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Grand Theft Auto: Bohemians & Blackjack


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  • 2 months later...

uQ40I9u.png

 

Last remnants of the city’s famous fog dissipating with the humidity, make your way to the coffee cart under the I-75 viaduct -- Julius soaking in the just-risen sun, pink sky, jean-jacketed, pep in his step: a welcome change when he’s left to his own devices. Cart coffee means no sugar, milk galore; J tosses some extra change to the old git hanging his livelihood on the caffeine urges of early morning industrial workers and keeps on: under the roaring overpass and into the Intrepid courtyard, vans chuffing through potholes behind him. 

 

He walks and sips but slows on sight -- a cream Dundreary Brigand parked by the side entrance. Off-kilter. Empty but engine humming away. He moves to the side, looks around, up at the sun just come up -- makes his way to the red metal door and pounds it with a closed fist and waits and drinks almost-white coffee.

 

Nobody answers.

 

Pounds again, waits.

 

Nobody answers.

 

Jules mutters, sips from the cup and looks around streetwise -- gets his gaze cut short by the door opening a crack, half a moon face peeking out.

 

Nasal voice.  “I can help you?”

 

Russian voice. 

 

“Yeah, I work here, my man. Like to get inside, get my day going if you don’t mind.”

 

“Euh, we work on the pipes. Is very dangerous and toxical, come back tomorrow, we finished then. Good day!”

 

He starts shutting the door but not fast enough -- Julius knows the play, flatfoot kicks the steel and sends it reeling into baldy’s head: badly grabs at it and flies flat onto his back trilling his Rs:

 

“Ах! Приходи за этим ублюдком!”

Ah! Come get this bastard!

 

Jules steps in and catches sight of what he’s in for -- tosses still-too-hot coffee onto bald screamer’s face and makes him scream more, sees two more goons up by the offices: one beating on a cowering Zeke, the other going toe-to-toe with a Winston matching his blows, calling for help once he sees you’ve arrived.

 

Pick and choose who you're gonna help, though Winny’s doing pretty good; head up to Zeke and slam a Soviet into a desk, wipe it clean with his face and throw him to the ground. Quick work, Zeke doesn't get out from under, just mumbling something beyond ears.

 

Win’s on top of the other guy but it ain't nothin’ pretty, Jules all charitable with his fists after a short brawl, picking the guy up by the collar and slamming him into the rowed-up bikes.

 

Totally f*cks him up.

 

Bikes topple like dominoes and gets the guy pinned down, other two Russians scramble off screaming their ‘cyka’s and ‘blyat’s while the guy under the bike hollers for mercy.

 

“Давай, мистер Блэк, давай! Не делай этого!”

Come on, Mr. Black, come on! Don't do this!

 

Win turns to Jules, puts hands up: “We’ve done enough,” he says. “Knuckle sandwich ‘fore breakfast’ll make any man learn a lesson.”

 

“So let him just f*cking walk?”

 

Win has sympathetic frown on, put it into practice or… don't. Guy has to go anyway, so pull him out the bike wailing with the handle digging into his gut, but you have a choice; let him join his buddies outside relatively unbruised, or throw another few punches while he's down. Maybe a kick, maybe a boot sole. Maybe turn his face into goddamn paste.

 

However many pieces he’s in Jules tosses him straight out the metal door -- goon clamors into the goon car with his goon friends, the driver shifts it into reverse and pulls a uwee and guns it out and off the curb and onto the street. He heads back inside incensed, Win now crouched down and tending to Zeke lying back-up against the wall. Air stiff and quiet, Jules makes a beeline for Freddy’s office, yells over the wall to unlock the motherf*cker. You hear a chair scrape concrete from behind -- when it clicks open J rebounds it into the doorstop and you know he’s incensed.

 

“The f*ck is wrong with you?!”

 

Freddy plays superior in lack of his office chair: palms flat on the desk but measured. “Ain’t got the right talking to me like that.”

 

“Damn straight I do Freddy, take a step out this hole and look at what you got done to Zeke. We your sons, huh? I told you to get this sh*t sorted out, told you I’d lend a hand. We went down to the docks to meet those f*ckin’ mob cats you said things were on the upswing -- now we got Russkie bruisers knockin’ on doors and beating the sh*t outta your employees.” Julius takes a breather. “The f*ck you done, Freddy?”

 

Freddy half-flips sh*t, charges forward in a motion punching some invisible Russian in the air before him: “I said it ain’t your place to be talking to me like that, goddamn it! You ain’t gonna twist and turn this into something it ain’t -- long as you’re on my payroll you’re under my spell, you hear me? Not the other way around, son, ain’t never gonna be the other way around where you get to play the judge.”

 

“Cash that pride in an’ bring it up to East Grennie then.” Julius waits for a response, gets met with sheepishness in a bowed head. “Nah, doesn’t work like that, huh. So give the chain of command a break and tell me what you did, why these motherf*ckers are still coming around, why Zeke’s on the other side ‘a this wall bleeding onto the concrete. C’mon!”

 

On with a sigh, Freddy pauses: “Debt. It’s debt, always debt -- property taxes on this place alone, Carol’s radiotherapy. Took out a title loan for the last course of it and now the car’s gone. Just up and took it. Been walking here the past two weeks, you know that? Been here since ‘56 and business ain’t what it used to be by a long shot. Folk used to value the discretion, the intrepidity, hell, it’s up on the sign. How many Post OP vans you see piling down Conquest nowadays? Ain’t how it was supposed to be, son, I’m just… I’m half-sunk. A life in arrears.”

 

“How it’s always been.”

 

“No, ain’t supposed to be a slave to the dollar. No one can serve two masters. But you just take one out to cover the last and it’s just dominoes… just ain’t how it should be.”

 

“Then you cut your losses and sell this f*ckin’ money sink once and for all. Told you I’d help out, not find out you’ve gone to every shark in the city ready to send a goon squad down to the workplace if you ain’t giving ‘em your first-born.”

 

“Enough.” The tone warbles. “Enough of this. I ain’t selling. I’ll see this through.”

 

Julius doesn’t give it time to register. “You’re gonna see it through alone. See how it goes next time they come a-knockin’, then.” He clicks tongue, turns on his heel but stops short on the way out. “Don’t have to worry ‘bout paying your employees for today at least, huh? Get the bikes fixed, Freddy. Gonna need ‘em you wanna work this sh*t off.”

 

A beeline for the exit while the scene holds on Freddy grabbing the chair, dragging it back to the desk all gentle-like and silent and his gaze getting moony -- you’re back on Jules as he looks over to see Win crouched by Zeke’s side, latter cupping his face over bloodsoaked corduroy and mumbling: “Could’ve had ‘em, man, son of a bitch caught me off guard, f*ck”. 

 

Julius still has a fire under his ass but stops in his tracks, asks “You good?”

 

Win stands up, helps Zeke to his feet. “Fine, man. Never better.” 

 

Not fine, probably better -- wobbly, blood drip-dripping onto gasoline-tinted floor, spattering. 

 

“Your eye’s all kinds of f*cked up.”

Win tries giving it a little exam, Zeke swats his hand away. “Said I’m ace. Gonna call a cab, crash at my girl’s while she’s at work.” Touches his eye, cringes. “To hell with this, man, soon as eyes start f*ckin’ bleeding I think it’s time to say the jig is up, curtains down.”

 

Julius inches his way to the exit, not really listening, not able to stay still while Zeke goes on, feet fidgeting--

 

“Ain’t no line of work worth that, least of all moving packages A to B. I’m outta here.”

 

-- over when Win gives Zeke a pat on the shoulder, maybe-goodbyes-maybe-farewells that Jules matches with a half-assed wave from ten feet away and a tepid “Be in touch.”

 

The crash bar calls Julius’s palms and the screen floods with daylight, moments passing then him placid outside, you get the impression that even he doesn’t know why he’s so goddamn keyed up. When Winston joins him he’s eyeing a dead manzanita in the parking lot median; you get an eyeful of taupe death sprawling over the Russian skid marks.

 

“‘Hell’s your rush?”

 

“Can’t f*ckin’ breathe in there.”

 

Kinda directionless, Jules starts to wander from where he came -- finds a shadow in Winston. You’re in control now with a mainline to Jules’ thoughts: back to the car parked in an alley further down Witwicki, little spot for the cream machine absent meter maids and the worry of an odd patrol car or rocks flying off mud flaps. 

 

Sun shines from cloudless blue, shade pockets ahead in low umbrage: overpass, commercial signage, overpass, smokestack, all passed in silence as you make the jaunt with work boots slapping sidewalk. Car’s parked in the shadow mesh of chain link -- slide onto the bucket seat, let Winston do the same, let them stew for a moment before J kicks the car on in stationery, radio quick-blasting Summertime until he dials it down.

 

Hit the gas -- don’t matter where long as the wheels start rolling on tar.

“Guess we got the day off,” Winston says.

 

“Guess we ain’t getting paid.”

 

“Ain’t all about it, Jules. Must be months since we’ve seen each other outside work-home, work-home. We were still in Van Buren, used to be every night we’d be out on the street together, y’know -- Mushin Tiger, Hep City. Smoke and deep blue, Gaudi coming alive with soul. You don’t miss that? Being out in it, among the people, sights, smells. Anything but holed up behind the arch or dealin’ dope for would-be fascists.”

 

Snickers. “Would-be fascists?”

 

“One foot in. Read the paper yourself or next time hold back before tellin’ me ‘bout your exploits -- Dirk Dunne, Jules? You seen what cats like him’re doin’ in the correctional system, to it, to the brothers up at San Lucio? Don’t go tellin’ me you’re still this naive after the last ten years, gimme that, huh? Next time you lay eyes on SS bolts you best be putting bullets into ‘em.”

 

“Man, you can talk. Point is that putting bullets in my employers ain’t gon’ pay the rent, Win. And I know you’re finally warming to Matilda Baby, landlord or not girl got some fire under her.”

 

Winston relents and reaches for jokes. “Don’t you talk to me about rent and landlords, boy.”

 

“Don’t call me boy.”

 

Laughter for a moment - you know it’s been a while. “Let’s go up Birchwood.”

 

“f*ck’s in Birchwood ‘sides the Squeezers and tree ‘pon tree?”

 

Objective fades in. Utterances beside, you’re going up Birchwood.

 

“Lots. Like the brothers and sisters I been trying to introduce you to for the past six months yet you always seem to have an excuse primed and ready to avoid. Gonna have a harder time doin’ that today, huh?”

 

“Man, I just don’t feel like socializing…”

 

“Oh Jules, please, brother, you sound like pops.”

 

Sets him off, “Winston, you’re full a’ sh*t - you know who sounds like pops? f*ckin’ Freddy, you know that? f*ckin’ Freddy and his woe-is-me, big man prideful bullsh*t. Freddy ain’t gonna sell the depot, Freddy can’t admit he lost the game ‘cause he already in it too deep. Just like our father.”

 

“Knew something was clawing at you in there. Y’know,” clears his throat, “least Freddy still stands by his woman, right? Running himself into debt half to keep her alive. Carol’s a sweetheart and I gotta admire him for that. Ain’t every man got the heart.”

 

“What you gettin’ at, Winston?”

 

By now you should be up on the overpass just built above 5th Street - newly painted tar looking dead at the General Coombs Bridge’s prolonged span into Birchwood, other end cloaked in trees.

 

“Can’t say the same about pops.”

 

You drive along but Julius stays quiet. “I don’t wanna talk about her, man.”

 

“Fine.” He knows it’s best to change subjects. Picks infrastructure. “When’s the last time you crossed General Coombs to settle into town proper?”

 

“Squeezers christening the Hippodrome, whenever that was. sh*t, and I was with Sheila. First and only.”

 

“I’ll never understand boxing yourself off in those city limits, Jules. It’s a whole ‘nother world out here - same struggles but a different people, you know? Not that San Fierro doesn’t have the energy but these people aren’t transplants. Birchwood’s a community with a soul, Birchwood-”

 

Interrupts, “It’s admirable but I saw plenty of worlds when we crossed the country, Winston, plenty of people. And now I’m here, we’re here, we got steady work - or we did, least, after ten years playin’ nomad - so either way Imma plant myself here on Earth for as long as I can.”

 

You’ve passed over the warehouses on Hoja Laurel Island, maybe through the fog caught an eyeful of tenements in the midst of a construction warzone ‘sides the military base on Boteen: in the home stretch of a bridge that you might just now be realizing has an ungodly span, know you’ve reached Birchwood when you pass the toll booth being erected for westbound traffic only - state gov ever capitalizing on the ratrace suckers stampeding into the Iron City every morning. The way in ain’t cinematic: slightly raised off ramp making way over the docks, horizontal sprawl of rooftops and chimneys billowing off the tar and into clear blue sky and far-off residentials, greenery kicks in onto the main streets. Red perennials and sequoias planted in the medians on one side and the nascent legs of to-be elevated FUGMI tracks sitting in mud on the other.

 

Urbanity’s little sister. Cute.

 

“Welcome to Birchwood, brother my brother.”

 

Winston knows you’re new, directs you at intersections for your benefit. You’re headed down south city, not-so-glorified suburbs not far off the highway and met with green signage on pillars before long: WELCOME TO BIRCHWOOD and an outline of a birch tree flanked by cultured hedges, prompts J to ask, “Y’all even got birches out here?”

 

“Some. Ain’t native so don’t ask me why it’s in the name.”

 

“Settlers and politicians, man.”

 

Before hitting the streets down off the interstate you pass the docks - influx of stevedores toting crates from branded warehouse to van, slogan-slapped sign paintings and red angry foremen.

 

Kommissar Shipyards once upon a time.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you? Ain’t like you come out here to live up the history or nothing. Men running from Jim Crow with just the clothes on their backs, their Bible, and the promise of betterment as if social segregation was any better out here in lack of legislation. Saw the value in unionizing only to get shunted off into the auxiliary leagues. You know, for the coloreds, the off-woman. Same story here as in Bahialado. Terra Alta. Same story all over, Jules.”

 

Gets cut short by intersection hubbub, trio of panhandlers going car-to-car with mason jars and elevator pitches. Stop at the light and you’re faced with the option to play dead or give in: Winston does anyway, either commends the show of sympathy or chides you for rebuffing charity depending on your choice when the man makes it to your window, disheveled and desperate.

 

“You know what this reminds me of? This motherf*cker reminds me a’ home, Win. Showy public works and alien trees playin’ up the triumph of industry ‘til you see where people actually livin’, ‘cept so far we got docks and birch ‘stead of Standard Engines and elm.”

 

“You’re starting to get it. The elms gettin’ chopped down by the dozen back home anyway. You read that?”

 

“I read. Dutch elm disease or something. Hope ours is still around, you know. Used to love that tree.”

 

“Bullsh*t on the rot - it’s retribution for the riots, Jules. How CPD gonna see what’s going on through the windows of every house in the brothers’ neighborhoods with these hulking elms out front? The gears of state repression mesh, pigs and the goddamn forestry department.”

 

Dead grass, broken white pickets and cracked asphalt. You’re in the dregs - literally called The Dregs, term flipped on its head and embraced wholesale by the populace, residential crash pad knockoff Victorians stretching from Alberga Park down to Balfour Boulevard. Fifteen year old cars line Leandros Ave at odd angles, single black dude sauntering down the sidewalk, cigarette between lips, leather-jacketed and black bereted. 

 

J laughs: “Look at that sh*t, Win, brother’s got a shottie.” 

 

“Yeah. Ammo dud since Hogan signed the act but there’s such a thing as a deterrent factor.”

 

“Man…”

 

Slow roll: you’re home. Rowhouse peeling red chips, big wooden stake making itself known: LEOPARDS OF LEANDROS. 

 

“Man, this is not what I was expecting.”

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 

Keep the car at the curb and follow Winston’s lead; he’s not waiting. Bunch of guys just chilling on the front porch on this big tattered couch, more men of leather and berets and lapel pins of varying revolutionary bent, Pisswasser bottles on the rotting wood and Mosswoods leaned up on the siding. Lonnie’s Lament coming from somewhere, they rise when Winston climbs the steps and one by one they dap all smiles and greetings.

 

“This your brother? Like your brother brother? Damn, how come we ain’t met him before?”

 

Julius hovers on the steps.

 

Then you go inside.

 

Almost pitch black ‘sides a table lamp draped with fabric, it’s about half a dozen deep and smoke-thick, couches and a table full up: books, newspapers galore, big-ass revolver and wine bottles. Wine bottles and paper cups.

 

This kid, really a kid, lanky and fresh-faced and 5’5’’ at best in full get-up, blindfolding some other kid before picking a Stud Defender up off the couch and handing it to him - meanwhile Winston takes the opportunity to hold back with J, whisper names: “Kid’s Donnie, he’s our treasurer. Brother on the couch is Elijah, just came back from Laos with some articles, knows his way around weapons.”

 

Elijah’s got a shoulder holster and a stopwatch: he hits it and the blindfolded kid gets to work disassembling the entire rifle as the rest look on in full focus, does the job quick and by the time Winston’s leading you up the stairs to the second floor he’s already putting it back together.

 

“Sh*t feels verboten, Win.”

 

“Think we gotta pride ourselves on that.”

 

Bedroom turned war room. No bed no nothing - an assembly of folding chairs and a desk in the back corner with a familiar face at the seat: Roxanne primped as ever, head down with nose scrawling notes. She doesn't notice.

 

Leon does.

 

Leon King is this confident motherf*cker with a firm face and a thinker’s eyes and a smirk with his hands greased - one hand deep in a bucket of Cluckin’ Bell, the other coyly clasped around paper cup wine. He's got a comrade to his side, a similar face with unkempt facial hair and a deep scar running down the side. Both have Afros, both have leathers. He's talking federals, some chick named Julia, but it doesn't matter.

 

Leon drops it. Stands. Gets a wet wipe off a table and cleans the palms before extending his to Julius. You get a better look at the outfit; tucked in white t-shirt, olive slacks, a little red book peeking out the front like a gangster with a gun in the waistband. You think it's a handshake but he switches, goes in for the dap instead.

 

“Brother of my brother, I--”

 

Winston doesn't care, “All due respect, Leon--”

 

“Ain't respectful interruptin’.”

 

“Important.” Winston stops, reaffirms, a man not used to confrontation. “I'm just- with all due respect, are you sure about Donnie working on the arms? I'm just sayin' that ain't a job just for anyone, just sayin' maybe Elijah'd be a better fit.”

 

Leon pauses. “Don't know about that. Think he does fine.”

 

Scarface sits up, “State Capitol is the State Capitol. Brother’s proven himself. Proven himself to us, Eucarista, the f*ckin’ world.”

 

“Laverne’s right.” Scarface has a name. “I think he's capable.”

 

Winston stops, like he's about to say something.

 

Doesn't. Throws hands, resigns. Moves for Roxy. Leon watches him as he goes with eagles eyes before snapping vision straight onto Jules, pearly white smile again.

 

“Julius.”

 

“King.”

 

“Julius… what’re your thoughts on Standard Engines, Jules? Lemme start there. What're your thoughts on Carcer City?”

 

Blink. “I-, well… can't exactly call me a fan. Bullsh*t.”

 

Winston from the other side of the room, “C’mon, Leon--”

 

“Thoughts on the war?”

 

“Think it's bullsh*t, too,” Jules replies.

 

“You're sayin' the right things, brother.” Leon’s look hardens. “Just ain't sayin' them with passion. Without spirit. It's apathy and it ain't detestation, apathy that capitalism designs. You detest, and that's the revolutionary spirit's beginning.”

 

“I don't feel nothin’.”

 

“Feelin', brother,” Leon says, “is what change is built on. Feelin' is understanding, understandin' beyond apathy that we live in a system that preys upon the colored man in pursuit of capital. Cynicism is a start, but cynicism for cynicism don't get you nowhere. Gets your teeth grind' in with boot heels by men that wanna keep it that way. Motherf*ckers love cynicism.”

 

“Man’s The Man. Can't stop the grinding, ‘cause they’ll keep grindin’ ‘til they can't stop. No man or no bullets is gonna end that.”

 

“That ain't very revolutionist a’ you.”

 

“Revolution don't change nothin’. Flash in a pan won't do sh*t, never has.”

 

“That, my friend,” Leon’s grinning but it's a hard grin, a knowing grin, “is where I’m gonna show you ya’ wrong. The Man hates us, hates us hard: but hates you cynically. If the status quo’s still around in twenty years those motherf*ckers’ll have canonized us into limpdick activists the oppressed class can look up to, halo ‘round the mugshots. Put a motherf*cker on a t-shirt. To dupe the proletariat, emasculate our image, diminish the reality of direct action and blunt the very edge got Forsythe's dick so hard right now, you feel me? That's cynicism. Cynicism ain't change, it's knowin' things are bad and makin' a buck without sayin' nothin.”

 

“Makin’ a buck without sayin’ nothin’ is a specialty of mine.”

 

Leon laughs, “Speciality of The Man, too,” he says. “But they ain't you. They don't break windows 'less it's the pigs doing it. They got that privilege. You can work within that without blinkin' but all it's gonna do is wind you down.”

 

Leon breaks, paces around the room and keeps on for effect: “Great man once said knowledge ain't nothin' if you don't put that sh*t into action. Great man was right. Used to sell that great man's quotes to phony white liberals down Turbayne U for fifty cents on the dollar, 'cause white kids had that cynicism but wanted to do somethin' more. You gotta speak truth to power to change somethin', Jules. Truth to power with a soul - look The Man dead in his eye and refuse to blink. That's revolution. You capable? Or you a cop?”

 

There's a ringing silence a moment as everyone kinda watches. Laverne’s by the chairs nodding head in awe, Roxy and Winston in the corner with these half-smiles, silently agreeing. Whole room is waiting for a rebuttal.

 

Jules doesn't have one but the front doesn’t falter. “Maybe.”

 

“You remind me a’ me, Jules. Once upon a time I was pissed off all silent-like, didn’t care for the world ‘cause I knew it didn't care for me. That's naïve. But naïve’s what they call us, right?”

 

“I seen the headlines. I ain't sure that's what it is.”

 

Another laugh from Leon, “Maybe, brother, maybe,” hard-pats Jules on the shoulder. “I gotta talk to Laverne. Party calls.”

 

Jules gets the message - nods, leaves. Heads for room corner, for Roxanne embedded in paperwork. She looks up and smiles and Julius does the same twice as nervous.

 

“How you doing?”

 

“I’m fine, Julius. Yourself?”

 

“Oh I’m smooth, finally got to meet the magnetic Leon King in the flesh.” Leans in, puts palms on stained walnut. “Look, girl. I’m sorry about the other day, y’know? Busting heads. Just, I mean, just ain’t never been the one to-- I ain’t the kind of person gon’--”

 

“It’s alright.”

 

“It’s alright?”

 

“Yeah, it’s alright. The magnetic Leon King? I grew up with him, Julius. Had him ‘round the corner every boy I ever dated, was by his side every cause he ever found a passion in and saw every hit, kick, and blow he dealt in support. That the other day weren’t nothing, take my word.”

 

Julius falls quiet and turns around, watches the men in huddle. Camera fixes on his gaze, Roxy in the peripheral over his shoulder.

 

Voice distant. “This ain’t what I was expecting.”

 

“Yeah, Winston said as much but hell if he wasn’t anxious for the day. You read our ten point program?”

 

Spins back around. “Yeah, your uh… your what?”

 

She digs through papers, tosses a side some magazine gone face-up: artwork of cops depicted as pigs and little black school children blowing their brains out with guns while shouting, “Power to the people! Death to all fascist pigs!”

 

Dope.

 

Slides a paper across: “Ten-Point Program. Self-determination and the means to achieve it, no negotiation. At least read it so I know someone has - spent three hours transcribing it for Leon last year.”

 

“A’ight. Sure.”

 

Takes it. Folds it. Heads back to the boys without being called.

 

“--’cause disorderly conduct’s all they got left when a brother ain’t carrying heat or literature and ain’t yet been beaten down enough to revert to his ‘yessuh’s and ‘nosuh mistah officer’s. Ain’t a demonstrable charge, s’why they only added it to the books in the last decade.”

 

Laverne: “Be that as it may, bail pool’s short a dub. Jerome’s the only brother on task who still hasn’t pitched in.”

 

“What’s he on?”

 

“Sellin’ the papers down by the bakery.”

 

Leon sees Jules hanging back and doesn’t hesitate.

 

“Julius, brother Julius. You ready to take care of something for us?”

 

“Huh?”

 

Winston now, “We got a kid selling our papers up on Spruce Street, you know, the color line, name’s Jerome. Good boy, forgetful though, only one hasn’t chipped into the bail pool for one of our incarcerated brothers been jailed on trumped up charges.”

 

Leon: “Bullsh*t charges, epitomized.”

 

“You want me to uh, help sell newspapers?”

 

Laverne speaks, “We all earn our keep. No task too small, brother.”

 

Air is stagnant. Winston shoots his brother a grin.

 

Pressure gives: “Fine, sure, whatever. I’ll help a motherf*cker sell the funnies.”

 

Leon walks up with some swagger as per. “Ain’t nothing funny about our papers, but you’ll see. Shame we ain’t had a chance to rap one-on-one, feel like it’d be a good one.”

 

“That weren’t rapping?”

 

“No. But for a motherf*cking stud like you, like me, the conversation’ll keep. Get to steppin’, brother. We’ll be celebrating back here later tonight, you’re more than welcome. We’ll see what we can do about a good talk after a little victory like this.”

 

That’s it. He turns his back.

 

Your cue to leave. Winston half-waves you out the door - speed-hop down the creaky staircase, past the guys on the couch now just chilling to Coltrane, back into daylight and overgrown lawns and broken fence posts and the Gaia. 

 

Spruce Street. Sure.

 

Going the other way, time to see that Birchwood’s alive - down the rest of Leandros you pass by slices of life - women hanging laundry on front yard clotheslines, men with durags hanging out on car hoods and watching the car drive by, residents walking with big dogs and old men playing chess in Alberga Park and drinking coffee and chewing celery. The bakery isn’t far, easy enough to follow the street signs - though Leandros’ is missing - that you can pull up to the corner in two minutes flat.

 

Kid’s right there hawking the papers. Really another kid - the uniform and all cloaking this lanky frame, beady eyes, no face scruff. Sighs: “What’s this motherf*cker’s name again?” 

 

Jerome. 

 

The motherf*cker’s name is Jerome.

 

Jules hops out, gets bombarded with the pitch until tapering him down with a hand: “Hey mister, hey mister, The Leandros Leopard, paper’s here, only 75 cents, grab ‘em while you can, hey…”

 

“Jerome, hey, chill out.” Chills out. “Got sent by your, uh, headquarters. By Leon, said I was supposed to help out with this,” looks at his setup, pile of papers, nothing else, “somehow.”

 

“You rapped with Leon?” immediately gives up the spiel, “Damn, man, why didn’t you say so?”

 

“I did--I, I did. Right away.”

 

“Man.” He bleeds disappointment in you. God knows why. “Man I know I’m behind on the pitch-in, a’ight? But I got, uh--” checks pockets, “I got like twelve dollars here. We sell, I dunno, another twenty papers and I’ll be square ‘fore the end a’ the day.”

 

“We?”

 

“Yeah, we. Ain’t you here to help out?”

 

“Guess so.”

 

“Then get on over here, brother.”

 

He’s disarmed. Warming.

 

Jules slogs up next to him, draws it out like he’s been called up for punishment by a father with ire in his eyes.

 

“Name’s Jerome Smoot.” Kid hands you a bunch from the pile. “You?”

 

“Julius Cole.”

 

“Cole? You related to Winston?”


“Brother.”

 

“We all brothers.”

 

“Blood brother, Jerome. Let’s just get this sh*t done, a’ight? Make everyone happy.”

 

Lightbulb flicks on somewhere in his head, fast math style: 20 papers at 75 cents a pop, 15 bucks to square it over. The choice is laid out for you as time slows, scene turns grayscale: you fork out for the kid, find something more important to do - or you’re spending the next little while playing hawker. The latter’s not glory work, practically begging each and every passerby to pay you enough mind to consider reaching into their pockets, take a gander at some revolutionary lit - and by no means is Jules a good salesman.

 

The few whites sprinkling the sidewalk sure as hell ain’t interested.

 

The newly anointed duo chit chat between marks; Julius with no pretensions about finding the place a bit rundown, Jerome with tales from Laverne about how the Birchwood boys don’t know rundown, the chance at a lawn and a chunk of land itself a new world over from the tenements of Holland back on the other coast.

 

“Grass is always greener.”
 

“‘Cept when there ain’t none, I guess.”

 

No matter your choice this kid wanders up all cool-like with your back turned, real smooth and bouncing to a tune only he can hear until he wordlessly lunges at the knot of papers beside Jerome, knocks the kid to the ground and grabs ‘em both - his flatfoot runners kick dust as the Leopard grabs at his shoe, pulls one off and stalls him long enough for Julius to drop his stack and give chase.

 

“Get back here, you lil’ punk-ass motherf*cker!”

 

Kid hoists the stack onto his shoulder and gives the finger as you sprint in his slipstream. Both fellas big and lanky with speed they run and run, you’re never too far behind ‘til the kid crosses Spruce at the last minute, barely misses getting turned into paste by a BBC Consulate, brakes get hit hard enough for J to slide across the hood like a regular Clip Lee on a mission. Dirt and mud around FUGMI columns and across incoming development full of loaders and backhoes, kid heads up a driveway tossing aside some guy washing out his trunk, kicks a gate down and starts ploughing through backyards and gardens and chain-link, wood, angry dogs nipping at heels and screaming housewives from the kitchens.

 

Lots of picket fences around, pickets that don’t hold for sh*t when used as momentum to jump over, pickets halving Spruce from Garfield and the barrier to Doyle Park - kid runs down a dozen steps throwing aside anyone in his way, at the last second you see half a shortcut running parallel; two little jumps down leveled grass gets you that much closer to his tail. 

 

Might feel like a long chase because it’s been a long goddamn chase. If you hadn't seen Birchwood in a while, you've seen most of it now.

 

You’ve run from Bushrod to Longfellow, storefronts and bougie lawns, parks, families and commerce, crossed the train tracks to back down where the warehouses meet a combo of the Dregs - back to dilapidation, foot traffic sparse, barely any sidewalk and the sky cutting overcast as you finally catch up only for the runner to knock some boy flat on his ass and steal his bike. And then Julius can’t do it no more, can’t catch his breath. 

 

Motherf*cker.

 

Camera pans to watch the kid take off on his bike, clear these big spruce trees onto Longfellow Ave - only to get absolutely broadsided by a Boxville. Kid flies, mean really flies - scrapes and slithers a dozen feet down the asphalt with the mangled corpse of the filched bike besides. Screams, then nothing.

 

He’s done for - the newspapers though, they’re fine. Truck driver runs out to check on the kid, papers go flying in the wind. You’re at the helm to gather up the stragglers before they’re gone with it, optionally to check out the moron who just got himself very very hurt.

 

Julius starts with “Moron,” ignores the panicked delivery man, “the f*ck was that for?”

 

The thief, kid, brat, whatever he is, he’s bloody and bruised and spitting teeth, just not so banged up he can’t still string together a chain of epithets before answering: “Just want’n to make some bread, goddamn. Who gave that leather-wearin’ motherf*cker the corner, huh? Wasn’t me, that’s my--that’s our f*ckin’ corner, man…”

 

There’s nothing to say. His legs are f*cked even if his mouth can run: a little sympathy gives you the option to toss the kid a couple papers to read - doubt he’ll be hawking any time soon.

