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Grand Theft Auto: Bohemians & Blackjack

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Cebra
  • Cebra

    I'm in the Christmas spirit. Vote for me.

  • Leone Family Mafia
  • Joined: 06 Jan 2013
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#61

Posted 11 September 2017 - 02:51 AM Edited by Cebra, 05 October 2017 - 10:33 PM.

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We drop in on Julius on his way home sweet home. It's the middle of the night, nary a soul in Chinatown - you're dropped in mid-drive again, on the radio an impassioned soul justifying the recent strikes at universities cross-country. A block down from a police roadblock near the Pink Dilian, a red neon sign practically screaming AUTHENTIC KOREAN MASSAGES above dark storefront windows pulls you forward - go to it and park in the adjacent alleyway, over a sign nailed into the brick: Park here and say sayonara to your tires. Your choice: side door, front door - either way, you'll fall victim to an ambush by landlady Matilda in the reception.
 
"It's eleven o'clock, Julius. We had an agreement," you hear unaccented out of the darkness. She steps out, arms crossed: black hair in curlers galore lit by the blinking neon.
 
Rolled eyes, charm on: "C'mon, Melinda, baby, if you hadn't been prowlin' around down here you wouldn't a' heard a thing. Today was a long day."
"It's not prowling, Julius, this is my building. Don't cry to me about a long day until you've had to deny eight happy endings to a gang of Soviet ruffians."
 
You've been worming to the head of the stairs, an arm on the bannister: "Luckily I chose a different line of work. See you tomorrow, girl."
 
Up white wooden stairs past three landings: 401 is the destination, top floor - a protrusion on the flat roof. Climb up past an obscene argument on floor two and blaring Up n Atom radio jingle on three. Open the door and get an eye on Julius' flat: a big open space that used to be a storage room, now thrown-together furniture over beaten planks separated by room dividers. Quick scene: Julius tosses his jacket onto a cluttered table and grabs a Pißwasser from the fridge, makes his way behind one of the room dividers to see his brother Winston. The kid's a candlewaster, hunched reading a book lit by a waning taper like it's still 1850.
 
"Nice to see you home," he mumbles without taking his eyes off the book.
"Don't look up, brainiac."
 
Julius sips his beer as additional safehouse activities are introduced in small print: surf radio stations, raid the fridge, read the dailies, crash on the couch. Screw around a bit before the last - maybe put on a good song while perusing the paper, current headline Latino Walkouts Strike Southern SA. It makes Winston speak up: "Those Chicano pricks think they've got it hard," and a chuckle. In the missing persons, a Lonny Crowe; wed father of two, last seen after his Bravado Bolt broke down in the Dutch Flatlands.
 
When you're ready, hit the flowery loveseat to a fade black: a panorama of Chinatown overnight 'til the sunrise, traffic from nil to a steady morning flow. You'll wake to an agitated Winston: "Crack of dawn, lazy-ass. Freddy's callin' all cars."
 
"Call all he wants, don't mean we gotta show." You sit up to new info: shower at your leisure, but it's only prime to getting blood off your clothes and a shot at the current protagonist's acapella crooning. Try it - head into the remnant-from-Prohibition bathroom, then swap into fresh threads and meet your brother in the hallway. Note the clothes - lots of denim and leather jackets, not a single tee or tank in the running.
 
Julius: "Why you waiting on me? You said you were takin' the cable cars from now on."
"You mind if we carpool? Not for nothin', Jules, I just wanna sit comfy this morning."
"Hell, you know I don't mind. Just never been a fan of people waitin' on me."
 
Head down the stairs in a pair straight into a new environment: an incense-clouded hallway full of fat middle-aged men, arms wrapped around Asian girls barely a Jackson. Through the smoke wafts drunkenness; stragglers still getting their money's worth at the sunrise's rooster crow. In the waiting room, a kimono-clad Matilda argues with a man who looks accustomed to it - of note is that her American accent is suddenly gonzo; she can't enunciate her Rs. As Jules and his brother head toward the side door, the man lays one hand too many on Tilda - Julius is nothing if not a bastion of chivalry and you're on him before the hand's back down. The dude's not in the mood for confrontation - nor is Matilda, who rewards Jules by yelling something Asiatically hostile and a hand wave - f*ck off. The man glares, mutters "Bluegum bastard" in a southern accent as Julius puts his hands up and he and Winston head out the side door.
 
"Coffee's a good stimulant as well," Winston quips outside.
 
Hop into the Gaia - drive toward the motorcycle icon as it pops up on your radar: Intrepid Courier Service. As you drive by the nearby cable lines they'll be explained - three lines, three routes. Hop on, pay the toll and get some picturesque views from the rooftops as you're carried around the city. Also imperative: they can be used to flee the cops if you're feeling stealthy. Shh.
 
Julius: "Tell me something, genius - what'd Tilda just yell at me?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"'Cause your book smarts gotta pay off somehow, somewhere."
Win grunts. "I don't know - Cantonese, probably. What you on to?"
Julius chuckles like he's had a private joke going. "The sign outside says Korean massages. Our girl wears Jap kimonos - now you say she speaks Cantonese?" Julius laughs. "I guess our girl's representin' the entire Orient."
Brotherly melodrama: "Jesus, you're right. Is anything in this city sacrosanct?"
"I don't know what that means - but no, I don't think any massage parlors are. Cut out the egghead language, you sound like you're tryin too hard."
"So be it. Can't plow through life with your fists, Jules." He pauses. "You got blood on your sleeve."
 
