the county, they’ll take everything they want because they know there won’t be much resistance. Cops have already lost two shootouts this past month.”
“And the cops can’t be f*cked to put forth more resources... why?” Carl questioned.
“Some say they’re corrupt, but – a few have died in those fights, so I doubt they’re staged. I guess they just don’t have the funding, and are too proud to ask anyone else for help.”
“Did those Fitzpatrick goons shoot someone just a minute ago?” Daniel asked. Carl had thought the same.
“The cynic in me would say yes, but I can’t exactly look through this wall and find out.” Helena said with the sound of a window smashing on the background.
“What about the contest?” Carl and Daniel said in unison, nearly loudly enough to attract attention if the redneck gang wasn’t busy with the robbery.
“Little games like this come to an end when these assholes are in town.” Helena said sternly. “If you two want to really prove yourselves, then stand up to that threat. I can flank them from the other side of this house if you engage them first.”
“How many are there?” Daniel’s voice was shaking a bit before he saw Carl’s mocking expression. “Not that it matters... too much.”
“I see five ATV’s, and I assume each member rides their own, so there we go.”
“Relax, Danny will be all safe and sound when he has me for protection.” Carl asserted, receiving a murderous glare in return. As unwilling as he was to take a chance like this... it was just a group of armed hicks, and taking care of them would earn some positive reputation assuming there was anyone to witness the ordeal.

Once everyone was armed (Helena unlocked a crate to reveal multiple other revolvers and enough ammo to shoot up the whole town), Carl was left all alone with Daniel, a situation that was honestly more awkward than dangerous at this point. He, too, took a peek to the street, and although he could mostly only see their backsides, he could tell that these rednecks looked like some scary motherf*ckers, possibly on meth if the random twitching was any indication, who were also packing like the Vagos guards in their most important strongholds. They looked happy enough having all the time and space in the world to take everything from the barber’s shop that wasn’t bolted down.

“How the hell do you not know the code if you and Schrader are a thing?” Daniel wasted no time breaking the silence.
“I’m not some full-time member, I just do jobs whenever they need it done. Got more questions, maybe Amadeus can educate you next time you see him.”
Daniel shrugged. “OK... if you’re the brave f*ck you think you are, why not make a run to that other building so we can attack from multiple spots too?”
“Great idea, why don’t you follow through with it yourself?” Carl teased.
“Enough of the time-wasting, would you rather let her walk to her death while we argue here? And if we don’t spread out, imagine how easily they can flush us out with just one explosive!”
“Get a hold of yourself, man... nobody likes a whiny bitch. Only reason I’ll oblige you is because I can’t keep a lady waiting.”

Only two yokels were standing outside at the time, giving Carl an opportunity to open fire while running between buildings, and through a bit of a random shot he tagged one gang member as he collapsed behind an ATV. The other, being far too late to the party and wasting a ton of SMG bullets on him as he’d already disappeared behind the next house, screamed at his comrades to come out and deal with the unexpected self-defense situation.

“They got a ni**er shootin’ at us! Drop what yer doin’ and lynch these sons o’ bitches!”
“Now that’s just extreme.” Daniel, having overheard it quite perfectly, was next to show himself, doing something far more impressive than anything in the contest by landing a clean center mass shot on one of the men exiting the store, despite the distance.
“And what the f*ck is that? A troll from the woods?” the biggest of the gang members exclaimed, his burst of concentrated fire forcing Daniel back into hiding.
“Looks like we got loose circus animals all over town, boys. Time for some community service!” said one of the other, less prominent members with an excited yelp.
“Heads up, Carl, one is coming around the building to get you.” Daniel pointed out just as a third shooter – most certainly Helena – entered the party from the far left side and got the bad guys completely freaked, one even checking if there were signs of more attackers in areas that really had none.

Having to make a split second decision as he pondered if it was OK to trust Daedalus, Carl made his way to the far right side just to be sure – the approaching footsteps and heavy breathing gave away the threat long before he rounded the corner. The redneck was as mystified as Smoke would be if two number 9’s fell in front of him from the skies, and Carl popped some well-placed rounds into his upper body and face to land his first confirmed kill. For a split second before he’d drained the life out of the man’s eyes, though, Carl got to see a feral, bloodthirsty look on his face, complete with teeth that looked like they belonged to a dog. Was it meth alone that drove these people into such emotionless killing machines? All the more reason to not meddle in their affairs any more than he was right now, that was for sure.

Wait ‘till Ike hears about this! Y’all gonna wish you were never born!” The posse leader’s menacing scream was sure to be heard over the entire block.
“How about f*cking no? Do these people have no idea how many enemies I deal with as it is?” Carl said to himself, working his way forward and put his trust on Daniel yet again to keep his backside clear while he found a brand new position to shoot from, almost right at the gang’s rear. Three still remained standing, though the one Daniel had struck was only barely hanging on, maybe out of fear of his boss.

Jumping out into the open with a freshly reloaded gun, Carl’s next barrage came at about the same time as Helena’s, and one of the hillbillies fell once again with a hit to the chest; there was no time to confirm whose bullet did it, because the posse leader was quick to fly into an uncontrollable rage and open fire at Carl, who ran like hell back to safety, forgetting about trying to place the next clip in anytime soon.

“Don’t be alarmed, C*nty Johnson, I’m behind the corner.” a voice said just before Carl got there, causing him to do just what he was advised not to. Even if he did have bullets in his gun at the time, there was luckily no danger of friendly fire as there was no way he’d confuse that haircut to that of a redneck’s.