 

Back to your corner. Best bet, make it a little easier on the delivery guy’s insurance - steal the f*cking van, front bumper scraping pavement, gun the big old thing before the fella’s got a chance to notice past the wailing kid. 

 

You been running around all day, you can see it in Julius’ stride; that of a man who just wants to crawl back into bed instead of doling out newspaper on a street corner entirely foreign to him. But you’re not done - back on Spruce Jerome’s still waiting, slouched on a bench and rubbing his ankle, eyes light up when he sees you.

 

Julius asks “You good?”

 

“Fine. Man, you took off like lightning.” Pauses. “All the things that go wrong here you don’t think it’s gonna be a brother f*cks everything up that quick. Little gusano punk. I ever see his face ‘round here again…”

 

“Gu-wha’? The f*ck does that mean?”

 

“Uh. Y’know, man. Cuba.”

 

“Look, Jerome, kid said he just wanted to make a buck. Met a hundred hustlers like him, guys don’t have no scruples about what they doin’ or who they doing it to. Don’t read into it.”

 

“Way I see it,” Jerome smiled, “is any motherf*cker who jeopardizes the revolution is anti-revolution. Don't matter if they cops or if they crooks. That simple.”

 

Jules nodded. “Sure, kid. Let’s just sell the rest of this sh*t off, a’ight?”

 

“What’d you do to him?”

 

“Never you mind. He won’t pull this again.”

 

He probably will.

 

Home stretch. As before, two-pronged diversion: singling out the right audience for your little niche and talking them up enough to get them to pull the trigger. Rebuffs dent morale, dented morale makes Jules lose what little a silver tongue he already has. Get your groove on and eventually it segues into cutscene, little montage taking the weight off your shoulders as the clock ticks into late afternoon, sun hanging tough and hard and the duo finishing off the pile once and for all.

 

Jules keeps a single edition for himself. Flips through - baby steps.

 

Jerome collapses back onto that bench, removes the beret and wipes a buzz cut head with the back of his hand. “God damn, I ain’t gon’ let Anton hear the end of this. Next time a pig pulls rank he best just shoot him in the damn head.”

 

J sits next to him, they’re quiet for a moment, comfortable in it. “So. We done?”

 

“We done. Once bail gets posted he gon’ be sprung by nightfall, so uh - thank you. Thanks a mil’, you know, they was on my ass.”

 

“Don’t mention it. Thrilling a debut as I ever seen.” Pause. “S’uh, s’usually more lively than this though, right? You know, the papers?”

 

“F*ck the papers. Zig-zagging ‘crosstown to beat the sh*t out some kid who stole some revolutionary lit? I dunno, man, don’t wanna get your hopes up. Not on the regular.”

 

“Sure. I’ll see you around, Jerome.”

 

“Hey - lil’ welcome home party tonight, at HQ. You in? S’only fair, open doors.”

 

“Thinkin’ about it.”

 

Think about it. Come nightfall the blip’ll pop up on your radar. It’s a Red Dead 2 style mechanic: free-flowing booze - though Jules abstains - tunes, the ability to socialize with whoever-whenever ‘til all forms of discourse are exhausted and you’re well familiar with Winston’s extended family, hang out on the porch to see some ill-advised cop cruiser slow-roll you and get heckled, meet the boys - meet Donny and Elijah and Laverne and the dozen other foot soldiers of the cause proper. Stick around until dawn, ‘til your new brothers are sprawled on couch and rotten wood and blow-up mattress alike and you can mosey on home across the bridge.

 

Or don’t.

 

But you really wanna miss out - paper cup wine, smooth jazz, insurgent monologuing under the moonlight?

 

Don’t think so. 

3wHgWFY.png

No reward.

 

BULWARK MAGAZINE


Black Power and the Coercive Apparatus: A Quick Reminder

By Stan Humke

Editorial

 

---- ALLOW me to put something out there, if only to spare our detractors the exertion of grasping at straws: as a foundational principle -- one setting us diametrically opposed from the cock and bull drone of the establishment -- we have never been anything but transparent in disclosing our relation to the black power organization that has come to be known as the Leopards of Leandros. Leon King has been an invaluable contributor to the discourse in our monthly issue since 1966, and it is a mutually beneficial relationship no better exemplified by the fact that Oake Blackwood Charlesford Esq. on his radio show Firing Squad has taken to accusing both entities of holding a 'quantifiable contempt for America' in the same breath.

 

Of course, neoconservative gadflys and the neutered hiss of the liberal consensus alike are struggling to find the actionable words necessary to put a pin in the élan of the Leopards that only grows by the day. When we last dedicated an issue to their valiant cause in our April 1967 issue, King estimated national membership to hover somewhere around the mark of seventy-five individuals. It was probably an exaggerated figure. Now, nearly a year past, verifiable sources place the figure around three-hundred, not to mention the countless men and women forced into secrecy by the tempestuous indignation of their white employers or landlords (see pg. 41-52, 'Hunting the Leopards' Spots').

 

My reminder to our readers is simple: political power, Mao Tse-tung once said, comes through the barrel of a gun, and the Leopards have certainly adopted that mantra. And that scares the hell out of the white cops. The gears of oppression mesh, consistently lubricated by the mutual reinforcement of a white racist political and police leadership. They legislate, dissimulate, and do their best to frustrate the spread of class consciousness that has the potential to unite whites and blacks alike under the banner of a true revolutionary movement. IAA, FIB, BPD or LCPD -- the designation matters little. When they kick your door down you won't much care if they're in a suit or rookie blues.

 

Few will believe in the deliberate pattern of harassment and false arrest that pervades American police forces, so intent on quashing dissent they are. The courts refuse to acknowledge it. Major national papers refuse to cover it. The least we precious few can do in the interim is be vigilant, and, when the time comes, step up to the battle cries of men like Leon King and Laverne Powell. Meanwhile the cops will go on, steadily and inexorably, trying to bust, and if necessary kill, every Leopard in Birchwood.

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Doug is driving through Rose-Ronan when the blip pops up on the radar; driving a little further up the road ‘til he sees a little man huddled up by the dumpsters. Guy waves you down, and sh*t, Doug would keep going in any other circumstance.

 

But something stops him. Something stops you. Little man gets up and you get a good look at him in proper light out the alleyway shadow - bearded man with long oily hair, short, wearing scruffy clothes looking like hemp or rough cloth or something. Sandals on the feet, it looks like. A man outta time.

 

He comes up the window. “Spare a ride?” Voice is almost nasal, kinda squeaky. Sing-song hillbilly voice.

 

Dougie double-takes, “Huh?”

 

“Can I get a ride, brother? I need a ride.”

 

It’s like Doug’s dizzy. “I mean…”

 

“You’re stopped. So what? You givin’ rides?”

 

“Where you headed?”

 

Little man thinks a second. “Up bay. Over the bridge. I need to get to Gaspa. I need- I need to get to, uh… Bahialado. Nice houses. I live up’n there.”

 

“You don’t look like it.”

 

“Books and covers, brother, books and covers. Spare one?”

 

You get in on Doug’s eyes, squinting, slowly nodding. “Guess I am.”

 

The man smiles, nods, and hops backseat.

 

Drive.

 

Kick on the gas and little man, through backseat, cranes his head up front: “I know it ain’t nothin’ short, guy, I know, and I thank you for it. It’s- I’m- well, I got-... you know Cucumber Ave?”

 

“I don’t head over the bridge much, bud.”

 

“I’ll tell you when you’re near. I’ll direct you, man. I got a couple buckies, man, I’ll spare ‘em, man.”

 

Doug just mutters. “Not a thing…”

 

Go-go time, jack.

 

You’re in hippyville - colored signs, a lot of open loving on the street where folks busk with guitar and sitar alike, headbands and tie dye shirts and a lot of fellas who look a lot like the guy in the backseat. Guy in the backseat is a real ball of energy, clipping and twitching and jutting his head into the front and rocking back and forth. Refuses the seatbelt: car rides corners and he drifts along with it, smiles, laughs in the middle. He’s a wacko f*cking nut, but a magnetizing wacko nut.

 

Wacko nut breaths, chuckles, “Hoho, woo, man. You wanna- can I open the windows?”

 

“Knock yourself out.”

 

He cranks ‘em. “Yeah, yeah. You’re headin’ up quicksmart. I like that. I like you.”

 

“That’s good.”

 

“Man, it is good. Gooder than good.”

 

“You got a name?”

 

“Everyone’s got a name, man, everyone does. Just depends on if it’s worth sayin’, man.”

 

“And you live up the bay?”

 

“I’m livin’ everywhere. I live in- I lived a thousand places. People’s is always askin’ me where I live and who I am and what I do, man. Gets dull. You ain’t a dull man, I see that, I see a lotta things.”

 

“I just wanna know where I’m driving you.”

 

“You’re driving me where I live, man.”

 

“And who you are.”

 

Laughs sharp, “Ha! Save it. I know who you are and you know who I am, but do you know who you are and know what I am? That’s the real question.”

 

Pause. “What?”

 

“It's simple. I don't need introductions. Don't need names. I like names but I don't need 'em. See, I know who you are by lookin' 'atcha.”

 

“Really?”

 

“That's right. I know by lookin' up the sky I know the sun bright and I know it's yellow and screaming out 'atcha. I understand people. I understand people like I understand that the sun is bright.”

 

You can feel Doug think. “Okay. Then who am I?”

 

“You're a nomad, man. You're a ranger. I get them vibes. I get vibes you're out lookin' for something. I see a fella who knows what he's doin' and knows how to do it but don't quite know where and who. Am I wrong?”

 

“You ain't.”

 

“Nobody ain't. You killed a man?”

 

“I- well--”

 

“You have. See, you din't wanna answer that question, fella, you gave it away. You in 'Nam?”

 

“I was.”

 

“Don't care about no battalion. I killed a million men in a million lives. I don't care 'bout no battalion because everybody gotta kill or they have killed. Ya dig? Killing ain't something you do, it's a state a' mind. Everybody's killed. Boss kills employee by firin' them, don't they?”

 

“I don’t know,” doesn’t sound right. “Maybe.”

 

“Killin’ ain’t real, and killin’ ain’t fake. Killin’ is squashin’ a bug. I kill- you give me a gun, I kill everyone in the world. You tell me to kill someone and everyone’s dead. That’s a fact.”

 

“That’s a fact?”

 

“That’s a fact.”

 

Another pause. “And you live up the bay?”

 

He’s looser now, “No, I thought I lived in Britain. Where I live? Britain or Bahialado? I used to live down Pacific Bluffs. I used to live up Oregon. f*ck, buddy, I live on the moon. What’s it matter?”

 

“I just wanna get you where you wanna go.”

 

“And you already said that, brother. You gonna ask my name again?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Then ask.”

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Eamon.”

 

“Eamon?”

 

“Eamon. That’s my name, Eamon. You know it. You’ll know it. See, you don’t need to, though. Need and want, man. You don’t want to go to the battlefield and kill and rob and break and dee-stroy but folks get killed and robbed and destroyed anyhow. That’s ‘cause it’s needed.”

 

Wacko f*cking hippy. “People need to die?”

 

“Wrong. Nobody need to die. People need to go to die because their number gets drawn.”

 

“People-” Doug grunts, sighs, “You know. You say people always ask about where you’re from.”

 

“Sure.”

 

“People always ask me about war, Eamon. And my name’s Doug, so - you know, you ain’t alone on the names. But that’s the thing. I get sick to f*cking death of it too. People saying this and people saying that and people saying I got to kill men because someone pointed a finger.”

 

“But you did.”

 

“But you got a name?”

 

Eamon holler laughs, “That’s cheeky. That’s cheeky, guy. But you’re right, you’re right. This state, this city, this country - it’s all a lot a’ questions and not a lot a’ answers. In SoSan, and you know, I’m from SoSan, that’s a whole city- a country in a city, and they all ask questions about what you are and what you’re doin’. Always what, never who.”

 

“That so?”

 

“I make music. I sing songs. They’re beautiful music.”

 

“Everyone in Rose-Ronan makes music, friend.”

 

“Yeah, and everyone in Vinewood makes music too, everyone in West Vinewood on Eclipse’s got acoustics. But Vinewood’s a prison. That city’s a prison. I love prison, man, people who know who they are in a little jail like a real prison. But not the big prisons - Los Santos is a big jail.”

 

“...I think I get you.”

 

“Yeah, man. Christ went to jail and knew the sinners could be redeemed, but Rome? He went to Rome and got nails in his hands, guy. And if Santos is Rome, Santos is a million men and a million women with a million crosses and nails.”

 

“And you’re from there?”

 

“I’m from nowhere.”

 

“You call it SoSan and you’re from Santos?”

 

“I told you, guy, I’m from nowhere.”

 

“Nobody from Santos calls it SoSan. That’s tourist talk, Eamon.”

 

“Where you from ain’t in your blood, friend. It ain’t a part of you. And you can transplant that, too. I transplant myself and my history and my birth. So I’m from SoSan. And I’m not from SoSan. Not Ohio, not nowhere. I’m whoever and whatever, brother.”

 

“Ohio, huh?” Doug chuckles, “Yeah. Nowhere’s right.”

 

You’ve crossed through the city - now cross the bridge. The big red bridge, the iconic bridge, the bridge on the postcards. The Crimson Way. Whatever route you take you’ll end up passing into the freeways of the Sastre; woodland and parkland and the big ol’ army base that brings back memories. Past that, past the tourist center and old Tore Keep below you, it’s pure open sea air and three-lane congestion on the fourth wonder of the world.

 

Breathe it in. Beautiful.

 

There's a toll booth on the return trip.

 

On the exit there’s the same kind of woodland as the entry heading into Punto Point and the Gaspa Promontory. You’re in Gaspa County now. It’s state park territory up here; the Crimson Way National Recreation Area. Bridge leads down to offramp where the roads dig to the tour trap, the big sticks, and the tunnel. Tunnel doesn’t have an official name, locals call it the Aleja Tunnel or the Sunshine for the paintwork or whatever-you-want, but right through the portal is Bahialado.

 

Bahialado; the city beside the bay. Back during World War II they were building ships here. They build ships no longer, abandoned the yards after the unions started letting blacks in and the war drew to a close, and out sprung the houseboat communities and the pretty little hillside mansions. Developers don’t like the boats much, all trying to force them out so they can build new houses - sectioned off a chunk of the Recreation Area to build condos that the city immediately sued for.

 

But the more the merrier. It’s pastel paradise. Road winds down into mainsville with boutique florists and seafood restaurants and Eamon immediately jumps into gear - “We gotta go this way, man, hold on, man.”

 

He directs you. No mini-map for guide unless you know the street names, just the twang of Eamon’s countrified voice ferrying you up, down, left, right, center. Day goes from evening to night on the ride as the hill houses empty and the lamplights flicker. Cucumber Ave is up on those hills, a big house that Eamon tells you “Stop, stop, hey, whoa!” when you get right up there.

 

You head into a court. Roads are all thinner out here, trees dominate sight.

 

And a f*cking spooky goddamn house at the end.

 

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First thought more than anything else is the place looks like a mental asylum. Just pitch black paint, only exception is the little gate in front with LÏGHTBEÄM written in gothic gold. You have a feeling the owner doesn’t understand what the dots mean.

 

You guess that would be your passenger. “You live here?”

 

Eamon smiles. “Sure, guy.”

 

“That--”

 

“You ever heard that song?”

 

“No. What? What song?”

 

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on. You know it?”

 

“Sure?”

 

Opens the door, starts singing, half-howling, “Buddy! Hey, man!”

 

Crickets chirping. Light bleeding out through the gate, door creaking, wacko f*cking hippy singing The Beatles.

 

Gate opens. Doug squints. Does he know that f*cking guy?

 

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, twerpy guy with a thick head of hair stumbles out dazed-out his mind, pretty floral shirt exposing ribcage chest, neckerchief like a collar around the neck. You’re wondering double, does this guy even know where the f*ck he is? He mumbles, rubs eyes, squints. “Hickey?”

 

The hippy is named Hickey.

 

“Ray-Ray, bubble bear, man, how you are?”

 

Doug gets out the car, “This your house?”

 

Ray-Ray whines, “My f*cking house.”

 

“You heard Milk, right? Rockstars, man. This their guitarist. This is Raytheon Michael, brother, light motherf*cking beams, man.”

 

“Huh.” Doug says that vague. Maybe he knows him. Maybe?

 

A lot of uncertainty. Ray-Ray squints again, half-stomps his bare feet on the pavement at the sight of you. “Who’s this?”

 

“I forgot my bus, Ray.”

 

Another blink. “You ain’t gonna kill me, Hick?”

 

See Eamon, or Hickey, or whoever, see him chuckle. Get closer. Ray-Ray standing froze. 

 

Eamon stares. “I look like I’m gonna?”

 

Hickey gets on his knees. Spreads his arms. And starts kissing Ray-Ray’s toes.

 

Nobody says anything for what feels like an hour as he just… f*ckin’ goes to town on his feet. Doug ain’t laughing, he’s just staring, peculiar. Opens his mouth to speak and a dull hum comes out, “Ehmm…”

 

Hickey lifts head, shakes, laughs. “Head on in, man. My house is yours, man, that’s it. That’s it.” Says his next darker, lower, “What’s mine is yours.”

 

You are faced with two options.

 

You can go. You can get in your car, and you can go.

 

Or, the door is open. Eamon has his eyes trained and Ray-Ray dead shut, Eamon just humming now, “Desmond takes a trolley to the jeweller’s store…”

 

The gate opens into a little garden where a little fountain sprays a little stream of water. Door beckons you in with warm light past the darkness and the shrubs and the poppies. It’s gold in there.

 

There are 15 or 20 women in there, and they aren’t saying a f*cking word.

 

The place is trashed.

 

Place is kitted out in orange. A lot of orange, a lot of silly paintings with loops of white and mangarine and couches much the same. Just an obscene disconnect from the world outside, swimming colors and psychedelia and smoke and haze.

 

Why are you in here? 

 

You walk through what can only be described as an interior designer’s worst nightmare with more, more, more skinny white women all looking at you. They won’t stop looking at you, actually. A million bloodshot eyes giving you daggers, stab stab stab. Cupboards are overturned and the record player is stopped and scritching and someone went ape with a smashed bottle of Blêuter’d burgundy on the floor.

 

Take what you want.

 

Minimap floor plan goes nuts with little dots - what’s mine is yours. Door is still wide open and Hickey’s still faintly singing in the back. And the girls are still staring.

 

They will not talk to you. You can try, and Doug sure as hell does, yaps “Are you his-...” and always trails off. They do not reply. You aren’t sure if they ever blink.

 

Upstairs is blockaded with a sofa that is conspicuously missing from the living room, currently holding another skinny white girl who’s so deep into sleep you’re not sure if she’s still breathing. Not worth checking, she f*cking stinks like a cadaver anyhow. Move through and find spare dollar bundles, jewelry, knick knacks. There’s a garden out back dark and serene with another fountain but the glass sliding door is jammed shut. Kitchen is a complete sty with all matter of stains and smears of origin not worth knowing, a single book in the center.

 

There’s a picture of a guy on the front. He’s white, clothed head to toe in orange, bead necklace and glasses. Below him is just the word Badaladaka. Doug checks the spine of the book, Badaladaka - Badaladaka. Combs through the entire back cover to see if the guy has any other name, white on orange hurting the eyes, and nothing.

 

His name is just… Badaladaka.

 

You feel a sense of dread when you turn away from the book and another carbon goddamn copy of the 20 other girls in here has suddenly just spawned into existence a few feet away from you.

 

Doug creases face, “You… are you okay?”

 

She rubs her dirty face and runs her hand through her hair. “What?”

 

It’s probably best you get the f*ck out of here.

 

You’re stumbling over your feet out the front door by now, same haze as Ray-Ray now silently shedding tears out the front. Scent of just… sh*t, and rotting meat, and burnt hair on your nostrils. You look at Hickey, and Hickey looks back, and he says nothing to you.

 

No words are needed. You did what he told you.

 

Get in the car and get out.

 

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Switch to Dante -- it’s ambient, one of many: sitting on the hood admiring sunsets, bite to eat at east side deli, waving goodbye before a snippy comment at Uncle Jacky’s. Doesn't matter - La Penisola calls. Hit the gas and crosstown strip-wise, neon letters and new-brick houses and all, before stopping at the front.

 

They've cordoned off the parking lot. It's all wet concrete, construction workers on perpetual smoke-break just now putting up the signs and landscaping pretty hedges around the entrance. Gets a groan out of Dante, reverses, directs you to the street for parking.

 

Nod howdys to construction-men all Mick and Michael before hitting the door and nearly getting pushed onto the floor, good old Carlo D’Aversa comes storming out the gates wordlessly, rushes up to a rando worker and nips out the measuring tape from his toolbelt.

 

Runs back in. “Dante,” keeps walking.

 

“Dante.” Dante follows.

 

Always frantic: still interactive mind you as you either match Carlo’s brisk pace or bumble behind bemusedly as he shouts up a storm, waves arms and tells staff to kick dust. “Help.”

 

“Help what?”

 

“String the tape, f*cking help me.”

 

“What's the problem?”

 

“Goddamn worker bees muckin’ up the f*cking slot machines. Keep sitting on the goddamn seats, you believe that? Grab the f*cking tape, Dante.”

 

Grab the f*cking tape -- hold down the contextual button and start moving in cohesion with Carlo, stringing thin yellow line from corner to corner of the sunken slots area, wrap it around unfinished marble columns at all fours.

 

They’re face to face; eventually Dante breaks: “So how you doin’, Carlo? Seem a little tense today.”

 

Still rolling the tape. “Don’t f*ck with me. Your uncle’s shadow might be big but it won’t save you from feds with flashlights.”

 

“That’s cute. The IRS, right? Jon -- eh, Mr. Gravelli -- he told me off already.”

 

“Ain’t just that. Look around at all this shiny sh*t, you think I got it here myself? You think any of the guys at the top loaded it up from the factory, drove the truck half the country down from Michigan, spent their goddamn days cooking under the sun, bringing it in one-by-one in their tweed and gelled hair? Wasn’t them. Wasn’t me. Ain’t just a cover job, Dante, the minutiae might be just that but it ain’t unimportant in the least.”

 

“Yeah, but the Micks are built for it though.”

 

Tape wraps around the last column, Carlo breaks it off. It segues into cutscene: Carlo gestures Dante to follow again and they head into his office -- more disorganized than last time, plastic-wrapped boxes galore having migrated out of the hallway and onto leather couches.

 

Awkward moment of silence, Carlo pauses, tries to wax authority out the situation by jumping into a stuffy leather chair, leaning back. Bossman look that he isn't suited to, looks like a kid playing dress-up.

 

Dante just stands. “Okay.”

 

“Okay, what?”

 

“Okay, why'm I here?”

 

“‘Why'm I’--” deep breath, starts over. “Sonny’s back in Liberty.”

 

“What's new?”

 

“Means for the time being we got calm. But not for long. He's gonna come back, he's gonna want glitz. We need glitz.”

 

“A lot of glitz in measuring tape and paddies on lunch break.”

 

“That's my point.”

 

“So… what? You want me head out to the department store, pick a couple banners, party hats?”

 

Carlo cuts: “You know Nino Lisi?”

 

“I, uh… yeah. Think so. Remember Mr. Cangelosi bringing him up, don't remember much else.”

 

“Let me rephrase: you know Nate Valentine?”

 

Dante blinks. “The lounge singer?”

 

“The lounge singer.”

 

Another blink. “His name’s Nino?”

 

“With pipes like that, of course he's paisan. Y’know, I always wonder - what's with the f*cking stage names? Can't these guys be f*ckin’ proud a’ their heritage? Always these people it's John ‘stead a’ Gio.”

 

“Hmph.”

 

“So, while Sonny’s up in Broker and he's racin’ horses and eatin’ f*ckin’ tomato chowder, f*cking Carraway country clubs and all, we've gotta get Mr. Crooner down here to discuss contracts.”

 

“We?”

 

“You,” he points, “have been slacking. Should be perkin’ up to do this kinda job, get in the Gravelli good books. Meet a celebrity.”

 

“Nate Valentine was a celebrity in ‘58. Schmucks are schmucks, Carlie, even if they’ve been on the radio.”

 

Carlo shrugs, just keeps barreling, “He’s in the hole about 10k to Mikey Caccia - you know Cheech?”

 

“Vaguely.”

 

“Down 10 with Cheech, he's in 5 with Chubby Chuck, uh… I think with that kid Noto he’s down two? One of his friends. Point is, he's on retainer. He's ours. And he thinks he don't have to pay debts if he just avoids the right bars. Balls on him.”

 

“But he goes to the wrong bars.”

 

Carlo nods, pulls a pen, “He's at The Golden Horseshoe. You know the Golden Horseshoe?”

 

Kearney Ave, yepper.”

 

“If he ain't there, he's up Chantry-Prue at... these-” dots the I’s and crosses the T’s, “-tenements. That’s a tip from my old pal Moe Consoli.”

 

Dante cocks a brow.

 

“Ok, not my pal. But a friend of ours.” He tosses the pen, hands over a shred of paper with an address then points a two finger. “Do whatever you gotta do to get that greasy f*ck here, or we’ll put you on the goddamn stage doing the mambo. Got it?”

 

Dante chuckles, checks the note. “My pleasure.”

 

Peel out and peel off; peel out the office before Carlo starts barking orders and goes back to fiddling with the pen, peel out the betting floor while construction men try maneuver around tape. Peel out the door and across the street to the ride and hit the engine while The Wrens wail on the stereo.

 

Onto Kearney.

 

Drive on up the Strip’s big sister with the kickin’ neon legs of Venturas Vance, sizzling signs and gaudy displays of greed and gluttony. Tourists and flash sedans, light bulbs fizzled out at midday but the huge near-50 foot ‘GOLDEN HORSESHOE SLOTS & SALOON’ sign shouting out to the street below across from Ronald Ross’ Gilded Spurs.

 

Fat Midwesterners gawk and take pictures while you maneuver out, down special-paved street, through the doors.

 

Cowboy hell.

 

It's the same fat midwesterners in western hats chewing cud at the tables and gold-light lettering meeting tacky velvet carpet. You can feel Dante trying to dodge the salt air as he maneuvers through the maze up to the bar being tended by some dull-eye five seconds from pouring his own liquor.

 

“Howdy-hi, partner. What can I get you?” It's posed more like a statement than a question.

 

“Not me. Friend of mine.” He slides a fiver across the table, keeps it brief. “Hope you might oblige me.”

 

He stares at it a moment before snatching it and stuffing it in his pocket lightning quick.

 

“I'm lookin’ for a washed up lounge singer - Nate Valentine. Movie-man, you seen or served?”

 

“I seen. I served.”

 

Leans on the bar, “Point me in the right direction, slim.”

 

He thinks a moment. “He comes here frequent, yeah. Not recently. Haven't seen him going on a week or two now, so either he's bit dust, hit bricks or both. All I’ve got.”

 

Close up on Dante. Ponders. “Got it. Thanks, pard’.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.”

 

Smash cut out, back on the street. Feels like a waste of time, sure, but now you’re one down. Alternately you coulda skipped this step entirely - but what’s the harm? Enjoy the slots. Get back to your ride and drive, partner.

 

You’re Consoli-bound.

 

You get a good sizing up of Venturas on the ride to Chantry-Prue. It’s the inner ring of the outer suburbs, these desolate developments stretching far and wide of cookie-cutter suburban homes and said cookie-cutter suburban homes under construction. Same old lunch break laborers with sandwiches or mallets across the street from little model homes with husbands in wife-beaters swigging beer on the porch or mowing the lawns of imported grass.

 

Standing out amongst the swaths of one stories, however, are sad looking two-or-three stories. They're like a cross between a prison and a motel with huge air conditioning units growing on the sides like tumors. Fences encircling the entire property.

 

Check the note Carlo wrote you. This is the spot.

 

Find Nate Valentine.

 

Where to start?

 

It’s a gated complex and the gates are shut. Camera pans, shows some entrances; a back fence with some strategically placed AC units, a little opening nearby the gate where the spikes fade and you can cling on, the bored security guard filing his nails.

 

Security guard is good for sh*t - he tells you to f*ck off. You can see some guys waiting on the interior, bad looking black dudes in denim and chains, holding chains and bats. Security guard nearly slips on the dollar bills they clearly gave him and tells you it’s a holiday. What holiday? It’s simple, security man says. Bribe Day. Now f*ck off.

 

So climb on in. Not like he’ll see, he’s about a couple minutes from dozing off anyway.

 

You likely haven't had a lot of opportunity for traversal, but the tenements feel built for walking. Up the wall on motel walkways you have cardboard platforms, makeshift bridges, worker material and construction gear strewn with no workers or construction to be seen. It's a rickety path downward from the wall; either keep to the rafters or get on the ground.

 

Groundways is less safe, but it gives you a better scope of the complex. Three buildings - two vertical shape on the sides, a little recreational area in the center, and one horizontal on the middle. Half a plaza with none of the charm - there's an empty pool and closed umbrellas and the whole place looks years past use. That doesn't excuse the guys on the ground.

 

Remember the chain twirling chaps in chapped leather? They're here, with their frowns and fists on display. There's around 8 on immediate count cooped up by a Declasse Tornado and an Vapid Peyote, a nice whip that now had its own fair share of dents and scratches and smashed tail lights. Someone went to town on that thing.

 

Why not ask?

 

If you're the type to walk up to armed, scary men; why not? Dante'll walk up, and seamlessly in-gameplay, the toughs’ll come to you. Granted, they're scowling and crowding around and smacking their blunt weapons in their hands, but they know you're there.

 

“What you want, civvie?”

 

“I ain't no civvie.”

 

“What the f*ck you want, white boy?”

 

You're presented with two options.

 

wv4FUON.png CAR?
DObXwjj.png WHO?

 

A tutorial prompt lets you know that this'll be a recurring feature: don't be afraid to GREET or ANTAGONIZE, sometimes it'll net you information. They don't take well to who - “Hell does it matter, motherf*cker?” Option’ll simply turn to say F*CK YOU if you press that button again. Maybe don't if you wanna keep things cordial.

 

Try the car - “What's with the whip?”

 

“Goddamn nosy motherf*cker--”

 

One of the goons cuts over the other, “You wanna know ‘bout the car?”

 

“Sure,” Dante says.

 

“You speak dago, mister?”

 

You can feel Dante’s fists clench. Two options: SURE and MOOLIE.

 

Option B. “Much as you speak moolie, pal.”

 

It's a mixed reaction but you feel big guy half-chuckle, “That’s funny,” he says, despite it not really seeming that funny. “Sure. Yeah. See, this greaseball motherf*cker, old motherf*cker, washed up, drunk-ass motherf*cker, he done get a tire iron, and he howlin’ about Wesley this and Junior that - and the motherf*cker takes the iron to the ride.”

 

“Sorry about that.”

 

“Sure. So, you speak wop. He speak wop. Motherf*cker speakin’ a lot of wop, bibbledy-bobbledy-f*ckin’-boo,” gets a couple of the goons laughing, “and I'm seein’ wops up the ass. Wops know each other in this town.”

 

“Okay.”

 

He points at you with his bat, the bat looks you square in the eyes. “Whachu’ want with woppy, woppy?”

 

wv4FUON.png I CAN GET HIM
DObXwjj.png HE’S NOT HERE
HSr5ruF.png GRAB THE BAT

 

That third option: blunt, messy, mad. Dante smiles, yanks, smacks handle into neck and the guy topples for a split second. With messy comes mess as they all lunge at you at once, fending off eight guys surrounding you and a couple more beyond. Unless you’re quick, they will tear you limb from limb. That is, unless, you pull your one advantage - the iron on your hip. You pull a gun and these guys hesitate, some run, some pull their own little .38s and let fly. The end of it all, either you’re dead, they’re out for the count, or imminently six feet under.

