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Cebra

GTA: Bohemians & Blackjack

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Cebra

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A blinding white light slowly fades into a hazy yellow. As the screen becomes clearer, the theme music and credits begin to play and we focus on the scene; the soon-setting sun beads a dark orange cast onto blocks upon blocks of rundown concrete buildings. In the shadow of the nearest lies a rectangular wooden structure, its chimney billowing smoke into the atmosphere. A man walks his dog down a gravel path nearby, but aside from them the place is desolate. View from the ground: from the gravel path a convertible pulls in behind the building, slowly, tentatively.

The camera shifts abruptly and we see two vehicles, a Dundreary Brigand followed by a Déclassé Rancher, speed up the same path. As the first car turns into the wooden place's parking lot, its passenger signals with a hand for the pickup to continue down the road. It speeds forward kicking dirt as the Brigand comes to a stop in front of the building, a sign reading Iron Inn now clearly falling off its distinctly wooden hinges at the entrance. Bennie Bartok steps out of the passenger seat, removes his sunglasses and stuffs them into his red leather jacket. The music fades down but the credits continue as he leans into the window.

"Keep your ass planted to the seat, fella. Make sure your hermanos keep circling the block and if I ain't back in ten minutes you all come in guns-a-blazin'. Got it?"

The driver - a skinny Latino - nods and hands Bennie a suitcase from under the seat. He grabs it, looks 360°, heads inside.

The perspective shifts inside the bar. All beaten-down wood, it's vacant except for our first protagonist, Julius Cole, sitting at the bar, and a chef in the back kitchen. Walk Away Renee drones quietly from the jukebox. We get an eye on Julius: he's just arrived, but makes it looks like he's been waiting ages. As he sips his milk he spins in his seat toward Bennie and lets him speak first as the theme quiets;

"Suppose you're the guy. I thought this was set up as a public deal, what gives? This place's dead inside and out."
Julius eyes him carefully. "I don't make the deals, cat, just carry 'em out. That the stuff?" The chef in the kitchen wipes down the pass, eyes Benny nervously, ad nauseam.
Bennie nods, smirks: "You hope it is. Where's the dough?"
"I got it, don't worry. Only, I hear that you ain't the most trustworthy cat on the block. You mind lettin' me see the sh*t first?"
A hand to his heart. "Ah, that hurts. Not thirty seconds and you're already judging me." He pauses all serious, breaks out into a laugh. "Yeah you can see it, baby. All here."

He props the metal suitcase onto the bar top with a thud and opens the latches. Inside, at least a dozen sealed packages of who-knows-what.

"Alright, brother, you cool." Julius gets up, goes around the bar and grabs his own suitcase: $5,000 cash courtesy of David Arnold. He puts it on the bar alongside the other one and watches Bennie swallow a few bennies from a foil wrapper.

"You know, I'll take your word for the money," Bennie says. His shaky hands show that he couldn't count it even if he wanted to. "I got a feeling we're gonna cross paths again - Davie keeps a small circle. Call me Bennie next time."
Julius half-smiles. "So you say. The name's Julius."
They shake hands. Bennie says "Don't I know it, fella," smiles and walks back out the door he came in.

Julius grabs the remaining suitcase and pulls a note - Bennie B. I always got work! and a phone number - He stuffs it, chef pipes up: "That cat ain't right, brother. I know a toad when I see one."

"Them's the breaks if you wanna catch yourself some flies." Julius tips an invisible hat to him - "See you, Louie."

 

Head out back to Julius' Willard Gaia. He places the suitcase on the back seat and hops in front - the Brigand and Rancher eastbound, Bennie's peace-signed fingers sticking out the passenger window. Julius smirks, shakes his head, shifts into first as the theme morphs into Everyday People - he kicks down the gravel road toward the city, and we get a full view for the first time: downtown San Fierro outlined by the bright setting sun. The typical GTA city ride-around begins alongside the credits; Julius heads into the city as we're treated to its landmarks - a God's view of the busy Crimson Way Bridge near Flamenco Island; the beginnings of the Montgomery Monolith; a pass-over of the Center of Quattrocento. Julius rides into Suppleham, an arm on the door belt. He checks out a gal leading a poodle down the crosswalk - she smiles, the light turns green, and he keeps going - but the camera stays behind. It abruptly drifts 90° to a brick building in a line of storefronts; a bar named The Bar. From behind the camera a man in a USMC-sleeved jacket shuffles inside.

 

The door chimes as Doug Pryor makes his way into a busy scene. The place is much less desolate than the inn - every seat wrapped around an L-shaped bar is full of chattering men and women. The bartender - Monica - running between half-made cocktails, raises a hand in the air to acknowledge her regular. Doug offers her his best smile as a couple of oldsters eave a window booth arguing about pears. Doug takes the vacant spot, removes his old Corps jacket and sighs. We get a view of the street outside - happy couples, briefcases and suits, lone people walking their dogs go up and down the sidewalks as cars rumble along beside them. The credits continue out of the way. The perspective switches to behind Monica as she brings Doug his perennial tonic, an Old Fashioned. She puts it down on top of a napkin, smiles and turns away before he can speak a word - as if he would have. As he takes his first sip, the door chimes again as a man in a brown flight jacket and fedora enters and makes his way to Doug's booth. Marcus Vogel removes his hat, sits down and folds his arms.


"What in God's name is so important I had to shlep out here for?"
"I needed to get out of the house, you know." Doug leans forward.
Marcus nods. "Yeah - that's great and all, but I was perfectly content sitting on my ass reading the funnies."
Doug - straight to the point. "I just found out that Eddy Segal lives in Calton Heights."

"No sh*t? Small world."

"Itty-bitty. You prick."

 

No words - it's clear that Marcus had the scoop and didn't tell.

 

"Alright, look - I knew you'd want to know, I just didn't think you needed to know, you dig?"

"I don't dig. You've put me in a very bad mood, Marcus."

"F*ck off, I don't need your sh*t."

"Likewise. You coming?"


Marcus nods and slides out of the booth. Doug places a fiver on the table and exits the bar, Marcus shadowing him.

You gain control of Doug. The camera focuses on his blue Vapid Messier parallel parked across the street as the objective appears: Get in the car. As you attempt to cross the street, a familiar convoy of a Brigand followed by a dark Rancher speed down first, nearly mowing you down. Doug flips the bird before getting in his car, Marcus beside him. The driving controls appear in the upper left; extra long if you've chosen manual transmission. Squeeze your way out of the line of parked cars and follow the mini-map route.

Marcus: "This car is a piece of sh*t."
"I'm aware. But you had to bike here, so I'd pass on passing judgement for the time being."
"C'mon, I know for a fact you've always wanted an Enus - get yourself an Enus."
"Are you stoned? I'd settle for a steady supply of food stamps; if I want an Enus I'll head up to the Outlook and break a window."
"That's a bad idea. You know, I can hook you up for some stamps - good price."

"Oh, I'm glad to see you've demeaned yourself to stealing from the poor."

"The moral high-ground falls through when you're poor yourself. Death and taxes, you know."

"We're in the same boat, Mark. I got a guy-"

"We should be in the same boat. In a literal sense."

"I know, but really. You know the guy up in 5G - the uh, Asian fusion?"

"Marquez? He's a bum."

"There are things on the horizon with him. Good things - and unlike you, I'll be sure to keep you in the loop."

"You do that."


Continue up San Fierro's winding roads at whatever pace you desire, being sure to eye the hard-bodied vehicles of the era. When you reach the destination, you'll see Edward Segal's place of residence - a white three story townhouse nestled between a dozen identical ones. Anonymous. Expensive. A shiny yellow Coquette sits in the slanted driveway.

The perspective switches to inside the Messier. The pair stare at the house and the sports car.

Doug: "F*cking asshole. Screw the Enus, I'd like to break that f*cking window."

Marcus grabs a pack of Redwoods from his breast pocket, puts one in his mouth and hands Doug another. They light up.

"Listen, Doug, Joanna keeps telling you-"
"Don't bring her into this."
"Don't play the battered wife card - she's right. She knows what's best for you, and lamenting on that f*ck-up ain't it. Bringing the past to the present - even worse."
"I can't believe he's so close. You know I haven't talked to him since they passed down the sentence? I bet the f*cker's holding a whole Goddamn armory in there."

"Let's go."

Doug shifts into first gear and hits the gas. The camera shoots into a bird's eye view and launches across San Fierro by way of the Crimson Bay Bridge and the desert, smack into the middle of Las Venturas. We focus on a big building's tin facade glistening in the sunlight - big blue letters reading La Penisola blinking over a row of a dozen glass doors. A shiny red Albany pulls to the curb of the crescent driveway and we meet our final intro, Dante, with his uncle Jacky the passenger.

 

Dante puts it in park - "Lemme guess - I don't get the privilege of entry."

"You get the privilege today." Jacky checks himself out in the mirror. "I look okay? I was right, this tie looks like it belongs on a f*cking clown suit."

"It's Ponsonbys, uncle Jacky. You can't go wrong."

"Sonny'll appreciate it. Come on."


Take control of Dante as he exits the car. Head inside one of the doors, into a grand entry hall full of marble and glass, and past the big game room: dozens upon dozens of slot machines sitting empty over a floral red carpet. Further down, it morphs to blackjack, roulette, poker, baccarat - green felt tables awaiting their dealers. Instead, they receive the asses of Silver Sixes' moving company's workers who think they're on lunch.