You can hear it in their voices - Julius, hard as he may try to distance himself from his upbringing, still has that persistent Carcer City inflection. Winston on the other hand flushed it when he got into college; he's got some Transatlantic imbroglio down pat.
 
Get the hell out of Chinatown, past Suppleham and under the highway overpasses that zigzag through the city. It's near familiar ground: blue collar district, masonry and smokestacks aplenty - the destination stands out around highway columns and factories with its brickery painted yellow. Park in the side lot beside a blue Malpais pooling oil, get out and head through the garage entrance. As you turn the corner Julius calls back to Winston, who's heading toward the empty lot behind: "Where you goin'?"
"Zeke wanted me to meet him out back; something about his bike acting up."
"Alright. Holler if you need a hand."
 
Head through to a callback to Kaufman Cabs; a vast grey depot lined on one wall with Dinka bikes and another with concrete office walls that don't quite touch the ceiling. A few workers scattered over leakage stains have their attention on the office door labeled Mr. Peters - or rather, on the yelling behind it. Walk up behind one of the dudes packing his bike as the scene cuts.
 
Julius pats his shoulder: "Yo Zeke, Win's waiting on you out back."
"I'm headin' out to Lake Callahan, man. What's his business?"
"Dunno, he said your bike was on the fritz."
"She's golden, Jules," he gestures. "What you on about?"
Julius smirks and encourages a change of subject. "Forget it, forget it. 'Sup with Freddy?"
"Oh, the brother's fit to be tied - he got notice on our rent this A.M."
"Sh*t, it's that bad already?"
"Also said there ain't nothing to worry about - I'll take his word for it 'til the walls cave in."
 
He revs his engine - Julius cuts across and into the dragon's den.
 
Freddy Peters, back to the doorway, bitching into the yellow phone. Julius takes a seat on the tattered couch opposite Freddy's desk and crosses his arms and legs; free and easy.
 
"- well you better check again, my friend, because that money got sent out days ago - no, no, I suggest you get off your ass and personally check with your boss because I know that cash's sittin' in his rainy day. Oh, tough guy - yeah, you do that."
 
Freddy slams the handset down - it bounces off the receiver and they both fall off the desk. He picks it up and turns around massaging his temples.
 
"Did you pay the rent, Freddy?" 
They lock eyes, Jules doesn't back down. A shameless "No."
"Crossed arms turned palms up: The f*ck?"
"I ain't in the mood for condescension, son, not now not ever. Don't think I won't axe you at a moment's notice just 'cause we're goin' down."
"That right, though? We goin' down?"
"No we are not," Freddy pauses. "Not yet."
 
He picks his pipe off his desk and Julius tosses him a match. Freddy strikes it on the table, finds the pipe dry of tobacco and falls back into his chair.
 
Julius sighs. "You didn't tell me you were so hard-up, Freddy."
"Didn't see daylight til the statements came in. Cash here, cash there, rent, Carols treatment - ain't no shame in admitting I got in over my head."
"How's Carol doin'?"
"She's copacetic for the time being, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Julius leans forward - business. "What can I do?"
"That's what I wanted to talk about, Jules." Freddy takes a breath, prepares a speech. "The tenets of any good business are that the owner's employees carry the owner's weight. With the owner's weight carried by them, the owner gets to carry the weight of his own obligations, and in return the owner offers a slice of the profits so his employees can do the same. When you and you brother disappear like you did the other day, that entire process falls to sh*t. Where were you?"
Dodge: "I was speaking more future-tense, Freddy."
Freddy stands up, the patriarchal intimidator coming right out. "And Im speaking auld lang syne, boy - answer the question."
Julius doesn't skip a beat: "Hustlin' with them bikers down the Flatlands."
 
A nod, a thoughtful look out a barred window and a laugh: "Hustlin'. Listen to yourself, Jules. I thought you were past this."
"Past what? Money? I'm sorry if I don't wanna get into the same fix you're in now Freddy, but cash's cash."
"Ain't my business the company you keep in your respite, Jules, but it is when it's on my dime." He turns to face his employee. "Winston's in the swim with them bikers? Ain't heard the best things about those boys and us brothers; seems against his principles."
Julius ignores the question. "Cash and principles ain't square."
Darting eyes: "I never seen that to be true and I ain't gonna start believing it now. Whatever the case you better take this to heart; I say this with love, but I can't afford to f*ck around anymore. You and Win'll always be like sons to me, but I say it's time to hang tough. Ain't gonna be a second warning."
"Understood."
"I hope so - you got a thick skull, the both of you, but I know your heart's in the right place."
"What about the rent, Freddy? Bull sessions ain't gonna keep the depot in play."
"Creditor's a little fish with stars in his eyes who thinks he's some fat cat - you let me worry about him. He gives Julius a stern look. Not you - me. Now go get your brother, I got a contract that'll park us in the black that I want you two on personally."
"Now?"
"Yeah, now. I need you two out in Birchwood noontide."
 
Freddy picks up the phone to make some more calls - ditch the office back into the warehouse as a trio of courier bikes begin a run out on that new contract, exhaust smoke and engine snarls in their wake.

