Chapter One - Bounty
Michael de Santa walked down the steps from the Richards Majestic movie studios offices, into the golden sunlight. It had been a long day – longer than normal with the city coming under attack. He'd walked with Soloman, assessing the damage as the LSPD maintained a strong presence. Every employed security guard had been called in; holidays canceled and rest day's interrupted. He felt like watching the sun disappear over the ocean, knowing the streets would be quieter than normal. He walked toward his car – a midnight purple convertible Stallion. It was an old car, but Michael preferred the classics. It had a little wear and tear to it – mainly around the wheel arches – but it ran well. He paused, staring at the blob of white on the black soft top. He looked up to the orange sky and sighed.
“f*cking birds,” he said.
He got in and keyed the ignition. The Stallion's V8 engine coughed and reluctantly spluttered to life. As frustrating as that was, Michael knew that, once it got going, the engine would run well. He looked at the time and flattened his suit jacket. There was still a good hour or so of sunlight left, so he might as well make the most of it. He hit the switch to bring the vinyl roof down – a custom feature that cost a figurative arm and leg to get installed; it was Vinewood after all – and drove to the pier to watch the sun set.
He expected the pier to be deserted but there were several people there. Still, there was a somber mood in the air. Leaning on the railing, looking out over the ocean, Michael took a deep drag of a hand-rolled cigarette, then stared at it cynically. He sighed and tossed it into the dark, foamy water half-smoked. He reached into his pocket, pulled out the carton and stared at it. They just weren't doing anything for him anymore, apart from shortening his already pathetic life. He threw them with an annoyed grunt over the railings, too. He stood back.
Might as well go home.
He walked back to his Stallion and headed to the convenience store on San Andreas Avenue. Inside, he looked around, seeing the cashier making no effort to even ask if he needed assistance. He walked up to the counter and pointed at the shelving on the wall. The cashier – a man of middle-eastern descent – looked nervous. Michael knew why the man looked nervous; when things such the day's events happened, people – in fear or anger – tended to look at anyone foreign as responsible. Michael guessed the man had already received a torrent of abuse and perhaps was expecting – or had already been victim to – physical assaults.
“Give me some whiskey, pal,” he said. The cashier turned and reached for a bottle. “No, no, to your right.” The man moved his hand. “Keep going.... Yeah, that one.” Michael couldn't help but take note of the security camera and where the backdoor was. Once a thief, always a thief.
The cashier put the bottle in a bag.
Michael nodded. “Make it two. And grab a beer for yourself; you look like you need it.”
“Thank you, sir,” the man said, exhaling in relief.
With the whiskey paid for, Michael headed home, wishing the man well.
Michael's home was in the Vespucci Canals, on the north side of Imagination Court and Prosperity Street. As he turned off of Prosperity and onto the Imagination Court side street, Michael noticed a familiar truck parked to one side.
“Jesus, what now?” he asked the air, reversing into his parking spot under the apartment building. He raised the roof, locked the car and climbed the steps to his apartment. He waited a moment before managing to open the front door, making sure his pistol was on hand.
The TV was on; Michael could hear the Republican Space Rangers’ annoying trill. He pulled out his gun and crept through the hallway, pausing in the doorway to the living room.
“Put that away, Mikey, Jesus Christ.”
Michael sighed and did as he was told, stepping into the room and out of the shadow of the hallway. Trevor immediately began to laugh.
“Jesus, Michael, you're not looking good,” Trevor said, waving at Michael's rugged appearance.
Michael rubbed his hand across his thick stubble, aware that his scraggly hair needed a cut; there was just no point. “Alright, so I could do with a shave...”
“You look ridiculous.”
“Yeah, well, you look like a sex offender.”
Trevor pointed aggressively toward Michael. “That was never proven.” He looked around. The living room was about half the size of Michael's old one and dark; the curtains were pulled up. There were empty whiskey bottles sitting on the coffee table along with discarded pizza and Chinese takeout boxes. It was still neat by Trevor's standards, but for Michael's? It was a pigsty. “You should hire a maid,” Trevor said sarcastically.
“Sure,” Michael said indifferently, putting the bag of liquor on the coffee table.
“What are you doing with yourself now, Mikey?”
“Working at the movie studios mainly. Why?”