“Why’d you run over here? Is it me you secretly in love with?” Carl asked, still gasping for air.
“If there’s one thing I don’t mess with, it’s grenades.” Daniel asserted.
“I didn’t hear no explosion.”
“Maybe it was a fake, maybe they were too incompetent to pull the pin, but when I saw them throw something at me, I wasn’t gonna wait around to find out.” He was dead serious, like a soldier lecturing a recruit; Carl was at a loss for snarky words, for once.

“Tell me though, Grove Street, isn’t it weird how they ride measly little ATV’s?” Daniel continued.
Carl felt insecure about committing to a conversation just yet. “Why?”
“Think about it... big, bulky bastards who think they own the place, just like the old Western outlaws. Why not ride to town in a big-ass V12 pickup that you can hear all the way in the next county? It would make them more intimidating.”
“Their drunk, or drugged... or whatever asses wouldn’t make it to town then, they’d crash a truck like that the second they got off-road or into a tough corner. And believe me, I wouldn’t underestimate ATV’s from experience – they’re more nimble than you think.”
“I’m not saying that. I find them quite fun actually, hell, I’ve heard this county has great trails for them, but they seem more like a thing for gangs that spend more time running away than shooting bystanders---“
“Boys, you need to come see this right away if you’re alive! The fight’s over!”

The tense shouting cut the analysis short; come to think of it, shooting had ceased just a while ago, and Helena was obviously still in good health. Throwing away all safety precautions for once, Carl jog-walked after the voice, with a confuzzled Daniel in tow. All he found near Daniel’s old position, for the record, was a medium-sized rock; he found his freakout and seriousness over it funnier than it should’ve been.

“What the hell? You shot everyone already?” Carl yelled, seeing no more men standing beside the quadbikes, and Helena inspecting the fallen bodies holding back a maniacal laughter.
“Don’t I wish I had! I got the small injured hick and the tall one that looks like a haypole – no idea how – but the big guy is gonna have one hell of a story to tell downstairs.”

Carl looked down; this specimen had a permanent expression of absolute rage stuck on his facial muscles, with a little river of blood dripping from his mouth – that had nothing on his chest, however, which had been turned into Swiss cheese somehow after he last turned his head away from action.

“He kept screaming orders and couldn’t decide who he wanted to kill more, me or you – so after you dodged back to cover, he turned the gun to me but forgot to get out of his own way first. If you’ve never seen meth rage before, that’s how it usually ends.”
“He killed himself out of a lack of concentration? I can picture this former associate of mine doing the same if he panicked hard enough.” Daniel said observantly, kicking the corpse for good measure.
Carl still had some concerns to vent out. “That maniac mentioned an Ike. Acquaintance of yours?”
“Ike Fitzpatrick? He’s the brains of the gang, and as of now the only brother remaining.” Helena said. “I would skip town for a bit if I were you two, for your own safety – his men might be dead, but he has his ways of getting people to talk if he needs that. And both of you sorta stand out like sore throats here.”
“But what about the date? As you saw, I just did take the fight to these moving targets.” Daniel bragged, setting his ass down on the nearest ATV.
“What date? I didn’t promise any dates. Now you quit acting entitled or I’ll start looking for new fish in the sea.”
“I didn’t mean it like that...” Daniel squeaked.
“Where can I find you later, though? I did more actual work than this guy and ain’t a spoiled little bastard.” Carl said.
Helena started counting with her fingers. “I usually practice my shooting over at Blueberry’s Ammu-Nation – if you see panicked civilians, you know that’s me. Then there’s the Montgomery Market next week, where I’m a paid guard, watching for disturbances. That evening they hold a barn dance as well, and I almost know neither of you is above a little partying...”
“That’s my language.” Daniel said with a not-so-subtle wink.
“Take care of yourself now, in case Ike finds out---“ Carl added.
“Believe me, I will. Now scatter already! People are coming back.”

Carl and Daniel found themselves going the same way, down a small alley between the shops of this district. They’d just avoided being noticed by the crowd coming to check up on the result of the shootout, and had some (unwanted, if Carl was concerned) free time to bid farewells now that the rest of the town, including the police, was too busy to pay them any attention.

“So, Felix Schrader had two CJ’s in one institution. Who saw that coming?” Daniel asked with a pretentious smirk on his face that really didn’t belong there.
“Obviously not you. And you must be a less dedicated member than I thought, speaking his name out loud in public like that.”
“That rule is for dumb rookies who can’t tell a serious order from a joke. And who the hell cares? I don’t see anyone who could use that information in hearing range.”
Carl was becoming tired. “Hey, punk, what’s with all the hostility? You still wanna keep this dumb dick measuring contest going ‘cause she hasn’t dumped either of us yet?”
“Maybe I should relieve the pressure and list the reasons I hate you that I haven’t said out loud yet. Or punch you in the face. That works too.”

They stopped in an alley intersection point to let through a young delivery boy on a bicycle, oblivious to the commotion all around them, who jumped the nearby ramp at full speed to get launched right to the gas station. A police Ranger nearly ran him over, but Carl didn’t stick around to look very closely.