 

You might not want to do that one.

 

Play sly - former indebts you to them. Dante simply explains; “I know where the bastard is hidin’. I’m a friend. I’ll get him off your hands.” They, funnily enough, seem enthusiastic. Circle disperses and they let you explore. Other option plays slyer, “I know where the f*cker hangs out. You tried the Golden Horseshoe?” They trade glances, shake heads, and decide to split off and search if you played your cards right. Glance right behind and you’ll see a few stragglers asking the security-man for a refund with their big shiny toys.

 

This is if you say hi.

 

You can make out Nino-Nate’s apartment if you take the stairs or climb the scaffolding onto the second floor. The note said 2F and 2F has got the curtains drawn and music, real sh*tty music, playing loud. It’s a wonder the boys downstairs didn’t find him sooner.

 

Door is locked. Dante jostles, pushes, nothing. Eyes switch to the window, cricked a tad open. Contextual button appears and Dante grabs, lifts easy-like, and sweeps blinds away to climb inside.

 

Record player is playing a Lisi song, funnily enough - ‘We Fluffy Lovecats’ - “Got the kicks, got the kiss, now I’m happ-y! Hit the bricks, with my fix, oh! I’m sold!” Awful. Like ‘54 banging on your eardrums with teenybopper bullsh*t. Apartment is small, cramped, all shades of brown and empty bottles of The Mount and Richard’s Kentucky. Lights are off, Dante squints, notices something moving on a couch.

 

A stubbled, paunchy, shirtless man wearing an unzipped white satin jacket and… yeah, actually, that’s it. Jacket and tighty whities. Dante tip-toes until he realizes, hey, he’s literally unconscious, drooling this puddle of what may be spit but might actually be last night’s TV dinner onto the floor. Peps up, walks over, pokes him on the shoulder.

 

Unresponsive.

 

Prods harder. He does not move. Shoves, nothing.

 

Dante grabs a glass that appears to have been filled with ketchup at one point (which, okay), fills the thing with water, and pours over face.

 

Nino grabs a bottle by the floor and, in one seamless motion, bonks you over the head with it.

 

Cut to black.

 

Nothing.

 

“Oh yeah, f*cko.”

 

Eyes open, slow.

 

Nino has a .44 revolver right at your forehead.

 

Dante is speechless.

 

Nino croaks, “Yeah, motherf*cker. Yeah.”

 

“Nino.”

 

“Nate!”

 

“Nate…”

 

“Who the f*ck are you with? Huh? You with Mikey Cheech? Fat Chucky?”

 

“Nate…”

 

“You come to chop my f*ckin’ nuts off, pal? You f*ckin’ ready to do that, you make me a f*ckin’ soprano, you f*ckin- you best be knowin’ who the f*ck you done walk into.”

 

“I’m not--”

 

“You know why they call Skip di Bella ‘No Nose’ now? You know why?”

 

Blink. “Who--”

 

“Me.”

 

“Get the f*ck offa’ me you f*ckin’--”

 

Nino cocks gun, grins wide, “Yeah? Yeah? Or?”

 

“I don’t want your f*ckin’ money, Nate.”

 

“You want my balls, yeah?”

 

“No! I’m with f*ckin’ nobody. I wanna talk to you, come on.”

 

You get a shot of how dumb this looks from the wide, like a bottle on a table. Way past his prime is Nino basically straddling Dante, Dante bleeding out from a little cut on the top of his head. Gun up to the bridge of the nose, dirt and bottles strewn. Nino squints. “You got twenty seconds.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nineteen.”

 

“To f*cking what?”

 

“Tell me why you’re here! Seventeen.”

 

“Nino - Nate, Carlo wants a guy. D’Aversa. Y’know We- we run this casino--”

 

“Fourteen.”

 

“We want a guy on the stage. Headline act!”

 

Nino stops counting. “You ain’t jerkin’ my dick?”

 

“Abso- no. Christ. No.”

 

“D’Aversa. You f*ckin’ kidding me?”

 

“What?”

 

“D’Aversa takes checks from Cangelosi. From Cheech, you f*ck.”

 

“And this’ll pay it off.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yes, Nate, now get the f*ck offa’ me, f*ckin’ Christ!”

 

Nino ponders. Stares. Puts the gun down and tries getting up, oof he goes like it took a lot out of him, tries again with both hands after one didn’t quite work. Dante just lays there.

 

“Let me go get my pants.”

 

He walks.

 

Dante finally breathes.

 

Next cut is leaving: Dante cricks the door, looks left, looks right, opens wider and motions. Nino follows suit with his clothes on - red aviators, a waistcoat, his jacket, a pair of jeans, some scuffed up loafers. Still no undershirt.

 

Conversation continues you didn’t see: “And what about those f*ckin’ moolies?”

 

Dante rolls eyes, changes depending on the options three.

  • “By now, eggplants got their noses broke by security at the Horseshoe.”
  • “We’ll- we get to the car, they won’t be a problem.”
  • Dealt with.”

 

Nino mutters in approval.

 

He’s got a car, he says; pristine two-tone green Cirrus Cicada from ‘53, “-the year of our lord.” You came in from the west, the car is parked up on the east. Depending on options, courtyard is empty, courtyard is still being roamed by twitchy men fierce as f*ck, or there’s a lot of sleepy looking crooks with their faces in the dirt.

 

You sneak or you don’t.

 

The car awaits. It’s parked up where you’re not supposed to park it; a lot of shrubbery, a lot of gravel. Door is unlocked, Dante turns to ask why and Nino just shrugs and says “I lost the keys.”

 

“You lost the keys?”

 

“It’s unlocked. So no problem.”

 

Door opens. Look backseat and there’s so much detritus it might not even count as a seat anymore. Smells like salt and aggressive hops. Dante hits the gas, lets the engine rumble, squeaks out over rocks and onto pavement and hits the brakes fast.

 

Something is happening the f*ck over in the courtyard.

 

The gates are now open, wide. This boat looking car, slick Dundreary Delano, is parked rough with the doors ajar. Two angry wops are out with their own .45s.

 

They are acting in one of three ways.

  1. The courtyard is empty. Nobody is there. Guns are out and hands are cupped and they’re shouting for the stars, “Lisi, motherf*cker! You don’t skip out on Chubby f*ckin’ Charlie!” They aren’t pleased. Far from pleased.
  2. Said wops, still there, are having a soiree with the happy-go-lucky street gangsters, still there. Neither party is as pleased or as polite as they were with you: black guys are shouting and wops are doing just the same. Wait long enough and the problem will sort itself out either way, gangsters pull bats and the wops do not f*cking play. Guns get drawn and bullets get shot and one party eventually comes out on top. It’s up to the coin toss.
  3. “What da’ f*ck…” goes Mr. Mustache traipsing through the valley of the dead. The gangsters are either unconscious or attracting flies. This is possibly the most worrying outcome they could’ve stepped into. “How the f*ck a singer-man kill all these f*ckin’ moolies?”

 

“Chubby f*ckin’ Chuck, man.”

 

Dante grits teeth, “Okay… okay…”

 

Well. Only one way to do it, you guess.

 

Dante hits the gas, pummels gravel, and drives. Cicada screams out and digs black into the pavement, tyres screech. Wops or street guys or both turn, hit to chase. Bullets dig into metal as they start wildly firing, wops dive into their Delano and blacks follow suit if they still can. One or three cars in hot pursuit, mobsters playing cautious and refusing to shoot out the window while the street guys dig deep and try ramming you off the road. 

 

You’re in suburb, suburb, suburb - which means driving has to be creative. Through grids you can drive onto pavement, into garden, through manicured lawns and pretty gardens and in the little gaps between the homes the landboats won’t fit through as easy. You get out of sight and the cones’ll appear, cars’ll drive in your general direction and then make predictions, scurry through until they give up. They might not’ve known it, but all that time you’re hiding in an alleyway. Or some poor schmuck’s backyard.

 

Dante lets out a breath, “Madon’.” Knocks his head back.

 

Nino is laughing. “My god. My god. F*ckin’ rush, kid, god!”

 

“You like that?”

 

“The schook I am to these f*ckin' nail biters, I swear to god. Yes, I f*ckin’ like it. You think I ain’t rode the f*ckin’ carousel, kid?”

 

“...The carousel?”

 

“Got three swarms of these cavone motherf*ckers, happy to get a third a’ them off. Cheech - how is Cheech?”

 

Dante just sighs. “Wish I could tell you, Nate.”

 

Head back to La Penisola.

 

“And that fruity little fanook f*ck is gonna get off my dick?”

 

“What is with you and- yes, Nate. That’s the plan.”

 

He’s thinking scattershot now, head abuzz, “So many folks move out here to get away from the moolies. And yet. And f*ckin’ yet. Wes, he was a f*ckin’ trooper. These guys don’t hold a candle. That was his f*ckin’ car.”

 

“You smashed up their car because it looked--”

 

“It was.”

 

“Okay, man.”

 

“God, I been cooped up too long-some. I got this whole list of these beautiful f*ckin’ songs, these tracks’d blow youse f*ckin’ mind. This one I got, Cherry Pie Baby, it’ll be like the song with the pasta on the radio you hear all the f*ckin’ time.”

 

“Which--”

 

He just bursts into song, “Oh my, sweet cherry pie, oh you, you-you-you-you,” drumming on the f*cking dash, “you're my, oh my fruity gal!”

 

“Okay--”

 

“Your zest, your sweetness, so true, true-true-true!” Breaks out of song a second, “and then it goes like, uh, like- we-,” ahem, “we'll walk down that aisle, say I do, do-do-do! Like that. It's a song you can f*ck to, you can propose to, you can... you can marry to, you can walk down the aisle to this song. Play it at a ball. I dunno.”

 

“The casino people’ll like that, I hope. Whatever- you know, I ain’t a promoter or nothin’--”

 

“Yeah, youse some f*ckin’ tough boy kid that Big Bohan Carlo sends down to put a gun in my face, eh? Well, I did that f*ckin’ sh*t, pal.”

 

“Carlo’s from Bohan?”

 

“Who gives a f*ck. We’re all from Liberty, ‘sides from them f*ckin’ Midwest dago pricks. What they say all the f*ckin’ time, jagoff? You seen them? Those Couira cunts. Pop. Yeah, f*cko. They ride the f*ckin' Falcone train and still let Polacks in.”

 

“I ain’t had my shake a’ them. Well, I met one. Sausage guy.”

 

Didn’t he get clipped?

 

“Shame about that, yeah.”

 

“Fat prick got what was comin’. They all do. Little pricks. I grew up Berchem, I been east of the West River. Back when Grave Digger Gus Gam-f*ckin’-betti, your peoples, was goin’ around and sellin’ buttons and gettin’ everybody f*ckin’ killed. I know real motherf*ckers when I see ‘em. You know Mac Panza?”

 

“Mac the Kid, Mac the Cowboy, yeah. Sure.”

 

“God, I wish I was back in the city. f*ck! God, he was a f*ckin' riot. He talked sh*t, but goddamn. You know he was a f*ckin' genius? Like I'd be down at The Scrapes in Lennox and that f*cker played a goddamn tune - if I'm a virtuoso as speakin' he can f*ckin' talk a storm. Quotin' these philosophers and this Machiavelli and all this sh*t at me. Those Anchovy motherf*ckers was always somethin'. Didn't even matter if he was a ni**er lover, you know, I just think--”

 

Kinda annoyed, “I get it.”

 

Laughs, “He had steel goddamn balls too. Him and Noto, balls balls balls. Hal Noto was a funny f*ck but you could go at him all night and if you talked tough he'd double it. That's the problem with Chucky, Chubby Chuck, whateva'. No balls. You could break 'em and they'd pop like a cellophane because the guy had none. Or not cellophane, you know, the one with the bubbles.”

 

“Bubble--”

 

Breezes past, “Same with Pat. Patty Ancelotti. We used to call him Paul Anchovies, you know.”

 

“No.”

 

“Fish finger motherf*cker weirdo. And- and, what the f*ck does he go by now? Some dumb f*ckin' name, Latin sh*t.”

 

Dante thinks. “Pax.”

 

“Ahh! There it f*ckin' is! What the f*ck is that bozo packin’? Peanuts? Ahh, I’m kiddin’.”

 

“Are you?”

 

“Yeah.” Guess he’s going too fast for that to click. “Hell he think he is, f*ckin’... Martin Luther? Christ. Yeah, host rallies. Kiss babies on the f*ckin’ dick. No - you know what he thinks he is? He thinks he’s the f*ckin’ church.”

 

Dante is mum. “Yeah?”

 

“Wants to tell everyone what to do and what to think. Almost as big a f*ckin’ crook as the Catholic goddamn Church. Bigger crooks than you guys.”

 

“Hey--”

 

“No offense or nothin’.”

 

“Just don’t say that sh*t about the church, you know.”

 

“What, you devout?”

 

“No.”

 

“I used to do f*ckin’ choir, jack. I was f*ckin’ up the altar. And the other pricks’d steal from the collection plate, all them motherf*ckers would. They’re crooks. Crook list goes Church, scumbag record label cunts, and you peoples. Uhf.” Belches.

 

“You do that again, roll the windows open.”

 

“It’s my car.”

 

“Your vomit if you toss cookies in the f*ckin’ ride. I’m good. You do that, it’s blood too.”

 

Nino just huffs.

 

It’s a drive back to the casino and the times change. It’s afternoon and the workers are on break again. Maybe they never stopped breaking? Car pulls up to the front entrance and they gawk and go back to whatever, car exhaust chokes fumes out and the car jitters like the chassis is made of cellophane. Bubble wrap. Whatever.

 

Dante is bored.

 

Nino turns. “What’s your name, kid?”

 

“Dante.”

 

“Danny. Danny boy. You got a nick, kid?”

 

“Jackass.”

 

“Ha. Ha ha. That ain’t it. That’s a joke, it’s funny, but it ain’t your name.”

 

“I don’t, Nino.”

 

“Danny-Boy? You should call yourself that. Where you from, kid? You ain’t ‘Derney, I know. Surname?”

 

“Gallo.”

 

He laughs, “Don’t narrow it down. f*ckin’...”

 

“I ain’t from nowhere.”

 

“Zippy? You grow up Broker? Weir Ridge?”

 

“Here, Nate. I grew up here. Parents were blackshirts and got their heads blown off. I grew up here, prick. Uncle f*ckin’ Jacky f*ckin’ here.”

 

“Ah! Jacky f*ckin’ Gallo. Little Jack the f*ckin’ midget.”

 

“F*ck you.”

 

“We all used to call ‘im that, prick is like 5’4''. He lived up Cerveza, you know that?”

 

“He ran f*ckin’ booze with Canadians, yes prick, I know my f*ckin’ uncle.”

 

“In ‘57, Little Man Gallo and cousin-f*cker Cangelosi got the Anchovies to do a once over on Gus at the barber shop god. Youse that f*ckin’ Gallo, huh? Thought you was half mick like those Gallos from Leftwood, not the quintet. And we was talkin’ about Panza, ha, f*ck! And youse from nowhere, huh? You a nobody--”

 

Dante gets out the car and slams the door shut.

 

UnfRlbA.png

No reward.

 

fsu4vTF.png

CARDSHARPS ABUZZ AS LA PENISOLA'S OPENING GALA APPROACHES

By Rudy Menken
---- IN less than a month’s time, the Strip will soon be adorned with yet another vivacious gambling hall brought to fruition by a $12 million dollar investment courtesy of funding secured by the Florentine Corporation.

 

Dubbed La Penisola, the 300,000 square foot, vaquero-themed gambling hall and casino will feature sixteen blackjack tables, six craps tables, fifty slot machines, twenty-five cigarette dispensers and an auditorium advance-booked with acts such as the mangled flaming Flamenco dancer Ventosa and the town’s favorite nylon negress Kitty Isobel. Talks of relatively higher-profile acts -- and whispers of a reunion of the Donk Herd, who spotted the casino scene throughout the 1950s headlining at the likes of the Atacama and Bahama Club -- were hinted at by Florentine’s ever-offbeat and notoriety-seeking president Carlo D’Aversa.

 

D’Aversa, who made waves in city press recently after an incident at a local restaurant where he was accused of stabbing a fork into a waiter's hand and dousing a chef in white wine, was mum on any specifics but promised that “[we] wouldn’t be disappointed. You people are never disappointed. I could book [expletive] Nancy LePage out here lightin’ herself on fire and pissin’ down the stage, you’d love it. In fact, I might see about that”. 

 

Budgeted at a firm $12 million, La Penisola has been mired in nebulous accusations over the legitimacy of its funding since it broke ground last year following the original casino’s closing following a suspicious arson in 1960. D’Aversa, officially the president of Florentine Corporation sharing the position of casino manager, holds a 33.3% investment in the property. The other 66.6% -- a mathematical two-thirds, remains anyone’s best guess. The Robada State Gaming Commission does not oblige investing parties to divulge their identities in the public record.

 

La Penisola will open next month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, expected to be attended by every big shot and fame-chaser within a 500-mile radius. A $300-a-plate fundraiser will accompany the gala, expected to keep cardsharps excited to gauge the casino's level of severity toward cheaters at bay for at least a few days.

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  • 2 months later...

mission16.png

Victorians turn Mission-style turn propped up department stores clashing across from flat pavement median. It’s been days on and off, rain still puddling and pooling and flowing into gutters, busses barrelling down the boulevard and picking up passenger hordes packed into bus stop shelters, glass tops protecting delicate heads from the demon moisture.

 

Pull up in the family car - it’s yours again, wipers do their job as Doug makes it to the curb, eyes the spot Oscar sent him off to: open lot lined with exotic imports leading the way to a deep-set white stucco box. Garage. Big sign calls it Papa Ospovat’s Foreign Cars.

 

Time to meet Papa Ospovat.

 

Doug pauses a second, watches as a bunch - mostly old women, babushka-clad, hunched and manhandled by their husbands - make their way into the Orthodox church piercing the fog with its golden domes and fifty-foot murals down the street. Scratches his neck, yawns. They’re inside.

 

With a big sigh he clamors out into the lot, gives the cars an eyeful - Benefactor, Übermacht, Usög, half-plated half void, some with aluminum shields protecting the interior from a sun not much interested in coming out today. Nothing domestic in sight.

 

One of two garage doors is open. Lets the rain in, pools into drainage where concrete meets gravel - invites Doug inside.

 

It’s odd. Simultaneous clutter and emptiness, the combination of volume and absence - cars on hydraulic lifts - domestics now, mind you - oil slicks and tool benches and tire piles and nothing. Not a human being in sight, not a sound.

 

Then some coughing.

 

L-staircase to your left: a little climb leads up to this brick-box office on a would-be second floor, curved glass-block wall giving an overview of the whole little setup. A place where people cough.

 

Hop to it.

 

There’s no door. The metal clangs with every step and at the top you’re right in it: it’s an office alright. Camera from Doug’s POV, walls peeling and floor unwelcoming and no doubt smells of stale coffee and couch alike. Cheap loveseat in tatters belies other sh*t: baroque ornamental armoire doing God-knows-what against the back wall, same for the desk cluttered with paperwork and mugs and ashtrays and the high-backed gilded chair Papa Ospovat’s staring you down from.

 

Words come piling out, rapidfire and throaty.

 

“Osya, скажите своей жене, что если ее новые тормоза не удовлетворяет ее, она может покататься на велосипеде на гребаный рынок.”

Osya, please tell your f*cking wife that if the new brakes aren’t to her satisfaction then she can bike to the f*cking market from now on.

 

Doug was putting on a swagger. It’s gone now.

 

“I… huh?”

 

“Не дай мне это дерьмо--”

Don’t give me that sh*t--

 

Ospovat’s rolling his eyes while he speaks, grabs a pair of glasses off the desk. Good vision stops him in his tracks, drops all momentum.

 

“Oh. Who are you?”

 

“I’m uh- I’m Doug.” Leans against the arch. “No Osyas here. Tell me, how is it you leave all those mighty fine autos out there in the lot, no gate or nothing, and nobody touches ‘em?”

 

Palms on the desk. “Why? You want to touch ‘em?”

 

“Not really.”
 

Starts playing it up. “People are knowing better in this neighborhood. Trust me.”

 

“Yeah, figured. Can I sit?”

 

Ospovat doesn’t speak, just gestures to a pair of folding chairs facing him. Doug plops down, finds himself coming up half a head shorter than the Russian, tries to adjust his ass to very little avail. Stares at the nameplate says Mitt Ospovat / Big Cheese. Someone thinks it’s funny.

 

Man who probably thinks it’s funny’s scruffy, in a wide-headed, wide-mouthed, perpetual stubble and pink-white pattern shirt sort of way. Type of guy who could probably wring your neck with both hands but probably wouldn’t. Type where you hope the rigid exterior belies a little teddy-bear nature.

 

“Why the f*ck you wander into my office? Why the f*ck--”

 

Charming, but conversation heads for a little mid-sentence diversion if you’ve got Doug in his USMC-issue jacket. Mitt’s taken.

 

“Your jacket. Is OG-107?”

 

“OG- olive green? I- yeah, I think that’s what they called it.”

 

“You are Marine?”
 

“Was.”

 

“They let you keep the jacket?”

 

Somewhere along the logical line Doug thinks ‘f*ck it’.

 

“Got cashiered - dishonorable discharge, so no. But they can’t do much about missing items at outprocessing and try billing me at an address I haven’t lived at for 15 years. So f*ck ‘em.”

 

“It is nice jacket.”

 

Considering the pink floral shirt it means a lot. “Yeah, I think so too. S’why I took it.”

 

“You see combat?”

 

“Some. Saw- we were in Van Tuong, the peninsula. Y’know, Chu Lai. VC hospitals and the like, most abandoned.” He’s not budging on much more, waiting for Mitt to respond - doesn’t. “Those names, uh- they mean anything to you?”

 

“I can read papers.”

 

Probably not. But he doesn’t let the conversation hang.

 

“So,” Russian leans back in his chair, “You are Doug. You have gotten dishonorable discharge, stolen issue of US military, sewn rank from pretty jacket and you interested why nobody don’t steal my cars. What you want from me?”

 

“Well,” starts off, “I’m here on business.”

“They all say this.”

 

“Yeah. Tong business.”

 

“Little Chinamen do not usually send American marine for this.”

 

“I figure.”
 

No - he’s not making it easy. “Okay,” cranes neck, “here’s how I understand it, alright? The Tongs, they lent out to this guy named Bertram Young--”

 

“Ah.”

 

“Ah?”

 

“Ah.” He’s picking at teeth now.

 

Okay.

 

“He’s a mark. Some f*ckin’ degenerate, can’t help himself, way they make it sound he’s got the fingers of every lendor in the city in his goddamn pockets. Guy like that, dime a dozen, y’know, they got a sickness. My father was like that. But--”

 

“Was he?”

 

“Yeah. Schmuck. But this guy, point is, this guy- Oscar Feng, Dang, Deng- whatever, he says there’s some sort of conflict of interest going on.”

 

“What kind?”

 

“With your brother.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And- I dunno, there’s some exotic car involved or something. Thought maybe I’d spot it here, I got it for the Tongs then they, uh, they lost it, be honest with you, but I ain’t got an idea what you know. Just that- hell, I don’t really know- but he’s in big with this Nikita and he’s in bigger with the Chinese. And that sh*t don’t look too good.”

 

There’s a pause, a long one. Mitt thinks or he feigns thinking or there’s no distinction to be made anyway. “Nikita is my brother-in-law. In more ways than one.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“But he is a prick.”

 

“Aren’t they all?”

 

Finally gets a laugh. “Yes, maybe.”

 

“So, I’m here to, uh, facilitate peace I guess. Y’know, we uh, we- that car we took, Oscar says Nikita thinks it’s a fair trade to cover the vig with it. And far as I can tell the Chinese think the same.”

 

“That all?”

 

Doug sits back. “Guess so.”

 

Takes a moment to compose himself. Serious now. “Listen here. I never much like usury. You take a broken man and you break him further, you crush dusha, his soul - many people have stomach for this, but this is a means to get your hands dirty that I could not ever bring myself to do. You capitalize, you profit on a sickness. Is different. And when man with wife, three kids, you bled him to the last drop and he drive his car off Finlíneas Crest embankment into the Pacific, just ‘cause he couldn’t make 7.5% vigorish- that happen, who win then?” He points absently, “They don’t win. We don’t win.”

 

“I mean- I lived here all my life and thought you fellas liked that sh*t. Seems half the goddamn city’s into you or, y’know, the Tongs, ‘least neck deep.”

 

“We’re not unit. We not--” Mitt cuts himself off, checks his watch - tic or time-constrained, who knows, “I work on cars since I was little boy, yeah? And back in the old country, there always some, uh, association with the criminals. No choice. So when they start cracking down, they want to send me to gulag- I leave my family, sisters, I go to Latvia in 1938, ‘39, and work at garage there. Quiet like.”

 

Doug’s listening like a kid around the campfire.

 

“Nikita, he has no passion like this. Nikita, same time, bit earlier, he robbing transport hub in Kirov, store goods in old kulak mills by the river until he get pinched, right? And so of course, he got in before me, in gulag- then Nazis come to Latvia, and, you know- so I go home. And I go to gulag.”

 

“Sounds about right.”

 

“Sure. But Nikita killed men in gulag, men who say, ‘I go into military, work with government so I don’t spent rest of my life doing labor’. And I didn’t got to, myself. And he find Lazya Safran, or Lazya finds him--”

 

“Who?”

 

“Who.” Mitt nods. “Yes. But my point - Nikita always have blood on his hands. And I do too, do not get it wrong. But Lazya, he meet me soon after and he like me, maybe more still today- why? Because: Nikita married to my sister, I married to no one. I gamble and lose, I pay my debts. Nikita gamble and lose - maybe you think this funny - he say a ‘f*ck you’ to debtors. And so on.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Doug does not know why he’s saying ‘yeah’.

 

“My brother… he is my brother. We follow same law and live the same life and this is all we are.”

 

Doug looks down at the knees and back up and blinks and says “Yeah” again. There’s something in there. He elaborates, “I get you.”

 

Mitt chews his lip. “In Siberia there are laws you have to follow. Eyes for eyes. There are accounts that need to be settled, razborka, I don’t know. I don’t know. You want me to settle this thing?”

 

Doug’s steady, “All parties want this settled, I think.”

 

Mitt’s still chewing, “Then you settle something for me.”

 

Of course. Doug’s feeling it, nods, “Of course.”

 

“This is-” Mitt’s pointing at his chest, points harder, almost starts beating it, “-gentleman’s agreement for the transferral of goods. Yes?”

 

“How it seems to go.”

 

“There is reason for this. Who you say sent you- Phang? Teng? Deng?”

 

“I, uh- Oscar.”

 

“He tells you how operation here works?”

 

“Oscar’s kind of a nitwit, Mitt, I mean he’s a nice guy and all but- no. He didn’t tell me sh*t.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Desk drawer opens, pack of ciggies comes out and now Mitt’s extending you a hand, lights for Doug and himself.

 

“Is simple really. We on the end where we got spotters citywide, you know, sharp eyes in search for European market car - Lampadati, Ocelot, Usög, not important. My men bring to garage here, we strip it down for parts, sometimes we pull VIN - it depend on orders, you see - uh, we sell hull to scrapyard. Who owns salvage operation? Your Chinese friends, eh? And they facilitate purchase of hull to our guys on other end of city, we got few in Dutch Flatlands, Aravalli Gulch-”

 

Words keep coming and Doug’s nodding and smoking and maybe-maybe not appreciating the full scope. But this is a serious man.

 

“-and usually Grisha, my nephew, he do the runs today, this beauty out in Sastre Outlook, some philantrophy house, I don’t know. Doctor or some nonsense. But Grisha has flu.”

 

“Hope he gets better.”

 

“He act like woman, even my sister not like this, the nose and the cough... But what will you do, the newer generation…” he trails off. 

 

Right. The newer generation.

 

Shrug. Drawer. Paper. Slides across.

 

“Go there, you go now. Is Usög Triolet. Blue - don’t know why - but there is market for these things. I don’t think I got to tell you what to do.”

 

“You don’t.”

 

“You bring it right back.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Don’t get seen, don’t ask no questions.”

“Alright.”

 

“And then I sort this out for you, maybe.”

 

“Would be appreciated.”

 

He goes back to reading whatever’s on his desk. There are no goodbyes.

 

Get to it, baby. 

 

It’s not much of a drive - could even walk if you wanted, car’s surely not getting touched by the lot if Mitt has anything to say about it. But you know, it’s raining. You make him do it and Doug’s got his arms overhead and an extra bit of prickliness in every step. 

 

Paper’s in pocket, you can check it - 2585 Balderdash Street. Doug knows the area, sure; not the exact addy though. You can take San Andreas Ave east, up a block where houses make a distinct impression from your typical victorians to ones more akin to compounds by the time you’re parallel with Sastre Courtyard. You know, only segregated landmass in the city ‘til 15 or so years ago.

 

You can still feel it.

 

Start counting addresses whether you’re in car or on foot; most splayed in gold lettering on curbs, masonry, gaudy lettering on garage doors. 2505, 2507, 2509 - houses on the east mansions packed together like sardines, west sprawling estates with land to spare. You’re on the east.

 

Makes it easier if you’re on foot when you hit Balderdash proper, foot traffic’s light by grace of the weather and demographics alike: lone cars line sloped sidewalks, Ubers, Benefactors, a Pfister or two. Nice - but not what you’re here for.

 

You hit 2585 before long. Very distinct impression that philantrophy house, whatever Mitt meant by it, makes sense now. Sandstone and sprawling facade, garage set forward in the lot and rooftop dormers overlooking lower elevation, i.e. most of the city. It’s one of two - someone who can afford to be a philanthropist or a politician. Probably got good car insurance.

 

It’ll come in handy.

 

But problem, maybe: no Usög in sight. 

 

Get access to the garage.

 

Maybe they’re not home. 

 

Garage is shuttered tight. No go. You couldn't look like more of a car thief tippy-toeing around the building looking for entrances. Door? No thanks. Windows? None open. Creep ahead a little and you get the distinct vibe you’re being watched; maybe a gardener, maybe someone is home. You do enough searching at the front until you turn shoulders back to the road.

 

“Hmph.”

 

One of the alleys opposite the house.

 

There’s a car. This Barbican Monitor with taupe paintwork and smoky windows and, you squint, a single guy in the driver seat. You thought you were conspicuous? That’s halfway the most obvious undercover cruiser you've ever laid your eyes on. Standard issue. Doug bites lip.

 

Could you go around it? Yeah.

 

But Doug ain’t in the mood.

 

He crosses the street.

 

Marches right up to the vehicle and slowly, ever slowly, puts his hand on his holster.

 

Face gets closer.

 

And closer.

 

And you’re right up the front and Doug puts his hand on the hood and whisks his way up to the driver’s window.

 

And Doug practically sh*ts his f*cking pants.

 

“...are you f*ckin’ kidding me?”

 

The cop in the car is a f*cking idiot. He’s got a box of donuts in his lap and coffee precariously on the dashboard and right to his left his hand is on a revolver lying by the gear stick next to a pair of binoculars. 

 

The f*cking idiot is also named Randy Harris.

 

Cheap suit, tie untied, afro well on its way over these sad eyes. Randy wipes powdered sugar from his gaping maw and tries to process what he's seeing. He does: “Cripes.”

 

“What the f*ck is this, Randall?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Hey, Doug.”