 

----

 
Objective: Find Winston.
 
Open-ended objective; follow the cutscene clues to find your brother, a time lock in the corner: you got 'til 10:00. You grasp the subtext from Julius' reaction to Zeke - no bike needed fixing, Winston's got business on the QT and Jules is always willing to cover for him. Unfortunately it's a real workday, all hands on deck - Winston went toward the alley out back. Make a run for the alleyway - tar snakes and fresh oil poolage make a trail out of it and back onto the main road. Time to get behind the wheel again - hop in your Gaia to the tune of Elmore James and follow the fading tire tracks. Head north on the main road running through and into the Dutch Flatlands. It's early yet; you'll see the few still functional factories have their workers arrive in beaten-down old vehicles, buff union supervisors keeping watch in the parking lots. Construction on the overpasses directs you further into the district - "Hell is he?"
 
It won't take long before you see a row of cars parked curbside in front of an abandoned foundry, an anomaly in a district still nearly bare of vehicles  - slow down, press the interaction button to focus on a sign plastered beside the door: House Of Racial Equality: Join us Monday morning! Julius mutters "Dumbass"; parallel park next to a red Karin Dilettante and get out. A door with one broken glass pane has a note taped to the other on lined paper: NI**ERS DONT YOU WISH YOU WERE WHITE. Julius, stone-faced, rips it down into pieces and heads inside; an abandoned auditorium lit by a single lantern, a circle of folding chairs. He pauses in the entryway: a woman's voice says Welcome.
 
Julius can barely see, same goes for you: "I'm lookin' for my brother playin' hooky - Winston."
Win plays no fool, mutters some sacrilege and comes forth: "Christ, how'd you find me? He steps up from a chair and approaches his brother."
Julius holds him by the scruff as a mother dog would a pup: "We ain't playin this game again. We got a job to get going."
 
Everyone's quiet. Julius looks over the circle and we see it from his eyes; four men, two women, all blue-collar black, all eyes on him. One of the girls gets up, speaks up: "Julius. Nice to finally meet you."
She extends a hand, the other clutching a couple dozen paper prints, more advertising for the fabled House of Racial Equality meetings more akin to that of the Epsilon Program
 
"Charmed, I'm sure." Julius gives her a quick shake and turns to the door.
"Win, let's split." The girl gives Winston a tug on the shoulder - Julius turns, interest piqued. "What about the posters, baby?"
 
The situation - the girl's Wins girl, and its her and Jules' first face-to-face.
 
Julius smirks: "Baby, huh?"
Winston looks back and forth. "Roxy, I was gonna tell him about you."
 
They play out a scene - Roxanne irked she hasn't been introduced, Julius bemused and uncaring. As they quibble and the rest of the group sits awkwardly a pair of burly men approach the twin entrance doors; one's got a pen. You might infer they showed up to add some extra oomph to their racist tidings they taped and Julius trashed. 
 
They catch Roxy's eye; she sighs and says "Not again" and panic sets in - "Win, they can't be here when Leon shows up. That's the last thing we need."
A voice from the circle: "Goddamn honkies."
 
Winston sees it coming but can't stop it: "Julius!". Eyes front to the laughing bozos; Julius grabs a fire extinguisher from its broken socket and stampedes. The cutscene ends to action - press the button and Jules sends the vessel into the side of one of their heads, clearing the doors broken glass in the process. Make a split second choice: before anyone can react, either swipe the extinguisher up from the ground or go the route of glass shards. Take out the guy who didn't get grounded - he's got a construction helmet so aim low, don't waste time on protection. Quick glass cuffs or heavy blows from the fire vessel's boot; let him join his buddy on the ground as the HoEs members watch in awe. When the second guy hits the asphalt, you'll be introduced to the grapple: Julius holds him up by his shirt, adrenaline'd by taking the other guy out. You're to perform a finishing move, contextual execution, whatever you wanna call it - the red Dilettante falling victim. Use the triggers to keep your hands around the guy while you walk toward the car - fingers slip and the guy gets away. You've got options; close his head in the door a few times, chokeslam through the windshield, mush him into the wheel well. Done - he's on the floor crying for mommy.
 
When it's over, nobody speaks and Julius snaps back to reality. Roxanne first "My car!", then Winston, calm as ever: "Lasting impressions."
 
"Sorry," Julius mutters, and its clear as ever there's a temper bubbling under an aloof surface; now he's a bit red in the face. "Winston."
 
The brother turns to console his girl; the honkey-caller eggs Jules on and kicks the downed bigot. "Now, Winston." He gets to stepping, Julius hesitates before a trite "Nice to meet you" to Roxanne, who's busy probing the damage done to her hatchback. 
 
Go - it's not too long a drive out to Birchwood, pull a left and get on the Great Ocean Highway southbound. It's quiet for a bit, no music, and the tension builds into its inevitable conclusion on both parts: "The f*ck is wrong with you?"
"Me? What's wrong with you, Mr.-f*ckin-Albatross - all in for individual responsibility 'til some fox comes knocking with tidings of an equal nation?"
"Oh, give it a rest."
"Hard pass. We been coastin sh*t-job to sh*t-job for the better part of a Goddamn motherf*cking decade, and now that we settled in homey with Freddy on the cusp of him giving us the business, you choose now to go pachyderm?"
Scoff, avoid: "Go pachyderm? Charles Darwin, now?"
"Those age-old scrolls ain't all paperweights to me. Really-truly."
"We are fighting for a better future-"
"Why can't you do that when it ain't on Freddy's dime? Why weren't you out cavortin' with Roxy Parks when I got home last night, you gotta wait 'til daylight?"
"Don't belittle our cause, Jules. Speaking of last night - burning the midnight oil?"
 