“You should be careful not to have caught PTSD. A girl like you must not get in life-or-death situations too much.” Carl jeered.
“Please, be more original.” Daniel’s voice was utterly disappointed. “Half my enemies have felt the need to point out that yes, I have hair longer than my sister’s and I look so dumb because of that, but come on. Every last one of them gets shut down when they see how smooth I am with the ladies, and you’re no different in that respect.”
“Doesn’t take much for your spoiled side to be exposed, though. Ever done real work, by the way? Just for a day?”
Daniel exploded with laughter. “You’re one to talk! Gangbanging motherf*cker. At least I tried, but just as my father would agree, the world of corporate duties ain’t very open to individuals who take no sh*t from the big shots. So there we go.”
“Man, you’re just disconnected. No idea what it’s like without your daddy’s safety net.”
“And you – better not show your face in Montgomery while I deal with business. Then again, with you being such a slow little roadblock, doubt you’ll make it on time.”
Carl pushed him in a burst of anger. “Go learn some humility lessons from Deco. At least he acted like a f*ckin’ sportsman about it.”
“No wonder you lost the race; you lose the mindgames so easily as well.”
“Why don’t you invite your friend over to town? He gave me a deal, y’know, a deal to win some of that money back.” Carl’s order was almost desperate, but Daniel was the only link he could know between himself and the hardcore racer...
“Sure you did.” Daniel chuckled smugly. “His money’s safe and sound out of your reach, and he’s not about to risk it with any one-on-one meetings with a thug like yourself. Guess you’re gonna have to find someone else to rob blind, to get out of that mountain of debt.”
I’ll f*cking show you, prick. “That ain’t gonna be a problem. Now get lost, bum, before my chosen target is you.”
“I’ve got a small army ready to pounce on you if you try that. Literally, I mean it. I’d say ‘see you around’ but then this one time was more than enough for us, right?”
“Whatever you say, asshole.” They exchanged middle fingers, leaving for separate directions on the empty road at the other end of the alley.

There it stood; the Dillimore police station. Unintentionally, Carl had done himself a massive favor by distracting most of the force; all he had to do was follow that script he’d practiced with Kevin and get himself some private time with the homies. The glasses were miraculously not broken after spending a good bit in his pocket; it was time to engage blurry vision again and allow the nerdy lawyer to take over from the street hustler far away from home.

It was time for Attorney Thomas Jackson to step into the scene.


To Be Continued.


Carbonox
  • Carbonox

    Too weird to live but much too rare to die

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  • Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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#52

Posted 3 weeks ago Edited by Carbonox, 2 weeks ago.

Man, to think Chester Bennington was still alive and well when I started writing this. :/

 

SA21: All’s Fair in Law and War

 

“That the best you got? C’mon, kid, you punch like a bitch!”
“I’m trying! Just gimme some time!”

Sweet sighed. His patience was running dry trying to uncover the slightest hidden talents that Billy Butler may have had, but so far anything that involved going head to head with another person – or in this case, practice dummy – proved to be too much for him to handle. Sweet had given him an alright practice ground in his garage, clearing it of any distractions, but a fact of life was that the little white kid wouldn’t pose the tiniest threat to anyone with two functioning arms. If he wanted to compensate for the whiny voice that was like listening to nails on a chalkboard, working on it was going to be essential, but currently Sweet just wanted to remove himself from the situation, feeling embarrassed watching the whole thing. Desperate times called for desperate measures, as the old saying went, but was there any need to go this far with the desperation?

“Just... stop, kid. Stop for a moment.” Sweet couldn’t handle it anymore when Billy landed another awkward punch with the back of his hand. It wasn’t as bad as when he hurt himself earlier on, but belonged in an elementary school cafeteria fight.
“Was it better?” Billy asked in a bright voice.
Sweet went the honest route. “It was like pukin’ on a pile of sh*t. See all those scratches? They there ‘cause people have come and lynched this mo’f*cker to hell. You ain’t done sh*t so far. Swear you been hurtin’ yourself more than that dummy. And your voice better break soon, or it’ll get you into more trouble.”
Billy gasped at the harsh criticism. “I-I can’t help my features.”
“Forgot rule number one? No back-chattin’ to an OG.”
“Y-yes, sir. I’ll try to improve. But if this doesn’t work out, I could always just focus on stealing sh*t for you to use, and---”
“Kid, listen.” Sweet shut him up with one swift hand movement. “Lotta people join the Families not for loyalty, but just protection. That ain’t nothin’ new. But the niggas who pass initiation all bullsh*tted through it somehow. Maybe they drive fast, rob suckers with attitude, even shoot like pros---“
“When will I get to try shooting?”
“I didn’t tell you to speak! Point is, the fools you see representin’ now all did somethin’ to impress me. So far you ain’t got nothin’, and I almost don’t wanna take the risk of givin’ you a gun. This whole thing a trainwreck right now.”
“D-don’t fail me just now.” Billy pleaded. “I’m just under a lot of pressure – I – I – this is my only chance to survive. I can’t go back to Balla turf anymore... they’ll rip me apart.”
“Quit playin’ the world’s saddest f*cking song to me. There ain’t no room for freeloaders in here and you know it, so grow a spine or get lost.” Sweet growled, staring at the frightened teenager for a moment and allowing his anger to cool down.

He had one idea. One really simple idea that should separate the wheat from the chaff, and would show him by the end of the day if Billy was worth any more of his attention. He told the kid to go outside and wait while he searched his house for the one item that a brave prospect needed for proving themselves – the other one besides the blunt melee weapon, that was.

“Go hit up Idlewood some.” Sweet handed him a full bottle of spray at their rendezvous. “Just make sure it’s somewhere out in the open. So that, y’know, the Ballas get the message.”
“What kinda – tag you want me to paint?” Billy asked, still as fearful as ever. Sweet learned to ignore that feeble attempt at gaining sympathy.
“I dunno, anythin’ you come up with. Give it your own flavor maybe, but just make it clear it’s comin’ from the Families. When you done, come see me in an hour or two at Emmet’s.”
“Emmet’s?” Billy repeated.
“You know Emmet better than you claim, don’t ya? CJ once had an interesting story to tell about him and you.” Sweet made him a bit uncomfortable. “Now don’t chicken outta this unless you wanna miss out on the shootin’ test.”
“Shooting? I mean yes, I’m on it!”