 

“Yeah.” Doug spins for containment, “You f*ckin- you f*ck-”

 

Randy’s finger flies to lips, gestures real quiet, tapers the volume down with a hand.

 

Not having it.

 

“Don’t you f*cking shush me, goddamn you.”

 

He stops. “Dougie. D-Dougie- get in the car. C’mon.”

 

“Get in the car. With you?”

 

“Yeah. Come around. Get in the car.”

 

Doug takes this big breath, looks at the house and back. It’s not going anywhere so he comes around and dives into the passenger seat - or he’s about to, throws a couple burger wrappers on the dash before he’s able.

 

And then they stare at each other.

 

“I asked you a question, Randall.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“What the f*ck is this, Randall?”

 

“Oh- this, it’s uh, I dunno. Odd job, I guess. Took on a PI’s license ‘bout six months or so back, I been in the doghouse at home, you know. It’s uh, it’s stupid. And politicking back at the station, this fella, heckuva’ asshole, Hilaire, he got upped to Vice and they filled the vacuum with--”

 

Doug rubs forehead. “Randall, ain’t I always told you to get to the f*ckin’ point? What’re you doing here, camped out like some goddamn teepee on the plain? When’re your bosses gonna figure out that everyone can clock their unmarkeds easier than a bunch of punji sticks on the delta, huh?”

 

“I-- what?”

 

Giving him an eyeful. Doug spins in the seat, gestures to the back windshield, “Didn’t even lay the strobes down, f*ckin’ moron.”

 

“C’mon, Doug.”

 

You can see it clear enough - don’t need the full context of what went on just yet to see actions speaking words aplenty, Doug could’ve gone a life long lived without ever seeing this guy’s face again.

 

But here they are.

 

“Honest to God, Doug - I thought I’d a’ run into you by now.”

 

“It’s a big town.”

 

“Maybe. Not that big. You know I caught up with a couple of the boys? Went down to Gaudi with Eric de Noia a month or two back, there’s this club - well, club - it’s a wa--”

 

“I don’t care.”

 

Sighs go around. Doug wiggles in the seat.

 

“Okay.” But on he goes, “Heard Vogel’s in town too. Baker’s somewhere down south, south of us I mean, Santo Zacaria or Roca Seca or somethin’, I dunno. Vasquez, I think he went back east or something. Got hitched. That dickhead McClean, friggin’ Alan, he’s somewhere stateside, Los Santos maybe, I dunno. Kurtz is off the map, no surprise, and uh- Hitchens, he got leukemia.”

 

Front breaks a sec. “Leukemia?”

 

“Yeah, he- he’s gone, dead. Ten months, year ago.”

 

“No sh*t.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well,” sits up, “Guy never was the finest of fettle. You remember when we dug those holes near Chu Lai, those goddamn centipedes--” No. Something clicks. Cuts the reminiscence short, “Randall, I don’t think you oughta try and break bread over the names of our brothers is all, alright?”

 

He knows why. Eyes are pleading and Doug opens the window with the crank, watches the house, watches some broad’s ass as she walks by with a toy dog.

 

“Did you get my letter?”

 

Through his teeth: “Nah.”

 

“Doug--”

 

“Randall--”


“Randy.”

 

“Randall - I don’t give two sh*ts about the letter, what it said, whether it was laminated or handwritten or how many revisions it took ‘fore you decided on how many words it would take to convince me to forgive and forget, alright? Drop it.”

 

“It weren’t my fault.”

 

“Never was, huh? Weren’t your fault when you made all that noise outside the VC hospital by Batangan neither. Or when you sparked up the munitions tent at camp.”

 

You know Randy’s serious; he spins in his seat, gives that sad-eyed stare. Chump. “I just want forgiveness, Doug.”

 

He doesn’t skip a beat, “Well, there’s a lot in life we ain’t ever gonna get. Ask Babić, you know, from up there or down there or wherever you think he might be. In the ground, back home.”

 

“That ain’t fair--”

 

“Don’t talk fair. You talk fair when you squared killing Babić and trashing that heli and getting me sent back to base and you gettin’ your early ETS and that little prick Dutch going back to Missouri to drive buses or whatever the f*ck. Try it then, Randall.”

 

“I didn’t kill Babić.”

 

“Yes you did. Yes you did.”

 

“That ain’t fair. That ain’t the f*ck fair and you know--”

 

“What do I know?”

 

“That ain't how it went down!”

 

“I know he's rotted in a goddamn hole in goddamn Virginia, Randall.”

 

“Randy.”

 

“Randall. Randolph. Ran-f*ckin’-dolfo.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“And you have the f*cking gall-”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“-to ‘reach out’ like this is f*cking high school reunions and we’re getting the band together and f*ck, Randall, a lot of those reunions is gonna be caskets and flags draped on the top, you f*ck.”

 

“It's not like that!”

 

“You think you're better than me, you badge-and-gun gumshoe cocksucker motherf*cking--”

 

You hear a crash, hear metal creaking and tires screeching and zoom out onto the f*cking road and out a busted up garage goes a car.

 

From 2585. From the target house.

 

An Usög.

 

Y’know. The car.

 

“You wanna talk forgiveness ever again, Randall, you’ll get after that f*ckin’ car right now.”

 

“What?!”

 

“Go!”

 

No question, no time to think, Randy turns the key sitting idle in the ignition, revs it, guns it as the Usög slinks on suspension and barrels down the road on decline.

 

And you, you’re not in control, it’s out of your hands - switch to first person to get right in the midst of it, Randy giving it the old college try in a cop sedan primed to absorb airtime after airtime while the target car does anything but, wheels practically retract into arches right ahead - “Argh, watch the f*ckin’ trim, goddamn it!”

 

Contextual button’s here as a reminder: hold it for a cinematic view of the chase, eagle eye substituting an up close and personal view as the camera perches on Victorian arches and the classic top-down.

 

Doug goes “f*ck” and then goes “f*ck” again and when Randy lines the cars up and you’re almost bumper to bumper and he’s honking and going “Doug, what’s the friggin' plan, man?”, you’re pulled from control as Old Dougie clasps his pistol from the waistband with one hand and latches the other to the grab handle - uses the momentum to shift himself out the window.

 

“The hell you doing?!”

 

Deadpan into the wind: “I’m gonna shoot his tires out, Randall.”

 

Car goes skee and almost hits the curb ‘cause Randy lunges and pulls Doug by the leg - doesn’t work, but he gets the message and crawls back inside anyway: “You better have a backup plan then, prick.”

 

“I uh- I--”


Doug echoes, mocks, calms a bit when he sees the Usög slowing ever so slightly, following traffic rules - gets caught at a light crossing Franklin Ave.

 

Fiddling.

 

Fiddling under the seat, eyes in the back, finally pops the glovebox - Doug pulls out a portable strobe still plugged under the dash.

 

“Are you kidding me?”

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t know, Randall, f*ckin’ cop, didn’t think it’d be worth mentioning you had a light under here?”

 

“I mean I didn't exactly think I’d be- I dunno, I mean--”

 

“Shut up and tell me how to work the thing.”

 

“It’s-- it’s plugged, you just uh, there’s this switch on the bottom. You just flick the thing and, y’know, put it on the dash.”

 

Light goes green.

 

It’s your call but time’s a-wastin’ - contextual button has Doug switch on and put the damn thing down, it kicks right up and Randy complements with the siren under the steering column.

 

“Could’a put the goddamn siren on too, Randall.”

 

“I don’t even know what we’re doin’. What’s your business with this guy, what’re you gettin’ me into here?”

 

“Yeah,” Doug says.

 

“What?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Randall swallows it. “Okay.”

 

F*ckers’re stalling, slow rolling ‘til they come to a full stop on Jacobin Street, this stretch with no curb in the shadows of sandstone across Echazon Plaza. Stops slow, steady, rocks a little in front of the houses and you can hear something-something.

 

Wordlessly, Doug hops out. Randy follows. Perp window rolls down and you can hear bickering in a foreign language, two voices. One a whiny snarl, the other these big oily grunts.

 

“Из всех ебучих дней, чувак.”

Of all the f*cking days, man.

 

“Grigori, ты хреново водишь.”

You drive like an idiot, Grigori.

 

“Вы не хотели водить!”

You told me you didn’t want to drive!

 

“У меня нет документов американских. Если полиция остановит нас, мы попадем в тюрьму, а не оштрафованы. Идиот.”

I don’t have an American ID. They stop me, we go to jail instead of getting fined. Idiot.

 

“О, заткнись, Zalman, они идут.”

Oy, shut up, Zalman, they’re f*cking coming.

 

Doug doesn’t understand, but it don’t sound like they’re having fun.

 

Randy marches to the window. Follow.

 

The two guys come into view - driver’s seat occupied by a shaggy looking bearded kid with long hair and red eyes; passenger this ruddy blond guy in a t-shirt, puffing smoke, trying to look away. Shaggy puts on this fake Whoopsy’ face and his head starts darting from you to the road to you to the road.

 

Randy leans in. Pulls something off his belt, police badge. “SFPD.”

 

Shaggy, “Yes. Yes, I can see.” He’s the whiny one.

 

“You know how fast you were going?”

 

“Is-, yes, the funny, yes- my gas on the stove. I leave it on. Yes?”

 

Randy mulls it. “House you was just speedin’ out of?”

 

Blondie sighs and spits out the window. Shaggy does a little eye twitch but soldiers on, “Yeah. Yes. Mr. Man here, he has the- he need me to drive the car for him because he no have no of the license for driving, yes?”

 

Randy smirks. He’s just f*cking with them now, “Your address?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“What’s your address? Your name?”

 

Blondie spits again, “Не говори им свое настоящее чертово имя, Grisha.”

You don’t tell them your f*cking name, Grisha.

 

“Ты с ума сошел?!”

Are you f*cking crazy?!

 

Randy, “English.”

 

Doug thinks. Grisha. Grisha.

 

Grisha.

 

The flu, huh?

 

“License and registration,” Randy is leaning in for a looksy-doo, “Need your address.”

 

“I tell you Mr. Buster, I live on the street you see me on. Balderdash. What the f*ck?”

 

“Buddy--”

 

Doug has had enough. “Out the f*cking car.”

 

Grisha, “What your problem, cowboy?”

 

Louder, “Get out the f*cking car, Grisha.”

 

“My name is f*cking Clifford!”

 

“Doug--”

 

Screw that.

 

Doug barges past and half-flings Randy to the side and just grabs the door handle from the inside-out. Grisha is shouting, Move your ass going, my friend! What your problem?!but Doug couldn’t give one f*ck or another, grabs Grisha from the arm and yanks him out onto the sidewalk.

 

“You tell your uncle you got the flu?!”

 

“Who the f*ck are you?!”

 

Passenger seat doesn’t move, “Они не полицейские.”

They ain’t cops.

 

Half-right. “Randy, cuff ‘im.”

 

Randy is standing gob-smacked a few paces away. “What?”

 

“Cuff the little sh*t.”

 

“Why?”

 

“He stole the f*cking ride, Randall. What- some f*ckin’ chump’s gonna speed out the garage door, burn rubber because his gas is on the f*cking stove? Goddamn Clifford?”

 

This moment of reflection. Randy chews lip.

 

Gets the cuffs out his belt.

 

Too late.

 

Right from behind Doug gets shoulder-checked by the big blonde brute; Grisha on the ground screams “Zalman, what the f*ck?!” but Dougie gets headed off into the street, almost gets hit by a truck. Thing speeds past and honks horn but, oopsy, you and and Zalman are now locked into fisticuffs on the road.

 

Disable Zalman.

 

Zalman roars. Nothing like words, just anger. Cracks neck.

 

“Slava посылает своих головорезов со значками, правда?”

Slava sends his goons with badges, huh?

 

Yeah. Whatever he said, sure.

 

The big guy is big, sure - but he’s fast, plays rough with his hands and tries to take you down with both arms. Tries grabbing at your arms and shoving your face into the concrete and grinding his boots on your legs. Zalman plays dirty. You can too, easy - pull a melee and the confident f*cker’ll try and grab at you anyway; get unlucky and he’ll take it from you and turn the blade the other way.

 

Pulling a gun isn’t recommended.

 

It isn’t a long fight, and if you play your cards right he’ll hit the ground easy, but you know. Cigar chomping slav with an axe to grind and boots to do the very same.

 

Doug drags him to the side while Randy slams Grisha onto the hood of his unmarked whip and pats the kid down. Kid strains and wails, “Ohhh baby, what you do to me!”

 

Get down to his level. Ask again, “Thought you had the flu, Grish’?”

 

“Are you buddy even f*cking cops, man? You f*ck me, buddy?!”

 

“Yeah, bud. I f*ck you.”

 

“F*ck you.”

 

Randy chuckles, “He’s witty.”

 

Moment of just him struggling against the steel. 

 

Sighs. Doug, “I’m gonna take the car.”

 

“You’re gonna what?”

 

“You can keep Bluto and Slim over here.”

 

“Doug, I’m taking two perps in for car theft for a car that don’t friggin’ exist.”

 

“Then you take your prints, take your pretty mugshot, throw ‘em out on the street within 48. I don’t give a f*ck. Think of something.”

 

“What the heck have you put me up to, Pryor?”

 

“You want forgiveness, Randall?”

 

Randy waivers.

 

Doug just nods. “You’re on the yellow brick road. We get a coffee. Something.” Smirks a little before continuing, If you want, I’ll sock you in the f*ckin’ mouth, say the perps resisted arrest.”

 

Randy doesn’t think he’s joking. Waits a little under Russian grunts before just murmuring “Okay,” hoisting Grisha upright, “You got my number. Okay.”

 

Get the Usög to Papa Ospovat’s.

 

Randy drives off. The street is empty.

 

Get in the Triolet.

 

It’s a sobering drive back the way you came.

 

Russians never killed the engine; Doug plants his ass firm onto burnt orange leather, switch to first person as the radio purrs in the throes of Neil Young. Gauges are white, radio’s a bunch of knobs. 

 

It’s neat.

 

But you’re not long for it, pitter-pattering your way back to the garage as the gears jolt; remember, car’s an import, car’s manual - you gun it too quick after a red light, means Doug pulls the clutch too quick and you’re stalled. Learn to work it and you won’t turn a quick return trip into a series of stop-and-goes at every intersection between Sastre and the garage.

 

You can muse: Mitt being played for a fiddle.

 

Really your problem?

 

Probably.

 

Pass through Balderdash again and slow it by the castello-style haunt Randy was scoping out, you might find his money shot - real jittery looking couple, old broad and this slick twenty-something heading in through a side entrance. Woulda made a good shot.

 

Gets Doug his last laugh.

 

Ospovat Foreign Cars hasn’t moved, stucco dwelling still shimmers in puddles pooling in a lot long wracked with potholes. Garage door welcomes you inside with open arms.

 

Watch the suspension on the transition strip.

 

Park up. No, Mitt’s not gonna meet you halfway, he’s still holed up in the office - so say your goodbyes to the little Triolet. Won’t see another for a while.

 

He’s up there, clang clang clang with each foot on perforated metal. In the doorway you spot him eating a sandwich but he just as well might not’ve moved since you left, looks like he’s lived his whole life in that chair.

 

It’s egg salad.

 

“Mitt.”

 

“Ah,” puts it down, wipes fingers - not on a napkin, not even his shirt, the table, goes “So you have settled up the business then, Mister Contraband?”

 

“Eh, in so many words.”

 

Pushes his plate back, “What does that mean?”

 

“Well - I got you the car.”

 

“I see this.”

 

“But, uh-” he steps forward, “Grisha, your nephew. He was uh, sick, you said?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Beat. Stare. Mitt starts doing the arithmetic.

 

“Doug,” he goes, “Just don’t be f*cking me, yeah?”

 

“You fellas got a real cool grasp on that word.” He pulls up a chair, gets serious. “Look - long story short, I went to the f*ckin’ house and it weren’t three seconds ‘fore your little blue bullet comes out the garage like a bat outta hell. I catch up and it’s some rat-haired kid named f*cking Grisha, sick Grisha, and I’m thinkin’ ‘Hm, now that’d be some f*ckin’ coincidence if they weren’t one and the same, wouldn’t it?’”

 

He’s stoic. “What happened?”

 

“He had some goddamn tough with him, whatever. Like I said, long story - they’re uh, they’re probably bein’ booked at the station up on 6th Ave by now.”

 

“And you get the car.”

 

“Yeah. I get the car. Which means they’ll be out by tea time.”

 

Mitt’s busy trying not to look too hurt or too pissed, and it’s admirable - it’s just not working.

 

“Mitt, look, I don’t wanna get into the middle of some family disp-”

 

“No. This is not family dispute, this is business. I guess… is razborka from the other side, huh?”

 

Silence. But then something goes snap.

 

“F*CK!”

 

No fists or kicks or broken lamps, ‘stead Mitt takes his f*cking sandwich and lobs it against the glass block wall - bread flies, egg and mayonnaise suctions itself to the glass and starts a slow crawl down. 

 

Doug just glares.

 

Looks back. “What now, then?”

 

“I don’t f*cking know what now, why he don’t f*cking talk to me before doing this, he make my own nephew do this? To take from me?”

 

“Who?”

 

“Who - Mister Doug, you work for Tongs, I know this, they keep dispute to a little. But you still have two eyes, yes? You see the pieces moving, you see Nikita put pressure on step-son, Grisha say ‘yes’ to man who can give him more than a little piece of car ring?”

 

“I dunno what you’re talking about.”

 

He stands, casts half a glare at sandwich mush on the floor before moving on. “You see this?”

 

xkQiOKzFUNVHUxPPE3_0y0sRDkuvi160OgX4YpxqPglcbDA7c4eK1fDoX_uPB04URk6Ea8mdSTeKO8Yy3AQvjWEvMkdtvAoaWOoHQVrSI2bvnrwIiwRVnS5MR-qmnBilR7Kc_0lq

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Someone take this three, four years ago. Is little Dagestani family, own this whole place before it becomes mine. But Papa Maksud did not want to sell. This is when Lazya Safran set up whole deal with Triad salvage yards, you see, and we was needing a place in the neighborhood. Papa Maksud was stubborn like goddamn moon, would not listen to Mr. Safran and certainly not to me.”

 

“So you took turns breaking his sons’ arms, I get the story.”

 

“No. Nikita comes, with golden tongue. Not a strongarm, but he made Maksud see reason where even Mr. Safran could not. And he don’t take one cent for it, keep to his own methods, the shylock. He do it out of goodwill.”

 

“You sure?”

 

“I don’t care. Why the f*ck he can’t talk no reason to me?”

 

“I don’t know, Mitt. But I came in here asking on their behalf, the Triads - that you’d, you know, speak to him anyway, right? ‘Cause this all comes back to debts unsettled. Anything beyond that…” trails off, makes a chopping motion.

 

Anything to be gained playing dumb.

 

“I don’t got no choice now, huh?”

 

“Guess not.”

 

“Here,” Mitt reaches again into the bottomless desk, pulls out a crisp twenty. “You do good work, even if things go a little haywired. I’d like you to come back. But Doug - I can’t do you no promises about this debt.”

 

Doug shrugs, grabs his perk: “All I can do is ask.”

 

Well, that was a f*cking excursion.

 

You’re out. Doug stands up, eyes dart down - to sandwich, to Mitt and back, but there’s only one way out. You hit metal and Mitt’s back in the chair with a sigh reverberating, last little glance down the stairs you see a man with hands on face stuck in a cloud of a million thoughts.

 

Doug shrugs. Walks down the steps.

UnfRlbA.png

+ $20.00

 

 lgibPMBsPz9cJ5h-mjuXwWgeYoPxk8AbGLyObbH-_piZK5UaE0zpQWAeOxh7TD2MasdPgNfZNFxykDo-N7MCWhMHAtoyAtv1hv-Xq-xdcCJm3jphacBFlF2eUOR52E5mV6hKmaXR

CLAIMS OF DIRE CONDITIONS AT SASTRE STOCKADE SPURNED

By Binyamin Dorf

---- A series of civilian complaints elevated to the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Army have recently been made available to this paper regarding conditions at the stockade located within the Sastre military outpost at The City’s famous northernmost point. 

 

A shockingly grim picture is painted. Among a skein of fourteen charges first levied against the personnel of the military prison in April 1966 on behalf of the inmate population are accusations of grossly overpopulated cell blocks; physical and mental torment at the hands of Military Police guards; latrines flooded with excrement, and a rash of suicide attempts in the dozens - though largely unsuccessful - as recently as the month last. 

 

The stockade, which consists overwhelmingly of young men charged with going AWOL during the Army’s engagements in Indochina, a fortnight ago enacted a temporary policy of no discharges said to have been applied in response to a populational quota related to operational utility costs. On this specific claim, Army spokesman Ward Moultry had no comment.

 

Following a hunger strike perpetrated by a small collective of dissenting prisoners in January that garnered the attention of local newspapers, the dissenters are since alleged to have been segregated, abused, and refused access to sanitation facilities. One inmate, whose identity has not been released, too attempted suicide.

 

Spokesman Ward Moultry said of the allegations; "We take any and all misconduct complaints very seriously, only we urge the public to understand that the conditions at Sastre are beyond reproach. Beyond reproach. We’ve reviewed the reports and find the allegations to be the work of a small contingent of troops radicalized by the adversarial mindset, trying to cash into San Fierro’s penchant for welcoming recreant bellyachers of the anti-war movement. We will resolve the situation as we see fit.”

 

The Sastre stockade continues to operate as usual. The fourteen complaints have been printed in full on Page 5.

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  • 3 weeks later...
The Coconut Kid

Bumping this, I'm on Chapter 14 and the breathtaking amount of detail that's been worked into this thread merits it.

 

I know this has probably been answered (and there's always music littered throughout your chapters) but did you ever settle on a soundtrack, perhaps one since removed? Are there any plans to bring it back, be it here or on one of those Google forms?

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The Coconut Kid

Bit of commentary I want to pass on after reading Mission 14...

 

Your chapters always take me a lot longer to get through. The dialogue your characters exchange is complex and so rooted in the relationships between them and their social/racial circumstances that I find myself re-reading the lines to see if I've missed or misinterpreted anything. The little details and give-aways are endless. Somehow you make all of this enjoyable without it being a chore and I can't commend you enough for it.

 

Julius is probably the most favourite of your characters and in this mission it's most evident why -- it's not just Jules, but the characters who surround him. Winston, Freddy and the trouble he attracts, the Leopards. They all feel like GTA characters who haven't been GTA characters yet, if you know what I mean? You're plugging the gap and showing how it can be done. Jules is also a super-slick customer -- when something is obviously up he doesn't lead with, "Who the f*ck are you?" he plays it cool, assesses the scene, "Yeah, I work here, my man. Like to get inside, get my day going if you don't mind..." It's dialogue that doesn't need description, I can already tell he's sizing up if the Russian's gonna offer any resistance, if he's gonna offer a good excuse for why he can't go about his day. You meld the action scene seamlessly with the narrative and as always I've got a lot of appreciation for how many choices you offer your players/readers.

 

Going through the chapter, especially after the brawl at the start, it's easy to appreciate this one for what it is -- character development. I've always been a big fan of Julius and Winston and this is the mission that lets them shine. We get a look at the good times -- them out on the town every night in Van Buren; lamenting work-home work-home and current exploits -- "Next time you lay eyes on SS bolts you best be putting bullets into 'em." killer line -- and the sh*t times, their upbringing. It's stuff you don't have to put in, talk that probably isn't top of anyone's wishlist of things they want to see, but it sets this apart and the universe you've written here is all the richer for it.

 

Now the mission itself wasn't what I expected -- was a welcome change of pace in fact, selling papers; who hasn't wore out their soles as a paper boy when they were a nippa? -- but your choice to throw in a foot chase, and the way you've written it, pays off big time with the way it puts the location at the heart of proceedings.  Birchwood, Doyle Park, Bushrod, Longfellow -- glamour to grit -- showcases just what San Fierro has to offer in terms of location.

 

And I don't know what the technical term is but I f*cking love it how Freddy is lamenting the decline of his courier business at the start, due to Post Op and their fleet of vans, and the chase ends with the kid hopping on his bike and straight after getting flattened by a Boxville. Clever stuff.

 

Looking forward to going through the rest of these soon...

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On 4/4/2020 at 5:23 AM, The Coconut Kid said:

Bumping this, I'm on Chapter 14 and the breathtaking amount of detail that's been worked into this thread merits it.

 

I know this has probably been answered (and there's always music littered throughout your chapters) but did you ever settle on a soundtrack, perhaps one since removed? Are there any plans to bring it back, be it here or on one of those Google forms?

there was definitely a more cohesive soundtrack by the time the forum update killed everything but unfortunately even the archive of the thread didn't capture its final state. it's gotten sidetracked recently but i fully intend to release it again as a destruction-proof google doc in the next little while, so like Red Line the radio section will just link neatly over to that.

 

1 hour ago, The Coconut Kid said:

Bit of commentary I want to pass on after reading Mission 14...

 

Your chapters always take me a lot longer to get through. The dialogue your characters exchange is complex and so rooted in the relationships between them and their social/racial circumstances that I find myself re-reading the lines to see if I've missed or misinterpreted anything. The little details and give-aways are endless. Somehow you make all of this enjoyable without it being a chore and I can't commend you enough for it.

 

Julius is probably the most favourite of your characters and in this mission it's most evident why -- it's not just Jules, but the characters who surround him. Winston, Freddy and the trouble he attracts, the Leopards. They all feel like GTA characters who haven't been GTA characters yet, if you know what I mean? You're plugging the gap and showing how it can be done. Jules is also a super-slick customer -- when something is obviously up he doesn't lead with, "Who the f*ck are you?" he plays it cool, assesses the scene, "Yeah, I work here, my man. Like to get inside, get my day going if you don't mind..." It's dialogue that doesn't need description, I can already tell he's sizing up if the Russian's gonna offer any resistance, if he's gonna offer a good excuse for why he can't go about his day. You meld the action scene seamlessly with the narrative and as always I've got a lot of appreciation for how many choices you offer your players/readers.

 

Going through the chapter, especially after the brawl at the start, it's easy to appreciate this one for what it is -- character development. I've always been a big fan of Julius and Winston and this is the mission that lets them shine. We get a look at the good times -- them out on the town every night in Van Buren; lamenting work-home work-home and current exploits -- "Next time you lay eyes on SS bolts you best be putting bullets into 'em." killer line -- and the sh*t times, their upbringing. It's stuff you don't have to put in, talk that probably isn't top of anyone's wishlist of things they want to see, but it sets this apart and the universe you've written here is all the richer for it.

 

Now the mission itself wasn't what I expected -- was a welcome change of pace in fact, selling papers; who hasn't wore out their soles as a paper boy when they were a nippa? -- but your choice to throw in a foot chase, and the way you've written it, pays off big time with the way it puts the location at the heart of proceedings.  Birchwood, Doyle Park, Bushrod, Longfellow -- glamour to grit -- showcases just what San Fierro has to offer in terms of location.

thanks yet again man, i appeciate the fantastic feedback as always. 14 was largely a vehicle to introduce the Leopards in a substantive way that both they as an organization and Leon himself felt utterly deserving of, so i'm glad you saw what we hoped would come across as a genuine passion in writing it. at this point it's largely status quo and Jules has remained largely ignorant - or up until now had at least been isolating himself from that part of Win's life - and with the liking Leon took to him you know it won't be long before he's mired in it. i'd read the autobiographies of both Cleaver and Newton as well as this neat little book called Panther Baby to try and get an authentic handle on how the atmosphere would really feel right in the midst of business as usual in Panther HQ at the time, and you can also thank slimeball for capturing the nuances of Leon's hypnotic ideological proselytizing. 

 

3 hours ago, The Coconut Kid said:

And I don't know what the technical term is but I f*cking love it how Freddy is lamenting the decline of his courier business at the start, due to Post Op and their fleet of vans, and the chase ends with the kid hopping on his bike and straight after getting flattened by a Boxville. Clever stuff.

i'm also glad you caught that haha, it was just this little irony - yeah, the multinationals are taking over and they might just be the death knell of these little local services. it's one thing to ponder that in theory and then another to have the question posed in the crudest way possible as the truck makes the kid f*cking fly; for his own immediate prospects is that even so bad for Jules?

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mjxlkn6.png

 

Doug’ll be up Greenwich when the minimap shows a new blip. Old friend Stephane La Roi, troubled artist and drug fiend. Why not pay a visit?

 

Drive up to his townhouse on Charge Street, climb up the steps, ring the doorbell. Buzz in - “Here to see Stephane.” Get Cantonese bickering back. Is he here? Is he not?

 

Don’t matter.

 

Doug’ll turn from the door, face the street, pull a smoke and wait. Time ticks, seconds pass, a little longer.

 

Suddenly, you hear a pur.

 

A black BF Synergy speeds up the block, narrowly misses a pedestrian, screeches in front of his apartment. Four deep - three men in leather jackets. The door swings open.

 

“Дешевый маленький педик!” Driver cries.

Cheap little fa**ot!

 

No drama; La Roi just gets tossed into the street, falls into the sewer grate and gets soaked.

 

“Наша машина сейчас, сука,” laughter. Russians speed off.

Our ride now, bitch!

 

La Roi is just wailing. He tries to get up, can't, a car swerves to avoid him in the middle of the road, a bus slows and the driver honks. He's on his ass now just crying, scrambles to the other side of the road.

 

Doug crosses the street.

 

Stands over him as the guy shivers.

 

“Hi,” Doug says.

 

La Roi looks up.

 

“Lookin’ good, I see.”

 

Beat.

 

“WuuuuaAAHHHHH--”

 

Smash cut to a nearby bench: La Roi being held by the shoulders sobbing dead-legged, snot and tears and black eyed. Doug’s coddling him like a babe, “There, there… c’mon,” half throws him onto the bench and lets him pull himself up.

 

Some passerby walks by, scrunches face. Another guy does the same. Doug cringes, just nods.

 

Camera back on Stephane. He’s got a cigarette, sopping wet and muddy, hanging limp out his mouth. Flicks a lighter, totally busted, flick-flick-flicks it through his tears.

 

“Buddy,” Doug goes.

 

Stephane sighs. Gives up.

 

“C’mon.”

 

La Roi pulls the smoke out, just flicks it to the ground, wipes wet face with wet hands and doesn’t really fix much. “You don’t happen to speak- speak Russian, oui?”

 

“Nope,” Doug shrugs. “I got one talent. That’s all.”

 

“Worth a shot.” Steph digs his hand deep into his coat, rustles a moment, pulls out a hunk of head cheese in aspic and brushes pocket lint off. Shoves the f*cker in his mouth and chews it like a cow with cud. Pauses with his mouth still full - “You want a piece?”

 

Doug just kinda shakes his head.

 

“I go uptown to euh… how you say. Score?”

 

“Score, sure.”

 

“Score. I was scoring cocaine. Very good cocaine, they tell me.”

 

“I’m sure.”

 

“It is needless to say, but I do not have my cocaine.”

 

“Well, Steve, I don't mean to presume… but I'm guessin’ they saw you, and the car, and the money, and the uh…” finger snaps finger snaps, “naïveté, I think’s the word. And they decided to take it all and give you nothing back.”

 

La Roi points two-fingered, “That sounds about right.”

 

“Yup.”

 

“I know where they are. Or, well, where they hang out. I met them there.”

 

“Met them where?”

 

“This diner in Outer Ocaso. Pupp’s Grubb, has this f*cking big spinning dog head out the front and they like the greasy spoons.”

 

“Yeah, they got a couple.” 

 

La Roi is caught up in himself, mutters, “Harass the waitresses and slam fists on tables and--”

 

“Well, man, if you know where they hang. Go for a refund, I guess. That’s my suggestion.”