“Must have cost a fair bit, this place.”
“Are you kidding? Most of what I had left went to this place, the car, and movie funds. You know how hard it is to get a movie green-lit these days?”
Trevor waved his hand. “Ah, you get a camera and film a bunch of pricks singing and dancing. So what? I got to say, though, I like it.”
“You like what?”
“This,” Trevor said, sweeping both hands out to gesture at the apartment. “This... sh*thole. So much better than your last house. That wasn't you. This, though... It's small, its dark and dingy and dank –”
“It's not dank.”
“But!” Trevor shouted theatrically, sticking a single finger up. “For you it's cozy. It's homely. Your old house was Los Santos, it was Michael de Santa. This... This is Michael Townley.”
“What are you, a real estate agent? Can the bullsh*t, Trevor. What are you doing here?”
“Can’t a man come and see his long-dead buddy?”
“Jesus, are you still on about that? I thought we were past that.”
“Relax, cupcake. Open your curtains, get some sun in –”
“It's nighttime, Trevor.”
“Well go get a caffeine enema or a manicure, or whatever it is you Los Santonians do. Oh, and you really need to restock your fridge.”
“I've got all I need.”
“Oh, you mean the bottles of beer? ”
Michael sighed. “Yeah.”
“Yeah, see... you kinda don't.” Trevor lifted up an empty bottle.
“Jesus, Trevor, what the hell?”
“Hey, you took forever to come home.” Trevor leaned forward, placing the beer on the table. “But relax, big guy, I didn't touch your whiskey, or your left-over junk food and microwave meals-for-one.”
“How kind of you.”
Trevor sighed, slumping heavily back on the sofa. “Sit down, big guy.” He slapped the sofa beside him. Michael did so.
Trevor lowered his voice. “They still not seen the light?”
“No, and I can't say I blame them.”
“They just don't appreciate you like I do.”
“Give it a rest, Trevor. You know whenever I see you I don't know if you're going to kill me or hug me.”
“It's an endless battle,” Trevor said, his voice reanimating. “But seriously, you don't need them. Look at me, I'm–”
“T, what the hell’s going on? I'm not after life advice and you stink of sweat and gunpowder and now my beer.”
Trevor sighed and thumbed the TV remote. Weazel News 24 flashed up, reporting on a shootout at an airstrip near Sandy Shores. Over a dozen men were dead, after reports of gunfire and explosions.
Trevor said. “They've been going on about this all night, and whatever the hell's been going on down here.”
“Well after today, that's not surprising, but considering you're here... What the f*ck did you do?”
“Got into a little fight with the Russians.” Trevor shook his head.
“So why are you here?”
“They stabbed me in the back.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
“You’re the expert at that, I figured you might have some advice.”
“You know what?” Michael jumped to his feet. “Screw you, Trevor.”
“Maybe later,” Trevor winked but turned serious again. “I want to repay the favor.”
“Again; what’s this got to do with me?”
“I want you to talk to Lester. Get some intel on these guys.”
“Jesus, Trevor. You could have contacted Lester yourself. What, you’re going to fight the Russian Mafia?”
“If it comes to it, yeah. Not in an all-out, straight up fight. I'm not stupid. But think guerrilla warfare. You know, use their weaknesses against them and all that.”
“I'm not sure the Russians have any weaknesses, T.”
“Everyone has weaknesses, Michael.”
“Even me.” Trevor's words were drawn out and emphasized.
“Go on then, what’s yours?”
“I love too much. Come here.” Trevor said, opening his arms.
“You’re f*cking crazy,” Michael said, picking up what he hoped was at least a half-full bottle of beer. It was empty. “If you’ve pissed the Russians off, then you’re f*cked. In fact, get the f*ck out of here.” He pointed to the door. “I don’t want them coming here looking for you.”
Again Trevor waved at Michael's apartment. “Because this is so much better? Whatever happened to the old Michael, Michael? The one who'd bring the fight to the enemy instead of getting into bed with them?
“He got old.”
“He got pathetic. So you won’t even help a friend in need?”
“Not if it means getting my head cut off, Trevor.”
“They won’t cut your head off, Michael. They’re all dead.”
“Then who are you trying to get back at?”
“Then they’re not all dead.”