Sweet watched with pride – for himself, as that was what he earned for finally getting the kid to do some work – as Billy excitedly jumped on a bike and nearly fell over immediately, rushing to his destination like there was no tomorrow. Either he was a hidden psychopath, or he just really needed to get a hold of a gun to ease up the paranoia. Sweet couldn’t decide what he wished more to be true.

Billy had stumbled almost out of sight when another cyclist pulled up right into Sweet’s personal space, his green bandana swaying in the wind to slap him fully unintentionally in the head. “So, how’s the interracial biz?”
“What I said to him is how I feel. Kid’s got some issues, but we gotta get all the potential we can get.” Sweet said to the gang member.
“Sounds real nice, but when you gonna apply that sh*t to me?” the man questioned, scratching his stubble.
“Huh?”
“I ain’t blind, nigga. CJ and Ryder, now they out the game and Smoke busy bein’ harassed by CRASH yet again. When the next piece of big action rolls in, I want some of that sh*t. Tired of this standin’ around bullsh*t, lotta talent goin’ to waste.”
“Nino, there ain’t no big action.” Sweet pointed out. “And you should move or you gon’ lose him---”
“Ain’t no action my ass, dog!” Nino started waving his arms around restlessly; a habit Sweet was beginning to hate. “You seen all the sh*t goin’ on at Jefferson? Balla dope pushers got somethin’ huge on they hands, actin’ all sus as f*ck ‘bout it. Mark my words, that stash of Dup’s your boys blew into the sky was just the start.”
“I repeat, there ain’t anythin’. Without those boys, why go on the offensive again? We gotta lay back, see what’s happenin’, focus on the defense part for now. We already lost Eddie to that last raid and we had a f*ckin’ strong party there, so---“
“Now there ain’t none when I want a piece of the pie? I call bullsh*t! And then you tell me to babysit this dumb lil’ white boy and call it some mission?”
“Not babysittin’, a’ight? You ain’t gotta keep no Ballas off his ass, just report whatever he does.” Sweet insisted. “That way, he gon’ think I got eyes all over the place in this city. And f*ckin’ please, if you need real work so bad, come see me later. It ain’t like I couldn’t find a solution, we just got so much sh*t on our hands... Just do this now, OK? I’ll holler at you later.”
“Whatever you say, boss.” Nino finally got his foot off the ground, beginning to pedal away. “By the way, when I gonna get a nickname like y’all big homies got?”
“Sh*t like that only comes naturally. No ifs or buts.” Sweet put it bluntly. He was happy that Nino didn’t stop to address the topic further.

Sweet sighed. Maybe there was a point Nino was trying to make back there. Maybe, since Carl’s grand comeback, he hadn’t had much time for all of the aspiring members down the ladder; it was always the same old safe trio he relied on when something big was happening, with Horse and a few others keeping up appearances scarcely. He’d seen this exact same kind of dissatisfaction in the past from a very prominent homie, and if there was anything to learn from the consequences of that, something had to be done this time, and quick. Nothing would bring B Dup back into the mix anymore, but if Nino wanted greater responsibility, he was going to get it – provided he was ready to grow up a little and listen to a few stories about new factions involved in their life.

Miles away, Carl was hoping to channel some last bits of confidence into him before the moment of truth.

The cops were busy with all the incoming calls about the shootout, that much was clear – they also were more likely to be on edge, so no suspicious conduct was to be practiced or his cover would blow faster than the airport’s windsock or that one hooker he used to see in a Little Mexico corner back in the old days... but enough of that thought. Carl did one last subtle personal search on himself to ensure he was thoroughly unarmed, not that there was much to worry about since his personal gun was well and firmly in the car. Speaking of guns, if all this went well and he had an excuse to continue loitering around here, he had no doubt in his mind that he wanted to take up Helena’s subtle offer and meet up at Blueberry. It wasn’t every day that he met girls who were obviously into the same kind of things as him.

He was nearly run down on the front steps by two more cops in an obvious rush to the scene of the crime; neither showed any sign of being sorry, just the last one stared at him for longer than necessary, like to confirm that he wasn’t just seeing things when Carl first popped up in his vision.

The station had a depressing look to it, with only few windows providing natural light for the gray concrete hell whose corridors might well have led to nuclear bunkers or secret torture chambers. Having learned countless times in his youth (through sheer experience) how to conduct himself in police stations, he started off with a confident walk to the receptionist's desk, guarded by safety netting and being occupied by only one worker, an overweight man with a couple of unopened Sprunk cans at the ready, looking like he would rather be anywhere else right now. Even when Carl stood right in front of him, he didn’t acknowledge his existence at all, only starting to write more aggressively on his typewriter. Modern technology mustn’t have made landfall in this town quite as fast as dickheads from the east coast.

“Excuse me. Sir, I’m here to see my clients.” Carl was as formal and professional as he could be, and didn’t elicit the slightest reaction.
“Excuse me! I’m a lawyer!” Raising the voice didn’t help either; it was like talking to a brick wall. Who would’ve thought the most passive-aggressive and downright hostile locals would be found working in a public building?

“What seems to be the problem?” The raspy voice was that of an officer, the first one Carl saw inside the station in fact, showing up on the scene and only stopping once he was within touching distance; Carl just about suppressed his natural defensive urge that normally came up in these situations, doubly so now that it was a redneck cop in question, about as well-built as Amadeus was. One dumb move and he would literally have no leg to stand on as he’d be carried away to accompany his friends in the cells.

“Think I heard someone say ‘lawyer’.” said the cop before Carl had the chance to answer by himself. “Here to visit an inmate?”
“Uhh – yes. Two, actually. I hear some of my clients have been getting into trouble out here. Lance Wilson and Lamar Benson are the names.”
“Oh, of course. Those lunatics. Shoulda known someone would come to defend them eventually... but I digress. Bob, get back to damn work. You, follow me.” The cop shot an angry look at the worker, who was uncomfortably glaring at Carl as if hoping that the encounter would’ve escalated into a violent one.