 

“Oui, my plan. My plan… but. You see.” Presents himself in his muddy soaked jacket with meat jelly smeared on his lips. “I-... can you come?”

 

Doug scoffs, “I seen too many Russkies recently.”

 

“I still have money. They have money.”

 

“And I’m glad you could salvage something, Steph.”

 

“I am telling you I will be paying you, chumpo!”

 

Doug knows, laughs, “Okay, okay,” he says. “I wanna see this.”

 

Time to see it.

 

It’s your ride this time - La Roi’s a bit too muddied and his car’s a bit too stolen for the trouble, so f*ck it. If you’re personal vehicle’s lingering, get in. If it’s not, La Roi shudders and shivers by the park bench waiting for you to jack one with Doug saying a cursory “I forgot my keys!” Onto Ocaso.

 

La Roi mutters in French for a good few seconds.

 

Doug, “What?”

 

“My notebook.”

 

“What?”

 

“Is f*cking soaked. Right through. Filthy f*cking thing. Unbelievable.”

 

“Sorry about that.”

 

“Is saveable. Is is. Just unbelievable.”

 

If you’re in first person you can crane your neck over to the passenger to peek inside. Before it was scribbles, now it’s just splotches. It doesn’t look like actual writing. “Well, lucky, I guess.”

 

“They- f*ck, this bullsh*t to me. Really! The sh*t they tell me they’re selling is so pure it might as well be 100% plant, might as well--” schniff “--be so clean they wash clothes with it.”

 

“They were selling detergent?”

 

“Now I think of this, f*cking probably.”

 

“Not even a taste?”

 

“Oh, oui, I got a taste mon ami. And zut alors this sh*t was f*cking god mana. For moment or two I communicate with the Lord in Heaven, I tell Zeus to suck on the tip, I ride on the sunshine waves of the God of the Sun!”

 

“And then you got thrown out of a moving car.”

 

“Oui. I got thrown out of a moving car.”

 

“All the Soviets I met and my lord these guys are okay with a scrap. I gotta tell ya’. I have this guy who’s f*cking knee deep; f*cker’s covered the windows and pisses in a bucket. Break jaws ‘n sh*t. You’re just lucky.”

 

“I tell them my address.”

 

Blink. “Why?”

 

“So they drop me off at my house?”

 

“Okay.”

 

“What the f*ck do I do? They drop me off at the bus stop?”

 

“These f*cking gangsters know your goddamn address! Yeah, at the bus stop. Yeah, anywhere.”

 

“The pen, it is mightier than the sword, mon ami. Believe you me, believe you me, these fu--”

 

“The pen is mightier than the sword? What is this f*cking cliche sh*t?”

 

“Listen - these Soviets? They will not get a good write-up in my manuscript.”

 

“What?”

 

“And then they will see. These Vladimirs and Mr. Khruschevs and Stalins and f*ck, they will get theirs. They will get theirs. They will get theirs.”

 

“Do these guys look like the reading type?”

 

“Does Khruschev?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Protagonist, he go to do the drug deal with these Russians in Hashville. Oui? And they are the major dick sucker, they suck all of the dick. They do these because they love it.”

 

“What are you proving?”

 

“They suck dick!”

 

“And Khruschev--”

 

“Mon ami, f*ck! This is of the brain wave. They suck the dick and wear the little pom-pom-pom a-dresses, oui? You get this? Oh my f*ck, I need to write this down,” La Roi tears his pen right out his pocket and starts scribbling again, My god, and they can say they love to eat the communist sh*t. This is f*cking genius.”

 

If you’re in first person you’ll catch the pen’s lid slowly unscrew and pen ink slowly flood across the page and drip down onto La Roi’s legs. He doesn’t notice. It doesn’t look like he notices even when it’s like he’s drawing circles in a pool of black, but pow he slaps the page and covers his hand in ink and yelps.

 

“You good?”

 

“I need my f*cking coke, Daniel!”
 

The Pupp’s Grubb is up ahead.

 

They’re all classic 50’s greasy spoon spots for sure; and it befits the neighborhood, the Ocaso District in general belying surf-rock hippy vibes and the Great Highway leading down south to Clavo Campo. They call it The Avenues - unlike the rest of town, Ocaso’s mostly planned community, mostly grid-based traffic and houses built like all the other houses and plenty of backyards and fences. The real draw is the beach. The surfboards and the bikinis and the tanlines and the picnic tables.

 

You’re in Avenues territory, but the spot is on the neighborhood border. Across the thoroughfare is Lake Avispa. Lake Avispa, Lake Avispa Park, and the Avispa Country Club. Park is public land, but the golf courses? Strictly private. Owned by the oldest athletic club in the country, US Golf Championship host in 1966, and a spot where some of the city’s top movers and shakers reside and sip tea in the shadow of Missionary Hill.

 

This might be a little abstract, but the point is - the f*cking spinning head of that Mastiff is in your crosshairs.

 

“You see it? Mon ami, the brakes, the brakes!”

 

Stop in the parking lot. Bask in the glory. The mastiff has a bowtie stuck between its neck rolls.

 

Building isn’t much to look at aside from the drooling dog statuette spinning in the sun - big square building advertising for Sprunk and eCola - but before you even stop the car you’ve got La Roi jumping out the door and waddling to the entrance. Pull up and follow and you’ll see him tap-tap-tapping the foot and saying “Bastards, I see them. I see the bastards!”

 

Door swings open.

 

"Иван, где, черт возьми, столовая соль? Эти картофель фри!"

Ivan, where the f*ck’s the salt?! These fries!

 

“Hey, официантка шлюха! Hey, you f*cking listen to me?!”

Hey, waitress bitch!

 

The Russians are sat in a booth by the corner, all smoking, all got half-eaten burgers strewn and laughing, one guy in particular staying silent with a toothpick mining in the mouth. There’s three. Two in the booth facing the door, one with the back of his head to your eyeline. La Roi fumes, fumes.

 

Waitress lady is walking by, “What?”

 

“Salt, woman, you f*cking salt we need it.”

 

“Where’s the shaker?”

 

“We need more shaker, woman.”

 

Waitress hocks a loogie, “There’s salt--”

 

“Woman, what the f*ck?!”

 

“What?”

 

“Why you spit the floor? Disgusting! What the f*ck wrong with you?”

 

“You don’t tell me--”

 

“I tell you the f*ck--”

 

“--what I can and--”

 

Another Russian pipes, “Customer is the always a right you mother--”

 

You’re halfway across the room. Doug turns to La Roi with a hand up, “Stay coo-… oh.”

 

He’s gone.

 

Turn back.

 

He’s at the table.

 

He’s got his hand on his waist. This a f*cking disaster.

 

La Roi, “Excuse me!”

 

They’re still arguing.

 

“You Russia Mcf*cking Bastards, I say excuse me!”

 

Russian un, “What the f*ck your problem?”

 

Russian deux, “We know this guy?”

 

La Roi’s pacing up and down the aisle hand on belt, putting on a f*cking show, chest puffed out, “Tu m’connais. Ahhh, tu m’connais, hein? Tu veux m’faire écoeurer, fesser, crisser d’ton osti de char, mes crrrosseurs de marde? J’suis assez tanné d’tes câlisse de conneries communistes - faque voila, hein? Hein? Ah, mes tabarnaks, j’vais t’étriper! You look, huh? Qui chie dans leurs criss de culottes maintenant?”

 

Was building to a crescendo.

 

But they’re just staring.

 

“Oy, what the f*ck?”

 

“You are a f*cking red fa**ot!” La Roi spits.

 

“Разве мы не ограбили его?”

Didn’t we f*cking rob this guy?

 

Russian trois laughs, “My god, it’s big kahuna journal man.”

 

La Roi, “Where is my car, cocksucker?!”

 

Russian deux does a fake schniff schniff, “You want moaarre, big men? You want funny?”

 

This is going nowhere good, and it’s going there fast.

 

Doug takes the opportunity to make himself known. Saunters up slow-like while La Roi is getting laughed down and pipes up coolheaded, “He just wants his car and then he’s on his way, fellas.”

 

“Who is the cowboy, Frenchman?”

 

“Boyfriend?”

 

Doug sighs, “Gentlemen. I don’t wanna take much an issue with the owners here. You want mess, we take it outside, huh?”

 

La Roi doesn’t get the memo.

 

La Roi pulls a .32 out his waistband.

 

“У него пистолет!”

He’s got a gun!

 

Oh.

 

Doug realizes the mistake when he notices the table ain’t bolted to the floor. Everyone does; you sure as sh*t do when Russian number deux flips the thing and number trois does a dive behind the counter. Russian deux pulls out a shiny spanking VM66, number un takes out a CAT. They’re both automatic and they both start f*cking blazing.

 

The diner goes psycho.

 

Doug takes cover behind an empty booth and camera gets a good view of the chaos unfolding as people duck or run. Runners flee for the doors, duckers cower or hide lovers or partners or whoever. Runners regret - the VM66 goes grat-ta-ta and a poor woman gets shot in the leg, another guy somewhere else and ends up crashing through the diner window.

 

Locating La Roi? It’s a trouble but he’s got his little pea-shooter out and he’s firing without eyes. He will hit nobody.

 

Take ‘em out. You stay still a moment and maybe trois’ll get out to check on you or get close to La Roi, but deux is always perched. He’s got the big guns and he ain’t f*cking around.

 

Pop them.

 

They bleed.

 

Tyres screech.

 

“Mon bébé!”

 

Bébé is La Roi’s car, La Roi’s Pfister Rebelle being driven by number trois who ducked out the door while you weren’t looking. Trois screeching tyres and darting down the road and the camera snaps to Doug and his comrade running out to their car. Get in. Go.

 

Car rides down the boulevard with the colored houses to your left and the trees of Lake Avispa Park to your right. The f*cker keeps going. You’re past the park and still on Bundle Boulevard intersecting Ocaso Boulevard and it’s like he’s going even faster.

 

He goes faster, and faster, and faster.

 

And you don’t.

 

His car gets further, and further, and further.

 

And you don’t.

 

And he’s a speck in the distance and your car is going the same damn pace. There’s a kick in him.

 

By the end of the road, he’s gone.

 

What.

 

What?

 

What the f*ck just happened?

 

He f*cking got away?

 

It doesn’t matter what car you were driving. You couldn’t keep speed. Maybe you couldn’t maneuver through the cars. But he’s f*cking gone.

 

Doug is dumbfounded.

 

La Roi is hyperventilating so bad he might as well be choking.

 

The sun is setting. You might get an eyeful.

 

He’s gone. Go back to La Roi’s house.

 

Doug breaks the silence on the u-turn, “That’s a helluva ride, Steve.”

 

“My car…”

 

“Stevie.”

 

“Patente à gosse...”

 

“He was too fast.”

 

“OF COURSE HE’S TOO FAST! It’s my car! My beautiful- ffff*ckING car!”

 

“That wasn’t supposed to happen. That never happens.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Fantastique, cowboy. You are very very very sorry.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I spend too many f*cking dollars on her. Too many f*cking dollars. I f*ck a girl in the backseat I drive from Los Santos to here on the GOH. I f*ck another girl in the backseat on the way home. I f*ck another--”

 

“I get it.”

 

“This car is imbued with my scent, Daniel.”

 

“He went too f*cking fast, Steve.”

 

“Zis car turbocharged like motherf*cker. I have more juice under this hood than the f*cking Apollo rocket ship.”

 

“There you go.”

 

“There I go?!”

 

“It’s Douglas.”

 

“What?”

 

“It ain’t Daniel.”

 

“What you f*cking want from me?”

 

“My name.”

 

“Whatever. I did not lose everything, eh?” La Roi digs deep into jacket, pulls out… oh. Huge f*cking baggie of white. “Eh?”

 

“Ah.”

 

“They dropped it.”

 

“Ah, well, ‘least your priorities are straight.”

 

He replies by digging his nose into the bag and snorting like a vacuum.

 

Huh.

 

A pause.

 

Doug breaks again, “You ok--”

 

“MOTHERF*CKER! Ohhhhhh, ohhhhh… ohhhh… f*ck! Oh, f*ck!”

 

“Oh.”

 

“F*ck! Crisse, que j'ai tombé d'haut. Câlisse! J'tais la meilleur de la gang, man, c'pas un joke. J'te niaise pas.”

 

“What?”

 

Dîtes-moi, Daniel - qui lit mes maudits d'histoires?! Les ostis d'épais de marde, c'est qui. Câlisse de moumounes qui viens me chercher d'nul part pour m'parler d'la radio et des maudits de chars. Imbéciles. J'écris pour écrire! J'écris pour explorer la contradiction inné à l'âme, pas pour l'avenir futur d'un milieu a venir!"

 

“Buddy--”

 

“Who am I, Mr. Army Man?!”

 

“You’re f*cking nuts.”

 

“Mon ami, I am bananas. I am the plantains that grow from the measly seed to the bean stalk to climb! Des gens quétaines de Grande-Bretagne qui écrivent des lettres condescendantes, qui viennent de l'authorité... Ton bêtise, tes cochonneries! Tu penses vraiment que tu connais mieux le monde grâce aux examens superficiels de- des câlisses d'encyclopédies et des films de marde et tabarnac, tabarnac de bout d'crisse de gériboire. J'vais leur montrer. Gosse a Joseph, je vais leur montrer.”

 

You’re close now. He mutters for the remainder. Unintelligible, much like the rest.

 

Cutscene cuts in when you pull up to his house and Doug brakes so hard La Roi nearly slams his head into the dashboard. Turns head to La Roi schniff-schniffing all manic-like with a glare in his eyes.

 

“You got the cash?”

 

En France, en vacances quand j'tais jeune, j'tais camé, tellement camé - j'ai roulé sur la chemin et un char a fait un p'tit écart dans un arbre et le gars qui s'est décédé - je pense qu'il a remporté un prix Nobel. I am in this now. I am born again, my friend! Oh f*ck, the little Jewish man at the publisher--”

 

“Hey. My f*cking money.”

 

Ils n'ont jamais su, Douglas. Ils m'ont jamais su, Douglas.”

 

“What?”

 

“What money, my friend?”

 

“You said you’d pay me.”

 

“I did?”

 

“Yeah. What? You forgot?”

 

“No! No. Never, my friend. My pal. You get me the mana. I use this mana to buy a thousand babies, my friend. Not infants, I mean. I mean cars.”

 

“I just--”

 

La Roi digs into his jacket and pulls out 10 dollars.

 

Oh.

 

“Ah.”

 

He’s grinning, “Believe you me, you deserve it.”

 

Doug just stares. “Thanks.”

 

“You come back here- oh, my man. My man! I will have a thousand more. Five thousand more. You see my manuscript--”

 

Doug just takes the money.

 

Doug just leaves.

 

Whatever.

 

UnfRlbA.png

+ $10.00

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The Notorious MOB

Nice one fellas. My only critique would be that you have Stephane speaking French in grey text - which elsewhere in the mission is used for English subtitles. Just a little jarring. Probably best to stick the English translation in grey to save non French speakers from having to read with the help of google translate. Or just keep everything (aside from the English translations) in white. If you want to just have large blocks of untranslated dialogue that is.

 

Congrats on 100 comments though!! 🥳

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An early morning ring-a-ding in Chinatown, city night’s rest winding down with camera floating above street level; full breadth of Julius’ apartment block’s efflorescence-stained facade as it’s hewn and strewn with golden glare, sun coming up above the yet-painted neighborhood arch pillars.

 

Ringing. And ringing. And ringing.

 

Inside, top floor apartment - bare arm swoops over the back of a tattered couch, grabs for the receiver, knocks a potted plant off the console. Voice goes “goddamn it” before taking hold.

 

Julius puts the phone to his ear. “Ye’.”

 

“Rise and shine, Bobo, we got us a day ahead.”

 

The one and only.

 

Rubs face, “Man, I told the motherf*cker to keep my digits for emergencies only. I come by.”

 

Dirk asks “Which motherf*cker?” follows rhetoric, “Dave the motherf*cker? He’s down in Roca Seca, Bobo, more business, f*ck knows. Thing is, we got some a’ that too.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah - but up north. Leave the rice burner behind, need four seats. And uh, top off the tank, we got a pit stop to make on the way, ‘s’a f*ckin’ drive.”

 

“Whatever you say. Be there in a few.”

 

“Make it a few less.”

 

Line clicks first. Jules just lets the thing hang off the back of the couch, sits up quick, rubs face again. Look around - place’s empty, opposite couch made up clean with blankets folded; Win’s gone, three-quarters likely out in Birchwood in lieu of courier duty, but so it goes. Light filters in through lace curtains over the dormers - tattered, not the frilly sh*t - casts onto plywood floor.

 

You can shower in the little backroom bathroom with slanted ceilings too low and rusted knobs, but that’s not making it a few less. Feel free to just dress and go, trusty denim jacket over a taupe button up never hurt nobody - grab a sandwich from the fridge on the way out, lock the door behind, head into a hall gone silent for a change before you hit the spiral staircase goes down-down-down.

 

Through incense and all the smells you can imagine; it’s early though, early-early - not a customer in sight, salon chairs wiped down and vacant and fishies in the tank doing fish stuff, swimming circles around seashells. You can spot Matilda watching the coffee drip in the breakroom in the back, just nothing to say.

 

Head to the garage.

 

No rice burner, good old Gaia’s time to shine under that sign bolted into the brick in the adjacent alley: PARK HERE AND SAY SAYONARA TO YOUR TIRES. Jules gives it an extra eyeful on the way in the car, you ponder alongside: ain’t his sign, ain’t his Chinatown. Who thought that made any f*ckin’ sense?

 

That thought ringing like a bell, he gets in the car - you can pull it in reverse or come out the other end of the alley, traverse through the wet cloth and rotten food waste and chemical bottles come flowing from the business bins and the rats and the rats and the rats.

 

Sure ain’t the first time you’ve made this drive and it won’t be the last, becoming routine; criss-crossing through the CBD or cutting under and through Suppleham where the I-2 starts getting divvied up through Conquest into the warehouses and under the overpasses. Fill stations aplenty in the industrials if you’re so inclined - top off the Gaia at Dirk’s recommend as Jules makes small talk with the fuel attendant if the roof’s down: thoughts on the four-way Packers-Corkers trade a few weeks back, same matchup for the game last night: “Didja catch it?” 

 

No. Julie didn’t.

 

So it’s onto the depot, that trusty old transition from smooth asphalt to pothole heaven - pull the right route and you’ll putt right by Intrepid Couriers, place anything but lively. Jules just sighs.

 

Stanislaw’s back in daylight mode; that is, less than six bikes, the uncharacteristic cage in form of that same Calhoun from a few visits back. Nobody outside but the door’s wide open - Dirk’s directives made it clear, so park up perpendicular to the entrance; might as well make it convenient for the f*ckers.

 

Dirk’s inside, little prick, leaned up against a workbench with that Calhoun-driving mophead in a turtleneck again, goes “Bobo!”

 

“Ain’t gotta call me that, Theo.”

 

Dirk jabs turtleneck in the chest. “Theo! Told you, huh, said he was quick as a spade bit.”

 

Mop rubs his nipple, laughs real nervous, “Spade bit, yeah.”

 

Jules reads the room: reads hierarchies, reads mop with a fingertip in the casual racism bucket ‘stead of the whole hand.

 

Dirk fits the ciggy between lips and fixes his belt, doesn’t make eye contact when asking “You get introduced proper-like or I gotta pick up David’s slack afresh?”

 

The two both shake heads - Dirk doesn’t look up so a timid mophead goes “Nah.”

 

“Easy - Bobo, this is Chester Goldwater. I know what you’re thinkin’ - gefilte fish like his pal, you bet. Chet, Bobo also likes to go by Jules- Julie, uh…”

 

J goes business, extends hand. “Julius Cole.”

 

“Charmed, dude.”

 

J gives him an extra looky-loo to size up just how zonked he is, settles in. “You said ‘pal’?”

 

Chester, “Oh yeah, Dallas - he’s in the john. We uh, s’a funny story, y’know, we was out on Gaudi last night, shacked up with these chicks on Hester with these brownies, I don’t even know what they was laced with-”

 

“Dally’s got the sh*ts,” Dirk goes. “Mister Columnist, Mister Pen-Is-Mightier, he got the sh*ts.”

 

“Ah. So what we doin’ here, man?”

 

“We’re goin’ for a road trip, Bobo.”

 

“You said.”

 

“Up north.”

“Yeah.”

 

Jules looks over at Chester. “We talk in the car, I guess.”

 

That dustlight dancing through the garage come down from the skylights, place’s real quiet for a few seconds. 

 

Dirk too, moment on the level: “You packin’?”

 

Jules pats his holster. “Always.”

 

“Alright. Got a little somethin’ for you, though. C’mon.”

 

He walks, you follow - door adjacent to the kitchenette or breakroom or whatever the f*ck, hallway you ain’t been to since visit number one. 

 

Bad times.

 

It’s a door down from the room of bad times, this little - little - storage closet. Dirk pulls the handle, you see it plain; three rifles hitched up on the back of the door all neat-like. Pulls one down.

 

Short scoped Thibault M1. Clean.

 

“Looky here, we got Theobald with a Thibault.”

 

Ignores. “You know how to handle these?”

 

“En bloc don’t get in my way, no.”

 

Dirk catches a smile. “You talk to Reuel and Mickey in the car, but you’re gonna play outlook today. Tough sh*t if you gotta use it, but y’know, no one mouths off and you shouldn’t gotta. Simple as.”

 

“So be it.”

 

“Always better when you’re light on words.”

 

Sure is - goes both ways though.

 

And sticking to that the duo head back out to open spaces without a word - entrance syncs with the echoes of a flush and before your eyes you got your boy back: a cool-bearded Dallas Bloomfield in this sh*t-fit olive button-up layered far too much for the weather - not worth the ask.

 

He’s monologuing, caught his mojo out the can, saying something-something to Chester staring wide-eyed; “... human squawk box, no-good goddamn mojito sippers thinkin’ their sh*t don’t stink and all the sorrow and pain in this world ain’t to be exacerbated but alleviated pill by pill and you can grind your teeth about it all day, Chester - we can flicker and dance but we’re doomed-damned-f*cked.”

 

Okay.

 

Sees Jules and pays no mind to the rifle - barely registers Chester. “Julius Cole. Sight for sore eyes, huh?”

 

“I dunno, man, we ain’t met but the once.”

 

“That ain’t music.”

 

He’s kind of cryptic, in a way that speaks of having taken on a bit more than some brownies.

 

Perfect.

 

Dirk calls, “We got the drive ahead, gentlemen, so keep the fruity sh*t to a minimum.”

 

That’s a cue. Get outside, they let you lead the pack - Julius pauses a moment before jumping in, tries half a second fitting the rifle onto the dash.

 

“f*ck you doin’?”

 

Dirk was getting in too - froze. Says it again.

 

Brain clicks, gears mesh - early rise or ringing thoughts of sayonara and tires or psychedelic monologuing threw him off his game. Go to the trunk, place it, pop it, get back in - Dirk’s riding shotgun and the dynamic duo on backseat bucket duty.

 

“We good, pops?”

 

“Mighty fine. Get on it, Bobo.”

 

“Help if I knew where we were going.”

 

“North.”

 

“Don’t f*ck with me, man, y’all got me out of bed about three hours too early for that. Which bridge?”

 

Dirk stays shut, prick, Chester pipes up from behind: “Good ol’ Crimson Way.”

 

“Thank you, Chester.”

 

Radio kicks on, Mothers of Invention. Tune it however you like for the little journey ahead, but something tells you you already got your soundtrack.

 

Pull out the lot - bikes staying behind, you see Dirk’s fellas fiddling in the backyard. 

 

Silence. Just the words and a creeping bass and after the 30 seconds it takes for you to hit an offramp onto I-2 Dallas rolls down the window.

 

Jules opens, “Hot flashes?”

 

“Yeah. Maybe.”

 

“I mean, you’re in my car,” he goes, adjusts mirror to the clammy little man, “my seats. I wiped ‘em down the other day. You wanna puke you shoulda done it ‘fore the porcelain god, man.”

 

“I won’t f*ckin’ puke, man, we got business ahead. Uncouth. Nah, business - bad hombres and bad deeds and I think you need to feel your toes for that.”

 

“You got something goin’ on with your toes?”

 

“No.”

 

Hm.

 

I-2’s easy as it comes, smooth sailing this early in the morn ‘til you take the exit onto 7th Street riding the barrier between Suppleham and Downtown - basically the way you came an extra few aves west over, place traffic starts coalescing where highway designations turn back into Van Spronsen, construction barriers in lieu of lush median. Might be your first time headed to Crimson Way, might feel like it anyway; on the inclines leading you into Sastre and the Parkway winding, overlooking the bay and the Sastre barracks with their tangerine roofs.

 

Round 2: “What’s goin’ on, Theo? You called me up, s’only fair you at least gimme the abridged version.”

 

“The what?”

 

“Elevator pitch. Blurb. The f*ck we doing?”

 

Sighs, draws it out real good, takes the opportunity to light a ciggy - or at least put it between his lips.

 

Jules goes “Not in this car.”

 

Laughing now. “Yeah,” lights it anyway.

 

“Least use the ashtray.”

 

He won’t. “It’s on, Bobo.”

 

“Thanks for the clarification.”

 

“Mexes. Crafty spic thing we got cookin’ for a trade. You know.”

 

“No.”

 

“They got boys lined up somewheres for a talk, and I’m gonna talk to ‘em. Don’t know where. You drive us to a little meet they got goin’ up by Hacha Roja Creek, we hand off a package, they tell us where.”

 

“Package?”

 

“Keepsake.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Dirk chuckles, “What is it.Practically spits out the ash, It’d blow your tiny monkey mind, Bobo. Need to know basis.”

 

Jules trundles on, “So why the f*ck the smoke and mirrors, mystery man? You and them.”

 

“Them; so they know we ain’t fed. So they know we’re serious. That kinda’ thing.”

 

“You?”

 

Doesn’t answer. Just smiles.

 

“Alright, motherf*cker, alright.”

 

By now you’re on the bridge - you know, the bridge, Crimson Way - you’re in the postcard stamp with the spires piercing into the fog and a panorama of the bay cut a bit short by the same culprit. 

 

Halfway through Jules blurts “So what’s the deal with you then?” Seems to rouse Dirk, sleepy even with the cig, “We headin’ wherever. Dirk, y’know, fine, you’s you. But Dallas, I mean, I read your goddamn columns on the weekly - that trippy sh*t was one thing but now we’re goin’ out what, Bahialado, Percebe, maybe we goin’ up to Eucarista on some flimsy-ass deal and you barely got a word?”

 

Dallas murmurs, “I got plenty a’ words, Julius.”

 

“Ain’t talkin’ about ‘flicker-dancin’ in the limelight’-words. We got business, right? Well what the hell?”

 

Nothing. Dirk smokes. Dallas seems to consider something that never leaves his lips and laughs.

 

What a f*cking crew.

 

Adjusts his mirror and eyes Chester, “What ‘bout you?”

 

“I uh-”, struts his hair back, “I-”

 

Dirk interjects, loves to do it: “Chet’s a nervous nellie who used to deal pot at USLA ‘til he got caught in some coed’s dorm, f*ck knows what she was thinkin’. But you know - LS, ten spics a dozen, can’t say he can’t be a good little diplomat where it counts.”

 

“So brokering for the Mexes.”

 

“S’right, Bobo.”

 

Off the bridge - past the concrete utility towers and the curve keeping you on the interstate all the way up past the Bahialado turnoff - guess you ain’t going there - and on until Jules breaks one more, maybe one last time.

 

“Gimme the exit.”

 

Some time’s past, highway all the way north, highway through sound-barriered little tree-lined suburbs and the occasional creek. Traffic’s still light throughout, most headed southbound and into the city. Enough time’s past that Dirk’s dozing again but clicks awake at Julie’s words, snaps-snaps for Chester to give the answer.

 

“It’s uh, 45-A. You keep straight, there’s this campground at the end of this dirt trail, meet’s supposed to by a payphone by some motel on the corner. We’re headed there.”

 

“Was that so damn hard?”

 

You can watch inside, through Julius’ eyes - guy just shrugs.

 

He’s probably not being a prick on purpose. Maybe he just had a night, slow on words; nothing to say to his buddy in the stars either. 

 

You’ve gone past a half dozen of these little hamlets by this point and trudged on in the company of no good company at all - halfway through highway running along Hacha Roja the signage speaks loud and clear: 45-A next right.

 

Take it. You’re only about 15 miles out but on the right dials talk programs turn less city-oriented, firs lining the turn-off welcome you to Hacha Roja proper; greeted by this motel - some other motel - right off the turnoff, sun-bleached shingles under peeling signs calling Laundromat and Room and Board Starting at $9/Night!

 

Buncha cars parked by the fence off the highway; staff for a lumber yard right opposite, air thick with wood pulp and wood stacks and the smell of an ever-relied upon industry.

 

Won’t be long before you see; road splits off before long - gravel left and gravel right and a lone dirt trail. Bingo.

 

Dirk goes “Alright, hand it over, Ruell.”

 

Chester does - between the seats, this little rectangular thing wrapped in what looks like a goddamn loincloth. Kinda stained. You can hear something rolling around inside, hitting its walls, solid, something.

 

Dirk takes it and weighs it in his palm, up-down. “Yeah. Yeah. Alright.”

 

Jules seems to have learned the lesson. Shuts up.

 

You mighta been going in blind but you really got no way but forward now - road’s public but not maintained a smidge, tire tracks in the dirt leading into cattail ditches on each side, claws dug all deep-like from the last time some tow truck had to play rescue. 

 

There’s a turn-off ahead; leads further into firs to the left, campgrounds just before Hacha Roja Creek - listen close and you can hear the current hitting rocks. Right trudges on with the path, you see the corner of some could-be motel building not far off. 

 

At the junction there’s a van all rusted over paint this channel of azure. And next to the van there’s a payphone.

 

Chester tells you to pull up parallel.

 

Breaks to cutscene as you do - Dirk rolls the window down, van’s already was, and Jules cranes his neck to look over. They’re two deep in front, could be more in the back, who knows. Someone’s going on and on in Spanish on the radio but when they see you they turn it down, big guy - big guy was picking his teeth with fat fingers - he just stares.

 

Dirk doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah. El business meeting, that’s us,” looks over at Jules for effect, “Nah, he don’t bite neither. Let's get the ball rolling, huh?”

 

Window to window - kisses the little cloth-clad offering goodbye and hands it over. Big guy pawns it off to guy on the other side, scruffy long-haired dark-skinned kid half the size of the rest. Shakes it. Passes it through the little door in the back-frame behind the seats.

 

Someone’s back there.

 

It’s a waiting game for you, for them, feet tap-tap-tapping and tensions high from the fact that nobody’s in a talking mood, Mexicans playing their role fine as fettle and Dirk a cool cat. Jules is the odd one out here - not his stomping grounds nor his typical duty and all he can do is look back and forth between the Mexes and his shoes.

 

Chester goes “They’re cool” all quiet-like and it doesn’t seem to do much but reassure himself.

 

Synapses start firing, Dallas starts talking about how it’s a lot like the time we took a wrong turn in Cabo, huh? but you know - at least he’s grounded.

 

The clock ticks in silence and the radio’s humming along unless you killed it, The Needle keeps pace under tension.  

 

¿Seguro?

You’re sure?

 

Si. Es neta.

It’s the real deal.

 

Good? Good. Seems good, they’re talking.

 

Then scruffy-lanky hops out his side with a ciggy between his lips in this low-loose wifebeater and struts over to the payphone knowing he’s got a dozen eyes watching. Picks it up and takes his goddamn time.