 

Jacky: "Get back to work - you want Mr. D'Aversa to see you slacking off?"

"Union-declared break." A worker thinks he's funny. Jacky hasn't used his zygomaticus major since the Depression.

 

Through gold and red French doors, the office: more carpet, more red. Around a wooden bar sit the brass: Carlo D'Aversa, Jon Gravelli, even Sonny Cangelosi, on unwrapped leather stools. They stop mid-convo to acknowledge the Gallos; they raise their drinks and Sonny stands and opens his arms.

 

Jacky walks into the embrace. "Bravo, Santino."

"Thank you, Giacomo. It's been a long time coming."

Dante butts in: "Sure has, Mr. Cangelosi. When's opening night?"

"Whenever that little sh*t Nino Lisi frees up his schedule." He turns his attention to Carlo D'Aversa. "This kid, I tell you, he's got some balls. You know, I offered him twice the-"

 

Sonny's talk gets delegated to the background. Jon ignores him as well, grabs everyone's glasses and hands them to Dante. "Rye."

 

Dante scoffs and walks behind the bar. The clink of ice cubes comes before the sloshing of liquid in tumblers as Dante finishes pouring, eyes up and back down trying to hear what Sonny has to say. We see this from Jon Gravelli's perspective as he moves forward from his seat.

 

He talks, looking at Dante but speaking elsewhere: "Jacky, the kid up for driving?"

"I am."

Jacky overrules: "Depends on the business."

"Important stuff. The zoning commission won't get off Amerigo's ass about the parking lot's limits; anything to bring down legitimate business from under the hand of an Italian."

Dante laughs although he's no longer being spoken to. "Oh yeah?"

"Me and Sonny are gonna go meet our friend with the nose on the West Side. Jacky, you mind keeping Carlo company in the meantime? Kid's got the jitters."
"Certo."

 

Downing his own drink, Dante shrugs as Gravelli tosses him a pair of keys. You gain control of him, directed to leave the casino and find the car in the parking lot - but you are free to explore the building. You'll see the rows of slot machines glisten, never used, and the carpet floor spotless. All is lit by hundreds of yellow-hued lights spread across the ceiling. Further down, near the roulette tables, a group of Gambetti goons carry cardboard boxes inside from a side door, heaving creative insults back and forth alongside the boxes, clearly over their lunch break. La Penisola is very new, very expensive, and, above all, a do-or-die.

When you make your way outside followed by Sonny and Gravelli, you'll find the black Glendale Royale parked in the lot. Take your time, admire the atmosphere: the strip homes twice the amount of cars than it does pedestrians, who all convene in groups at casino doors. At every angle of your vision is a flashing sign advertising a casino, a product, a hotel, waiting for darkness to fall to fully shine. Alternately, jump straight into the car. Allow the mafiosi to get in the back seat and take off. The radio is dialed to Chances Are

- let the music sink in and enjoy or change the station to something a bit more modern - Radioactive Radio plays Steppenwolf. Don't like either? Play spin the dial; try your luck.

A grumpy mumble, the first time Sonny speaks direct: "Don't change the frequency, it depreciates the value."

Follow the minimap route down the roads, taking into account their contrast with those of San Fierro - fresh pavement, operating in grids instead of winding disarray. Make your way down the strip, passing by older casinos brimming with eager moneywasters and through a few quiet residential areas as your surroundings become increasingly sh*tty. The men of honor in the back seat converse in Italian to Dante's annoyance although he was brought up pure Sicilian; he dropped the language like a bad habit upon his arrival in America.

 

Dante interrupts, hoping to catch a bit of English: "Say, Mr. Cangelosi, I hear you've got a choice Albany back in Liberty City. You swap to Benefactor on the west coast?"

"I call her Caterina. Cream leather seats, the best car money can buy." He snaps from a little trance - "Maybe the power of the almighty dollar is different on this side of the country, but his piece of sh*t is the best thing they had at the dealership. Testa di mierda, you ask me."

"It's not so bad. Real heavy, though."


"It's up here," says Gravelli when you reach the destination: a three-story apartment complex breaking apart at the seams. A neon sign reading Su ar Ray's M ni-Mart flickers above the street level entrance. Park up behind the baby blue BF Synergy curbside and let the two men exit.

"Idle the car. We're more than ten minutes I want you to circle the block", orders Gravelli as he slogs out.

A light bulb - Dante hops out of the driver's seat and helps Sonny out the back. He receives a pat on the shoulder in thanks.

He returns and lights a cigarette, opens his window. The West Side is misleadingly quiet during the day - other than a group of three perched on a nearby stoop the street is empty. Cars, still working, badly beat, line the sidewalks.

Just as Dante finishes his cigarette and you predict they might become a problem, the three men hanging out close by decide to approach the car. Dante reaches for his gun in the glove compartment before remembering that it's not his car.

He mutters "Sh*t" as Gangster #1 slides his hand up the hood. He hunches in front of the driver's window.

"This a real nice whip, man."
Dante nods. "Thanks. Mind keepin' your hands off it?" It's not posed as a question.
"Yeah, yeah, 'course." The other two hover in front of the vehicle cracking knuckles. Intimidation 101.
"Let me be frank." Dante mirrors their actions. "I know this thing's pretty nice but it ain't mine, it's my boss's. He'll be coming out any minute and I don't think he'll be thrilled to see a bunch of spooks admiring his car so closely."

Good timing: Gravelli, Sonny and a squat man in a cheap suit exit the building together. Gravelli's experienced eye knows what to do; he leaves the building with his suit jacket pulled back, allowing them to revere his holstered pistol. Wordless, the men walk back to their stoop together.

"f*cking moolies," Dante mutters.

Sonny turns to the short guy. "I'm very pleased we could come to an agreement, Mr. Decker."
Mr. Decker chuckles. "So will my wife. I'll have the right files mailed to your guy."

The mafiosi take turns shaking his hand, patting him on the back and Dante's face contorts. The man hops into his Synergy and speeds off as Gravelli and Sonny return to the back seat. Hit the gas.

Dante: "You ain't gonna ask what was going on back there?"
"Nice car, not-so-nice neighborhood. I can do the math," answers Gravelli.

"Alright. Where to?"

Sonny chimes in: "Bring us to Caligula's, Dante. Friend of mine needs a haircut."


Objective: Drive to Caligula's Palace.

As you make the first turn off the West Side, you'll notice a rusty Barbican Veranda shadowing you. "Bastards don't give up," Dante mutters. "Step on it, kid." Do that. Escape your pursuers as best as you can in a heavy car built for luxury - try the vacant alleyways between apartments, closed businesses, sand lots. When they're lost, you get a little praise from Cangelosi: "Good driving, my boy. Your uncle used to be quite the driver himself."

Pull into the U-shaped valet park in front of Caligula's and a valet will fetch the Glendale, eyeing you strangely if it's missing a door or two. The trio will step under the awning as Sonny lights a cigar, watching the sun set behind The Pink Swan across the street.

"You did well, kid. You really do remind me of your uncle."

Dante smirks. "Never heard that one. Sure hope it's a good thing."

Gravelli: "That's your call to make. Look where he is now."

Sonny walks into Caligula's with an ambiguous wave and Gravelli places some bills into Dante's hand before following his boss. Dante stuffs the cash into his pocket before joining the crowds down the strip aimlessly - the camera pans up to show the casinos in their entirety as Las Venturas lights up for the evening.

 

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+ $25

Edited by Cebra

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AEsob

I like the departure from traditional screenplay writing to this, this style actually feels better, IMO.

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Cebra

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The fade to black of the previous mission drops abruptly and you're thrown right back into the action as Julius, barreling down a straight road in his Gaia surrounded by brickwork factories and f*ck-all else. Maintain your steering if you don't feel like heaving yourself out of a ditch.

 

Objective: Reach the chop shop.

 

You'll see it soon: an orange-bricked little building with cracked windows and a dozen choppers parked out front. Pull into the lot and learn how to give your vehicle the switch from convertible to not; it's nightfall. Cue cutscene: Julius grabs the product-packed suitcase from between the seats and hops out. Foreign land to him, he circles half the shop before finding yellow light pouring out a back door—inside, more or less what you would expect: machismo galore. A good half dozen guys working on their bikes babbling, cigarette smoke and blowtorch burn filling the air. He tries to find a face behind the beards and taps one on the shoulder, who spins around and gives him a suspicious look-over.

 

"You meant to be here?" He pulls a cigar from his mouth.

"Depends. One of you fellas David Arnold?"

"Dave's in the cave." He points to an office behind a steel door. "And keep your hands seen—don't want no problems now."

 

Julius nods and walks to the door. Before opening it, he looks through a nearby mesh wire window into the cave: a big man even sitting down, bearded like all others and wearing a biker jacket patched Redwood, talks to an equally tall but much less rugged guy. The second guy looks official: black suit, black tie, black oxfords. Not a wrinkle at hand, though one would guess he's fallen into his 50s.

After a quick decision to walk instead of knock, Julius enters. The men turn to him, #2 with an inquisitive look.