No answer; easy clam. "Thought so. Let's leave it at that then."
 
Traffic lets up - drive past SF International as a Luxor makes its final leg overhead and head onto the minibridge out of town. Pull the softtop down with the press of a button - bright shiny day itd be a shame to waste, travelling alongside the deep blue San Fierro bay chock full of sailboats and mini-yachts, floating penthouse suites for the dignified millionaire with a hankering for seasickness, hookers, and blow. Washed up on the shore below the bridge lays Guillermo's Gullet, the craw of Holt Bay full of washed up detritus of all varieties; a famous dumping ground for the city's abused, unwanted, inconvenient women by their men who forgot about high tide.
 
"That discussion barred, you got anything else on where we're headed?"
 
Winston's had the scoop from Freddy - a simple delivery op, year-long fixed-fee contract for a legion of talented drivers to transport seafood both statewide and cross-border. Wholesale. Tasty. Report to Thomas Sclafani, Birchwood docks. Tick tick tick - depending on how fast you caught up with Winston you might be pressed for time: the meeting's set for 10.
 
It's on the bayside of the town, a bunch of wooden warehouses separated from Birchwood at large by a big field of cattails. Drive up to the gate; a hulk asks plain "You from Intrepid?" Julius nods and you get inside, directed to the two-story main building right along the water. When you park up another man asks which one of you is Julian - neither, of course, but Winston is escorted elsewhere to the truck-packing depot while you're to play messenger. Head up the wooden-planked outdoor stairs into an office overlooking the dock. Notice the fish factory's fond of goons sidestepping slimy planks, one-handing luparas and smoking like chimneys.
 
Knock on the metal door to the top office and an eyeball appears in the peephole slat - it opens to another big guy with a cigar who points you to an off-dressed fellow attempting to peel an orange with a pen, legs propped up on a desk in front of a window overlooking the dock. He ignores you until you take a seat across.
 
"Orange?"
Julius makes himself comfortable. "Nah, I'm an apple man."
"Gimme a good Empire any day."
 
He manages the peel and starts popping slices like candy without a word; you don't feel like playing.
 
"I'm here for Intrepid CS. Was told you had some work for us, Mr. Sclafani."
Smirk. "May be the case, but Tommy's probably three sheets to the wind by now. I'm Moe Rothenberg, well met." He extends a sticky hand; Julius opts him to switch and they shake.
"Julius Cole. I'd introduce my brother but one of your jockeys took him for a seaside tour."
"When we seal the deal with a new service we like to have both eyes and ears on the ground to get things up and running. Way your boss tells it, you bend the ear while your brother bends the knee."
"Freddy said that?"
 
Moe nods, Julius sits back in his chair and looks past him at the dockworkers outside, shuffling from boat to truck bed.
 
"Maybe I passed judgement a touch early on you rattin' your boss out as blotto when you don't know me from Adam. I learn my boss likes to tell tall tales and we might both have some authority problems."
"Don't take it like that," Moe says between orange chunks and a half-smile. "Some men are built to lead and some are built to follow. Freddy says you like to ask questions - ask away."
Julius drops the Freddy issue. "I think the million dollar question is why you're farmin' out leadfoot work. We usually get hired when people want their goods moved on the QT. Must be some prize seafood."
"It is, but the truth is having you on contract cuts a lesser blow to our bottom line. Bunch of professional redneck schmucks on retainer from Lenapia - that crops the quota bad."
 
Moe waits, Julius not buying it - point in question being what's contained in those transport trucks. You've done it before - illicit goods, a quick run, even out of state - but not in full employment for 365. That never ends well.
"Contract's signed and sealed anyway. Figure the least I could do is give you the rundown when your boss assures me you're his top guy. It's all kosher, my friend."
"About the last thing I'd call seafood."
 
Moe laughs; he's taking a shine to the kid. The rundown he gives: ¾ of Intrepid on retainer until mid-69 - transport comprising trucks, boats, helicopters for out of state. Sclafani's goods run supply lines all the way to Couira City and east - good money and a good word for future endeavors. Drivers paid by shipment, the company at large paid off at end of contract. "The goods are factory-sealed and to stay that way."
 
"How could I say no?" says Julius to gainful employment.
"Glad you're on board, kid. One more thing," Moe says, and reaches into a desk drawer.
 
He pulls out a .38, slides it across. Julius eyes it, we get a close up: serial number etched off, funny tape on the grip.
 
"Stick-ups are a menace as ever. Extra precaution, pay no mind."
 
Julius takes it and fits it in his holster, they shake on the deal sans sticky hand. Leave through the metal door, find Winston down below with his eyes following the lupara-holders on their patrols.
 
Eager to split, smelling of fish, he asks Julius if he's ready. Head to your car - as you reach it, a bulky black Stretch pulls through the gates and heads to the main building. A goon puts his lupara on the roof to open a door; out comes some fella clearly feeling no pain beside a mouse of a man. The first gives the guard a firm slap across the face for daring to risk nicking the paint - he tosses the shotgun into the grass nearby and heads inside as Mr. Mouse guides the walk and the sentinel scrambles for his gun.
 