 

More waiting.

 

And he comes back. And words escape lips and pass from lanky to the big boy and the big boy looks Dirk right in the eyes and tells him “Mudflats across the Xoomer refinery, Bancroft. You’ll see ‘em.”

 

And they drive off. Just like that. They pull and push the gas guzzler around your own ride back where you came.

 

They’ll be there first.

 

One more bridge, huh?

 

Bancroft-Riada Miele Bridge - you can already see it at the right angle, spires creeping above firs and cyprus into the bay and f*ck if you ain’t about to familiarize yourself with it right here and right now.

 

Kick dirt and back where you came - same exit hops you right back onto the highway. 

 

Chester asks “They usually got patrols out there, don’t they?”

 

“Nah,” Dallas says quick, “they been on strike for the better part of the year, f*ckin’ PD’s on ‘em like pigs on slop. But patrols? Not in the now.”

 

Music to your ears.

 

Beat comes, passes. Jules goes “Ain’t usually on the receiving end, eh Theo?” He’s laughing, found some humor in the guy being held up by a thread in the face of some fat Mexicans in a van.

 

“f*ck you talkin’ about?”

 

“I dunno, I only been around so long, pops, but you never come across as the type to negotiate, or y’know, know what that means. Conductin’ business. Woulda thought that was Dave’s end while you’re out in Conquest dangling fat cat motherf*ckers out windows.”

 

“Oh, hardy-f*cking-har, huh? Said it once already, Bobo, s’better for the both of us when you keep your goddamn yap shut, ‘specially when you don’t got an inkling what it is you’re running off at the mouth about.”

 

Feels as though he’s grown to his dynamic, whatever it is - honestly? Guy’d probably throw you to the wolves soon as it became opportune. But f*ck if there ain’t what seems like a 50-50 mixture of wary respect and impotent prejudice at this point - no use thinking you’ll get any better.

 

He’s got his audience in the backseat now, words still acrid but with a tone aimed for banter, “Y’know fellas, I took a shine to the shine ‘cause he seemed real firm on that old mindset, that mercenary thing - you fight your battles and don’t ask no questions, loyalty to loot. Rare goddamn breed nowadays. I thought, I was thinkin’ - do I got myself a Galatian seein’ me through a campaign through the Balkans? Without no f*ckin’ lip?”

 

No answer - but Dallas is at attention.

 

He goes on, “I thought, maybe. Turns out though, nah - all I got is some Moor thinks he’s clever and asks too many f*ckin’ questions.”

 

Pause. Longer pause. And then he laughs like a goddamn hyena.

 

Nobody else does.

 

Dallas starts correcting, goes “Those Galatians only existed ‘cause-” and stops like someone pulled the zipper over his lips. f*ck it.

 

View from the bridge is real pretty, which is good because the bridge itself is ugly as sin - mishmash trestle pinning it up in the bay, curved girder design somewhere between grey and green. It’s a far cry from the Crimson Way.

 

You’ll be out in Bancroft before long - won’t be seeing it proper though ‘cause the refinery’s at first turnoff, you can’t miss it; air so thick with fumes and sulphuric gases and black smoke billowing in a way that tells you the smokestacks are flaring more often than not. 

 

There’s a toll just before the turnoff.

 

Minimap can’t help you anymore - behind the smokers and coker units and storage tanks under the ersatz clouds; into the mudflats.

 

This is all private land. Thing is, it’s not patrolled, maintained, regulated for sh*t. Chain-link surround has a car-width hole in it about every fifteen meters - long as you think the landboat you’re driving can bear some barren bumpy lands gone mush, slick with chemical runoff, that’s your best bet. 

 

You’ll just need a carwash.

 

Once you made it to mudflats proper the scene cuts, Jules slows. Says “Mudflats is flat.”

 

Dirk goes “What?”

 

“Thibault, Theo. What’s the use if I ain’t got a line of sight from above?”

 

“F*ck.”

 

Yeah.

 

But Dallas pipes up, squinting past the open window: “Check the oil pipeline, the platform. See it?”

 

You see it. Stretching far as the eye can see, worm forging its path through the flats and ponds and into the trees beyond until it dips into the bay.

 

“Yeah. Ain’t seen many other options this far out.”

 

“So get outta here.”

 

“Now?”
 

“Yeah, now. You ain’t exactly a gesture of good faith here. Jewboy, writerboy, you go with him, split.”

 

Might as well be music to his ears. “You bet, mad-dog.”

 

Sequence: Julie hops out and Dallas does the same from the other side; you pop the trunk and grab the rifle and get to marching just as Dirk slides over to the driver’s seat and kicks on in the cage. 

 

Just you two now.

 

Get to the vantage point.

 

Ground is f*cking slick and lumpy and sticky, god knows what kind of chemical runoff’s seeping up and through and making suction sounds with every footstep. It’s not deep, pants-stay-untouched depth, but it’s more like quicksand than mud nonetheless.

 

You can’t run, can just move slow and watch as your car disappears through the weed separating the mudflats from a mossy pond beyond - not too far, just enough that you need elevation. Dallas trots alongside with his eyes on the ground.

 

“Feels like if I lit a doobie we’d both go up in flames.”

 

“Probably. Feels like back home.”

 

“Where’s home?”

 

“Carcer.”

 

Beat. “Oh, no doubt then.”

 

“Yeah,” animation plays out when they reach the pipeline support; Jules tosses the rifle above and thrusts himself up onto the ladder, “nine states and I might ‘s’well be home sweet home anyway, huh?”

 

“Kind of a poetic thing, isn’t it? A wanderer procrastinates in finding his calling…”

 

Thinks he’s sobered up now. And he might be - this is just what he’s like.

 

Look at you though - cozying up to an oil pipeline. Moment of desperation? Yeah. You’re alright.

 

It’s no taller than 6 feet but that’s all you need - capsule shape stretches out into the wharf, and you can see right over those weeds or that bulrush or whatever it is - cream Gaia, ever-familiar pulling up to that same Declasse van; same azure, same guys stepping out all tough-like. 

 

And a new Bobcat, piss yellow. Piss yellow Bobcat coming up alongside.

 

Lines drawn in the sand - four on your side and, you count heads, six not. Alright.

 

You don’t got much cover ‘sides the rounded oil capsule behind you and it’s best you go prone; from their angle they wouldn’t see nothing that didn’t look like just another bulrush tip in the wind. Scope up. Eye lined.

 

Dirk steps out. Chester follows suit. 

 

Mirror image across the invisible line.

 

The two Mexes stepping out the Bobcat don’t look like the others. They’re bigger, they’ve got a pep in every step, passenger’s playing right into the image - you can only eye so much detail through the scope but he’s got the open denim, the golden cross over a polo blazing when it catches the sun, the cowboy hat. 

 

Just missing the boots. In the muck he probably wishes he hadn’t.

 

This is your meeting. Gesticulation and gusto - cowboy’s driver gives everyone a wide berth sticking by the truck. He’s got an AK hung lazy in one hand - ‘cept it’s not really an AK by any metric, shorter barrel, useless handles, handguard nowhere to be found. Clone. 

 

“Dinky.”

 

Jules mumbles something, too focused on the deal.

 

Dallas repeats, “Hardware’s dinky. That ain’t no veritable Kalashnikov. ‘S Chinese or Romanian or Guatemalan or some such sh*t but it don’t end with no V in the manufacturer, that I can tell you.”

 

“Sounds about right, ain’t never seen an AK without the handguard.”

 

"F*ckin’ A.”

 

Words being exchanged across the front now. Friendly, looks that way, but the sounds get killed through the distance. Dirk’s leaning on your car, springs up for a quick sec - hands over that little sack offering, clasps it tight over cowboy’s hands.

 

Keep alert.

 

Seconds pass, a minute, crosshairs shifting head to head.

 

Nothing. Some laughs.

 

Julius goes “There’s this plaque outside my apartment.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah. Been renting this studio on Booth, y’know, Chinatown, not far from where they’re puttin’ up the arch. And it’s been there since we moved in, s’bolted into the bricks where I park.”

 

You enigma, you - but Dallas is never loath to talk. “City went on a little ordinance spree last year, point-head bureaucracy wonk overreach bullsh*t. You seen the signs on Leland?”

 

“Nah, ain’t that. It’s just - y’know, this custom thing. Says ‘park here and say sayonara to your tires’. But I been parking there for the better part of two years and got my fours all the same.”

 

“‘Sayonara’?”

 

“Funny thing, ain’t it.”

 

“So you got some Japs on Booth. There’s Japs on Booth. I mean, they don’t like each other none but still.”

 

“Guess.” Line of inquiry dies off. “So why’d you come along?”

 

“Why?” You might as well’ve asked him why he was born. “This is the goddamn muck, two feet deep in society’s runoff, this is music. You heard the big guy the other day, I’m writing a book, this feature. Started off writing indie for some mag, room and board thingamajig on the Angels without the extra funds to top off the pot by the end of the night, you know? I got by. But article came out and it snowballed, I got a call from this Liberty gremlin from my publishing house, thick-brat stews in his own sweat kinda guy, right, name’s Reuben, he says - he goes, you turn this into an exposé, long-write style. And y’know, he’s the last f*ckin’ demon-herder I wanna see in the flesh any time soon so I come back out here on the back ‘a some contacts I made on the first article. I got business too, y’know, Chet and I got back a ways. But I’m here to watch, turn this music into words. It’s journalism for the new age. Think of my place here as a ride-along.”

 

“Like a narc.”

 

Dallas laughs. “Don’t you ever f*ckin’ say that again.”

 

Deal, ‘course, ongoing through this - but from gestures alone looks like it might be wrapping up. The bigger guy from the van, he’s in the back of the Bobcat now, lifts the tonneau cover. Comes around with this huge f*cking bag that catches green in the sunlight.

 

Can it be?

 

AK goon gets back in the truck. Muffler throws black smoke back fifty feet.

 

Could be.

 

Cowboy and Dirk still going at it. Chester interjecting here and there, hands going wishy washy - just how he is. Big guy just tossed that sh*t into your trunk.

 

Dallas said how the refinery’s on strike, you take note now that it’s in mind - smokestacks burning off excess, automated process, whatever. Place’s dead. Good for business; must be rising up against the corporate overlords back in town. Your business, that is.

 

Last sight through the scope - cowboy takes off his hat, f*ckin’ bows all cute-like and winks before getting back in the Bobcat. Sayonara indeed.

 

Beat. Wheels spin a moment and spit and spurt mud and they take off with the van in slipstream.

 

Dirk waits. Waits. Watches them disappear past the fence.

 

Then turns and gives you the finger.

 

That’s a wrap.

 

You stand, Dallas stands. You climb down, Dallas climbs down. 

 

Car comes zipping around the bulrush before long - a bit too fast and the mud goes flying against the friction, stops short just ahead of you with the windows rolled down. Dirk shifts shotgun and Chester’s already in the backseat.

 

Dirk goes “Giddy up, boinkhead.”

 

Whip quick around to the trunk, put the rifle away-

 

Oh yeah.

 

That was a bag of green alright.

 

Back into the driver’s seat.

 

“Boinkhead?”

 

Syllables stretched, he leans over and faux-knocks on Jules’ skull. “Boinkhead. Bobo. C’mon, lightfoot, let’s giddy.”

 

“Can’t put the fists down for one goddamn minute, can you?”

 

“No fun in that, Booby.”

 

Cocksucker.

 

Drive back to the chop shop.

 

The little loopty-loo you did on the way into the mudflats, fence-hole axle-deep roughing it over chemical runoff? You don’t have to do it again - Mexes are gonzo, least so it would seem, nothing to be gained by keeping it lowkey anymore. Like Dallas said, refinery’s on strike big time and all you’ve got in the way of someone keeping the perimeter are the rail birds and harvest mice seeping through the mercury mud. You can go straight through, jump right onto the freeway, save yourself any more strain on the suspension.

 

“So?”

 

“So what?”

 

“So how’d the hell it go?”

 

“It went. I mean, you saw what’s laid up in the trunk, right?”

 

“I saw what’s laid up in my trunk, yeah. Didn’t think y’all dabbled in that too much.”

 

Mocking. “Dabble. We f*ckin’ dabble. That’s the problem, Bobo, that David, David, y’know, what - David says we’re too f*ckin’ good for it now? See, when we was just the chapter out in Birchwood, Hugh at the reins, we moved gash. Left it to the blacks playin’ their f*cking corner games but we had a good chunk a’ the supply lines on the side. We took ‘em. Was just brothers making a goddamn buck, and it’s honest business. It ain’t scag.”

 

“Who the f*ck is Hugh?”

 

“Hugo motherf*cking Arnold, my brother, Angel in life and death. David’s daddy. Him at the buckhorns we had direction, was a real brotherhood. We ain’t had the f*cking junk and the Chinks and the narcs and goddamn he’s my brother too but f*ck if I’ll let his lilyliver kid turn us into a f*ckin’ syndicate, pool resources with citizens. That ain’t what it’s about.”

 

You’re past the refinery gates now - ghost town masonry and a couple broken windows, smokestacks risen around and swallowing you up like you’re in the guts of some great beast letting out putrid black chemical fumes into the earthly world.

 

Think Jules finds the purity a funny one, asks Dallas, “What you think ‘bout all this?”

 

You knew it was coming, Dirk practically grabs his tongue cold. “Don’t be asking the f*ckin’ columnist about brotherhood, alright? Connects aside, Dally, you stick to dropping tabs in the Ahwati and pen-is-mightier sh*t ‘til you got your manuscript and you can f*ck off for good.”

 

He’s not phased. “S’all love, Wings, though the last time someone threw that pen-is-mightier faux-pho thing at me I took a 12-gauge to my typewriter.”

 

Chester spits a “Why?”

 

“Well it’s a f*ckin’ story but ain’t they all. I was--”

 

A bolt out of the f*ckin’ blue.

 

You barely have time to register what the f*ck just happened before it all goes black and all you know around you’s this terrific sound of metal going mangled and messed and glass crunching, crushed, f*cked, Dirk’s voice rising above with this primal yell, “AUGGGGGH, WHAT THE F*CK?!”

 

First person blinking when the sounds go numb, disembodied chatter.

 

“Grab him. Don’t f*ck about.”

 

“Since when they got the hok gwai?”

 

Orient yourself.

 

Cabriolet roof.

 

Bottom half of the steering column.

 

Blood.

 

Blink. Blink.

 

Turn your head, blood trickles down into your vision and through the red to the right Dirk’s upside down and his arm’s got some glass in it and he’s got shards in his hair, hands flat on the seat to pull himself up, sit up, something.

 

To your left - legs. Pairs of legs, pants, shoes well shined. Moving quick.

 

f*ck.

 

You’re Julius’ eyes, move ‘em quick while you can - lifts himself off the roof, the floor, whatever the f*ck you wanna call it now so he can reach his holster.

 

Gat’s gone.

 

Dallas goes “My f*cking head oh my god” and you know he’s alive at least and if you take a quick look Chester’s f*cking about too with his hair in his eyes.

 

Gun’s right in front of him.

 

Dirk got his bearings. Grabs it first.

 

First pair of legs comes around his side past the windshield and Dirk doesn’t pay you any mind as he takes aim upside down and waits, waits, waits until the legs come up to his door and rip it open and point the muzzle of a rifle right at his goddamn head.


Reflexes too slow - Dirk pulls the trigger once-twice-three times and just about the same time the other goon’s on your side giving you the same treatment and if you don’t act now you won’t be acting at all.

 

Press the contextual button and before he can touch the door or react to the shots Jules grabs for the muzzle of this guy’s rifle like a f*cking lunatic and pulls and it pays off quick - guy holds on too tight, comes down with the momentum and his skull meets the car’s underside.

 

屌你老母!”


You’re in gameplay now; Jules kicks the door out proper and it gets the goon in the head a second time and he f*ckin’ tumbles back and lets his gun go loose and it’s an AK, a f*cking AK but this time built proper, and whatever their business it’s life or death so you better lunge for either the gun or the guy before you loose the element of surprise.

 

Whichever your way Dirk’s got your pistol and he’s kicked his way out of the wreck, he’s on two feet again and unloading into something you can’t see yet and going “Goddamn motherf*ckin’ chink slant cocksuckers!”.

 

You grab the AK and you can take your guy out with a couple butts to the head ‘til the nose bleeds and the forehead bulges. You go for his throat and he’s too stunned to care much, you got him in a choke and you can mash his face to sh*t until you’re satisfied and Jules comes off him panting with the rifle in hand.

 

You’re upright - Dirk’s taking potshots at a Rancher with the bulbars fallen loose and a headlight popped ‘cause it just broadsided a goddamn sedan to hell.

 

Your sedan.

 

AK’s got a full mag.

 

Take aim and the full power of the rat-tat-tat-tat-tat in your hands comes across when the windshield ends up full of holes and the bumper falls off and just when you think you put this sh*t to bed you realize someone’s in the driver’s seat - they gun it at you and you got just enough time to get the hell outta dodge before it flies past and into the cement walkway behind you.

 

Goes up in smoke.

 

Jules tosses the gun. “What the f*ck was that?”

 

Dirk checks for blood through his hair - dry.

 

He’s cool.

 

“Chinks.”

 

“Ain’t what I meant.”

 

“Then what the f*ck do you know that I don’t, Tarzan? Chinks,” he says again, pauses when a shellshocked Dallas and Chet emerge from the wreck. “Chinks with a deathwish. Maybe they don’t like what I did to their buddy back in town. Maybe it’s the year of the f*ckin’ lemming, I dunno. S’fish in a barrel, Bobo.”

 

“Fish in a barrel? Look at my goddamn car, man, it’s done.”

 

“You want me to mourn a cage?”

 

“I want you to- f*ck, man, I don’t know what the f*ck I want, we just ended another trifecta of these cats. Thought the beef with them was Dave’s lick.”

 

“It is.”

 

“Then I guess it’s time to contain it, motherf*cker.”

 

Smile. “Now we’re talkin’.”

 

Tosses you your pistol.

 

Chet says he should’ve stayed home, Dallas is on edge but f*ck if his face don’t say he loves the rush.

 

Guys’re wandering now.

 

Gentle reminder via Dallas: “Pigs’ll be here before long, huh?”

 

“My car is f*cked.”

 

Dirk’s at the Rancher now, opens the door - driver slumps out and goes limp at his feet. “Huh. So’s this one.”

 

Jules says f*ck it and takes charge, tells Chet to come along and find a goddamn cage that ain’t shot to sh*t.

 

No time limit, but there is. f*ck around and you’re in for another whole heap of trouble - you were anything but quiet.

 

Place’s pretty open, low-level offices to left and right - Triad drove into the stairwell of one. Whip around the back between low cut fence by a loading dock, you see a couple sixteen-wheelers - nix - and the light shining down on a pickup gone rusted.

 

Chet says “I can hotwire the son of a bitch.”

 

Jules tells him not to worry.

 

You hotwire it, pull it back around to the scene of chaos - heart pangs at the sight of baby cream flipped and f*cked. Dirk’s got no such feelings, while you were gone filched the weed from the trunk.

 

Not a scratch on the bag.

 

Jules goes “Lucky motherf*cker.”

 

It’s a pickup, 50s pickup - room for two in front and a hefty bag of green. Ain’t much need to discuss who’s gonna end up sitting on the wheel wells in the back.

 

Get back to the chop shop.

 

It’s a long way back, radio’s tuned to country, Johnny Paycheck, whatever. Dirk’s deep in thought, means keeping his goddamn yap shut. Miracle.

 

By the time you’re on the highway Jules breaks the silence, says “You know that was my ride, huh? Name on the pink slip and all, DMV. By midnight they’ll come-a-f*ckin’-knocking, you know that, right?”

 

Dirk’s not cute, really not in the mood. “You tell ‘em it was stolen. Ends there.”

 

“Does it though? Cross-department sh*t, y’know, ain’t got the resources, but how long ‘fore they connect dots, man?”

 

“It ends there.”

 

Okay.

 

They don’t speak another goddamn word.

 

Bridge trip and paths ‘tween trees and all the other scenery don’t have half its shine anymore. Home stretch news reports yet mum - then again, you were outside city limits.


Tires roll on gravel when you hit the parking lot and the sight of that f*ck-ugly Calhoun is one for sore eyes. Chet practically jumps out while the car’s still moving.

 

Dirk hangs back when you cut the engine - waits for Dallas to get the hint, doesn’t.

 

“Get the f*ck out.”

 

Dallas rubs it off, “Let the good times roll, huh Jules? I’ll be in touch.”

 

Door slams.

 

Dirk’s serious. “You don’t speak a word of this.”

 

“No doubt.”

 

“You don’t let nothin’ slip - the green, the slants, the f*ckin’ rifle, none of it to David, you got that?”

 

“Like I said.”

 

“Yeah.” Pauses. “Yeah. You talk to the two bozos came with us, they got business. Nothing to do with me, but y’know.”

 

This is him offering knowledge.

 

“Yeah. Thanks.”

 

“You get your cut next time we speak.”

 

He hops out and makes straight for the garage - turns around at the last second. Mumbles through the open window.

 

“Sorry about your f*ckin’ cage.”

 

And he’s gone.

 

It’s not even noon.

 

F*cking day.

UnfRlbA.png

No reward.

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DJdsS72FirZ3cFqhBPjrgm1ja-2XPfzF-f4LMrYBFShVEbkMsIawi50xoEK71MBANpDs2ZdvueZDEh3UeArwFg3SGsVa1tcT0-z0BHTLq9nd8GjaCyezoitMDAAS4XpBmMLV6DOC

  

There are a lot of cars parked outside Jon Gravelli’s bungalow.

 

Driveway lined with black-clad Albos and scoop-roof luxuries and the cars continue onto the Arcadia Willows road. Looks like a regular Gangamattok and the neighbors keep peeking over while they’re watering the grass.

 

You weren’t summoned. But you need to see what’s up.

 

Up the driveway and there’s a goon at the front door, goon you don’t recognize: goon with heavy cheekbones and long hair and a profile like a hawk. Doesn’t look white. Goon stares you up while you walk up the cobbles and puts a hand up and says “Who?

 

Dante stops. “Dante.”

 

Goon says nothing.

 

Dante Gallo.

 

Goon says nothing.

 

That’s my uncle’s ride,” points to a particular Albo, “You know Jacky? Nephew. I’m his nephew.

 

Goon says nothing.

 

Dante lies, “You didn’t get my invite?”

 

Goon walks over. “Spread ‘em.”

 

“Okay, red,” tries walking past - but goon stops him with a palm on the chest.

 

Goon repeats. “Spread ‘em.

 

Groan.

 

Dante spreads ‘em.

 

Camera cuts to the front door shutting and a cacophony of anguished chatter while Dante creeps in. Door goon follows suit a moment: sees you into the entryway, nods and turns back and shuts front door.

 

There’s more where that came from. Goombas in every direction. Conversation pit is full with serious lookers and unnamed motherf*ckers you ain’t seen in their best digs - eye darts across the big three.

 

Seb Boccino. Jon Gravelli. Uncle Jack.

 

Jack and Jon converse in Italian. Sebby stays out a little looking like he don’t belong with an arm over the sofa cushion and a half-empty drink in his hand. Slicks his hair and sees you and nods and turns back to a conversation it’s quickly evident he doesn’t understand.

 

“Ti dico che lo odio quel frocio di cazz’. Il piccolo scarafaggio. Spacciatore, che stronz’.”

I hate the little fa**ot. I hate the little f*cking cockroach. Drug dealing f*ck.

 

“Jon, pi fauri - ti prego.”

Jon, please.

 

Make yourself known.

 

You straggle awkward while the blip lingers. You don’t want to barge in while the gentlemen have their discussion. Circle around and the muscle might look you up but, you know, you’re Jacky’s kid - no need for interrogation. Kitchen’s got a particular goombah with goggles and a bad hairline looking deep into the converse without being involved.

 

Go up for a chat. Guy notices you, nods, asks “Who’re you?

 

New guy. “I’m with Jack.”

 

Sniff-nods. Goes back to listening.

 

Listening. Like he’s watching zoo animals behind tempered glass only with a respect only afforded to betters. The glass in his tumbler clicks and sloshes.

 

Neato.

 

All the big names assembled into one place sans God himself doesn’t rob the air of a certain rancor. You don’t know what you’re here for, not for sure, but you got a feeling. 

 

Kitchen’s got tumblers on ice and brown-hued decanters on offer, coffee on drip. Help yourself - place’s spotless, stainless-edged countertops and this massive window looking out into the landscaped digs you complimented not so long ago; waterfall feature in the back corner’s off, dry. Someone’s got their f*cking dog running around back there.

 

Big dog.

 

Back in the great room you can rest up by this column separating the pit from the other space - lounge space, record player and bar laid up, fireplace probably never used. 

 

Dante sips, watches.

 

Back to the room-wide patio doors, unfamiliar face - you sure wouldn’t have forgotten that f*cking head of hair, this guinea-handsome grin putzing and drinking in this red plaid blazer and the leg pinned up to flaunt wingtips you could eat off, socks pulled up to the knee.

 

He’s laughing. Catches your eye and lifts his goddamn drink like you’re Johnny Hot sh*t. Huh.

 

Seb’s lookin’ too.

 

Now Jack.

 

Conversation dims.

 

Jon stands: “Who sent for you?

 

Jacky, “Jon--”

 

We got all hands on deck, the f*ck is this? Ted let you in?”

 

Dante goes squint. “Ted?

 

“It’s fine,” goes Jack.

 

Get over here,” Jon rasps.

 

Dante kinda hesitates.

 

Jon’s got this look that means “that’s an order”.

 

Dante stops hesitating.

 

Approaches the pit and feels the eyes dig holes and goes to sit but Jon’s still standing - Jon puts a hand up. Don’t sit. Dante doesn’t. Feels the spotlight shine on him while a thousand others flicker.

 

Jon doesn’t crack. “You don’t even know why the f*ck we’re here, do you?

 

Dante doesn’t neither. “I weren’t invited.”

 

Yeah. That’s the f*cking point.

 

“I been in a lot of places, I done a lot of errands--”

 

Errands.

 

“--errands I done,” Dante kinda stutters, “were serious people. Baby Batts and the like. If you got a problem I’ll solve it.”

 

There’s a silence in the room like Dante broke a glass. Seb avoids gaze and sips from the cup. Jon’s got his hands on his hips. Raises a narrow finger: “One. Baby Batts was personal.”

 

“I get personal work?”

 

You respect me.

 

Sorry.

 

Two. You cleaned up piss and moved slot machines. You ain’t done sh*t, son.

 

“I cleaned up that thing with the guy for Carlo, too.”

 

Who f*ckin’ cares?

 

“I mean--”

 

“You tell Carlie, Carlie tells me you said you didn’t give a f*ck about the guy.”

 

Still big fish,” Dante shrugs.

 

You checked in with the movers? With Silver Sixes?

 

Dante goes mum.

 

Or is Jacky gonna excuse you this time, you f*cking cowboy?

 

Jack pipes, “Jon--

 

Puts the finger up again. “I heard what you been doin’ on the streets.”

 

Dante, “Sir--

 

“Sir’s f*ckin’ right.”

 

“Please--”

 

With the runt. Don’t get me started.”

 

Jack goes again, “Maybe he can do something.

 

Jon stops himself.

 

Not ‘cause he wants to hear it.

 

‘Cause the cheek of it.

 

“No.”

 

‘The runt’,” Jack goes, “is… you know.”

 

Seb closes his eyes and keeps drinking.

 

Dante pauses. It hits. “With Eddie?

 

Seb cringes.

 

Jon hadn’t stopped glaring. Stops now, stops now to look over at the guy with the hair and back over at Mr. Kitchen before going back to you - “Your f*cking idiot friend. Seb’s idiot son, the googootz. He’s been taking cash loans from made guys who weren’t with us. Sebby gave him a slap on the wrist, told him ‘okay’ as long as he pays and it ain’t mulignans.”

 

He in debt to moolies?

 

Jon shakes, “No. Least the kid did one thing right.

 

“So what?”

 

Beat. “Lupisella crew. Guy named Dick Rich; Dino Ricci. He runs their sh*t for Carmine in Bohan for another guy ‘cause he ain’t capo. Ed owes big money with him because he kept going to the f*cking guy and Ed never f*cking paid.”

 

Which they got a right to be upset about,” Jacky says. “He called Seb. Says he’s going to pay if the kid ain’t. Colorful language.

 

Dante squints. “What?”

 

Jon, “Fanoik. Cocksucker. That sh*t ain’t ball breakin’. You don’t talk to a made guy like that. Talk to you, talk to the little cowboys like that. But outside the family, once you got your button?”

 

Sebby sucks his cheek in. Goes to say something - but stops himself. Looks for the whiskey bottle. Jon’s looking at him like he’s expecting him to add to the conversation.

 

Jacky does in lieu: “They have Eddie somewhere in town. We think we know where. We told them that ain’t right, but il stronzet’ - the guy, è non si smuove. Potresti pensare che questa merda è sotto la loro, ma--”

 

Jon, “Jack.

 

Oh. “Right.

 

Dante lets it sink, curses under breath, “Dumb f*cker.

 

Wasn’t really under breath. “You could say that.”

 

Sebby never found the bottle or the words, f*cks off the couch and heads to the corner to grab a fresh drink proper. Fellas on the periphery are still neck-deep in their own conversations; he beelines between them for the ice bucket.

 

Jon watches with his hawk-eye, neutral expression belies what’s underneath.

 

Dante just asks. “Where is he?”

 

Jacky tells him “We don’t know for sure.”

 

“Then what?”

 

Jon’s back on the kid. “We done business with Dick Rich and that crew in the past - he’s put a lotta’ dough on the street the past couple years. Some other stuff. Only so many degrees a’ separation out here, you know how it is.”

 

It kinda buzzes by. “Yeah.”

 

Jacky now, “The guy runs a motel out of Venturas Heights. Lu purcili--”

 

“Moolies up to the rafters in the Heights,” Dante goes.

 

“--and his crew likes to shoot the sh*t at this bullsh*t social club next to a laundromat not too far. Pascal Place. He’d be there. S’called The Want-a-Will. You know where I’m talking about?”

 

Dante says not really.

 

Impasse. Frustrated.

 

Jon takes a swig from his tumbler and puts the glass down flat. Business. “Don’t matter. Now you listen to me, kid, ‘cause I know what goes on in that head a’ yours. Young bucks like you. So understand this - Dick Rich, the Lupisellas at large, if it’s gone up the ladder - they got a reasonable f*ckin’ complaint.” 

 

He lets it sit. D and his uncle lock eyes and Jacky gives him that f*cking look.

 

Continues, “The runt took on some cash. He didn’t pay it back. He did it again. Ain’t my place or f*cking anyone’s right now to question why the f*ck Dick Rich let him come back for seconds, thirds, whatever. The point is, he ain’t paid up.”

 

Dante just swallows.

 

“Dick Rich is a made guy. He’s got a reputation to keep. So get it through your f*ckin’ head, kid, ‘cause I know you ain’t, that Dick Rich chasing his dues ain’t the problem here. It’s the disrespect. He talks to Sebby that way, he spits on my shoes. Your retard friend is in the hole. Why he needed that much dough in the first place is another thing ‘cause I know he ain’t puttin’ it out on the street, but that’s a talk for another time.” Pause. “Do you understand?”

 

It’s meek. “I understand.”

 

“Good. You’ll learn.”

 

Sits back; it’s a deferral to Jacky.