 

Tall, seated beard — David Arnold. We see Julius' eyes rifle through #2's wrinkles in an effort to knock a sense of familiarity into his mind: nada.

 

"Mr. Cole!" Arnold flicks a cigarette onto the concrete floor. "I see you got a nice little something-something for me there."

 

Julius drops the suitcase onto a cement desk strewn with sh*t: a six-shooter, bloody cop badge, two dozen dusty papers and a broken bottle of Pisswasser. A flip of the latches and he stands back, allowing his new employer to admire the product.

 

Arnold claps his hands together and walks to the desk. Over his shoulder, you can see his buddy give Julius a half-assed smirk.

 

"Gimme the knife," Arnold barks at smirky, who pulls a Swiss-army from the inside of his lapel. Arnold takes it and cuts a fine slit along the top of a white package. It bleeds more white: powder. He scoops a bit up the length of the knife and doesn't hesitate to snort it up.

 

#2 finally speaks: "Don't judge the product from what you're sniffing. I told you, you've got to mainline it for a full rush."

Arnold spins around. "You sure about that? 'Cause I gotta say, I'd be pretty damn chipper with this rush."

"I'm sure." He stands up and takes his knife back. Arnold shuts the suitcase and hands it to him, they shake hands.

"Nice to see you, Dave."

"Always."

 

Julius watches the jiver as he walks out of the room and holds back a flinch when he receives a pat on the shoulder. The man closes the door behind him, leaving employer and employee alone.

Arnold lights another cigarette and offers one to Julius who raises a palm in answer.

 

"Don't mind him," Arnold lips around his cigarette as he zippos it. "Narc probes seem to make a fella real touchy-feely."

 

Julius leans against the wall and looks out the little window into the garage. As Out Of Focus

gives way to Helter Skelter he watches two bikers scuffle over the record player until a third threatens them with a blowtorch. "Narc probes don't sound too fun."

"Oh they certainly ain't, but they're the cost of business and I consider it a cheap price to pay."

"How's that?"

"It's a great system. The pigs are already spread paper thin, they have better things to do than chase this pussycat powder across the nation. But f*ck help us if they ever assemble a proper task force."

Julius crosses his arms. "Still don't seem like something to tell a prospective runner."

"I like your style," Arnold says between puffs. "You know when to get down to brass tacks. Now don't take this wrong, but you don't talk like I expected. Where you from?

"I picked up the lingo cross-country 'cause it seems to help old white folk get past their own preconceptions." Deadpan snark: "And my brother went to college."

Arnold chuckles, ignores the redirect. "Articulate and adaptive, you're shapin' up to be a real safe bet on my part.”

He throws the butt onto the floor and it lands next to the first. "I guess I should pay you now, huh?"

"I'd say so."

 

Arnold rises from his chair and walks over to another desk poised against the office's back wall. He opens a drawer and pulls out $100 in sawbucks.

 

"Not bad for ten minutes work, is it?" He hands Julius the cash and they shake. A first: Julius smiles.

"I'd be happy capping a C-note if that were so, but ain't the reward for the risk?"

"Depends how you took at it. I'd say the reward's in the risk."

A quick nod; Julius smirks again. “Yeah, you seem like that sorta guy.”

 

Arnold wraps his leather-clad arm around Julius's shoulders—apparently Mr. Suit isn't the only touchy-feely guy around.

 

“So I called and you took the bait. That's a start, now tell me straight-up—how far are you willing to go for a payday?”

 

Julius squirms from both the touchy-feeliness and poor choice of words.

 

“I ain't naïve. A brother’s gotta get some blood on his hands to make a buck in this city. Never been afraid’a that.”

 

Arnold removes his arm. “Good to hear, 'cause I got some bloody work ahead. You're in a good place—you done a couple jobs for me and kept your mouth shut doing it. Come with me.”

 

A snap back in control—follow Arnold out of the office and back into the garage as Helter Skelter amplifies. Notice the heads turn as you shadow him through another doorway and into a dimly lit, smoky hallway.

 

“Keep your head,” he whispers as he turns a key into a wooden door.

 

Keep your head indeed—a bloody man with a cloth over his face sitting in a chair under a single light bulb, a serrated blade poking out of his shoulder. Beside him stands Impotent Rage in a leather jacket, a foot wider and taller than David Arnold. Where the leader's jacket is blank his reads Vice President. His white hair is matted bloody over one hell of a manic expression.

 

As good a greeting as any: “Who the f*ck is this?”

 

We don't get an eye on Julius’ read of the situation.

 

Arnold speaks up. “Dirk, I told you about him. He's been running for us, he's our connect.”

 

Manic expression turned blank.

 

“He’s good and he's not the f*cking man.”

 

Arnold hobbles over and whispers something to Dirk we're not privy to, but it makes him grin.

 

“Ah.” No hesitation, Dirk yanks the knife out of the hostage’s shoulder and tosses it to Julius who fumbles to catch it. We see him for the first time—he's biting his lip.

 

As chairman screams, Dirk directs: “You wanna move on up, bobo? Finish the job.”

He moves to take the cloth off—Julius stops him. “Don’t need to see his face.”

 

No hesitation, no chance to reconsider. As Julius restrains himself from knifing the torturer instead, you are put in control to do the deed yourself. Push the indicated button and Julius thrusts the knife forward and into the man's neck. A sideways slice and a grunt; we see from behind the chair Arnold’s stoic expression. Julius stumbles backward and drops the knife with a clang as the man’s head lobs to the side and the cloth falls. Full view of the man’s pulpy face. Silence.

 

Broken: “I gotta say, that’s the quickest someone’s done it.”

 

Julius eyes Dirk. This happens often?

 

Arnold next, a touch over-excited: “I knew you were the right fella for this! Guy was a f*ckin’ heel, ‘case you’re wondering. I’m gonna find some good work for you, Cole, you’ll be damn pleased you came to see me.”

 

Wiping the blood off his hand, Julius begins back where he came in shaking his head.

 

“Stop.”

Bloody Dirk takes a step forward. “Can’t just leave a body at the scene, pal. Get rid of it.”

Julius speaks to Arnold instead. “I wasn’t fixin’ to kill anybody tonight. Figured you would’ve had a plan for the cat.”

Arnold shrugs. “The last guy who went through with this hightailed it before we could get this far. You shank a guy because I point and say so and you want me to believe you ain’t got a hiding spot?”

“I got a hiding spot, just not for dead folk.”

Dirk: “Time to find one, part of the induction process.”

“He ain’t goin’ in my ride.”

“This is a chop shop. Plenty of cages to go ‘round. I thought you were a no objections guy, Cole.”

 

With a shrug, Julius moves back up to the body and heaves him up with the help of Dirk. We cut to black, a fade back in as the corpse is heaved into the trunk of a rusty Bravado Bolt. Julius moves to the front seat and Dirk the side.

 

Julius: “You coming with?”

Dirk puts his arms on the roof. “Look, brother. You shanked that guy right quick, but all that proves is that you’re a sheep and Dave’s already actin' your shepherd. Killing is our line of business. What’s important is if you can handle the follow-up, and that remains to be seen.”

 

He gets in the car. Julius next.

 

“Cut the f*ckin’ names. I’ve worked for plenty of dudes since I got to this city and your boss ain’t the first to put me to the test like that. Difference is, most’a them other cats knew what they was doing. I don’t think you thought this through. Who’s the guy in the trunk?”

“I was thinking one of your strong points was not askin’ questions.”

“I killed the cat, didn’t I?”

“You did, and you better get used to it if you’re gonna work for David Arnold.”

“I’m freelance.”

“Not anymore.”

 

Make a choice before you hit the gas. Your options are presented to you on the minimap: you’re free to use any means possible to get rid of the body. Perhaps you want to get to the nearby waterfront and dump the car oldschool style. Shoot the gas tank, sure, just make sure Dirk gets the f*ck out of dodge first. Two scripted options are offered too; drive to the junkyard a few blocks east and use the car crusher. It will cue a cutscene where Julius and Dirk watch as the metal compresses and the latter cracks a joke about how the car’s steel might be turned into a knife in the circle of life. A final choice: venture out to Quest Sound avoiding any patrol cars to Julius’ former employer: the Cavallo-Carne Slaughterhouse. There you’ll meet his old pal Mr. Night Shift—Sammy—who filches the corpse with glee. Perhaps it’s your best choice anyway; it leaves Dirk a touch appalled.

 

When the dead guy’s dust you’ll be prompted to accompany Dirk back to the chop-shop, an easier feat if you haven’t destroyed the car—traffic is scarce on the waterfront late at night.

 

“I dunno,” he’ll say to Julius. “I still ain’t convinced about you.”

“Good thing you ain’t the boss, then.”

Quieter, bemused: “Not yet.”

Julius scoffs. “Don’t involve me in your sh*t, man. I’ll kill cats and run swag for your little club, but I won’t think twice about bailing if y’all start off with some intermediary bull.”

“Good to know.”

 

Pull up next to Julius’ Gaia and let Dirk bail himself.

 

Before he walks into the orange light, he leans in through the open passenger window. “I suggest you ditch this cage.”

Julius ignores him. “So now what?”

Dirk runs his fingers through his bloody hair then picks his teeth. “So now you go home and sleep tight, maybe come back tomorrow.”

“Maybe?”