"Seafood my ass."
 

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+ .38 Revolver

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

1st - Freddy Peters (optional)

Freddy: Gordon, if it's you again I'm gonna sh*t.

Julius: Don't do that, Freddy. It's your star employee.

Freddy: Hear no evil, son. Shoot the breeze with Sclafani?

Julius: Never heard nothing. I still ain't met the cat, just some Jew callin' seafood kosher. Odd fish you chose.

Freddy: Rothenberg? He's fine fettle, a real smooth talker.

Julius: Real smooth. Slid a gun right across the table at me - fabric taped barrel and all.

Freddy: They're finicky types these cats, wait 'til you meet Sclafani. It's all for protection, Jules, ain't gotta worry.

Julius: I ain't worried, just wonderin' what you pulled me into.

Freddy: I pulled you into your own game, son. Everything's set up above board, just play your part and we all come away flush.

Julius: If you say so. Give Carol my love.

Freddy: Will do. See you at the top.

  • Money Over Bullshit, slimeball supreme and Ivan1997GTA like this

Cebra
  • Cebra

    I'm in the Christmas spirit. Vote for me.

  • Leone Family Mafia
  • Joined: 06 Jan 2013
  • Canada

#62

Posted 2 weeks ago

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Pull the Piranha curbside up to the Boccinos' bungalow, architecturally a carbon copy of your uncle's - just a bit more orange and a bit less fastidiously landscaped. Up the driveway you'll run into Sebby himself, frazzled and dazzled in a beige two-piece, wiping his nose with one hand and playing some fingertip rhythm with the other. "Ettore home?" Dante asks, and before the question can register you get your answer: "Yup yup, bedroom, gotta go, move by night" as he hops into and guns his guinea gunboat.
 
Head inside, past the sunflower wallpaper and shrill canary kitchen - as you're about to turn the corner to E's bedroom Dante sees him outside, perked up in a lawnchair with his eyes up as twilight beckons the stars. The night sky mirrors the strip's neon a few blocks down - cotton candy clouds misting under a purple canvas, minus all the noise, risk-takers, and drunkards. Dante pulls two fingers to the back of E's head - "Bang bang, sei morto." Ettore looks up and lets you know you scared the sh*t out of him, he could've easily lunged at you with that bottle of Stronzo he was holding under the chair and you better work on your reflexes 'cause next time you won't get him so easy. Dante squats to meet his height and chuckles: "You said you'd bring the waves but I'm only seeing the ones crashing behind your eyes."

"Stronz' brings out my best and brightest," Ettore says, taking a swig and offering it to Dante who takes one himself.
"Such as?"

Ettore acts philosophical, poses The Thinker, comes up blank. "I didn't say I was quite there yet."
"Well, take a shot. Perfect night to get into some trouble, E. Stars falling in lines over a bottle of fine Italian liquor."
"It ain't liquor."
"You buy it at a liquor store. Tastes like sh*t, though."
Ettore leans forward and grabs the bottle back from you: "We should get the old gang together."
You pause, the thoughts start running with a caveat. "We ain't sticking up that juggling gigalo that hangs around Tequila Sunrise again."
"No, we're not." E falls empowered, huffs up over his lawn chair towering over you. "I got eyes on that pork store on Sequoia, you know the one with the skinny guineas playing house out front?"
"Yeah, those skinny guineas are holding heaters because it's a Couira City drop. Try again."
"No, D - you seek the big time then this is our ticket. We cleared what, a C-note last time we stuck up some cidrul' playing tourist? We pull a heist on this joint and I guarantee we'd clear a couple grand at min. F*ck the big names, we pay tribute to your uncle and the old man - we buy our way into La Penisola's grand opening."
"My uncle's in tight with Couira. You know that."
"Money talks. It's a marriage of convenience, don't make me talk down to you."
"You know what? If your heart's set I'm in. It's been too long."

You stand tall to Ettore, who downs the remnants of the booze and throws it at his cement fence and makes the neighborhood dogs bark in unison. "Goddamn suburbia. Let's roll."
 
Head out through the gate and make a call - if you're fed up with the Piranha then jump into Ettore's red Hellenbach GT; he's in no state to drive. When you first sit in, there's a pause - longer one, and Dante finally speaks up: "You gonna tell me where we're headed? You think I've kept in touch with the 'old gang', you got another thing coming."
"Okay, okay," E says, and if you're in first person you'll see him pull a fifth of something fiery brown from the glovebox. "Let's lay it all out." 
 