Having inspected Carl quickly and declared him unarmed, the cop led him through some of those desolate corridors, just as devoid of life as the entrance hall had been. In hindsight, an armed break-in with a small posse wouldn’t have been too difficult if most of the force had been deployed to deal with something in a neighboring town – Carl had to put that at the back of his mind if he ever gathered up enough manpower that was willing to risk it.

“Sorry about Mr. Antisocial back there, by the way. He ain’t usually that bad.”
“Why do you keep him around if he’s too wretched to do his basic job?” Carl asked, spotting the text Richards in a tiny font on his nametag.
“Chief’s son.” the officer whispered. “Had to get him some line of work or there’d be an expensive tantrum... and you saw how unfit he is for a cop, so that’s the only option.”
“He looks like he’d do a great job over in Santos.”

Richards laughed like he’d never done before, despite Carl not actually meaning it in a sarcastic way. Needing a bit of recovery time to put on a serious face again, he directed Carl to wait in the halls while he would fetch the (alleged) gunmen from the cell blocks to get interviewed. Trusting that cop to not have malicious thoughts in mind, the only factor stressing Carl out now during this quiet alone time was his friends doing something stupid that gave him away. It wouldn’t be the first time anyway – when he last pranced around in disguise at the west coast, Ryder had been nice enough to treat him the same as ever, with a bit of extra mockery dedicated to his “fancy dress ball costume” despite them being in plain sight of the minor pimping gang Carl had tried to infiltrate. If not for Horse and the Devil brothers, he wouldn’t be here right now performing a more extreme version of that stunt.

The prisoners were brought in with the added manpower of a second cop, still with handcuffs on. Ryder’s eyes (Carl noted that his sunglasses had likely been confiscated, revealing a rare sight) went wide open at the sight of his “lawyer”, but he was nice enough not to open his mouth – maybe the shock alone quieted him down. LB was much more calm and reserved throughout the ordeal, but the deadpan, serious face he had on him was a clue that he’d been through something bad during his time in custody.

“So, Mr. Lawyer, which inmate is it gonna be first?” asked the second officer with a far more pronounced redneck accent than Richards had.
“Pardon? I was... going to talk with both of them at once. They were arrested together, after all.”
“Oh, no, no, we can’t risk that. Not unless the cuffs are kept on and a guard stays there with you.” Richards intervened.
“Don’t I have the right to see them privately?”
“You do, but I must stress that what you’re dealing with are some very dangerous---“
“They’re good, upstanding civilians who would never think to harm a man who is here to help them.” Carl said with more aggravation in his voice, some of it genuine. “And what kind of men, who claim themselves to be upholders of justice, would insert what is essentially a spy into our legal advice discussion? These men already have a history of mistreatment at the hands of officials, do you really want to perpetuate their distrust of the system?”

Maybe it was a stupid thing to do, as there was really nothing protecting him from these cops if they were particularly offended with his speech, but to Carl’s joy they were more astounded than anything, one of his pre-practiced lines leaving them utterly speechless – the fed-up tone that reflected some of his actual problems with authority helped reinforce that reaction as well, he thought.

“Very well.” Richards said after a long pause. “You have five minutes with the both of them... alone. If anything happens, just shout as hard as you can.” He almost looked sad sending Carl into the lions’ den, like he knew the men didn’t match the description at all and that the lawyer was maybe oblivious to the fact. The joke was definitely on him.

“So... there any cameras in here?” Ryder presented as the inaugural question once the door closed and the three thugs were all alone for the first time.
“Like where, in the flowerpot?” Carl mocked, shooting a few looks at the only distinctively colored object in the room. “I think we all good here.”
“Do we gotta talk law for the show, or can we cut straight to the chase?” asked LB.
Carl shook his head. “Don’t worry, I got a plan for when time runs out. It’s all good.”
“Well then... look, CJ, ten points for effort, but what are you gonna do beyond this? It’s a small fort they got in here.” LB said grimly.
“I’m gettin’ to that, uhh, one way – point is, I gotta, like, evaluate the situation-“
“Is this CJ at all? Nigga talks like a real lawyer fo’ sure. Big words, never gets to the point.” Ryder interrupted.
“Will you shut it?” LB hissed. “Homie, what about Sweet? He gonna be all right at Grove?”
Carl shrugged. “All right as ever if any usual sh*t goes down. But we need you for the whole reuniting bullsh*t.”
“And?” Ryder said expectantly.
“And Ryder’s ninja skills or whatever.”
“That’s right, and you better keep it right, nigga.”
“Why don’t you focus ninja style? Anyway, Carl, appreciate the work you put into this, but it’s a waste of time.” LB had a blunt face on, not that he would joke about these things anyway. “I don’t want any of our own to take the risk and storm the place, in fact we need a real lawyer more than a fake one right now. ‘Least then there’s a chance these thugs will let us go. Reunions ain’t just one man’s job, so see if y’all can do anything on your own wit’ that.”

Carl looked downbeat, struggling to accept all his work was to be for naught if the dudes in distress would rather not run the risk. “No matter how many foot soldiers he got in there, Sweet needs you more than ever right now.” LB added when Carl remained quiet. “He might still have those doubts about you, so no better way to prove him wrong than expandin’ the turf. And if sh*t hits the fan and we go off to federal prison, so f*ckin’ be it. 5-0 don’t scare me.”
“I gotta chime in and say I disagree wit’ the previous speaker and sh*t. I want the hell outta here, and fast.” Ryder said, ignoring LB’s contemptuous expression.
“There’s still gotta be a way---“ Carl stammered, fittingly right as the door creaked open.
“Time’s up.” Richards said. Carl was certain it hadn’t been five minutes yet, but ferocious arguing was going to take him nowhere in that regard.
“Oh, alright then. Very well, ho- uhh, folks, I trust your statements, but you really need to stay away from those violent video games. Real life doesn’t have a reset button, you know.” he said as a last greeting, taking his sweet time to get up and exit.