“Your risk to take.” He winks and walks off around the chop-shop corner.

 

A fade to black if you’re in a jacked ride. If you went the slaughterhouse route it’s not done yet: Julius rifles through the car’s glove compartment and under the seats for any loot before ditching it. A final look inside the sun visor; as he flips it a small Polaroid falls onto his lap. He rotates it face-up: a smiling man holding hands with his wife and a young girl on his shoulders. A look of recognition: no cloth over his face, no blood. Julius throws it out the window and exits the car.

 

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+ $1

Edited by Cebra

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Mokrie Dela

I find the style interesting. I can't give much feedback on screenplays to be honest, but it honesty feels more like standard prose in some ways. The problem is it feels slightly like its havjng an identity crisis - parts seem like 'normal' stories but then the screenplay style pops up and takes away the immersion. It does make me think how cool a second person story would be, and when I come to play mammoth catch up with the stories in this section, I'll add this to the list and offer more in depth feedback. For now though, this is just a brief note. Keep up the work

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Cebra

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After the end of the previous mission you'll be prompted to switch to Dante—do so at your leisure. The camera will once again speed across the map as the Monótono River turns to desert. We're treated to a timelapse of Las Venturas from the perspective of a flat-roofed bungalow a few miles out as nighttime neon vibrancy turns to a full blown heat-hazed day.

 

A red Albany Ace pulls into the driveway and parks behind a shiny Barbican Piranha. A familiar face steps out, a brown bag in his hand even more wrinkled than him. Jacky hooks around the car and makes his way into the home’s sandy backyard, past a picnic table covered in sawed-off shotguns to a small shack poised against the fence. A look in a tiny window, then a knock on the steel door. It opens immediately to Dante in his skivvies yawning.

 

“Yeah?”

Dio mio. It's eight o’clock, you f*cking bum.”

“I know, that's why I'm still sleeping.”

 

Jacky pushes in; first person from his view—mattress on the floor, a few shelves filled with useless sh*t and a small table with newspapers piled in a 5x5 space. Smoke rises from beside the bed, Jacky sniffs.

 

“It don't smell like sleep to me.”

“Yeah, yeah, la canapa. Let's get it out of the way.”

“I don't got time.”

 

Jacky pushes the bag into Dante’s chest. He grabs it and peeks in, Jacky slaps his hand away.

 

“Remember my pal Fabrizio out in the valley?”

Dante leans on the door frame. “No.”

A rare chuckle: “The bookie who screwed Angio Scavarelli’s broad. I had to put him in hiding for half the goddamn year.”

“Don't ring any bells. I remember Mrs. Scavarelli, though.”

“Uh huh.” — Jacky begins to direct Dante to Fabrizio’s place through physical landmarks rather than street names as Dante yawns and scratches away.

“...just put the bag in the vase on his porch. You listening? This is a favor from Jon so I'd appreciate it if you don't f*ck it up.”

Serious now: “I won't.”

“If you got nothing better to do, which I know you don't, go see Jon when you're done. He asked for you.”

 

Mutual nods; Dante closes the door. He checks his little spinello by the bed and finds water dripping onto it from a crack in the roof, followed by a trail of Sicilian cursing. Only part of the language he knows.

 

Objective: Get dressed and drive toward New Martis.

 

Approach a little pile of clothes on one of the shelves and pick a default outfit: rolled up blazers, wifebeaters under unbuttoned dress shirts and chinos. A quick tutorial on that pile of papers: it's your only alternative to radio, fresh off the presses every morning are details on the latest, from your criminal exploits to just typical everyworld bullsh*t 50¢ apiece. When you're pleased with yourself leave the brick hut and make your way to Dante’s Piranha. If you want, take the opportunity to explore Jacky’s home—a typical Venturas bungalow, flat-roofed, every wall’s a window. Mid-century as it gets until you see inside; stickler Jacky enjoys WWII-era furniture. The living room’s fifty shades of beige hosts a card game every night in which you can partake.

 

Done? Get to the car and pull out of the cul-de-sac of identical homes. Even though the valley isn't far away, the lack of traffic allows you an even quicker commute. Floor the muscle car and hear the engine roar as The Strip ’ buildings fade further away in the haze. No waypoint, but follow the natural route and you'll find yourself back on the West Side—sh*thole tenements and eerie desertion. The camera will focus on Sugar Ray’s Mini-Mart as you pass, a keen eye will notice the rusty old Barbican Veranda from the previous mission curbside. Keep driving as the amount of domiciles dwindles and sand dunes swells. Buttless scorching day—A Day In The Life playing on the radio as you travel down the highway. Around you? A little metal guardrail and miles upon miles of flat desert and tumbleweeds. Urban expansion my ass, Dante mumbles to himself. Promises straight from Cazzini—Venturas is the future, right?

 

Fabrizio’s bungalow is one of three built so far—the skeletons of a few dozen more are scattered along dirt roads nearby; the beginnings of a little township halfway to New Martis. Over a nearby foothill you would usually see the concentrated skyscrapers of San Fierro, but for now the haze limits the sight—park on Fabrizio’s dirt lawn, find the vase, cue cutscene: Dante peeks in the bag again and you get to make a quick decision: press the indicated button to snag a Grade-A suppressor. No immediate consequences, though; as he begins to walk back to the car a man pops out the front door holding a lupara by the barrel. Dante feels for his pistol and comes up empty again—holster’s in the backseat, you'll get it when you return.

 

Pure Alderney: “Who the f*ck comes all the way out here and don't say hi?”

 

No gun pointing; no hands in the air.

 

“I'm Gravelli’s guy. Heard you needed a few silencers.”

 

Fabrizio grabs the vase and flips it into his hand. He opens the bag, pulls a few out then back in.

 

Suppressors, you f*ckin’ amateur. When someone comes up with a real silencer we’ll all be up sh*t’s creek.” Fabrizio scratches what seems to be a perpetual itch with his lupara.

Dante: “It's like tumbleweed f*ckin’ hollow out here—what's your deal?”

“You know my deal.”

“Can't say I do.”

“You work for Gravelli, paisan—we all got the same deal.”

 

He smirks, twirls his shotgun like a balancing act and slams the door, Dante's questions hanging tabled.

 

One main objective: Go back home, passing through the West Side en route.

 

Do so. Take the scenic drive again—what, how often do you get to put the pedal to the metal in a muscle car through a desolate desert? Try first person; admire the old-school dials and blood leather interior if that's your thing. The sand will soon morph to a few warehouses, then one-stories and ultimately your target tenements. Passing the mini mart will this time trigger a short scene: Dante will attach his holster, park around the corner and get out. The information box in the upper left will display your objective straight up—Go to the payphone across the street—along with a tidbit of info: the directive is purely a suggestion; you're free to use your initiative without punishment. If you wanna do things the old way, feel free.

 

First option—those guys fixing to jack Sonny’s Glendale in the intro are already hanging out on their stoop. If you’re up to it, take a hands-on approach and beat the living sh*t out of them. Honestly, the odds ain’t in your favor—three versus one, the three already well-versed in street fighting. Different gangs, different fighting styles—this isn’t one you want to go up against your first time. If you’re brave enough to down them, however, you’ll be introduced to the game’s fighting mechanics step-by-step until you kick their asses. “Not so tough now”, Dante will mutter to the moaning gangsters once they’re rolling around on the ground. “Stick to pinchin’ bicycles from now on.”

 

Two—Dante’s got a gun. Though a barely-attempted carjacking may not merit a bullet (or ten), it’s ultimately up to you. Draw the pistol and Dante will say “Never f*ck with the Gambettis” plain and simple—shoot and book it before the street starts getting crowded.

 

Three—follow the suggestion. Walk over to the payphone and Dante will automatically place the call, 50¢.

 

“Yo, it’s Dante. I got a little show needs playing out over on the West Side. You in?”

Laughs: “Of course. Be there in five.

 

Five it is—fade to black, fade back in to a Vapid Banner double parking Dante’s ride. A pudgy guy inside calls him over.

 

“What’s the deal?”

Dante spits, points to the gangsters on the stoop. “These pricks were sizing up Cangelosi’s car yesterday when I was on a run. Jon scared 'em off, but I say we take it a bit further and teach ‘em not to do that again.”

“Oh yeah, you were on a run with Sonny and Jon. Who else was there, Vic Noto?”

“Ha, I don’t gotta prove sh*t to you, E. But don't say I didn't tell you I was movin’ on up.”

“Whatever, you delusive prick. Got a plan?”

Ooh, ‘delusive prick’. That’s a good one. And sure—go piss the shines off with your charm while I pull their brakes.”

 

Ettore gets out—at full height he stands half a foot taller than Dante—and hobbles over to the stoop as Dante kneels by his car. Before long an argument starts; your cue to act. Crouch over to the rusty Veranda around the corner and get over to the front: press the indicated button to cut the car’s brake lines. You're free to do this as you wish in normal gameplay—a good preventative measure to take when you don't feel like a high-speed pursuit.

 

Back to the Piranha—shove it into first gear and cruise up to the mini-mart curb. One of the gangsters will notice you immediately.

 

“Ah, makes sense. You dagos hang in packs ‘round here, huh?”

“Glad you remember me. You really seemed to dig what I was drivin’ yesterday, you feelin’ as hot on this one?”