Let him gather his thoughts and press the gas - slow rolling through suburbia aimed toward the glitzy strip. You'd imagine that neon glow makes a decent night's sleep difficult as Ettore begins checking them off. "Danny Z's serving one-to-three midwest on a solicitation beef."
Dante butts in: "No kidding, I thought cooze cruising was legal 'round here."
"Pump the brakes Casanova, don't worry - guy was thirty seconds past the county line into Mendelson. Let's see - head up to the Red Light district. Last I heard Ricky Rouge was working a corner."
Go ahead - "Ricky f*ckin' Rouge? Don't tell me you're talkin' about Rick Vitro."
"Yes indeedio. Rouge means red like the ol' neighborhood itself but he's green as ever. You think that's the kicker, wait 'til you hear about Hal."
"All ears."
"Oh, it's a good one. After we all pulled that gas scam a few years back he scrammed off to Los Santos. Got hitched, real nice all-American honeypie, last I hear he's ready to settle down like a fine law-abiding citizen. One day he calls me up to say honeypie's screwing spics by the handful - what to do? He puts the moves on his brother-in-law's secretary to settle the score and the tramp has him nabbed for adultery. Before long he's swapping cigs up in Bolingbroke and his honey's free at home to be the town bicicleta."
"Oof," Dante mutters with a drip of sarcasm. "Greek tragedy. We all got the same thing coming."
 
You're gonna want to swing around the long arm of Yeardley Boulevard instead of heading through to the madness of Venturas' heart. The Red Light district belies its name - it's semi-paved streets glow in more of a nebulous pink mist. The clock's nearing midnight and you're in dreamland - corner girls and triple-X theatres drowning in rowdy sidewalk-queuers, neon outdoor signage conforming to code, daring to show a pair of ankles. "Man, I haven't been here in years."
 
Windows down, cross near one of those corner shops and one of those girls comes calling from out a crowd: "Buying or window shopping?" in a suspiciously deep vocal fry.
Ettore can't contain his giddiness between fits: "This place has changed, eh?"
Dante squirms. "What do I say?"
"I am still human, honey," with a twirl showing off layers of fishnet. "Test drive?"
"Err, I'll pass. We're looking for Rick Vitro. Ever sing his song?"
 
The walker shakes, leans on the car, still trying to show off the goods as some theatre-goers hoot and holler at the gunshow.
 
"Ricky Rouge."
"You got business with Ricky?"
"Not the kind of business you knuckle down, but that's a yeah."
 
She nods like you've spoken in secret code and fuses back into the queue. 
 
"This place always been so Goddamn degenerate?"
E cops a chuckle: "Go smoke your sausage, you stifled sister. Get with the times."
 
Out from the horde emerges Ricky, not so much rouge as tan in olive threads that couldn't pull him apart from a hobo smugshot lineup; open bowling shirt leaving scars on display - behind each a story better left untold.
 
"Oh, the two ays! Must be near a nickle since we last stacked a deck."
"Must be," Dante says under a smirk. "Gotta say, Rick - words fail me."
"What, these finooks? Needs must when the devil drives. Took some business classes, can't say they went untried."
 
Someone opens the floodgates and the crowd flows into the theatre; your eye is caught to the outdoor signage as its neon triple-Xs start blinking in unison - come one, come all, and as they head in a couple more streetwalkers gather under the neon and chew some chew and give the Hellenbach an eyeful. Pink glow, exotic environs - hitherto the intro to your ladies of easy virtue.
 
"So what's the play here? Pay me some mind after all this time, I hope you're onto something worthwhile."
The two ays take turns waiting for the other to pipe up - the plan isn't much of a plan, but ol' Ricky doesn't need to know that. E - "Those magic fingers are gonna take a safe is all. There's a couple grand in it on ice - butcher shop, nobody's gonna know nothing."
"Couple Gs being held in a meatmarket safe? I'm real tickled you thought of me, but sounds like that wishful thinking I've gone fine without for half a decade."
Dante pipes in, creeping peeved as he's been checking his watch. "It's a drop shop, I hear some small-time crew. And you can rest easy about any browbeating, tribute to the powers-that-be is gonna be cut equally. Whaddya say?"
 
White lies - no discussion. "I say you'd best be true blue, Dante. I'll bite."
 
After Ricky hops in you get the idea that the three musketeers are now winging it; no planning and no forethought springing to faking it until you're making it. 
 
"Who's next?"
"You know I think we're about sewn up - the picklock, the brawn and yours truly the brains. Anything more and we're taking a loss," Ettore leads into the new.
 
Ricky demands an approach, gives heed to an old idea: delivery truck parked metal to brick - opened side panel and the group cuts in and gets out without a head knocked. The old pals say they'll head down to Post OP HQ just up the road and swipe a van, you're on duty of getting the necessary brickbreaking tools. From a weeklong tenure at a warehouse on the east side Ettore knows they're packing the necessities and more. 
 
They get the car. Pushed out the driver's, you'll find yourself laid bare in the Red Light District - trudge down they alley behind Rick's joint and through the bubblegum gloom you see a clean ol' Miter hugging a wall with its owner necking a tramp beside it. Your best bet is to steal the thing quiet, he's too tied up to take note. Pick the lock and you're in - the man screams bloody murder as you hightail it down the road. Crawl the streets past midnight, Sincerely humming from the AM. Street traffic's light and so are the neon clubs, jazz and pizzazz lines lining up the sidewalks alongside hoods with no innocent destination in mind.
 