“We forgot to tell you, a very reputable colleague of ours is coming in to check on those same two inmates as you. Between that and this most recent alert, our schedule’s hectic as hell.” Richards explained back at the hallways, Carl reacting with little more than an apathetic shrug and trying to avoid conveying his downbeat mood.
“Hey, Mr. Thompson.” The other cop, likely Richards’ partner considering he joined the group once more, tapped Carl’s shoulder – he took a moment to react before remembering that was his fake name.
“Yeah?”
“I overheard that video game stuff you talked about. Gotta say, man, you just got yourself an admirer if half of that was genuine.”
“What do you mean?” Carl asked. Richards took the moment to run off elsewhere – probably a bogus excuse to get away from this other cop’s statements.
“Video games being a cancer to our society, that’s what! You know what kinda people play them?”
“Do tell me.”
“The kind that would murder and rape whoever they could in the real world if there wasn’t consequences, that’s who. So they play their games to get their fulfillment of violence rather than make an effort to change their thinking and become decent human beings. But oh no, it’s just innocent entertainment like movies and books! No, it f*cking ain’t, because those things at least teach you some positive lesson and don’t make you commit any of those atrocities!”

Listening to the rant with a numb mind, Carl knew that anti-gaming people certainly were a thing – that’s why he picked that as his quirk – but encountering one in the wild was an even weirder experience than he’d ever thought. This man was completely honest and stood behind every word he said, while Carl forced himself to nod along in false agreement... and swore to have a really good time with his own games as soon as he got back home.

“And then, then they only make them worse the farther we go. What if the next big idea is something where you can steal a car and run innocent people over? And get those stupid points for it? Thank f*ck I’m not the only one here who’s got a brain. My kids ain’t touching that sh*t in all their lives... say, maybe I should show them those gangsters you just talked to. Tell them that’s what they’ll turn into if they give in.”

Carl had already ceased to care what else he had to say, so he was able to focus more on the background. A new voice was mumbling something up ahead; judging by its tone, that must’ve been Bob from the lobby, the first time he actually opened his mouth in Carl’s presence. For once, he had the motivation to guide the person currently standing in front of his desk to the right place – a person who Carl thought he recognized from somewhere, even though that was all but impossible at a place like Dillimore-

Carl’s jaw dropped as the man’s side profile became clearer.

Officer Tenpenny.

Suddenly he found himself praying to every deity he knew of, including those weird ones from the Nation of Islam that some wacko recruiter had once discussed at length, for this adamant anti-gamer to shut his trap so he would maybe have a chance to slip by unnoticed. He could accept that Tenpenny would come all the way here to see some of his favorite prisoners, but not the fact he had to arrive at this exact time. What even were the odds for that? If only he’d never wasted his time with Daedalus... so many what-if scenarios filled his head that the video game rant was completely shut out by now.

“Oh, hey! You must be Frank Tenpenny. Could you follow me? The prisoners are all prepped up in the interview room.” The officer snapped out of his tirade and slammed the final nail in the coffin with his dutiful offer to help – no way whatsoever for Carl to sneak out of the situation unseen. As Tenpenny turned to face the talkative officer, his gaze quickly shifted to the “lawyer” who made his best efforts to look professional and nothing like that gangster C.R.A.S.H. was always bullying, though that only helped convince the others in the room that nothing was out of the ordinary. That look on Tenpenny’s face just confirmed it; from the first moment that he laid eyes on Carl, he knew.

“At least there’s someone in here who’s gonna show me where to go.” Tenpenny said to the cop. “I was just about to write off your customer service as absolutely disgusting.”
“Well, uhh – that’s alright. Always room for improvement, right?” The officer laughed nervously; Carl thought it was odd he’d bend over backwards to a minority, but he had to assume it was just that vibe that anyone got from Tenpenny at first sight. It was just undeniably obvious that nobody f*cked with him, and those who didn’t get the memo would do so twice as fast once he opened his mouth.

“Oh, do you probably know each other?” the officer added, observing Tenpenny’s continued staring at Carl. “Mr. Jackson just gave some legal advice for the prisoners, he’s from Los Santos too. You’ve probably had your fair share of courtroom drama.”
“Maybe.” Tenpenny stated bluntly. “Time to go, I’ll be right behind you.”
Carl’s heart, which had felt like it was close to a failure point, eased up at last as he felt he’d be in the clear after all. “Hey, it was nice to see you! Let’s definitely keep up the good fight!” the cop said in farewell, Carl responding with just a quick wave. He wanted out fast.
“Kid, not so fast.” He felt someone grab his arm before he could leave the station, and found himself in far too close proximity with Tenpenny’s face.

His voice was so quiet, the local cop was fully oblivious to him staying back. “You’ve been lucky recently, haven’t you boy?”
“Uh... yes, Officer.” Carl felt so weak speaking to him, his heartrate going up again.
“Good. You’ll need it soon. Ten second head start for old times’ sake, right, Jackson?”