The trio size it up. The short guy: “Nothin’ special, motherf*cker.”

“I bet this ‘nothing special’ would kick up some good dough for parts, though. I'll be honest; I'm joyriding and lookin’ for a race—if you beat me in that rusty piece of sh*t this girl’s all yours.”

 

They laugh like they just heard the world's greatest joke. “Got nothin’ better to do. S’worth a shot, it is.”

 

The three run over to their car around the corner—Ettore gets in with Dante.

 

“Something tells me this ain’t gonna be fair game.”

 

Go to the makeshift start a bit down the road; not like there’s any traffic to interfere. It’s a long, straight path with a sudden 90° into a building further down—good for quick acceleration, bad for someone without brakes. Wait for the Veranda to position alongside you—3,2,1, hit it. Power down the road and prepare to drift the corner alongside your adversaries—watch as they lose momentum and slam into a brick wall at mid-speed. Shift gears again, hit it far this time. Leave the West Side in your dust as Dante and Ettore laugh away.

 

A final trek: Return home.

 

“Sh*t, the car.”

Ettore continues laughing. “I pulled that hunk a’ junk from Ricky’s yard. Gimme some credit, big shot.”

“Ain’t no big shot yet. Stepping stones, Tor—a favor here and an unpaid gig there’ll and before you know it they’re dependin’ on you.”

“Uh huh. And that back there—that your idea of sanctioned payback?”

“Not exactly. But the hoi polloi gotta know to respect the family, capiche? I got a feeling it’ll pay off.”

“So when you gonna introduce me?”

“What, to Sonny? That old prick won’t remember you from any other Strip drone stunad unless you make a splash. That’s on you.”

“So I heard. Come by my pa’s in a few shakes and I’ll bring the waves.”

 

Dante chuckles, a bit confused, a bit impressed. Park up the driveway into the indicated spot—don’t take Uncle Jacky’s vacant one unless you’re yearning for a verbal lashing later on. Not his house, but Ettore’ll walk in first—Dante steps out of the car and, for the first time, you’re free. You’ll receive the traditional breakdown of what you can do while in free roam, ending with a prompt to begin the first mission of Doug’s if you so please.

 

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No reward.
Edited by Cebra

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Cebra

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We fade in to Doug sitting on his apartment steps, puffing away at a smoke stub and watching his neighbors come and go along the cobblestone sidewalk. As an argument breaks out in one of the sh*tty digs across the street, a window cracks open a few stories up.

Joanna's head pops out: "You said you were taking out the trash!"
Doug pats a garbage bag sitting next to him. "I am!"

The window slams closed with a dejected grunt. Splinters of wood fall to the sidewalk.

Doug grabs the bag and huffs over to the common trash cans; dented and overflowing with sh*t, he tosses it and his cig into a pile of undoubtedly rank waste and begins to walk back up the stairs just as a blue Corrida screeches up to the curb. A gaunt guy of questionable ethnicity steps out the door and almost gets swept away by a speeding dump truck.

"D-Dog!" he howls, pretending it didn't happen and patting the hood. "Long time no see."
"Yesterday."
"Ah, whatever. How you doin'? Admiring our impeccably kept trash area?"
"That's it. Whats new, Wink?"
"Great things are afoot, that's what." He points to the Corrida. "That things about to get swapped in for a Benefactor. You know Harry?"
Doug leans on the railing. "He finally take his destiny head-on and become a used car salesman?"
"Not exactly. His 24-karat carcass washed up in Holt Bay this morning. No fingers."
"Harry, huh? Sounds like a gas."
"I had to go I.D. the poor f*ck's body and book it before they booked me. Real gas."
Doug doesn't ask the $64,000 question. "So what now?"

"We can talk in the car. You free?"

Doug about-faces to the window and back. "As the mary up on Elwood."


Segue to gameplay - enter the passenger side and let Winky drive. Notice the stacked, banged-up crates in the truck bed.

"Again - so what now?"
"All hands on deck is what now, D-Dog. Harry was a prick, but he held a decent rank with the Tongs. He promised he'd talk me up to the head honchos way back when, and I'd like to think he made good on that."
"Level with me - you think you're gonna replace him?"Doug stifles a chuckle.

"I didn't say that, you fickle old f*ck."

A lull - although its not yet time to make use of them, familiarize yourself with the passenger controls.

Winky: "You carrying?"

"You know the answer to that."
"Negative."
"Don't be naive."
"Fine, don't answer. I got you a little gift anyway."

Little gift - a rusty old revolver.

"Oh, that's swell. I think my great grandad fought the gold rush with this thing."
"Anytime. Listen up."

Winky explains the situation - Harry was a well-established Tong with his fingers in one too many local drug rings, so someone cut them off, slit his throat and tossed him into the bay. Before he even hit the riverbed Winks received a ring requesting a meet - the Triads needing a new heroin supplier, preferably local. Pink Dilian parking lot, Chinatown. Pronto.

As Winky drives under the Chinatown arch, notice the packed liveliness of the district - food vendors, antique stores, arguing Asians and cheap pawn shops crowding the sidewalks. The Pink Dillian's imperial not-so-pink facade beckons forth and he explains:

"Come to think of it, I don't think they'll be too hot on me bringing a number two."
"It's a bit too late for that, amigo."
"Nix that. Climb the fire escape over there and watch the meet from the roof."

The camera focuses on a nearby rusty fire escape - it leads to a stubby building just tall enough to oversee the parking lot.

"What the hell use am I up there?"
"Oh, I got a rifle in the back."
"And your olive branch was an age-old revolver. Your foresight is f*cking admirable."

Right before he turns the alleyway, Doug exits the car and heads to the back. The weapon selection works just like Little Jacob's in IV - for now, grab the rifle and a pair of binoculars from one of those boxes and hit the fire escape as Winky crawls the Corrida into the parking lot. Through the windows on the fire escape you can peek through some apartment curtains, creep some Oriental interiors. Get to the creaky roof and switch to the binoculars as Wink comes to a stop near a grey Classique Tango. You'll receive directives on how to switch between the lenses and the rifle and how to zoom - notice a dirty white Granger parked in the shadows up ahead. Make a preemptive choice; focus on them or the meet itself.

Winky hops out his pickup as a group of four exit the Tango. A short Chinaman with a shirt more abstract than an Adam Biggs canvas steps out with a red envelope of cash in one hand and a mystic knot in the other.

Ready your sights; hold your breath. Just in case.

Winky and cashman get to talking, the others holding the line Secret Service-like. The pair turn round the back of Winky's ride and he cracks one of the boxes open with a crowbar. Laugh laugh, handshake and a handover of the cash; the other goons grab two crates and heave them into the back of the Tong sedan. All's well, but does it ever last? As the meeting wraps up, a distant rumbling grows louder until everyone notices - cashman yells "F*ck!"as a half dozen motorcycles pull into the alleyway, operators armed to the teeth.


Muzzles light up as Doug echoes the Triads sentiments - open fire on the bikers and keep Winky safe as he hides behind his truck. Pop them with sniper fire or go down personal - you've got your gifted revolver and perennially-held pistol, after all. Rush back down the fire escape or take a leap of faith off the roof onto a protruding garage below. Every time you jump off a high surface wielding weapons youll activate a bullet-time freefall regardless of who you're playing as - use it to take some potshots at the bikers. Scramble for cover once you're down there and finish them off with the help of the Triads, including the sneaks in the Granger; take notice of the mixture of ragdoll and more inventive scripted death animations as you do.

Wrap up, cutscene - the cashman puts his gun to Winky's head and the bodyguards fidget uncertainly as Wink rambles on. Doug approaches calm, hands up: "Nothing hasty, fellas."


Winky blubbers: "F*ck, Calvin, what the f*ck, do I look like I'd get along with those pricks, f*ck, man, this was my deal!"


Doug comes closer, shows his bare hands. "The gatecrashers are dead, amigo. Let's try to keep our fingers off the triggers for a jiffy."


Cashman - Calvin, lets the pistol go limp and wipes his forehead.

"My apologies." Prying eyes converge at the head of the alleyway as Calvin eyes Winky.
"But these deadbeats are becoming an issue."

"No f*cking sh*t."
"And you," Calvin gestures crookedly at Doug, "Certainly consider us grateful, but who the f*ck are you?"

He feigns surprise. "I'm Doug."

To Winky this time: "Who is he?"

Wink starts to pace and stops short of the Tong goons."I mean, Christ, Calvin, we live in the same building and his wife ain't that hot on me because we used to work together like a long ti-"


The monologue gets cut short as two not-so-dead bikers make an eleventh-hour decision - a prone one readies his sights at Winky, another steadies himself to a knife charge at Calvin. And it's ultimately up to you - Doug's sharp instincts can blow one of them away. Shoot the gunman and Winky'll drop prostrate as Calvin's men annihilate the other. Vice versa, save Calvin's ass and his men will prevent Winky's demise. No deaths, sure, but your choice will be remembered.

Everyone on edge,
Calvin orders his men around in Cantonese. They flip vests, check pockets of the bikers as Winky stands shaky. Doug and Calvin make eye contact, neither backing down as Doug lights a cigarette.

One of the men hands
Calvin a card, close up: Stanislaw Choppers, Dutch Flatlands SF - The Road Starts Here.