 

He leans forward, eye to eye with his kin. “It’s the disrespect and it’s not knowing the conditions they got him under. Holding him hostage, whateva’ you wanna call it, it’s overstepping. Say what we will here but it’s Sebastiano’s kid. They might be feeding him caviar by the spoonful wherever they got him, but iò dubbio. That ain’t how you conduct business.”

 

“I hear ya’.” It’s the closest he’s come to being sincere.

 

“I hope so. Now you heard what Jon, what Mr. Gravelli, said - this is not an excuse for cowboy antics. You going to go down to the lounge, you are not going to go in like Dutch London on a come-up, and you going to recover your friend. Some heads get cracked, price of business. But no bodies.”

 

Jon buts in, “This ain’t gonna be made a bigger thing than it is. I won’t have that.”

 

Dante tells them he understands again. And maybe he finally does.

 

There’s a silence in the pit - drags a bit before getting drowned out by the clamor of goons sh*t-shooting on the periphery. 

 

It’s your exit song. Jack goes “Gimme a ring if and when.”

 

If and when.

 

Okay.

 

Segue back into gameplay and you’re still on the couch. Jon gets up with his drink without a second look to you, gives Sebby at the ice the slant-eyes instead. Heads into the kitchen without much ruckus, you can hear him mumbling about the “f*ckin’ kids” to the baldie.

 

Leave as someone lets the dogs in. Checker Red still there on the porch, he waits ‘til you’re down the step.

 

“You ever cracked any heads proper?”

 

Dante turns round. “Huh?”

 

“I heard y’in there. Crackin’ heads, he wants. You crack heads with what? Fists? You thinkin’ a pipe? You ain’t cracking no f*cking heads with your fists and the pipe’s gonna do a sight more’n that.”

 

“What?”

 

Steps down and you can practically hear the crack - bad knee. Guy’s still built like a f*ckin’ tank but on the down-step he comes up three-quarters of a foot short. Huffs.

 

“I said, how d’you go about crackin’ goddamn heads?”

 

Is he looking for a fight? Demeanor wouldn’t show it but the voice has no edge. Like he’s trying to help.

 

“I dunno. You put a guy down-- you go for the gut you play clean, throat if you don’t wanna.” Gestures down at the guy’s leg, “Knees. Shin. Y’know.”

 

Lug gives you a look-over. Pauses.

 

Grabs a keychain from pocket and wags a finger ahead of you.

 

He heads down the driveway to a coupe in the sea of gunboats, cream BBC Lamprey. Rental like most of the bunch.

 

Pops the trunk and starts scouring.

 

Dante doesn’t have a clue, doesn’t ask. “What’s your name?”

 

Says “Teddy. They call me Red.”

 

“Why?”

 

Doesn’t answer.

 

Comes up for breath with a pair of brass knuckles.

 

Dante goes “huh”.

 

“I heard Jon, Jack. No bodies. But Dick Rich is a f*ck runs a crew ‘a f*cks. You got that?”

 

Not really. “Sure.”

 

“Y’ask me it could go either way, that f*ckin’ motel or the fa**ot lounge or whatever. All I know is Rich’s got this guy, right hand or some sh*t, he’s called Gogo Cafora.” Shoves the knuckles into your hand. “These’re for him.”

 

“You want me to pummel a guy named Gogo Cafora?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Why?”

 

“He’s a f*ckin’ cocksucker mutt of the nth degree, that’s why.”

 

Okay.

 

“You wanna come along then?”

 

“No. I got-- I can’t. But you can. You don’t wanna touch a hair on the others’ heads, creep around, that’s your padaver. But I want Gogo Cafora seein’ birdies. I want him seeing f*cking vultures.”

 

Dante just shrugs, gestures with the knucks in hand. “See if I can bring him on a trip to the apiary.”

 

“Yeah. He’s a big son-of-a-bitch, not as big as me but y’know - big. Baldin’. Got a bad shoulder. Won’t miss him.” Looks down. “You can keep those. We’ll talk about this next time I see ya’.”

 

That’s it. Time to get going, for real this time - lounge’s up in the Heights, that’s northeast of the strip, north-northeast of your grass-cordoned suburbia. Knuckles probably aren’t too comfy gripped around the wheel - Dante tosses them when he crawls into his Piranha.

 

It’s late day. Radio’s in the middle of Eight Miles High, kinda thing Dante finds himself getting pumped up to. Hits the wheel. Hits the gas. C’mon.

 

Traffic ain’t too bad on the strip proper, too early for rat-racers getting off work and hankering to toss the salary on baccarat; sparse, just sun glimmering off fresh pavement and the lines, median with young palms between the old. You can cut right across.

 

You won’t miss it. Venturas Heights is in the middle of an identity crisis - that’s half low-lying commercial areas with streetfront parking and half rambler homes in the midst of construction, place rife with stone dust in the air and the sounds; jackhammers, cement trucks, nails into timber.

 

Lounge’s part of the identity getting phased out: backed into a building shared with a bowling alley, that whole fifties deal with river rock facade and angular glass, a big slanted awning doubled over the entrance. Googie script lays it out - this is The Want-a-Will.

 

Clock it. Parking’s shared with the bowling alley - about half full, cars on the lounge side making a distinct turn from BFs to Albanys. Good a sign as any. Place might as well be a hole in the wall - guess that’s the point. No signs of life - only windows’re about twenty feet up the front face.

 

Could you make a rooftop entrance? Probably, googie sh*t loves skylights. But you look over to the knucks still sitting pretty on the passenger seat, think how a rooftop invasion might invite gunfire a lot quicker than laying all your cards out with fists - you can, sneak all the way through if you like and recover the runt without a sound.

 

But where’s the fun in that.

 

Deep breath.

 

Dante puts them on and steps out - almost forgets before taking his gun out of its holster, placing it under the seat.

 

Closer you come to the door, quicker the realization comes.

 

Better be unlocked.

 

Lets go a high-pitched laugh with the next step.

 

It’s unlocked, you find out soon enough. Push bar lets you right in. Place’s open to the public, guess, just, y’know - the locals know better. It’s all mahogany and deep colors, ceilings twenty-thirty feet. Not googie now. Buncha suede club chairs arranged in circles around low-cut tables with candles. A bar. 

 

The chairs and the carpet are lime green, latter in damask pattern. There are tiki torches. It’s different. Somewhere in between guinea chic and Venturas lite.

 

Two goons behind the bar. One’s going “...but can’t no one really make a good gravy out here anyway. Best you can hope for’s the f*ckin’ fish. Bit a’ butter, bit a’ garlic, y’know.”

 

“I mean, they got an ocean right there.”

 

“So do we.”

 

“S’not the same f*cking thing, mammalucc’. They got names for a reason - Atlantic, Passaic. Different coasts. Ain’t the same by a long shot.”

 

“Not we, I meant, but y’know, the coast. Lobster. Baccala. That sh*t comes from Canada, don’t it?”

 

“That ain’t the same f*ckin’ coast.”

 

“Sure it is.”

 

“It ain’t.”


“We’s out east. It’s the east coast. Atlantic seaboards don’t end at the border, does it?”

 

“Atlantic what?”

 

And on.

 

You’re doing them a favor cutting it short.

 

All or nothing. Conversation context pop-ups give you the typical options: greet means stall as Dante moves toward the pair, feigning lost tourist as long as the farce keeps. It’s a ploy - gives you the chance to come to the bartop, get up close and personal, keep their guard down with tact.

 

Antagonize has him yell “Hey, cugine, this a club for queers or what?”

 

Taller one goes “f*ck’d you say?”

 

He’s primed up. “It’s just I hear you got this kid tied up in the back or somethin’ - that’s some f*cked up sh*t.”

 

f*cker reaches for gun - other one stops him. Whispers but you can just enough hear it, says “That’s Jack Gallo’s f*ckin’ kid Dino was talkin’ about.”

 

Takes his hand off the gat.

 

Knuckles at the ready; former approach makes for an easier in so you can swipe-swipe-swipe. Here? They know you’re coming. One of those two bozos makes it clear: “We got some f*ckin’ incidents ova’ here, what-the-f*ck! Gogo!”

 

Enter a half dozen wiseguys.

 

Okay.

 

Goddamn preschool pipsqueak--

 

“--I’m gonna f*ckin’ enjoy this!

 

The procession comes out with either calloused fists or lowdown weapons: one guy you can see has brass knuckles glinting on the color-lights, another with a big board used in lieu of a whapping stick. They’re all mostly paunchy older guys with glasses and gaudy collars, brawlers and fiends but not fighters. Dante’s a brawler. It’s a brawl.

 

Fistfights with Dante are rough, never fair. These guys are bigger, heavier, maybe stronger - so Dante goes for the legs, or the groin, or the face. Claws at their eyes or uses the raw speed he has to get the one-up. Sprint and attack and the kid goes in with a running knee and plows into ‘em.

 

They can plow right back. Dante’s gotta be quick on his feet - skinny guy around 5’8’’ - prioritize dodging over blocking. You play deer in headlights too long and they’ll cross your arms behind your back or worse go straight for the chokehold - latter you’re done for, former you might get the chance to break out just ‘fore another goon starts delivering heavy f*cking gut punches. 

 

Best odds for you? Don’t give ‘em the opportunity.

 

The sh*t is smooth. That is - you, arms, legs, environment in bartop, loose bottles, battery lamps on tabletops: all as one in the big fight. Finishers come natural depending on context; you’re next to bartop and it comes in the form of grabbing a prick by his hair and using both hands to smash his face into the tile. By a chair? Dante hops up, uses the momentum for a kick dead in the forehead - guy topples backward and hits his dazed noggin again on the way down. Lamps against ears, bulbs shattered into skin - you let a big guy get the better of you and throw you into a table? Silver lining: leg breaks off and now it’s a melee weapon with an attraction to shins.

 

You’re playing the long game, remember - these f*cks are twice your age and another multiple in weight. Dante’s got biceps and little else. Tire them out, find more openings.

 

One by one they’ll topple. Dante calls ‘em “fag”, “loopty-loo motherf*cker”, tells the sh*theads to bring their A-game. 

 

They don’t because within a few minutes they’re all writhing in the chaos, Dante panting above. Last man standing.

 

“Anyone wanna tell me where my motherf*ckin’ friend is?”

 

Apparently not.

 

Tosses the table leg if you’ve got one. 

 

Just then, doors behind the bar come crashing open. Wham.

 

ABASTA! GONNA PEEL YOU LIKE AN ARTICHOKE!”

 

The gears turn, description matches: Gogo Cafora. Big, mean f*ck with big mean words in this easy-breezy orange polo, slacks. He’s putting on his own pair of knuckle dusters.

 

Spiked.

 

Dante takes a breath but only lets the front break for a second, less, adrenaline still pumping: “Googs-- you Googs?”

 

“Think you can just waltz in here into our f*ckin’ club, knock some heads and get away with it, you little fanoik Gallo cocksucker?”

 

“You call me fanoik, you got this kid--”

 

Abast’, enough sh*t.

 

“Enough--”

 

He charges at you.

 

Duck.

 

Gogo swings wide. Got forearms wider than his calves, thick and f*cking hairy in a perpetual southpaw. He runs at you, might stop himself or bump into a wall if he misses: enough time for you to grab onto his back or sweep at the legs or keep moving. Stay light or the f*cker’ll tackle you and pummel you.

 

Until he’s had enough. You go long and hard and he turns red-f*cking-faced and starts throwing chairs. Glasses. Stools. He’s pouring with f*cking sweat, he’s f*cking livid, lungs working overtime.

 

You get the right moment and he’ll be ripe.

 

Pounce.

 

Gogo’ll topple and hit the floor for long enough for you to straddle the big, mean f*ck like a bull and just hit blow after blow after blow. Guy’s losing grip, loses his brass knuckles for long enough for you to peel ‘em off his wet, stinking sausage fingers. “Kid, kid…

 

“Where is he?!”

 

Kid, slow down…

 

Dante’ll clap him with the spiked knuckles. “Goddamn where?!

 

You f*ckin’ kids youse a f*ckin’ psycho--”

 

Okay. Alright. Dante’s nodding and slipping his fingers into the rings and admiring the studs and looking the tired f*cker in the eyes.

 

Please,” he’ll say.

 

Dante’ll punch him in the face.

 

A gash forms across the cheek from the metal ripping and tearing and he claws at it with his big bear arms. Another opportunity, you go for ‘em. Rip into his big forearm muscles and tear off flesh and hair. “Store room, store room, motherf*cker- auuiughhh GODDAMN--

 

Button prompts appear on the screen. You can watch. Eventually, you leave him long enough, Dante’ll just drop him and go.

 

However. He can keep going.

 

Mash. Mash. Mash. Spiked studs rip through the shirt and through the face and leave marks and scars and cuts. Red dripping off the fingers and splaying Rorschach all over Dante’s face. Into the knitted polo and into the meaty face and in and in and in.

 

You get up, and he won’t be moving. Won’t be dead, but won’t be moving. Either way, you leave with a pair of unique weapons. Double-fist, engraved brass knuckles that the menu will tell you are called Pelatrici. Madon’.

 

Find Ettore.

 

The minimap guides you past the lounge’s lounge into the lounge’s intestines - where the guys were clearly having their hang-out before you stomped in, the footprints in the fuzz-rug leading deep into the darkness. Can loot some knick-knacks here, mainly the remains of a disturbed game of go-fish with money lying flat on table.

 

Into the store room.

 

Hear whimpering.

 

Oh, Eddy.

 

Don’t know what it used to be, but they’ve ripped out the carpeting and left the bare wood and rusty nails pointing out in the odds and ends. Chair in the corner that’s been taped to the floor is ‘Eddy the Idiot’ Boccino, tied up in the same gaffer tape with a sock in his mouth. His eyes are closed. Arms tied, ankles tied, guys tried tying him up to the chair and did a real loose job, looks f*cking ridiculous.

 

He spits out the sock almost immediately upon realizing it’s you. Not a very good gag.

 

“The f*ck they done with you, Eddy?”

 

Nothin’ I can’t handle, nothin’ I can’t.

 

“I see that.” In awe, “Jesus Christ.”

 

“Just get me f*ckin’ untied, Dante, c’mon.

 

Dante does. Starts searching the room until he spots it in the corner - big chunky pair of scissors - snip snips at the wrists saying “Where the hell’s this Dick Rich anyways?

 

My f*ckin’ hands, oh! Madonna mia. I don’t know how long… Dino Ricci, he’s at his motel or some sh*t making payments, the f*ckin’ Yahoo or Wahoo or somethin’. Had this thing--”

 

Snips the ankles, “Right.

 

“What?”

 

Right’s right. If you headed the motel? You woulda’ met Dick Rich himself, wouldn’t have had much a fun time except for some rabble rousing and punch-ups at his place and the adjacent laundromat. At the same time, if you went there first, you woulda’ missed Gogo. Pick and choose: an example with their boss, or a favor for Teddy Red. A lot more money in it for the former, the latter some dusters and a job well done.

 

“Nothin’, they f*ckin’ told me about the motel is all.”

 

“Who?” He stands, stretches, rubs calves and forearms and back of neck, “Minchia, my whole f*cking arms.”

 

“Let’s get outta here.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Back onto the fuzz-rug and it occurs to you - heading back out front might not be the best call whether you turned Gogo’s face into pulp or otherwise. Alt exit must be here, somewhere, doesn’t take long to find around a corner with a wall full of sepia frame-ups; Dick Rich in fedora with Gogo Cafora, couple faces you just punted into the ground. Could’ve been another entry, maybe, if you were so inclined.

 

Ed asks “Where’s that f*ckin’ gorilla gone?”

 

Dante just shows him Pelatrici. Bloody.

 

“God damn.”

 

Door’s unlocked from the inside, straight out into a sky quickly turning orange. Parking lot, adjacent bowling alley all bathed in the glow.

 

There’s a Remington, cream, glinting new, by the back wall.

 

“That’s his ride,” Eddy goes.

 

“Whose?”

 

“The big f*cker. Makes sense it’s a big car, right? Big f*ckin’ trunk, too, believe you me.”

 

Dante ignores the comment, gears start turning; you can jack the f*cker, take it as a trophy or a commemoration or whatever - your call. If you’d gone the other route, motel and Dick Rich and the like, would’ve had the same opportunity: ‘cept a man like Dino Ricci, out here in the gold mines, west coast outpost, he would’ve had a roadster on offer instead of the brand-spanking-new landboat. Different strokes. 

 

The car is not hard to steal: factory new model, sure, but the principle’s the same. Pick the lock, jump the engine. Your good old Piranha's safe in the parking lot for the time being and it’ll sit pretty ‘til you come back for it.

 

Whatever you’ve done and whichever you’re in Eddy hops shotgun like it’s any other day. Once you hit the tar the tensions start mounting, Dante plays it high and mighty: waits for Ed to break the ice. Note the smooth ride and the low growl of the Remington if you so opted - hits the Strip with a wide turn.

 

Ettore clears throat. “So what?”

 

Dante parrots “So what.”

 

“So let me have it, disciple-come-lately. Freed your f*ckin’ friend, cracked some heads. Where’s the lecture?”

 

“I’m tired.”

“You’re tired. You’re never too tired for a goddamn lecture, Dante, if there’s one thing I’ve learned. It’s that you’re never too f*ckin tired--”

 

“Yeah, I’m f*cking tired. This sh*t’s nothing new, is it, Eddy? I mean, don’t answer that - it ain’t f*ckin’ new. You messed up, screwed the dog, f*cked the cat. This is us out in Martis with the pit manager or in SF wit’ the f*ckin’ moolies or that time we went down south with the feds or whatever they were. When I smoothed or I backed up or I goddamn-f*ckin’ drew blood ‘cause you just can’t help yourself, can’t fight your own battles, can’t help but roll in the sh*t with the f*cking pigs.”

 

“f*ck you.”

 

“No, f*ck you, prick. Whaddya doin’ going to the goddamn Lupisellas in the first place?”

 

Pause. As per, there’s only so much fire in the words before it plateaus and calms. “I don’t wanna get into it.”

 

“‘S’it the f*ckin’ scag, Ettore?”

 

“I said I don’t wanna get into it.” It’s defeat.

 

“Okay.”

 

The conversation’s been driving it thus far, not you - in Dante’s shoes you didn’t know where you were going neither.

 

“Where ya’ gonna hole up?”

 

“Home.”

 

“You sure?”

 

He thinks. “I’ll lock the f*ckin’ door, whatever.”

 

Take Ettore home.

 

Some time, some thought - Eddy fiddles with the radio. You can tune it back, no problem, but let him have his little victories, huh?

 

“Least tell me what happened,” Dante spits.

 

“What’s to tell?” Ploy doesn’t work, continues. “Was at the f*ckin’ Atacama again, got out around two or three. Was gonna go for a burger and shake at Helena Heart’s and they grabbed me on the f*ckin’ street. Hit me on the head with some sh*t felt like a book, tossed me in the trunk. Buncha’ f*cking goons f*ckin’ fanoik motherf*ckers put a bag over my head. I was already in the f*ckin’ bag.”

 

Gets a laugh. “How long you been there?”

 

“I dunno, they blindfolded me. Day and a half. Two. Big f*cker let me eat f*ckin’ egg noodles. Dick-f*ckin’-Rich, the stronz’, he came by last night, said he’d made some calls--”

 

“I heard.”

 

Stops. “Whaddya heard?”

 

“That he made some calls.”

 

“Said he made some calls to pa.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Beat. “Don’t tell me he f*ckin’ sent you, Dante.”

 

Might get caught in traffic on the lower rungs of the Strip. All the more time for an interrogation.

 

“Not exactly.”

 

“Then what?”

 

“You know. Jack. Jon. The whole f*ckin’ troupe, that makes ya’ feel better.”

 

“Oh, madonna mi’ - you’re f*ckin’ with me.”

 

“I didn’t get to ask too many questions, the guilty by association thing, but seems your father made a stink.”

 

Almost a whine: “This is my f*ckin’ business!”

 

“Not anymore.”

 

Eddy smacks the f*cking dashboard. Your car or Gogo Cafora’s, don’t matter, Dante scolds. “Chill out.”

 

Mutters. “Yeah, I’ll f*cking chill out.”

 

Dante, good old boy, he doesn’t want his friend to stew. So he breaks it up.

 

“House was full.”

 

Reluctant, “Whose?”

 

“Jon’s.”

 

Works like a f*cking charm. “You was at Gravelli’s house?”

 

“Yeah, not the first time, but y’know. He went back home, flew in with some guys a few days ago I think.”

 

“What guys?”

 

“I dunno, Eddy, you know I never been good with the faces.”

 

“f*ck you, come on.”

 

You can hear the words through grinning teeth.

 

“Ricky with the Hair, I thinks. Some guy calls himself Red, think he was one. Looked the part anyway. Didn’t recognize him, but he talked to me, sounded real f*ckin’ close to Jon. Lotta faces, Eddy. Talking a dozen, more, dunno how many flew in on first-class champagne pocket seats. Street lined with cars, you should’a f*ckin’ seen it.”

 

“You mean Red Teddy?”

 

“That’s it.”

 

“Oh, madon’, you’re f*ckin’ kidding. That’s the inner circle sh*ts, Dante.”

 

“I don’t f*ckin’ know ‘im.”

 

“Some half-breed motherf*cker, I dunno. Don’t let it fool you, I heard the tales. But he is real f*ckin’ close. Who else?”

 

“I dunno, Eddy. These Broker patch guys. Real f*cking deal.

 

“Boardroom sh*t?”

 

“Runnin’ the show, yeah.” Thinks. “Some fella in the kitchen I ain’t recognized, too. Bald. Quiet.”


Eddy adds to the brainstorm too, thinks all the same. “Big wire frames?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Genie Sbarra, maybe?”

 

Dante slows. “Oh, f*ck. That was Genie f*cking Sbarra.”  Laughs like a goddamn moron. Continues, “Oh, man, you hear all the stories, right? This sh*t. I was right in that, Eddy. Like the f*ckin’ movies, huh?”

 

“Everything,” Eddy channels his big boy voice, “has a f*ckin’ bright side.”

 

And with that, you’re Arcadia Meadows-adjacent. You made it.

 

House is in the right place. Empty - Sebby’s gunboat nowhere to be found. Dusk’s cracking, sky’s turning people. Cicadas and silence. Kid on a bike passes the car idling.

 

“You got the key?”

 

“S’alright, left my window open a crack.”

 

Dante nods. “Anything else?”

 

They both stare. He knows what he wants - so do you. 

 

Some show of appreciation?

 

Not his style.

 

He’s still banged up, almost loses his balance as he steps out. Leans back into the window. “Gimme a call tomorrow, huh? Ladies’ night at the Vizier. ‘S’when they bring out all the good liquors and the cigars and sh*t.”

 

Dante waits.

 

Nothing.

 

Goes “Will do.”

 

Wry grin, Eddy turns on his heel. Disappears around the corner of the house.

 

Dante grabs the steering wheel with two hands. Breathes deep.

 

Night’s fallen. Cicada’s background drone goes silent.

 

Turns the engine back on and drives off.

 

UnfRlbA.png

No reward.

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

1st - Jacky Gallo (mandatory following above approach)

Dante: Yeah, Dante here.

Jacky: It's your uncle. Tell me, Dante, kid - you up to any sh*t?

Dante: Huh? 

Jacky: Sh*t. Ch'è merda, your sh*t. You look a gift horse in the f*cking eye again?!

Dante: I dunno what you're talkin' about, Uncle Jacky. 

Jacky: The job. Why can't you do nothing without making a big f*ckin'-a spectacle of yourself?

Dante: With Ettore? It went down, you know - close to without a hitch as I can think.

Jacky: You got the runt back, yeah, a' salud. Jon's got his affairs in order with the goddamn Lupisellas, 'least in respect to that. But what the f*ck are you doing putting your hands on Gogo Cafora?

Dante: He-- he was just in the way. You sent me into the dragon's den, come on.

Jacky: I sent you - you was ordered to do what you had to do 'cause this sh*t wasn't justified by Ricci or nothing like that. I get a call, someone's telling me Cafora's in the emergency room 'cause one side of his jaw's f*ckin' cracked, cheek's ripped open, shredded. He can't see out of one eye right now. You think a man like that don't want blood?

Dante: Huh. I mean--

Jacky: You looking for a beef?

Dante: No.

Jacky: Then you best be saying prayers 'cause they know who you are. Il sole càvuru le ha cotto il cervello. You think this is something I can put in a good word for?

Dante: I mean, why not?

Jacky: You're more pigheaded than your pa' ever was. S'good that you got the kid back but I only can have your back for so long, and--

Dante: I'll be fine. Alright? I promise you - I'll be f*ckin' fine. Everyone takes a beating, right?

Jacky: Some more than others. Smarten the f*ck up. See if you can do one good job without any of the f*ck-ups.

Dante: I'll do my best.

Jacky: Sure. You got eyes on you, remember that.

 

2nd - Sebby Boccino (mandatory)

Dante: Yello?

Sebby: Ohh, ehh, this you, Dante?

Dante: Yeah. Who's askin'?

Sebby: It's, uh, it's Sebastiano. Mr. Boccino. I don't do these calls or nothin' too often but I got Jack's number and uh--

Dante: Oh, hey. Hi. How's it goin', Mr. Boccino?

Sebby: Can't complain. Look, Dante - I was callin', uh' you know - t'give thanks if nothin' else. You know. For that thing.

Dante: Oh yeah?

Sebby: Yeah. Sometimes you just gotta show some gratituation when things go the way things go and that's just how it is.

Dante: Sure.

Sebby: That said, the way it is is the way it is - so thanks. I know Eddy's got the problems and what-the-f*ck-not, and uh--

Dante: We don't gotta get into that.

Sebby: Yeah, course. But you did good. You gots all these eyes on ya' and it gets a certain way and there's these times you just gotta do what you gotta do. And you did good. Not just for me, for Eddy, but you know - the family.

Dante: I mean-- thanks.

Sebby: It's nothin'. Don't think about it. You come 'round the house, we'll have a f*ckin' toast. Alright?

Dante: Will do.

Sebby: Alright. Alright. I'll see ya, kid.

Edited by Cebra
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I'm glad this is still getting updates, fellas.

 

Went through the wayback machine and i gotta say you guys did one hell of a job on the soundtrack. would love to see the dramatic, serious scenes pop up for doug, dante and julius soon.

Edited by DownInTheHole
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  • 3 months later...
On 8/17/2020 at 6:31 AM, DownInThePMs said:

I'm glad this is still getting updates, fellas.

 

Went through the wayback machine and i gotta say you guys did one hell of a job on the soundtrack. would love to see the dramatic, serious scenes pop up for doug, dante and julius soon.

The soundtrack re-release or whatever you want to call it is still coming believe it or not - right now just in a Google doc that's been sidetracked for about twenty thousand different reasons over the last year. but it'll come. eventually. maybe.

 

thanks for the comments though and i hope you find the coming missions, including this one, satisfy that description lol

 

----

 

thrlEf8EK_GRUsXhfjIfya4OWZToHeW2n7vnF-yleL1GR79-OPx9EGVSKj7c5BzVVBiPvV64HjjX5f8H_86NbeeK0Cb8usNSYm6UhMHftb5hwexkNfPrgUj8YFjN6U_LvJmek2BQ

Mission triggers with the name in the bottom right corner when Doug picks up a phone - don’t matter where; home, the bar, payphone on Skid f*cking Row - and dials for broke from the number off a notepad: chickenscratch says Randy Harris.

 

Rings. And Doug wipes his brow, turns to watch his surrounds in the interim. Waiting.

 

He’s about to hang it up when the tone breaks, “Inspector Harris, Gang Task Force.”

 

You can see the consternation build. “Nice title, Randall. You come up with it yourself?”

 

Pause. “Doug? That you?”

 

“Yes, Randall.”

 

“Ah, hell. Uh-- wasn’t expecting you so soon, Doug, truth be told.”

 

“Yeah, me neither. I can hang up, no harm no foul.”

 

“No-- no, Doug, buddy, it’s just- I’m at work. Desk duty, got a load of paperwork. This about that coffee?”

 

“Was, but I’m getting less thirsty by the second.”

 

Huffs. “Alright. We can meet up on my lunch, I’ll clear my schedule. You got a favorite haunt or something?”

 

The Bar.”

 

“Yeah, which?”

 

The f*cking Bar. You found my place all sleuth-like, it’s around the corner. Lacoste and Sutton.”

 

Randy sighs with all the hesitation of a man who doesn’t like the back and forth. “Can’t leave the division area on my lunch, Doug, man--”

 

“You got my goodwill hanging by a thread.”

 

“Faraday’s,” he spits out. “Basement type a’ digs. It’s on Cree-”

 

“I know it.”

 

“Alright, buddy. Noon. I’ll see ya’.”

 

Doug hangs up without a word.

 

Noon. Or thereabouts. Creed, he was trying to spit out - it’s back in Greenwich, bit further south straddling the border with the Ocaso District. That’s surf-themed storefronts and triplexes Greenwich, not Orthodox churches and grocery stores under Cyrillic awnings Greenwich.

 

You get there when you get there. Doug has a lot of sighing to get out of his system.

 

Place’s marked on the map but you’ll probably recognize it anyway: dead on the corner of Creed and Dewey, sandwiched between a fishery and a boxing equipment store. Tan stucco meets tan stucco meets tan stucco - only set apart by the street-level FARADAY’S sign pointing down some wrought iron steps. Place’s below ground. Pub-themed from the looks, dime a f*cking dozen they are.

 

Randy’s cruiser is parked curbside on Dewey, front right wheel mounted over the curb. You can park up behind, it’ll segue straightaway to cutscene: hops out, gives his old jalopy a walk-around and decides to polish one of a hundred scuff marks with a wet thumb. Justifying the impound job. Eyes ahead to the cruiser and the stairs, they land on the pinned and pointed ears of a German Shepherd hanging out the passenger side window.

 

Head follows in the direction of every passerby. 


Can’t help himself.

 

Doug reaches in slow for the pat, realizes he’s got less than nothing to be scared of. The pup licks his open palm, his wrist, his fingers.

 

Goes play-voice: “Where’s your f*ckhead owner, boy? Huh? Where is he?”

 

Pup doesn’t answer.

 

Doug’s still smiling, rarity it is - but steps back and scans the sidewalk. Hands in pockets, he heads around the corner for another looksy-loo.

 

Oh.

 

There he is.

 

Randy’s got a knee-length peacoat, dressed up sans tie, the works. Doesn’t see you coming: pamphlets in the palm of his hand.

 

“What’re those?”

 

Snuck up on him.

 

Might as well have said boo.

 

“Jesus freaking Christ.

 

Might as well have put a gun to the back of his head.

 

“Lord’s name, Randy.”

 

F- fu- friggedy ff--... Christ.”

 

He’s nearly dropped all of his sh*t: a few pamphlets lost in the wind already with the other hand clutching his chest-near-shoulder. You can make out names now: Gerry Quigley in big red-and-blue letters. Gerry Quigley for the Dem nod. Randy’s looking at you funny to see if anything comes out the eyes studying him.

 

Doug just says “What, we go to this place because you hand out pamphlets here? You call the local campaign office? Or is pestering people a hobby.”

 

Changing things is a hobby. I don’t know.”

 

“Yeah, no sh*t.”

 

Randy’s still trying to walk off getting spooked, doing this awkward laugh thing and catching his breath and stopping mid-sentence in a putter stutter-start. “Friggin’ smart aleck you’ve always been. Fre- I don’t even- 

 

“Christ, Randall, it weren’t that much of a fright. Get a grip.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah. Whatever.” The embarrassment’s setting in. “Sorry. Look - I’m glad you came,” does this shrug. “I- you want one?”

 

“What?”