That man did not joke around, not in Carl’s presence at least. He put the most rushed look on his face as he speed-walked out the door, being careful not to slip and fall on the stairs, and then sprinting with all the strength he got, to the getaway vehicle. No time for snacks from the gas station or more of the Welcome Pump’s drinks when he was just a few blinks of an eye away from being the target in the next big local manhunt. Only a single Ranger was visible in the station’s miniature garage, nothing compared to Pershing Square’s impound, and the Fortune was going to be in another zip code before Tenpenny was done exposing his secret. He just needed to make a small detour to pick up Kevin, but after that, going back to the refuge of Los Santos it was. The idea felt a lot like giving up and gave Carl the bad kind of goosebumps thinking about it, but after this there was little else he could do for his homies’ sake anymore.

***

“Hey, Sweet, I’m back! I did what you-“ Billy’s voice was clear and confident, as he almost ran into the chest of his new boss at Emmet’s yard, the memories of his last visit locked far away in his mind. The owner himself was nowhere to be seen around this time, but Sweet was certainly someone reliable enough to leave in charge – not that there was a whole lot to maintain.
“That was a decent tag for a rookie. But it takes way more than that to actually control the action.” Sweet said, calming him down with some hand movements.
“It – wait, how did you – no, nevermind.” Billy gasped. “If I passed, does that mean some of that target practice for me?”
Sweet shook his head. “You gotta learn to eventually do things wit’ more than the end reward in mind. I ain’t always gonna have a carrot waitin’ for you when I send you taggin’, spyin’, hell, robbin’ people.”
“But I did what you asked!” Billy pleaded with puppy eyes.
“Just don’t get it, do ya? CJ an’ I recently learned the hard way that there’s days when you work your asses off, even kill junkies to get your goal, and it all amounts to nothin’ in the end. You gotta appreciate the gains in this industry a lot better than that, ‘cause they gonna be few and far between. That pathetic beggin’ you keep doing, that’s a trait that needs to go, or we done.”
“Oh...” It was so painstakingly obvious that, unlike the other times, Billy had no clue how to improve himself this time, the ultimate meaning of the message not fully reaching him. As his head went down in a combination of disappointment and shame, he didn’t notice Sweet was presenting a handgun to him.

“Another thing is, I did make a promise, sort of, and I normally keep ‘em.” he said, observing Billy’s face lighting up like his most wanted Christmas present was being offered to him early. “Don’t expect too much of ‘em later though.”
“Wow, is this – is this loaded?” Billy took almost forever to actually dare grab the gun from Sweet’s hand, and when he did, there was no end to the admiration.
“No, for that exact reason.” Sweet replied just as Billy was looking down the barrel.

Once the mandatory lessons about gun safety (only point it at purple and yellow things) were all out of the way, Billy’s favorite test was about to begin. In his mind, who needed to be a good puncher anyway when he could get the message across just fine from a distance? Even that wouldn’t happen without issue, though, as he soon found out he lacked strength in his fingers too, struggling to even take the shots in the first place and gaining more chastising from Sweet. This time, taking the hint that his prior attitude was rotten and not welcome, he forced himself to do what was told and withstood the pain, gritting his teeth as he fired one shot after another at a target board.

He was surprisingly accurate, making one hole after another near the center of the board after the rough start – Sweet couldn’t tell if he was just fluking it or showing his first drop of combat talent. With no more bullets in the board, he pointed Billy to shoot from a longer distance while handing him another full clip. Still trying his damndest to ignore the burning sensation in all of his fingers, he inserted it like a robot and got to action immediately. Sweet thought this could turn into a lesson about how all the things being looked forward to weren’t necessarily just rainbows and unicorns, but was nice enough to leave it to another time.

This time, the first two bullets went all over the place, but then Billy found the old rhythm again, beginning to hit his mark time after time in much of the same way as the first round. Just as Sweet was getting ready to suck it up and congratulate him for an overwhelmingly great start, fatigue started to possibly kick in towards the end and his accuracy faltered significantly.

“Maybe you gotta hit up the gym so you can fire properly.” Sweet recommended, keeping up his tough guy persona while also being completely honest. “Now, feelin’ up for one more?”
“Yo, Sweet.” A voice he hadn’t heard for the longest time addressed him from the yard’s northern entrance. “Busy trainin’ your new pet? We gotta talk.”
“Shamrock Sanders. You sure you took enough time to check fo’ bugs?”

The man’s eyebrows already looked angry, but now that had spread to the rest of his face as well. He didn’t tower over Sweet, but certainly tried by standing on his toes, something the Grove Street leader took great amusement in.

“No time for cheap shots when the whole Seville Boulevard wants to have a word wit’ you.” the man said, showing off the appropriate tattoo on his shoulder like Sweet needed some confirmation of where he stood.
“Oh, look, I’m famous. Now why don’t you either brush your teeth, or back off before you gotta start pickin’ them from the ground?”
“This ain’t a game.” Shamrock said, several other agitated Seville goons entering the area to back him up. “And what’s that camera up there doin’, filmin’ us? I can’t send the message if there’s a damn camera.”
“It’s Emmet’s, moron. You gone so far you scared of even your own homies?”
“Then why’s it on the other building’s wall, moron? And what about that kid you got here? Might be a fed.” Shamrock suddenly pointed at Billy, who flinched.
“This one? Just f*ckin’ look at him, he like an underfed middle schooler more than some undercover bitch. And he knows if he talks, he dead. Ain’t that right, boy?” Sweet said.
“Uh – yes, as you say, boss!” Billy shrieked, prompting malicious laughs from Shamrock’s backup.
“Well in any case, I don’t want him listenin’ in. So get lost! And someone do somethin’ about that camera. Y’all know I’ll make it up fo’ Emmet if it’s his. Not that I believe that.”
“You heard the nigga, Billy. Training’s over.” Sweet ordered.