“Alexi Morodov and his men are, yes, but his boss is who I hold personally responsible for f*cking up an otherwise pleasant evening.”
“And all you want is for me to talk to Lester?”
“He’ll listen to you more than me.”
“You'd be better to just let it go, Trevor.” Trevor stared and Michael sighed. “Fine, but you’ve got to get out of here. Stay away from my home Trevor. I've had enough sh*t for one day.”
“Oh, ‘f*ck you’, leave me out there to die, is that it?”
“No it ain't like that and you know it. But not here – never here. If they just tried to kill you, which I'm guessing is what that's about,” Michael pointed at the TV, “then there's a good chance they'll be looking for you, and you're not leading them here if they follow you.”
“They won't be looking for me yet, and they won't be looking for me here, anyway.”
“You can't know that.”
“Fine,” Trevor said, standing. He picked up the beer bottle and turned to leave, pausing in the door way. “Talk to Lester.” A moment later the front door slammed.
* * *
The next day was overcast, as though the skies were morning the violence the city had seen previously. There was a chill in the air, enough to warrant a light jacket.
“The Russians?” Lester was visibly and audibly puzzled. Michael had driven to his home on Amarillo Vista; both men were reluctant to talk on the phone.
“We are talking about Trevor, remember?”
“He’d be better to just walk away.”
“You think you can tell him that?”
Lester sighed. “I suppose. What’s he want then?”
“For you to dig up some dirt on them.”
“Alright, I can do that. But keep your distance from this one. Only Russians I know about are not nice people.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I told him to keep this sh*t away from me.”
“Did he listen?”
Michael shrugged. “Again–”
“'You know Trevor.' Of course. We’ll trade the information on the down-low.. Then, you give it to Trevor.”
“Why not just give it to Trevor yourself?”
“You came to me, remember? And I don't particularly want a new best friend, least of all a Russian one.”
Michael sighed. “Okay.”
* * *
It took less than a day. Michael, in shorts, an open Hawaiian shirt, sandals and shades walked toward the beach, the weather having reverted to the typical warmth of southern San Andreas. Lester was sitting on a bench, looking out at the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean, a box of donuts on his lap.
Michael sat beside him and lit a cigarette. He took a deep drag and exhaled, aware that he'd thrown his last lot away. Was it habit or addiction? He didn't know; the cigarette soothed him.
“Fine view,” Michael said.
“Yes, it is,” Lester replied. He held the box of donuts up. “Donut?”
“Yeah,” Michael took the box and selected a donut. Below the donuts was a small folder containing the information Trevor wanted. He took a bite, closing the lid and looked out across the beach.
“What we spoke about,” Lester said. “It’s serious business. Keep your distance.”
“Don’t worry; I don’t want anything to do with it.”
“Keep it that way is what I say.”
“Don’t worry, Lest,” Michael said, standing. “Like I said, I don’t want a part of it.”
“Good,” Lester said. Michael stood, walked off, and once he was far enough from Lester, dialed Trevor. He arranged a meeting out by the Vinewood sign.
Trevor was sitting on the hood of his truck when Michael pulled up. From inside the donut box, Michael pulled out a small manila envelope and got out of his car. He slapped it into Trevor’s hands.
“Why is this sticky?” Trevor asked.
Michael shook his head. “That’s it, alright?”
“That’s it? What is this, Michael?”
“I don’t want any of this. I’ve got my own problems to worry about, and looking over my shoulder for crazy Russians isn’t my idea of fun.”
“You have no sense of adventure,” Trevor almost yelled.
“You keep going down this road, and you’re gonna get yourself killed.”
“They started it, Michael. I'm not like you, I won’t just roll over and let them f*ck me.”
Michael turned back to his car. “Fine, whatever. Just keep it all away from me.”
He drove through the hills for a while – for two reasons. Firstly, he needed to cool off. Secondly, he wanted to make sure no one was following him. He didn't think anyone was. He was just pulling into his carport when his phone rang again. He looked down at it and sighed.
“We’ve got a problem.”
“What do you mean?”
“Meet me. Now.”
“I told you, Trevor, that's it.”
“That's it? That's it?! That's not it, Michael. I'm not joking around. Meet me. Now.”