He speaks to no one: "What kind of tar snake crew orders business cards?"


Ripping it in two, he faces Winky. "Let's table your story, Ying. I'll be in touch."


Doug makes a face. Ying?
"You can cash in later. I'm out." He shrugs, hops in the Corrida and takes off through the crowd of squarejohns still gathered.


With a final stern order, the Triad men hop into the Tango as sirens converge in the distance. Calvin opens the back door to enter but pauses to face Doug, leaning casually against the frame.

"You're a skilled shot, Doug."
"So I've heard."
"The question is, since you've clearly no stake in the inner workings of this deal, where do your loyalties lie?"
Straight: "They lie downstream - where the money flows."

"I often shoot men with that mindset."
Doug takes a prolonged puff of his cigarette. "I'd appreciate you putting that idea on ice, all things considered."

Calvin pretends to consider, Doug cuts his response off: "I enjoy this song and dance if its done timely, pal, but those sirens are getting mighty loud. Maybe it'd suit you better to do this over dinner or something, I hear you fellas enjoy that."

"You'll quickly find that I have no tolerance for insolence, Mr-"
"Pryor. Don't you get sanctimonious on me,
Calvin."
"Mr. Leung. You're lucky you're such a good shot, Mr. Pryor. May I reach you through Ying when were in need?"

A slow nod in victory pose;
Calvin slugs into the backseat and the sedan flies by, target on him fingering the gaps of his mystic knot. Doug smokes, casually glancing over the half dozen corpses abound, before tossing the cigarette and making headway down the alley exit absent of onlookers. He gives a cursory wave to the Triads slinking in the Rancher watching him as he mutters:

"F*cking Chinamen."

 

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+ $50

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

 

Any time you approach a payphone in the city after a mission, you'll receive a prompt once you're 50¢ short: in this case, a call to Doug's wife Joanna. Make 'em or you'll miss 'em. If you don't make a call necessary to advance the story, you'll receive it at the protagonist's safehouse instead.

1st - Joanna Pryor (optional)
Joanna: Hello?

Doug: It's me.
Joanna: Hm, thought maybe you ran out for good. You bring the trash to the landfill yourself?
Doug: Trash's in the trash. I was with Marcus.
Joanna: That's interesting, 'cause Marcus just came over and borrowed some eggs. You think I didn't see you leave with Winky?
Doug: What do you want from me, Jo? He's got work and he pays, that alone puts him above half the jackasses in this city. Besides, there are more dangerous dogs in the kennel.
Joanna: I don't need the bill of goods. Just be home for dinner.
Doug: We'll see.

2nd - Winky Marquez (mandatory)
Winky: I get the right number this time?
Doug: If you were trying to ring me instead of just coming upstairs - yeah.
Winky: Oh, and run into your wife? I wanna jump into the bull pen, I'll wear red.
Doug: What is it?
Winky: Well, it turns out I underestimated the workload involved in Oriental dealings. I can't handle it myself. I tried, really, but I can't.
Doug: Too bad Harry's not around, he would've been keen for it.
Winky: As-f*ckin'-if. Try this olive branch for size - I'm gonna need help running the day-to-day and I know you need work.
Doug: Well this is a more valuable branch than the revolver, I'll tell you that.
Winky: Primo, we'll give it the ol' college try. Ring me up when you need something to get done or I'll come see you when I need something done.
Doug: Appreciated.

 

Side-mission unlocked: Winky's Wetwork

Edited by Cebra

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We drop in on Julius on his way home sweet home. It's the middle of the night, nary a soul in Chinatown - you're dropped in mid-drive again, on the radio an impassioned soul justifying the recent strikes at universities cross-country. A block down from a police roadblock near the Pink Dilian, a red neon sign practically screaming AUTHENTIC KOREAN MASSAGES above dark storefront windows pulls you forward - go to it and park in the adjacent alleyway, over a sign nailed into the brick: Park here and say sayonara to your tires. Your choice: side door, front door - either way, you'll fall victim to an ambush by landlady Matilda in the reception.

"It's eleven o'clock, Julius. We had an agreement," you hear unaccented out of the darkness. She steps out, arms crossed: black hair in curlers galore lit by the blinking neon.

Rolled eyes, charm on: "C'mon, Melinda, baby, if you hadn't been prowlin' around down here you wouldn't a' heard a thing. Today was a long day."
"It's not prowling, Julius, this is my building. Don't cry to me about a long day until you've had to deny eight happy endings to a gang of Soviet ruffians."

You've been worming to the head of the stairs, an arm on the bannister: "Luckily I chose a different line of work. See you tomorrow, girl."

Up white wooden stairs past three landings: 401 is the destination, top floor - a protrusion on the flat roof. Climb up past an obscene argument on floor two and blaring Up & Atom radio jingle on three. Open the door and get an eye on Julius' flat: a big open space that used to be a storage room, now thrown-together furniture over beaten planks separated by room dividers. Quick scene: Julius tosses his jacket onto a cluttered table and grabs a Pißwasser from the fridge, makes his way behind one of the room dividers to see his brother Winston. The kid's a candlewaster, hunched reading a book lit by a waning taper like it's still 1850.

"Nice to see you home," he mumbles without taking his eyes off the book.
"Don't look up, brainiac."

Julius sips his beer as additional safehouse activities are introduced in small print: surf radio stations, raid the fridge, read the dailies, crash on the couch. Screw around a bit before the last - maybe put on a good song while perusing the paper, current headline Latino Walkouts Strike Southern SA. It makes Winston speak up: "Those Chicano pricks think they've got it hard," and a chuckle. In the missing persons, a Lonny Crowe; wed father of two, last seen after his Bravado Bolt broke down in the Dutch Flatlands.

When you're ready, hit the flowery loveseat to a fade black: a panorama of Chinatown overnight 'til the sunrise, traffic from nil to a steady morning flow. You'll wake to an agitated Winston: "Crack of dawn, lazy-ass. Freddy's callin' all cars."

"Call all he wants, don't mean we gotta show." You sit up to new info: shower at your leisure, but it's only prime to getting blood off your clothes and a shot at the current protagonist's acapella crooning. Try it - head into the remnant-from-Prohibition bathroom, then swap into fresh threads and meet your brother in the hallway. Note the clothes - lots of denim and leather jackets, not a single tee or tank in the running.

Julius: "Why you waiting on me? You said you were takin' the cable cars from now on."
"You mind if we carpool? Not for nothin', Jules, I just wanna sit comfy this morning."
"Hell, you know I don't mind. Just never been a fan of people waitin' on me."

Head down the stairs in a pair straight into a new environment: an incense-clouded hallway full of fat middle-aged men, arms wrapped around Asian girls barely a Jackson. Through the smoke wafts drunkenness; stragglers still getting their money's worth at the sunrise's rooster crow. In the waiting room, a kimono-clad Matilda argues with a man who looks accustomed to it - of note is that her American accent is suddenly gonzo; she can't enunciate her Rs. As Jules and his brother head toward the side door, the man lays one hand too many on Tilda - Julius is nothing if not a bastion of chivalry and you're on him before the hand's back down. The dude's not in the mood for confrontation - nor is Matilda, who rewards Jules by yelling something Asiatically hostile and a hand wave - f*ck off. The man glares, mutters "Bluegum bastard" in a southern accent as Julius puts his hands up and he and Winston head out the side door.

"Coffee's a good stimulant as well," Winston quips outside.

Hop into the Gaia - drive toward the motorcycle icon as it pops up on your radar: Intrepid Courier Service. As you drive by the nearby cable lines they'll be explained - three lines, three routes. Hop on, pay the toll and get some picturesque views from the rooftops as you're carried around the city. Also imperative: they can be used to flee the cops if you're feeling stealthy. Shh.

Julius: "Tell me something, genius - what'd Tilda just yell at me?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"'Cause your book smarts gotta pay off somehow, somewhere."
Win grunts. "I don't know - Cantonese, probably. What you on to?"
Julius chuckles like he's had a private joke going. "The sign outside says Korean massages. Our girl wears Jap kimonos - now you say she speaks Cantonese?" Julius laughs. "I guess our girl's representin' the entire Orient."
Brotherly melodrama: "Jesus, you're right. Is anything in this city sacrosanct?"
"I don't know what that means - but no, I don't think any massage parlors are. Cut out the egghead language, you sound like you're tryin too hard."
"So be it. Can't plow through life with your fists, Jules." He pauses. "You got blood on your sleeve."

You can hear it in their voices - Julius, hard as he may try to distance himself from his upbringing, still has that persistent Carcer City inflection. Winston on the other hand flushed it when he got into college; he's got some Transatlantic imbroglio down pat.

Get the hell out of Chinatown, past Suppleham and under the highway overpasses that zigzag through the city. It's near familiar ground: blue collar district, masonry and smokestacks aplenty - the destination stands out around highway columns and factories with its brickery painted yellow. Park in the side lot beside a blue Malpais pooling oil, get out and head through the garage entrance. As you turn the corner Julius calls back to Winston, who's heading toward the empty lot behind: "Where you goin'?"
"Zeke wanted me to meet him out back; something about his bike acting up."
"Alright. Holler if you need a hand."