 

“The brochure. It’s a better pitch than I can do justice and you always liked to read. It’s, uh- I got plenty to spare.”

 

“I’m not big into politicking, Randy.”

 

“No politicking. Politics, but not politicking. We live in extraordinary times, Doug, and you know - it’s a new hope. Quigley’s our new hope. We can all use that. Hope.”

 

The word pleads.

 

He offers the brochure.

 

Doug chides, “What, you take me for some kinda mark now?”

 

“Funny. We don’t have the luxury of cynicism anymore, Doug. This country, Quigley’s gonna make it right--”

 

“A politician?”

 

“Yeah. What? Look, you listen to the radio, right? The crowds he’s gathering- young, old, blacks, whites. Can’t tell me he won’t rouse some kind of fire in the nation’s soul. The right kind. He’ll make things right again. That speech in Delisle last week--”

 

“Randall, at least buy me a f*cking drink first.”

 

He offers the pamphlet again. You can take it - or you can not. Can imagine which sets the tone for what’s to come but it ultimately don’t much matter; Randy sorts himself out, click-clicks to walk back to the car and tosses the papers onto the dash from through the open window. Gives the pup a pat-pat for good measure.

 

Comes back out with a pin. 

 

“No--”

 

“C’mon.”

 

Doug puts up a fight for half a second - and relents. Randy pulls his jacket lapel and needles it thorough, pats it, straightens him out.

 

PuC6COhyXeGLs5ej6W50Qj_gTIVYVgX_La7V5flTtL3vdk31aAVhWunjJ5Roktctd3TbuqBbnvDFDroQueWOdEn6wc8kWTbxgDudza0iqsdM-dc_ncgFwEsnNjKS8_Xwh5g96pf3

 

“You’re somethin’ else, you know that?”

 

Randy smirks. Tension’s broke. “Gerry Quigley takes this friggin’ thing, we’ll make a lifelong Democrat of you yet.”

 

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

 

Follow him down the steps, Doug pipes up again. “Hey, not for nothing, Randall, but you gonna tell me the watch commander likes his little inspectors out on duty playing politico?”

 

Stops Randall dead, himself a new stutter start. “It’s- you know- the department doesn’t--”

 

Scoffs, “Figured as much. Thought you was a stickler for the code, Randall. Semper fi, blue rules and all that sh*t.”

 

I am. You lose that and you got nothing but a bunch a’ no-good animals running wild. It’s just- who’s it hurting, you gotta figure, right? They’re just pamphlets. Quigley gets the nod, heck, Doug, this point in time what it takes for the greater good’s the least of my worries.”

 

Doug parrots, “The greater good.”

 

“Sure.” Holds the door open for him as an invitation for more rhetoric, “Quigley already took the capitol and Indiana by storm. And that’s because he’s got a message. Not because he’s who he is, because he’s got a message. Not because of his brother, because of hope and change and a new day. Fairbanks is a non-starter this year, it’s time for the boys to come home. You know that.”

 

“Yeah.” He knows that.

 

Enter Faraday’s.

 

First off: Faraday’s is a pub, not a café. The mahogany and the stained glass and the wall decor: the Irish tricolor, the shamrock banners, the trinity knot inscribed in the back panel of every chair don’t leave much room for interpretation. It’s sparse; empty roundtables, the professional drunks by the bar and a gloomy barkeep reading a book.

 

“Weren’t he a prosecutor, Gerry Quigley?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

One’a you, then?

 

“One’a what?

 

They maneuver past the regulars, one makes a face like he smells cop. 

 

Red tops. Opposite of me.”

 

“What are you, Doug?”

 

“I’m- hm. I was gonna say a f*ckin’ moron but that’s most cops just the same.”

 

There’s this bemused little smirk on Randy’s face but he still plays it off sarcastic, “Yeah, funny.” And they keep walking for the booth seat. Booth seat they find, and they scoot on into, and they stare at each other from opposite ends of the table.

 

“So you took me here to get me liquored up for the eventual plea, right?”

 

Randy sighs. “The what?”

 

“The plea. I read your letter. I read it a year ago then went against my gut and read it again the other day. Lotta big words in there, Randy. Redemption. Deliverance. Mercy. A lot behind those words. So I gotta think, f*ck, this guy’s got me pinned down in an underground bar just so he can finally say ‘em out loud. You can only embellish so much on precinct stationery.”

 

“I don’t wanna embellish--”

 

“No. ‘Course not.”

 

The barkeep’s here now, just enough to interrupt. “Get you boys somethin’?”

 

Randy looks at you, looks down.

 

In lieu Doug goes “You got coffee?”

 

Guy says “Sure.”

 

“We’ll start there.”

 

Guy goes off and Randy leans in.

 

“It’s not about any of that, Doug. It’s my conscience. I am an officer of the law, I uphold the public good--”

 

Doug gives him a f*cking look.

 

Continues, “Okay. Fine. I get it - we took separate paths. That doesn’t matter. I just need you to say it.”

 

“Say what?”

 

“That you forgive me.”

 

Desperate. Doug takes the opportunity to light a cigarette.

 

“It’s just that,” takes a drag, “Every time you start talking like that I think: don’t you reckon Babić might’a had some sh*t he would’a liked to atone for back in Virginia or wherever the f*ck? And he can’t. He don’t have that luxury. Because you killed him.”

 

Last time he got all puppydog-like - this time Randy just stares.

 

“He died. I didn’t kill him.”

 

“You were behind the controls.”

 

“It was an accident. We threaded that line every day we left camp, every time we hit the waterways without knowing if we’d be looking down a ghost dinghy or VC. I screwed up--”

 

“You f*cked up.”

 

Coffee comes, cups and saucers. Randy tells him to leave the pot.

 

Takes a sip and keeps up. “I’m trying to make it right. I want to fix things - not just for me, for best-near everyone. That means keeping order here in the city.”

 

“That means nothing.”

 

That means putting an end to the war, uniting the country, making us proud to live in the best darn nation in the world by getting Gerry Quigley in the seat. Everything can be right again. I can fix it. I just need to hear the words.”

 

“And this is all atonement?” He makes the word sound foreign.

 

It is what it is. It’s making it right. I make the world right, and I f*cked up. And it’s like what Gerry said--”

 

Come on.

 

“Come on what?

 

“So you believe this sh*t?”

 

And there’s frustration, “Yes, Doug.

 

Atone. Atone. Last thing you want is God breathing down your neck, believe me.” Takes a long pause with the smoke. “I didn’t take you for an idiot. Not like that I didn’t take you for one anyway. I took you for a whiner, Randall, and I took you for a little f*ckin’ pushy little motherf*cker, I did. We called you Threadworm. All of us--”

 

“I’m trying--”

 

You don’t remember this? You ain’t even heard it once? That me, that Babic, that Vasquez - we all called you Threadworm. The human f*ckin’ jackhammer.

 

I don’t pay much attention to that.

 

“You should. You should, they probably call you that at the station or somethin’. Maybe like that. I’m sure you didn’t stop being a pain in the f*cking ass in the time we all got out the service, huh? I’m sure since you sure as f*ck annoy everyone on the street with the f*ckin’ pamphlets and now you annoy the f*ck outta’ me--

 

“Stop.”

 

“Stop?”

 

Stop. Please.”

 

“Stop. No.

 

“I know what this is. I know it. You feel like crap for the same reasons I do, you just cope different. And we did this psych stuff at the station and you aren’t any different, Doug.

 

“Shut the f*ck up with that.”

 

You want to atone as much as I do.

 

Shut the f*ck up.

 

“And you’re a screw-up like I am but in a different sorta’ way. And maybe you don’t put stock into the words, and you put on this tough-guy front like you wanna hurt me. But you sure as sh*t don’t, maybe you try f*ck with my head--”

 

I got a swear outta’ him.

 

“You aren’t fooling me. I know the game you’re playing. I just want a f*cking yes, Doug, an it’s okay. And- and- and that’s all I need. Just ‘it’s okay’ and I’m done. You want, I’m gone. But I’m trying my best. I am.

 

Doug empties half his cup in one go. And he stares long. And he says, careful, “They’re not magic words, Randy.”

 

“They are to me. I am not a good man until--”

 

Voice booms across the room in interruption.

 

“There an Inspector Harris here? Inspector Harris?”

 

Randy looks up. 

 

Barkeep’s got the phone clasped in one hand. “Call for you.”

 

One of the do-no-gooders at the bar laughs and goes “f*ckin’ knew it!”

 

Words get muttered before you; might be swears, might not be. You’ll never know. Randy heads off to the phone without another.

 

Doug pours himself another cup and waits. Takes the pin off the lapel and stares at it. Can’t Stop Us. Eyes beam into Gerry Quigley’s head wrinkles and the goddamn hairline like it’s a vortex.

 

And then Randy’s back and he’s saying “C’mon, we gotta head back to the car.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Work, they need me on the horn. C’mon, we’ll finish up. Please.”

 

There’s another big word. Followed up by him tossing a couple coins on the table.

 

Follow him. Up the stairs, ‘round the corner. Doug pauses a good sec before saying f*ck it and jumping into the passenger seat of the cruiser.

 

Forgot about the dog.

 

Shepherd leans over the bucket seats and tries to smother you with his tongue. Doug half-pats half pushes him off, goes “Ah, sh*t” and keeps trying to very little avail.

 

Meanwhile Randy’s on the two-way: “Dispatch, this is 14-William, over.”

 

Comes back in three-quarters static, “Roger, 14-William, see the man for a 10-62A, 10-36 at the Boxcar Booth on Rudolph Boulevard.”

 

“Copy, dispatch, but uh- I called in 10-07M before I left the precinct.”

 

“Roger, 14-William, service currently has you 10-10 with exception.”

 

“No, I called in either 10-07M or just 10-07.”

 

Doug’s staring now.

 

“Er-- either way, orders came from Inspector Hawley, said this was relevant to your 'thing' in Chinatown. It’s Code 1.”

 

“Orders?”

 

“That’s what he said.”

 

Beat. Looks like he’s got something stuck in his teeth. “Fine. Fine. Tell him I’m en route.”

 

“Copy. Would you like to show 10-07M?”

 

“It doesn’t make a heckuva difference now, dispatch.”

 

“Roger. 10-3.”

 

Randy’s got the face now.

 

“We’re gonna have to do this another time, Doug--”

 

“No.”

 

“No?”

 

“Nah. Not doing this again. No. We had a ball last time, didn’t we, Randall? Let’s do it again.”

 

Clears his throat, “I’m just meeting a CI--”

 

“And you’re doing it at the Boxcar Booth. I heard. They got good onion rings. Let’s go.”

 

It takes a couple seconds consideration before Randy puts the car into gear. Pup in the back lies down in preparation. 

 

Doug stretches. “Your thing in Chinatown?”

 

“Ehh- it’s a complicated one, it’s, uh- you know the Tongs? Y'know, the Chinese.

 

“Yeah, I know the Tongs.”

 

“It’s part of this initiative meant to clean up the city a bit. You know. Gangs. These Chinamen, they got their hooks in deep the way they installed themselves here. Was supposed to be an effort for the city’s sesquicentennial but they tell me that didn’t work out. So now it’s for the dosquicentennial.”

 

“The dosca-santa-what?

 

“San Fierro’s 175th. It’s a publicity thing, I know. But it’s good. The country’s got their eyes on our city right now, you know? So we got a mandate - they call it a mandate - to get the menace out by ‘75. The drugs, the organizations, the extortion rackets. All that crap.”

 

“Yeah,” Doug says all slow-like, gears turning, “So this is a big deal?”

 

“Big enough. They’re calling it a task force.”

 

“Huh.”

 

“There’s this big board and we got a bunch of faces tacked onto it, even some stuff saying it might stretch cross-coast. Nicknames you wouldn’t believe - Bac Guai, Winky the Dink, Ten Cent Connie, the Ouch. This stuff they’ve been getting into with gearheads across the bay: a shooting here, some kid with his face mashed into the pavement, another shooting there.”

 

Doug’s coy, “Man, that’s crazy.”

 

“My CI is one of these kids from the neighborhood. Barely even 20. But half the kids they recruit, the street gangs these Tongs get guys from, they ain’t even 18. One of the guys from the precinct booked a 14 year old Cantonese kid ‘cause he had a Schnauzer and shot this other kid, 16, clean in the head. Pop.

 

Doug ain’t had the luck to meet one of them yet, “A gun like that? You sure?”

 

“I’m sure.”

 

Yeah. Huh.”

 

“Yeah. But he’s a good kid, a little screwed up, but he’s a good kid. If things were any different he’d be going to school. But he hangs with scuzzballs. He’s feeling the itch, wants out. I don’t blame him.”

 

“You hang out with me. I’m scuzz. I’m fun. Kid’s having a ball, I hope.”

 

“One of his pals had this daughter of a restaurant owner in Chinatown locked up in his basement, asking for ten grand. Ten grand or he’d send her ears in the mail by way of box cutter. It ain’t a ball at all.

 

The Boxcar Booth.

 

The diner itself stands on a little hill of pavement with the parking lot in its shadow, which the car rolls on by so Randy can get a look inside from the windows. Doug asks what he’s doing and Randy says “Making sure,” slows right down and starts making notes of all the heads inside.

 

He doesn’t notice, immediately, that his CI is not in the restaurant.

 

The car rolls by, and Randy goes “Oh!” and stops the car sharp.

 

Doug says “What?”

 

Randy says “He’s not in the joint. Wait here.”

 

The CI is at the bus stop. CI is a scrawny Chinese kid in a denim jacket with glasses and badly cropped hair, looks sort of confused at the display as Randy pops out the whip and jogs on over. You can make out little snippets of conversation from the distance, but it ain’t Doug’s business and he sure as sh*t doesn’t really care. Just him and the dog.

 

“Who’s that?” goes the kid.

 

“Friend of mine,” Randy sputters. “Don’t worry, he ain’t- it’s a long story.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“You don’t wanna go in the diner?”

 

“No, sir, I want my eyes makin’ sure I keep my eyes on the sh*t, sir, you know?”

 

“Okay, okay.

 

On and on.

 

The dog pants curious.

 

Maybe ‘cause the kid’s got a high-pitched voice. Or maybe ‘cause he’s in a panic, arms flailing about, saying who f*cking knows what.

 

On alert. Wants to protect his owner.

 

Doug tells him he’s a good boy.

 

Becomes old hat quick though: because the conversation goes on, then they’re sitting on the bench, then Randy’s handing the kid a crisp bill and patting him on the shoulder, then the CI gets even more intense. People’re popping in and out the diner car doors meanwhile, steamy food in foam containers. And eyes begin to wander.

 

They scan right-left: diner, sidewalk, parked cars, concrete barrier for the highway splitting Rudolph down the middle, more parked cars.

 

More parked cars.

 

The eyes converge on a pretty little Canis Raider with an olive green aftermarket canopy. Probably ‘cause it looks like it was shipped direct from ‘Nam. Then it hits.

 

The eyes.

 

Too many pairs of eyes in that Canis. Eyes focused right on you, on the bus stop.

 

Oh, sh*t.

 

Dougie rolls down the window stat, clicks the tongue. “Randy, c’mere.”

 

He hesitates, same play he made at the pub, before hobbling over. Looks back at his boy. Leans in.

 

“Doug, the kid’s fidgety enough as is. What?”

 

“Not for nothing, Randall - keep your eyes on me. But there’s a jeep across the way with a few too many eyes on this little meet of yours for comfort. Trust me.”

 

Randy twitches.

 

“Don’t f*cking look.”

 

“I- wa- goddamn--”

 

“Randy.”

 

“Well- what the hell am I supposed to do?”

 

The question hangs for half a second before the jeep answers that question for you.

 

They scoot out of the parked car procession - slow.

 

False alarm?

 

Gut says no.

 

Randy spins on his heel for the kid.

 

He’s air.

 

“Ah, Jesus--”

 

“You can catch up with him later, Randy, c’mon!”

 

“C’mon what?”

 

“You sit there and tell me ‘bout the cruel black heart f*cking nothing of these Chinamen? They saw us. They saw your CI. I gotta get rid of them.”

 

“Doug, are you f*cking insane?”

 

“No, I’m the sanest fella around. Because it's them or the kid.”

 

And Doug scoots over behind the wheel for a pin on that.

 

And Randy has no choice, does he?

 

Tail the Triad car.

 

Minor problem: Rudolph across from the diner is split into two by a tunnel: two one-ways, opposite directions. And the Triads were on the other side.

 

You gotta figure out your play: best bet is to loop up and around over the tunnel as fast as possible and match the direction they’re going. 

 

Odds are very f*cking slim they don’t know you’re trailing, but you best lay off the lights and siren all the same. You know how to tail - two car lengths, keep traffic in between for insulation. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Randy’s wiping his face with a handkerchief. “sh*t. sh*t. Should I call for backup?”

 

Doug says “No” a little too forcefully. “No. We see where this goes. I dunno.”

 

“You dunno. Well I don’t friggin’ know either, Doug--”

 

“Then just shut up and let me drive.”

 

“But the kid--”

 

“I know. You can catch up with him later. He’ll be okay.” Pause. “Randy, we’re making sure of it.”

 

They’re not making a break for it, that’s for sure - languid and staying on Rudolph as they cross into new districts, through Niptown and right onto the Suppleham border when they start slowing for real. Too close to home.

 

Hang back: park up far enough where you don’t look like a f*cking tail. Odds are they know you’re here anyway - just banking on you not having the balls to do anything now that they’re somewhere.

 

That somewhere is a laundromat, one among a row of redbrick store facades poking out the bottom of apartment blocks all still on Rudolph. Three punks hop out, look around not a second too long before heading right inside. One’s standout in a red leather jacket.

 

“I call it in now?” cop asks.

 

“No, Randall.” 

 

Doug’s already got a hand on the door handle when he says that. And then he’s out of the car and he’s taking his military issue jacket off and tossing it back onto the seat, and then he’s either tucking in or tucking out whatever you’ve got him wearing below.

 

“What the hell are you doing?”

 

“You’re going to call it in when and only when you start hearing shots. Better yet - you f*cking wait ‘til I’m right back here. You get me, Randy?”

 

“This is nuts. You don’t have a friggin’ badge, Doug--”

 

“That’s why you’re going to wait. And when it’s over, I’m going to skidaddle. I’m just a couple streets down, you know that.” Smiles cheeky-like. “But I’m fixing this first.”

 

The pup barks. That’s your last word of encouragement.

 

Take out the Triads.

 

You’ve got a little walk ahead and one caveat to consider: sans jacket, your holster is visible; so you might as well minimize your time in daylight before prying eyes start to pry a bit too hard.

 

The laundromat door chimes when you walk in. It’s busy enough; that is, not the f*cking death trap it could’ve very well been. Dull orange washers and dryers line the walls, worn benches in the middle. The hum of spin cycles. A sweet-looking, very short old woman by the register is watching you like a hawk.

 

You. And your gun.

 

Maybe a little lightbulb goes off in your head here: Doug and the Tongs are not a relationship he might speak about aloud to little old Randy Harris, but it is one you’re well aware of. Maybe it makes sense to create as much distance between Doug and what’s about to occur as possible - maybe you grab a hat or pair of aviators from atop one of the washers.

 

Do that and it might catch some attention by way of customers. It’s quickly defused when Doug fires off a rat-tat-tat “No, no, es mi sombrero, es el mío, grande hermoso sombrero, vaso grande, si!”

 

And, look: the woman behind the counter won’t be very happy when you try pushing past her up the stairs anyway. So do it right.

 

She follows you into the back room telling you no, no, sir, you can’t go back there: and she, too, finds herself dissuaded once the gun’s in your hand.

 

There’s one stairwell and nowhere else they could be - and if you didn’t want the attention to begin with, a fire escape around the back alley would’ve gotten you there with a little less attention but no chance for disguise - life’s all about those little trade-offs.

 

Hype yourself up with every creak of the stairs.

 

Doug breathes big with one hand on the knob.

 

Okay.

 

Throws it open.

 

You’ve got one second flat to orient yourself with the surroundings: kitchenette on the left, double doors open to a little balcony dead in the middle, a round table to your right. Count heads: one in the kitchen, three at the table.

 

Instinct says take the f*cking table while their guard is down - they might be the guys from the car or they might not but it doesn’t much matter once you’re pulling that trigger and either their heads pop and crack onto the tabletop with a disgusting crunch or they manage to dive for cover and get a couple scrambling movements in before you find the right angle. Guy in the kitchen dives to a cabinet out of your line of sight, starts blindfiring from a shotgun he pulled out and shrieks unintelligible things that just might be Cantonese.

 

Wood splinters and peels and flies and if you haven’t moved your only cover is the couple inches on each side of the stairwell doorway.

 

Cover fire can buy you enough time to whip around before he can peek and see you: twist around the doorway and inch toward the half-wall dividing the kitchen. Do it right and he’ll be firing off at your old position: and he won’t see you coming around the corner to put two in his temple.

 

Four down - and it’s dead quiet except for the blood pooling off the tabletop. Smoke hangs in the air. Gunpowder and tobacco.

 

Kick that shotgun up, still some buckshot in the chamber alongside the feeling that you’re not done just yet.

 

There’s another door beside the one you came in: keep your sights at the ready. It’s a hallway. The floor creaks.

 

A good call, because another guy pops out an open doorway firing blindly with a Saturday night special - put a premature end to it by blowing buckshot into his chest and sending him flying against the wall, sliding down with the blood streaks oozing down the stucco.

 

Check the bedroom he came out from. Nothing but a window to the street below: you haven’t earned yourself a crowd just yet, but it probably ain’t far off.

 

Silence. Prolonged.

 

Head back into the main room for a final scan: bloodied wood and a radio’s dull hum. Death. Guts strewn onto blackjack cards face-up.

 

And then you see it.

 

In the doorway leading out to the balcony.

 

An eyeball.

 

You can aim or you can shoot right away but you can’t do nothing. Hesitate before pulling the trigger and the eyeball jumps back and someone goes “Heyheyheyhey no no no no…”

 

It’s red jacket.

 

He backs up against the balcony railing.

 

“We don’t see no-thing. Nothing! I say I jump off, I run before shooting start- yes. Yes! We don’t see your f*cking guy!”

 

There’s nothing to say. It’s not an option.

 

Pull the trigger. Shotgun blast sends his chest flailing back, flipping him over the wrought iron rail a few dozen feet onto the alley concrete below.

 

You’re done. 

 

Toss the shotgun.

 

Use the fire escape.

 

Throw the hat and glasses, if you took them, into the dumpster by the bags and the rats and the bloodied red leather jacket.

 

By the time you come back around to Randy’s patrol car you’ve got your f*cking crowd - and the hope you’re not covered in blood spatter.

 

Dozen or so people half-panicking, looking up at the apartment, chattering at the chaos - old woman’s there. Keep your back turned.

 

There’s no black-and-whites yet, but Randy’s just putting the radio down when you come up from behind and the reverberations are going out over the frequency.

 

“--several 10-57s, number of suspects unknown, all units Code 3.”

 

He sees you. “Jesus f*cking Christ.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Wasn’t sure I’d be seeing you again.”

 

Adrenaline’s still pumping but Doug keeps it down. Shrugs. “Here I am.”

 

He’s got a spiel ready for you - but it’s interrupted. Call might’ve only gone out a second ago, but a car’s pulling up: not a black-and-white. Another like Randy’s, just a different shade of gray.

 

Three hop out: driver in a skin-tight polo showing off the pumped biceps and too-big aviators, his pal in the passenger a rat-faced schmuck in a suit two sizes too big.

 

Guy in the back is a different story - a whole book, a good six and a half feet tall with thinning gray hair and an eagle’s features. Tailored suit. Vest. Authority.

 

He goes “Man, oh man,” to nobody in particular.

 

Randy looks like his hackles might as well be raised.

 

Aviators says “Ain’t this a scene. This f*ckin’ neighborhood.

 

Eagle comes forward. “Harris, long time no see.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah.”

 

He’s got a cigarette. He’s easy. He could pull rank, you know it, but he doesn’t. “You first on scene, Inspector?”

 

“No- just called it in. Ain’t been up there yet, just heard the shots. I was 10-07. Lunch.”

 

He nods. “You mind giving it to my boys, then?”

 

Randy says he doesn't mind.

 

His boys draw their guns and go forth while black-and-white sirens converge in the distance.

 

You’re just kind of standing there and it doesn’t take long for him to notice that.

 

“Who’s your friend?”

 

“This-- he, uh- we was- lunch--”

 

Doug thinks quick and Doug says “My name’s Clark Cash. Old friend. Helluva place to go for lunch, huh?”

 

Eagle puts the smoke in his mouth and offers his hand. “Mick Cassidy. Captain Mick Cassidy, Metro Division. These formalities,” glares at Randy, “Sometimes they just slip the mind, don’t they?”

 

Randy’s sheepish. “My apologies, Captain.”

 

“Ah, you make up for it quick enough by handing it over to us.”

 

He looks over his boys as they divide the crowd and head into the laundromat.

 

He says “Chinks,” with no basis to say that they’re chinks. “A real menace. These sons of bitches. If it ain’t them it’s these dagos drilling into the woodwork and if it ain’t them it’s the spics. Like rats gnawing on the foundation of this once-great city.”

 

You wonder how many times he’s used that before.

 

Pause runs long. He’s doing this Napoleon thing acting dignified like his breath is one long smoke break.

 

Well,” he goes, and puts a hand on Randy’s shoulder, “Cavalry’s coming. I’ll be seeing you, Inspector. Tell the blue flamers Cassidy’s boys have got it, you hear me?”

 

Randy nods - and Cassidy gives him a slap-slap on the cheek.

 

“Give your pal here a nice little report, will you Mister Cash?”

 

He flicks the smoke into the drain and heads off to the scene.

 

Beat as the two watch.

 

Doug asks “What’s his f*cking story?”

 

“Long one. I’ll tell you next time.”

 

“Next time?”

 

“Didn’t exactly get the chance to talk proper, did we? Look, I’ll give you a call--”

 

“Oh, I bet."

 

“But you should get out of here.”

 

“Oh, I bet. Fine.”

 

Doug starts to walk in the opposite direction as a cruiser comes barreling down the road.

 

“Doug.”

 

Spins around.

 

Randy says “Thank you.”

 

Doug nods. 

 

And keeps walking.

 

UnfRlbA.png

No reward.

Edited by Cebra
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dante still hasn’t gone to Silver Sixes.

 

Dante is not going to go to Silver Sixes.

 

The switch scene this time unfolds as the kid heads out the pharmacy with a paper bag and a newspaper and a pack of cigarettes. Waltzes to the side and stuffs the stuff down the footwell of the Piranha before a puff of the smoke and a stare at the empty boulevard in the skeev-neons as the bullsh*t casinos glitter a million miles away and Dante finds himself surrounded by bungalows.

 

Dante could indulge in the indulgences of the sin buffet. But naturally, the road leads home, where the mission marker lies. By the medicine cabinet.

 

QDGEBa6VckjDCSmN2SefY4ZTpFp5gyBD5m-I821xAE0XwyLsNttA74qRoImTe1cYrOwoZADnRzX50uucK5w38PvIbOr9JwzSU5ccSZLnD1WGOi5ZYvtORzdJynrxIuCjg_fi5OSz

 

It shuts. Kid stares into the mirror on the opposite side, pops his finger on his tongue, rubs off some smut off the surface. Runs a hand through his head, reaches for the gel.

 

Timelapse.

 

Dante jolts off his mattress by a phone ringing.

 

He takes a peep out the window and sees whatever lead him to naptown has him staring at the late afternoon in the suburb with the cars on the curbside and little else of substance. Drowsy bastard pulls himself up and staggers to the phone and crows into the reciever, “Come stai, what’s up?”

 

Carlo jabbers “You gotta come over.

 

Takes a second to register that it’s him. And Dante stops and says “Huh? Carlo? What--”

 

“I called- f*ck, you gotta f*ckin’ come over. Eddie’s here, you gotta come over. There’s a situation.”

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Look. We can’t tell Jon.”

 

What?

 

“We can’t- you gotta come to the place, I can’t talk on the phone, just come over.

 

Dante wipes drool and goes “Alright. Sure.”

 

“Okay. Okay.”

 

He hangs up.

 

The f*ck?” Dante mutters.

 

Head to La Penisola.

 

Get dressed at the wardrobe in Gallo’s array of Italian Rebel-without-a-Cause wannabe duds with the tucked tight white shirts and cuffed jeans and slacks and color-popping-knit-polos. Tacky designs and cute colors. Hit bricks.

 

Gets into the Piranha out back and drives. Radio’s tuned to WHHH and through static is Lips Buckner nonsense: 

 

“The prime rib,” he says, “is the most succulent part a da’ rat. But you gocha’ dig real deep into the critter, now you gocha’ do it witch’ya big fingie and ya’s fumb, and ya gotta jus’ rip the critter wide open. Like, ueah- like so, holch’onna min--”

 

This brutal crack, because Lips Bucker just tore a rat’s ribcage open with his hands.

 

“Mmhm. Already good’cha migh’ be ‘fankin, butch’d be w’ong.” He’s already slipped a bit of it in, “That’s good. Out here it’s a dog eat puppy dog world, you gotta rip the young out. That’s the good stuff, you find the coyote and track it and then nab one’a the pups, they ain’ e’en gonna be mad ‘cause a dog can just go screwy widg’ another. And puppy meat’s succulent too. But you gotta cook the rat because some’chimes they come with poisons ‘cause they ate-- heckizat?!”

 

Rustling.

 

Whispering, “You hold yourself a moment. I think someone’s violating the NAP.

 

Not that long a drive until you’re there.

 

And nothing seems wrong.

 

It’s late afternoon but the workers are still working. Car parks in the parking lot and Dante holds out and the Irish are still on perpetual break. You enter and you see why - place is almost done. Most of the slot machines are set up, most of the tables are done, most of the decorations are on the ready. You aren’t sure where you’re going, ‘cause there ain’t no directions. So wander. Through the pits where the gamblers ain’t gambling because there ain’t no bets to make.

 

Someone’s talking to the star act. This guy in a checkered suit with a TV face by one of the tables, and Nate Valentine. And Nate Valentine’s got a glass of something and Dante comes over and says “You drinking?

 

Nino chuckles. Sings, “Danny Boy.

 

“What’s that?” Pointing to the glass, frowning.

 

“Club soda,” Nino gives you this don’t-fret wink that just makes things worse.

 

Looks to Checkers, “Who’s this?

 

And Checkers extends a hand and says “Blue.”

 

“Okay. That’s a color.” Dante doesn’t shake.

 

I’m- look, it don’t matter. Carlie’s all hinky, he’s- you’re Dante, right? Jack’s kid, the lazy f*ck.”

 

“Yeah, I’m the lazy f*ck. Why’s he, uh, hinky?”

 

And Blue taps his temple and says “Just follow me. Nino, I’ll see you.”

 

Nino pops his collar. Fine.

 

Blue keeps walking and Dante tails and says “What’s your f*cking deal?

 

“I’m the host.”

 

“Oh.”

 

I’m Billy. A friend of Sebby’s, I know- look, again, it don’t matter. But you got the call, right?”

 

“Eddie’s here, too? You know him, right?”

 

“Eddie was here already. And things are all, y’know, what they are. With you types.”

 

Us types.

 

“I’m from f*cking Delaware, okay? So you guys are you guys. I’m not familiar--”

 

Billy medigan, motherf*cker. We get some schmuck for the f*cking talent.”

 

“My dad’s- Billy Bracco. Enough. You just gotta follow.”

 

You don’t have to follow long because a corner of the casino is cordoned off. A few of the worker-bees are on the periphery looking very