Michael sighed again. “Alright. Where?”
“Somewhere quiet. And don't bring that attitude with you.”
Michael looked out of the Stallion's window, at his small apartment. He thought about what his life was. Trevor had called it; his life was pathetic, a far cry from his old life. He did miss it, but those days were behind him. Hell, he said to himself, all days are behind me. “The oil field,” he said, giving in.
“I’ll see you there.”
Michael changed gear and made a quick U-turn. He certainly wasn't about to go all out and draw attention to himself, but he drove with urgency. He reached the oil fields soon enough. He accelerated hard up the hill and pulled the E-brake,coming to a dusty stop, just feet from Trevor. Michael leaped out of the car.
“What the hell’s going on?”
“What about them?”
“About me.” Trevor sighed and handed Michael his phone. Listen.”
Michael listened to the answerphone message and his blood ran cold. The message said, in no uncertain terms, that there was a price on Trevor's head.
“Are they following you?” Michael demanded. “Have they followed you to my home? They want to kill you. I told you, Trevor, didn’t I say?”
“Yeah, well it’s too late for I-told-you-sos, isn't it? No, they didn't follow me here. They didn't follow me to you.”
“Really,” Michael said in an unbelieving tone.
“Think about it. If they did, they'd be here now. Look around.”
Michael did so. There was an uneasy quiet around them. In the distance the traffic scrolled by on the nearby freeway with a soft sighing which merged with the gentle breeze that rustled the leaves of bushes. A helicopter silently crawled across the sky over downtown and an unseen bird sang a brief song. He saw no one else. They were alone.
“What the hell happened?”
Trevor shook his head. “We had a deal. They decided they didn’t care about our agreement. They made a move.”
“And surprise, surprise, you survived.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
Michael shrugged. “So what, this is some sort of revenge?”
“Looks like it. I had a deal a while ago with one of their guys. We'd been doing business for a while, but this time we were jumped. I guess they blame me.”
“And what the hell does it have to do with me?!”
Trevor shrugged. “I thought you could help.”
“Figures. They think you f*cked them over, you run right to me. Jesus, Trevor, I didn't have any part of this. What do you want from me?”
“I'm thinking you might have an idea.”
Michael shrugged. He walked in a rough circle, pacing the dry ground while his mind raced. “Well, we might be able to pay them off.”
“Pay them off?”
“Yes. They're businessmen, right? Like Mardrazo, if we give them something big enough...”
“What, then? How much?”
“How much, Trevor? How much are you willing to part with?”
“I never said I was going to pay them out of my pocket.”
“Well I don't have much, you know that.”
“And that's careless of you.”
“Then we get some more.”
“What are you asking of me, Trevor? A comeback tour.”
“And what happens when they do it again?”
“They won’t do it again if they’re dead.”
Michael laughed. “Nah-uh. Ain't gonna happen, T. No way can you take out the entire Russian Mafia. Can’t be done. It’d be suicide.”
“It worked with Devin and Merryweather, didn’t it?”
“Goddammit, Trevor. We got lucky, then. That Percival guy threw us a bone. Haines was just corrupt, so it died with them, not to mention they were much smaller than the damned Russian mafia. Now you've got an entire crazy gang of mercenaries after you. Jesus, a little field-craft wouldn’t have gone amiss. Thanks to you I might be in the sh*t, and I didn’t even do anything!”
“Call it penance for Brad. I don’t care.”
“That's just it; you don't care. Not about me, or anyone else but yourself.” Michael sighed and walked around, perplexed.
Trevor gave it a moment. “If we pay them off, we won't need to fight them. Like you said; make it worth it.”
After a moment, Michael turned back. “Do you have a target in mind?”
“Not yet. A bank, I guess.”
“f*ck, T. Man, this is some heavy sh*t.”
“You can always run away again.”
Michael shook his head. “I… You know what? f*ck you.”
“f*ck me? No, f*ck you!” Trevor roared. He took a few steps away and took a breath before turning back. “You think Franklin will be on board?”
Michael shrugged. “I don't know, and this isn't his fight. It ain't fair on him to pull him down, too.”
“Life isn't fair, Michael.”
“Yeah,” Michael breathed. “Tell me a-f*cking-bout it.”
Next Chapter: Franklin