Your destination's a masonry plant - E said no guards, "What kinda prick's gonna steal some bricks?", but a cruiser's playing nightwatch by the gates as two flatfeet gorge on donuts inside. Eye's drawn to blips, both explained - the masons' breaktime is taken outside working walls and they're fond of tossing their eCola bottles into a sewer grate. Option one's the oldschool approach, tossing one into the cop car's quarter panel and making a run for it down the streets, through empty train cars and over knocked fences until they're air behind you. Play it long enough and the opportunity presents to lock the fellas into a boxcar themselves; you'll have all the time in the world as they yell and tell until sunrise. If you're not feeling any grief then hobble over to a nearby payphone for option two as Dante mimics a street hood to the local county PD; wringing the department's desire to pillage the Lojack Lounge a couple streets down. Dispatch works fast, the cruiser lights up and takes off, and you're wide open. Keep either method in mind for future reference; you're nearly always better off playing the distraction game than an outright fight. 
 
Once the peacekeepers are taken care of you'll make quick work of jumping the wrought iron gate. Hug the brick wall down to the southeast corner and you'll see why the cops are playing safeguard - Dick's Brickwork doubles as an overnight truck stop; keep your feet close to the ground or you'll come face-to-face with some drowsy gun-toting midwesterners all but willing to extend stand-your-ground laws to the golden state. Dante's on his own for this one, no directions in your face - use common sense to trek to the storage shed holding your fabled tools and pick the lock, a touch more difficult than that of the Miter. You need a trunk at hand, so pull the car into the lot and take your pick; if you're so inclined you can grab a sledgehammer and keep it for good measure at the same time. Once you're loaded creep back out just in time to find a Post OP boxvan barreling down the road toward Centanni's - "Oh for God's sake" - you better keep to the bumper to satisfy that competitive edge. 
 
Follow close and the van will pull up adjacent to Centanni's - Ettore cuts it a little close and claws the starboard side against the brick grain. Pull the Miter up beside and the scene will cut to Dante tossing the drill inside; he and E get to work on boring as Rick starts sorting through the mail scattered all over the box floor: "Damn, Fran's two-timing old Tommy with Joe!" 
 
"Quit the quidnunc and come lend a hand."
"Sorry, Dante. These hands need to be fresh in the flesh if you want any safes cracked tonight."
 
The minigame's similar to breaking into the Humane Labs in V - align the jackhammer with the indicated outline onscreen and weaken the structure. Grabbed the sledgehammer beforehand and Dante also gets the opportunity to deal the death blow - you're inside. The trio head in through their makeshift entry and wait for Ettore's lead. "Nice. This is your gig, Streak. Where we headed?"
Ettore plays it like a dog sniffing out his owner on a bender. "What I heard, the end of the rainbow's in the office."
"Jesus Christ, 'Tor", Rick says after you clamber out of the bathroom you've bored into. "Another foot eastward and we'd'a drilled right into the freezer. Can't hurt to case the joint beforehand."
"I do my best work off the cuff."
 
The office is past the freezer room of pig heads and meat hooks, wood-paneled and parquet-floored - the safe's in the corner under a brilliant gold crucifix. 
 
"Tasteful. Very Christian; I like this guy already." Rick pulls his tools and a glove and gets to work. 
"I think we're in the clear on this one, D, but I fear you'll feel untapped if I don't give you something to do. Wanna play watchman?"
"I'd love to."
 
Outside, out back - the front leads to dead-end foundries and a single gentleman's club frequented by ungentlemanly men. Play it by ear, no going-ons out back but a few meat trucks sleeping tight under an awning; Dante comments on the thrilling task just as some headlights signal a roadster speeding down a nearby alley straight towards you. No cutscene; make a judgement call.
 
Pull your gun but give ol' speed racer the time to make a move, the driver pulls the car broadside in front of you, exits aiming a lupara over the roof. 
 
"The f*ck you doing, motherf*cker? Step away from my store or I'll blow your Goddamn head off!"
Dante's looking down the sights: "Ditto mac, put the gun down and we'll talk."
 
Fatty goes on a terrific rant of threats and challenges, at a few points flailing his gun into the night sky before settling - if you're confident in your decision, a headshot's all it takes to merge this approach into the second, otherwise you're prodded to listen to the man. Holster your pistol and he'll come around the car; D gets a sawn-off barrel in the small of his back. "How many inside?" 
 
D ignores, asks how he got word of the intrusion. "Silent alarm, bub. Courtesy of The Ear of Couira." 
 
Inside, Rick's still working the safe and E's nowhere to be found. Fatty orders Rick up and begins negotiation; he'll only call his friendlier paisan if you give up who sent you. 
 
"You tyros are done, you hear me? I'm gonna get the brass, f*ckin' everyone down here and you're gonna tell 'em everything. Just a pair of flappin' gums when it's over."
 
Your cue as Ettore emerges from the shadows holding that trusty sledgehammer; press the indicated button and you'll learn how to disarm. A rhythmic button mash and D pulls his fingers back for the shotgun, bashes him over the head and E moves in, misses his shot and tumbles forward. You've got the lupara and an angry lardass so you can hit where the drunkard can't - pull the trigger and Fatty flies out of the service door you just came in, settles dead in a red mist on the concrete outside.
 
Alternatively, had you shot the tub earlier the rest would play out the same - only outside instead of in.
 
"Why can't this f*cking sh*t ever go smooth?" Ettore rises.
 
Camera at the lupara barrel; E and D lean out the doorway to get an eye on the corpse.
 