Head through to a callback to Kaufman Cabs; a vast grey depot lined on one wall with Dinka bikes and another with concrete office walls that don't quite touch the ceiling. A few workers scattered over leakage stains have their attention on the office door labeled Mr. Peters - or rather, on the yelling behind it. Walk up behind one of the dudes packing his bike as the scene cuts.

Julius pats his shoulder: "Yo Zeke, Win's waiting on you out back."
"I'm headin' out to Lake Callahan, man. What's his business?"
"Dunno, he said your bike was on the fritz."
"She's golden, Jules," he gestures. "What you on about?"
Julius smirks and encourages a change of subject. "Forget it, forget it. 'Sup with Freddy?"
"Oh, the brother's fit to be tied - he got notice on our rent this A.M."
"Sh*t, it's that bad already?"
"Also said there ain't nothing to worry about - I'll take his word for it 'til the walls cave in."

He revs his engine - Julius cuts across and into the dragon's den.

Freddy Peters, back to the doorway, bitching into the yellow phone. Julius takes a seat on the tattered couch opposite Freddy's desk and crosses his arms and legs; free and easy.

"- well you better check again, my friend, because that money got sent out days ago - no, no, I suggest you get off your ass and personally check with your boss because I know that cash's sittin' in his rainy day. Oh, tough guy - yeah, you do that."

Freddy slams the handset down - it bounces off the receiver and they both fall off the desk. He picks it up and turns around massaging his temples.

"Did you pay the rent, Freddy?"
They lock eyes, Jules doesn't back down. A shameless "No."
"Crossed arms turned palms up: The f*ck?"
"I ain't in the mood for condescension, son, not now not ever. Don't think I won't axe you at a moment's notice just 'cause we're goin' down."
"That right, though? We goin' down?"
"No we are not," Freddy pauses. "Not yet."

He picks his pipe off his desk and Julius tosses him a match. Freddy strikes it on the table, finds the pipe dry of tobacco and falls back into his chair.

Julius sighs. "You didn't tell me you were so hard-up, Freddy."
"Didn't see daylight til the statements came in. Cash here, cash there, rent, Carols treatment - ain't no shame in admitting I got in over my head."
"How's Carol doin'?"
"She's copacetic for the time being, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Julius leans forward - business. "What can I do?"
"That's what I wanted to talk about, Jules." Freddy takes a breath, prepares a speech. "The tenets of any good business are that the owner's employees carry the owner's weight. With the owner's weight carried by them, the owner gets to carry the weight of his own obligations, and in return the owner offers a slice of the profits so his employees can do the same. When you and you brother disappear like you did the other day, that entire process falls to sh*t. Where were you?"
Dodge: "I was speaking more future-tense, Freddy."
Freddy stands up, the patriarchal intimidator coming right out. "And Im speaking auld lang syne, boy - answer the question."
Julius doesn't skip a beat: "Hustlin' with them bikers down the Flatlands."

A nod, a thoughtful look out a barred window and a laugh: "Hustlin'. Listen to yourself, Jules. I thought you were past this."
"Past what? Money? I'm sorry if I don't wanna get into the same fix you're in now Freddy, but cash's cash."
"Ain't my business the company you keep in your respite, Jules, but it is when it's on my dime." He turns to face his employee. "Winston's in the swim with them bikers? Ain't heard the best things about those boys and us brothers; seems against his principles."
Julius ignores the question. "Cash and principles ain't square."
Darting eyes: "I never seen that to be true and I ain't gonna start believing it now. Whatever the case you better take this to heart; I say this with love, but I can't afford to f*ck around anymore. You and Win'll always be like sons to me, but I say it's time to hang tough. Ain't gonna be a second warning."
"Understood."
"I hope so - you got a thick skull, the both of you, but I know your heart's in the right place."
"What about the rent, Freddy? Bull sessions ain't gonna keep the depot in play."
"Creditor's a little fish with stars in his eyes who thinks he's some fat cat - you let me worry about him. He gives Julius a stern look. Not you - me. Now go get your brother, I got a contract that'll park us in the black that I want you two on personally."
"Now?"
"Yeah, now. I need you two out in Birchwood noontide."

Freddy picks up the phone to make some more calls - ditch the office back into the warehouse as a trio of courier bikes begin a run out on that new contract, exhaust smoke and engine snarls in their wake.

 

----


Objective: Find Winston.

Open-ended objective; follow the cutscene clues to find your brother, a time lock in the corner: you got 'til 10:00. You grasp the subtext from Julius' reaction to Zeke - no bike needed fixing, Winston's got business on the QT and Jules is always willing to cover for him. Unfortunately it's a real workday, all hands on deck - Winston went toward the alley out back. Make a run for the alleyway - tar snakes and fresh oil poolage make a trail out of it and back onto the main road. Time to get behind the wheel again - hop in your Gaia to the tune of Elmore James and follow the fading tire tracks. Head north on the main road running through and into the Dutch Flatlands. It's early yet; you'll see the few still functional factories have their workers arrive in beaten-down old vehicles, buff union supervisors keeping watch in the parking lots. Construction on the overpasses directs you further into the district - "Hell is he?"

It won't take long before you see a row of cars parked curbside in front of an abandoned foundry, an anomaly in a district still nearly bare of vehicles - slow down, press the interaction button to focus on a sign plastered beside the door: House Of Racial Equality: Join us Monday morning! Julius mutters "Dumbass"; parallel park next to a red Karin Dilettante and get out. A door with one broken glass pane has a note taped to the other on lined paper: NI**ERS DONT YOU WISH YOU WERE WHITE. Julius, stone-faced, rips it down into pieces and heads inside; an abandoned auditorium lit by a single lantern, a circle of folding chairs. He pauses in the entryway: a woman's voice says Welcome.

Julius can barely see, same goes for you: "I'm lookin' for my brother playin' hooky - Winston."
Win plays no fool, mutters some sacrilege and comes forth: "Christ, how'd you find me? He steps up from a chair and approaches his brother."
Julius holds him by the scruff as a mother dog would a pup: "We ain't playin this game again. We got a job to get going."

Everyone's quiet. Julius looks over the circle and we see it from his eyes; four men, two women, all blue-collar black, all eyes on him. One of the girls gets up, speaks up: "Julius. Nice to finally meet you."
She extends a hand, the other clutching a couple dozen paper prints, more advertising for the fabled House of Racial Equality meetings more akin to that of the Epsilon Program.

"Charmed, I'm sure." Julius gives her a quick shake and turns to the door.
"Win, let's split." The girl gives Winston a tug on the shoulder - Julius turns, interest piqued. "What about the posters, baby?"

The situation - the girl's Wins girl, and its her and Jules' first face-to-face.

Julius smirks: "Baby, huh?"
Winston looks back and forth. "Roxy, I was gonna tell him about you."

They play out a scene - Roxanne irked she hasn't been introduced, Julius bemused and uncaring. As they quibble and the rest of the group sits awkwardly a pair of burly men approach the twin entrance doors; one's got a pen. You might infer they showed up to add some extra oomph to their racist tidings they taped and Julius trashed.

They catch Roxy's eye; she sighs and says "Not again" and panic sets in - "Win, they can't be here when Leon shows up. That's the last thing we need."
A voice from the circle: "Goddamn honkies."

Winston sees it coming but can't stop it: "Julius!". Eyes front to the laughing bozos; Julius grabs a fire extinguisher from its broken socket and stampedes. The cutscene ends to action - press the button and Jules sends the vessel into the side of one of their heads, clearing the doors broken glass in the process. Make a split second choice: before anyone can react, either swipe the extinguisher up from the ground or go the route of glass shards. Take out the guy who didn't get grounded - he's got a construction helmet so aim low, don't waste time on protection. Quick glass cuffs or heavy blows from the fire vessel's boot; let him join his buddy on the ground as the HoEs members watch in awe. When the second guy hits the asphalt, you'll be introduced to the grapple: Julius holds him up by his shirt, adrenaline'd by taking the other guy out. You're to perform a finishing move, contextual execution, whatever you wanna call it - the red Dilettante falling victim. Use the triggers to keep your hands around the guy while you walk toward the car - fingers slip and the guy gets away. You've got options; close his head in the door a few times, chokeslam through the windshield, mush him into the wheel well. Done - he's on the floor crying for mommy.

When it's over, nobody speaks and Julius snaps back to reality. Roxanne first "My car!", then Winston, calm as ever: "Lasting impressions."

"Sorry," Julius mutters, and its clear as ever there's a temper bubbling under an aloof surface; now he's a bit red in the face. "Winston."

The brother turns to console his girl; the honkey-caller eggs Jules on and kicks the downed bigot. "Now, Winston." He gets to stepping, Julius hesitates before a trite "Nice to meet you" to Roxanne, who's busy probing the damage done to her hatchback.

Go - it's not too long a drive out to Birchwood, pull a left and get on the Great Ocean Highway southbound. It's quiet for a bit, no music, and the tension builds into its inevitable conclusion on both parts: "The f*ck is wrong with you?"
"Me? What's wrong with you, Mr.-f*ckin-Albatross - all in for individual responsibility 'til some fox comes knocking with tidings of an equal nation?"
"Oh, give it a rest."
"Hard pass. We been coastin sh*t-job to sh*t-job for the better part of a Goddamn motherf*cking decade, and now that we settled in homey with Freddy on the cusp of him giving us the business, you choose now to go pachyderm?"
Scoff, avoid: "Go pachyderm? Charles Darwin, now?"
"Those age-old scrolls ain't all paperweights to me. Really-truly."
"We are fighting for a better future-"
"Why can't you do that when it ain't on Freddy's dime? Why weren't you out cavortin' with Roxy Parks when I got home last night, you gotta wait 'til daylight?"
"Don't belittle our cause, Jules. Speaking of last night - burning the midnight oil?"