For the shortest time Sweet feared that Billy would embarrass him further by staying behind and trying to defend him in some way from this group intruding on their privacy – thankfully, his usual fear instinct kicked in, and possibly right after realizing how badly he could get beaten for doing something wrong there, he ran off. He could’ve done it with more dignity, looked less like a fleeing victim and more like a proud thug... Sweet heard no more remarks, but knew just how low everyone’s opinion was of Billy from their body language alone.

One rock-throw later, the camera was no longer on Shamrock’s worry list. “Right. J-Dog wanted me to clear somethin’ out with you.”
“Somethin’s off. Why ain’t he here to see me personally?”
“So you won’t sh*t your pants.” Shamrock said.
Sweet raised his eyebrows. “You think I’m a joke?”
“Actually, the Johnson name is kinda a joke in these parts. Just no smarts in the way you handle, uhh, internal relations. No wonder that one-eyed Chad kid and his homies been walkin’ all over you.”
“Yeah, you wanna know how he lost that eye, wiseguy?” Sweet snarled.
“Enough with the bullsh*t distraction!” another Seville guy yelled. “Could be your sister for all I care, but it don’t matter now!” Sweet could still easily tell who this was – none other than Clarence, one of the less intelligent members on the set, maybe only accompanying Shamrock with the hopes that he’d get to tell Sweet off.
“Leave the talkin’ to me already, imbeciles. Like I was gonna say, boss ain’t too happy...”

***

Carl was having a highly stressful time out in the country – it was like reliving the memory of the Adder theft far too soon – but the worst of it was starting to be over. There were no troubles associated with leaving Dillimore, but since then, cop cars were beginning to turn up on almost every slightly important road in the county, trying to debilitate him with sheer numbers. Carl needed to perform some elaborate tricks and turns to avoid detection, and felt like he had been successful as only a short distance remained before Kevin’s cabin.

Ring, ring. Oh, great, Sweet was on the line. If he wanted a situation report, it wasn’t about to be a pretty one – Carl wished he had braced himself for the meltdown that was sure to come.

“We got a problem.” Sweet was talking the second Carl picked up the call.
“Bigger than mine?” Carl asked without a beat.
“Bigger than anyone’s. Remember the Seville boys? J-Dog and that paddy Shamrock?”
“Who couldn’t? Motherf*cker would search me anytime we saw.”
“Just gotta be firm about it. Now thing is, they know how LB went down, and how he was wit’ us when it all happened.” Sweet’s voice was uneasy – this was their first communication since the dreadful day after all.
“Sh*t, they ain’t pinned that on us somehow?”
“Afraid that’s exactly what they did. Crack must be messin’ with Dog’s head, since he used to be brighter than this. More sensible or whatever. So now they say we better fix this sh*t, bust him out, or we officially gonna be enemies.”
Carl had his heart skip a beat. “They gotta be kidding...”
“Shamrock’s a serious nigga. Just like me.” Sweet assured.
“Well, once you hear my problem, you gonna wish we never took that job in the first place.” Carl said, gasping. “Tenpenny was here. Whole Dillimore’s gonna know who I am by morning, and he’s not gonna let those two off easy.”
“Tenpenny, out in the country?!” Carl heard Sweet coughing heavily for a moment. “No, you wouldn’t f*ck around either. Just – what the –“
Carl was shaking his head, even if Sweet couldn’t see it. “Stars aligned all perfectly to screw us over, nigga.”
“Well, no matter who it is there, we gotta do this somehow. This ain’t worth going to civil war. If you managed to scout it, just say how many fools you need, and we’ll raid that sh*thole.”
“We ain’t raidin’ sh*t!” Carl yelled, briefly ignorant to the fact it was his dominant brother on the line. “I mean, too much cops in there, and even if we got ‘em out, we’ll never get away with it. Tenpenny would just crack down on us outta spite too, when he finds out. Just – just – gimme a few more days. I’ll think of somethin’ in here real quick. Please?”
“Oh, I’d like to, but J-Dog won’t. And what other ideas is there?”
“They – might get moved. Or the cop station could have a weak back wall, so we don’t need no pile of corpses on our hands. Hell, K can still scout the place, maybe he’ll find somethin’...”
Sweet chuckled. “Inventive. I gotta admire that, but even you know you’re pretty desperate now.”
“It’s all I got right now. I’ll give you a shout again when the smoke clears up.”
“Gotta be soon, bro. No pressure.”

That feeling when a call ended so unclimatically almost, without reaching a resolution... it left Carl even more empty than the moment Tenpenny came into his view. Sweet was right, he could get inventive on the spot, but his quick ideas often lacked the required finesse in the end. All that he really could do now was hope that Kevin, not under the same kind of pressure, would have a more coherent mind than him, think up something more solid as the clock was ticking...
 

To Be Continued.


PicardsBong
  • PicardsBong

    Lazy Astronaut

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#53

Posted 3 weeks ago

Mr. Carbonox,

First, I must say, your dialogue is absolutely on point. I believe in it when I read it, and most importantly, I can hear the characters speaking in my head which breathes HUGE amounts of life into the story. In addition, I love GTA SA, so you've got the lucky fact that I'm already in love with these characters, and instead of drastically changing them, your writing brings new depth to them for me! So thanks man!

One small criticism might be both a compliment and a knock as well. Your narration is very on the nose. Concise, not overly flowery as some folks get, and to the point and detailed. However, it stands in contrast to the slang infused snappy dialogue. If this is intentional, more power to you. If it is not, I suggest you drop more of the narration and simply let your talent for writing dialogue direct the story. I am a dog for good dialogue and it is one of THE MOST difficult thing for writers to get down well, so I have to offer props when I see it handled deftly like you have here. Looking forward to the next installment Carbonox!
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