"That's him, that's Fatty Gemelli," mumbles E running his hands through his hair.
"Who?"
"The f*cking owner of the f*cking store, you Goddamn gagguz'! He was supposed to be down south. This was supposed to be a simple job!"
"Oh he's down south alright. Don't get maudlin on me, you prick, this whole thing was your gig."
"F*ck it, nobody knows we was here. Go pull the car 'round, I'll get Rick to scratch before the red and blues show."
D grabs his arm - "We are not coming off a job playing catch-up with a body on me. He's gonna crack that safe."
"No, Dante, he is not. I love the thrill of the chase but I am not risking an accessory bid on account of your conscience."
 
Dante ignores his glazed friend, turns to Rick.
 
"How much longer on that thing?"
"It's a dura, this one. Ten minutes give or take, but something tells me we're about to split."
"What about the sledgehammer?"
"Useless without a crowbar."
E runs up tipsy. "Rick, we're getting out of here. Chalk it a loss."
Rick takes offense, slams his tools down. "Same old sh*t. Off the cuff my ass, it's always amateur hour with you. Small-time crew - Goddamn Couira City?"
"Amateur hour? Compared to what, the trials and tribulations of peddling queer ass in the Red Light like a mezzofinocch'?"
 
Their quibble fades into the back as we see Dante give the office a 360. His eyes return to the safe and drift upwards, slow, and the camera pans to life-sized golden Jesus on a gilded cross. Salvation.
 
"E, you still know that guy that works at the foundry?"
 
You're saved the tedium of pulling it off the wall; cut to black and back and you're in the Miter, back where Ettore and Rick ditched the car in exchange for the van. They take off in silence, a zoom out from first person shows the crucifix pinned to the roof rack. Head two streets west to that foundry to complete the mission - Dante mumbles four-letter words at himself as he covers the car with a tarp, ditches it to wait for sunrise so they can swipe up some excuse for profit from the meltdown.
 

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+ Random Encounter - The Chicks of Sir Rick

 

$150.00

 

+ Lupara

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

 
1st - Jacky Gallo (mandatory)
Dante: Rory's Rugs, how may I help you?
Jacky: I thought I told you to knock that off, you sound stunad. What you going to do when a would-be employer calls?
Dante: I'll answer like that and he'll think I'm a go-getter with a mind for business. Win win.
Jacky: Mmhmm. Have you heard?
Dante: Heard what?
Jacky: A friend of mine's store got hit last night. Stole a crocifisso, the animals, and shot the owner dead.
Dante: Yeah, Centanni's. I saw in the daily. Too bad, they had good capicola.
Jacky: Thieves broke in through the brick so they wouldn't set off the door alarm, Dante. I thought it sounded old hat.
Dante: Nothing particular to using power tools to get a job done. What, you think it was me? We gave that up years ago, you know that.
Jacky: Of course not. Whoever would hit a drop of our friends from the east would be throwing down the gimlet. Especially with a body on them.
Dante: Damn sure.
Jacky: At any rate, our friends are flying someone in. Jon thinks I should give you a call when the welcome wagon arrives.
Dante: Sure thing, Uncle Jacky.
Jacky: You keep an eye out for the animals that put Sal Gemelli in the ground. Stunads will've skipped town if they know what's good for them.
Dante: If they knew what was good for them they wouldn't be stunad, would they? I'll see you at home.
 
2nd - Rick Vitro (optional)
Rick: Bella's Bagnio, Ricky Rouge on the horn.
Dante: Rick. 
Rick: Dante? Hey. Didn't think I'd hear from you again.
Dante: If a job going to sh*t stopped me then I'd have never seen you after '63. Ettore serve you your slice?
Rick: A box and a half of ziti at the cost of a life. No wonder we stopped rolling. When are you gonna cut him loose?
Dante: Rick, we all grew up in the gulch. Can't just cut someone loose like that.
Rick: F*ck, I did, and I've been doing just swell on that count.
Dante: Yeah, you did. I'll let you know when I wanna take up soliciting closet queens and we can all tell the same tale.
Rick: You do that. Come around and I'll give you a two-for-one special, my treat.
Dante: Don't hold your breath.
 
----
 
Las Venturas Retractor
By Titus Zell
Staff Writer
 
---- A nighttime burglary at Centanni's Meat Market in the North Side has left a man dead and the store light of a religious memento. Salvatore Gemelli was found dead on the premises of his famed pork store on Sequoia Street early this morning. When police arrived and combed the area, they found that a hole had been bored into the women's lavatory under the outside cover of a Post OP boxvan and Gemelli's prized golden crucifix had been filched. "We're relivin' the early years all over again," says Michael Caputo, sergeant with the Las Venturas Police Department. He is referring to the so-called Glory Hole Gang of yesteryear, known for their covert robberies under the cover of night, committed by penetrating the target's vulnerable spots using power tools. The exploits of the gang were previously believed to have come to an end in 1963, when a botched robbery in Mendelson resulted in three dead. With this new development considered, city councilman Robert Decker has vowed to outlaw the nighttime practice of parking vehicles adjacent to dwellings, much to the chagrin of both businessmen and sensible citizens alike.
 
Rumors had been swirling around town of late relating to Mr. Gemelli's organized crime connections to Couira City; within his office safe was over $4,500 in small bills cash and numerous unserialized firearms. District Attorney Duane Banyal declined to comment on any further developments. Mr. Gemelli left behind a fiancée, Miriam Ordóñez, who when approached by The Retractor broke down in tears: "I only wanted green card!" 
 
Mr. Gemelli was 46.

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