No answer; easy clam. "Thought so. Let's leave it at that then."

Traffic lets up - drive past SF International as a Luxor makes its final leg overhead and head onto the minibridge out of town. Pull the softtop down with the press of a button - bright shiny day itd be a shame to waste, travelling alongside the deep blue San Fierro bay chock full of sailboats and mini-yachts, floating penthouse suites for the dignified millionaire with a hankering for seasickness, hookers, and blow. Washed up on the shore below the bridge lays Guillermo's Gullet, the craw of Holt Bay full of washed up detritus of all varieties; a famous dumping ground for the city's abused, unwanted, inconvenient women by their men who forgot about high tide.

"That discussion barred, you got anything else on where we're headed?"

Winston's had the scoop from Freddy - a simple delivery op, year-long fixed-fee contract for a legion of talented drivers to transport seafood both statewide and cross-border. Wholesale. Tasty. Report to Thomas Sclafani, Birchwood docks. Tick tick tick - depending on how fast you caught up with Winston you might be pressed for time: the meeting's set for 10.

It's on the bayside of the town, a bunch of wooden warehouses separated from Birchwood at large by a big field of cattails. Drive up to the gate; a hulk asks plain "You from Intrepid?" Julius nods and you get inside, directed to the two-story main building right along the water. When you park up another man asks which one of you is Julian - neither, of course, but Winston is escorted elsewhere to the truck-packing depot while you're to play messenger. Head up the wooden-planked outdoor stairs into an office overlooking the dock. Notice the fish factory's fond of goons sidestepping slimy planks, one-handing luparas and smoking like chimneys.

Knock on the metal door to the top office and an eyeball appears in the peephole slat - it opens to another big guy with a cigar who points you to an off-dressed fellow attempting to peel an orange with a pen, legs propped up on a desk in front of a window overlooking the dock. He ignores you until you take a seat across.

"Orange?"
Julius makes himself comfortable. "Nah, I'm an apple man."
"Gimme a good Empire any day."

He manages the peel and starts popping slices like candy without a word; you don't feel like playing.

"I'm here for Intrepid CS. Was told you had some work for us, Mr. Sclafani."
Smirk. "May be the case, but Tommy's probably three sheets to the wind by now. I'm Moe Rothenberg, well met." He extends a sticky hand; Julius opts him to switch and they shake.
"Julius Cole. I'd introduce my brother but one of your jockeys took him for a seaside tour."
"When we seal the deal with a new service we like to have both eyes and ears on the ground to get things up and running. Way your boss tells it, you bend the ear while your brother bends the knee."
"Freddy said that?"

Moe nods, Julius sits back in his chair and looks past him at the dockworkers outside, shuffling from boat to truck bed.

"Maybe I passed judgement a touch early on you rattin' your boss out as blotto when you don't know me from Adam. I learn my boss likes to tell tall tales and we might both have some authority problems."
"Don't take it like that," Moe says between orange chunks and a half-smile. "Some men are built to lead and some are built to follow. Freddy says you like to ask questions - ask away."
Julius drops the Freddy issue. "I think the million dollar question is why you're farmin' out leadfoot work. We usually get hired when people want their goods moved on the QT. Must be some prize seafood."
"It is, but the truth is having you on contract cuts a lesser blow to our bottom line. Bunch of professional redneck schmucks on retainer from Lenapia - that crops the quota bad."

Moe waits, Julius not buying it - point in question being what's contained in those transport trucks. You've done it before - illicit goods, a quick run, even out of state - but not in full employment for 365. That never ends well.
"Contract's signed and sealed anyway. Figure the least I could do is give you the rundown when your boss assures me you're his top guy. It's all kosher, my friend."
"About the last thing I'd call seafood."

Moe laughs; he's taking a shine to the kid. The rundown he gives: ¾ of Intrepid on retainer until mid-69 - transport comprising trucks, boats, helicopters for out of state. Sclafani's goods run supply lines all the way to Couira City and east - good money and a good word for future endeavors. Drivers paid by shipment, the company at large paid off at end of contract. "The goods are factory-sealed and to stay that way."

"How could I say no?" says Julius to gainful employment.
"Glad you're on board, kid. One more thing," Moe says, and reaches into a desk drawer.

He pulls out a .38, slides it across. Julius eyes it, we get a close up: serial number etched off, funny tape on the grip.

"Stick-ups are a menace as ever. Extra precaution, pay no mind."

Julius takes it and fits it in his holster, they shake on the deal sans sticky hand. Leave through the metal door, find Winston down below with his eyes following the lupara-holders on their patrols.

Eager to split, smelling of fish, he asks Julius if he's ready. Head to your car - as you reach it, a bulky black Stretch pulls through the gates and heads to the main building. A goon puts his lupara on the roof to open a door; out comes some fella clearly feeling no pain beside a mouse of a man. The first gives the guard a firm slap across the face for daring to risk nicking the paint - he tosses the shotgun into the grass nearby and heads inside as Mr. Mouse guides the walk and the sentinel scrambles for his gun.

"Seafood my ass."

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+ .38 Revolver

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

1st - Freddy Peters (optional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freddy: Will do. See you at the top.

Edited by Cebra

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Pull the Piranha curbside up to the Boccinos' bungalow, architecturally a carbon copy of your uncle's - just a bit more orange and a bit less fastidiously landscaped. Up the driveway you'll run into Sebby himself, frazzled and dazzled in a beige two-piece, wiping his nose with one hand and playing some fingertip rhythm with the other. "Ettore home?" Dante asks, and before the question can register you get your answer: "Yup yup, bedroom, gotta go, move by night" as he hops into and guns his guinea gunboat.

Head inside, past the sunflower wallpaper and shrill canary kitchen - as you're about to turn the corner to E's bedroom Dante sees him outside, perked up in a lawnchair with his eyes up as twilight beckons the stars. The night sky mirrors the strip's neon a few blocks down - cotton candy clouds misting under a purple canvas, minus all the noise, risk-takers, and drunkards. Dante pulls two fingers to the back of E's head - "Bang bang, sei morto." Ettore looks up and lets you know you scared the sh*t out of him, he could've easily lunged at you with that bottle of Stronzo he was holding under the chair and you better work on your reflexes 'cause next time you won't get him so easy. Dante squats to meet his height and chuckles: "You said you'd bring the waves but I'm only seeing the ones crashing behind your eyes."

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

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

You stand tall to Ettore, who downs the remnants of the booze and throws it at his cement fence and makes the neighborhood dogs bark in unison. "Goddamn suburbia. Let's roll."

Head out through the gate and make a call - if you're fed up with the Piranha then jump into Ettore's red Hellenbach GT; he's in no state to drive. When you first sit in, there's a pause - longer one, and Dante finally speaks up: "You gonna tell me where we're headed? You think I've kept in touch with the 'old gang', you got another thing coming."
"Okay, okay," E says, and if you're in first person you'll see him pull a fifth of something fiery brown from the glovebox. "Let's lay it all out."

Let him gather his thoughts and press the gas - slow rolling through suburbia aimed toward the glitzy strip. You'd imagine that neon glow makes a decent night's sleep difficult as Ettore begins checking them off. "Danny Z's serving one-to-three midwest on a solicitation beef."
Dante butts in: "No kidding, I thought cooze cruising was legal 'round here."
"Pump the brakes Casanova, don't worry - guy was thirty seconds past the county line into Mendelson. Let's see - head up to the Red Light district. Last I heard Ricky Rouge was working a corner."
Go ahead - "Ricky f*ckin' Rouge? Don't tell me you're talkin' about Rick Vitro."
"Yes indeedio. Rouge means red like the ol' neighborhood itself but he's green as ever. You think that's the kicker, wait 'til you hear about Hal."
"All ears."
"Oh, it's a good one. After we all pulled that gas scam a few years back he scrammed off to Los Santos. Got hitched, real nice all-American honeypie, last I hear he's ready to settle down like a fine law-abiding citizen. One day he calls me up to say honeypie's screwing spics by the handful - what to do? He puts the moves on his brother-in-law's secretary to settle the score and the tramp has him nabbed for adultery. Before long he's swapping cigs up in Bolingbroke and his honey's free at home to be the town bicicleta."
"Oof," Dante mutters with a drip of sarcasm. "Greek tragedy. We all got the same thing coming."

You're gonna want to swing around the long arm of Yeardley Boulevard instead of heading through to the madness of Venturas' heart. The Red Light district belies its name - it's semi-paved streets glow in more of a nebulous pink mist. The clock's nearing midnight and you're in dreamland - corner girls and triple-X theatres drowning in rowdy sidewalk-queuers, neon outdoor signage conforming to code, daring to show a pair of ankles. "Man, I haven't been here in years."

Windows down, cross near one of those corner shops and one of those girls comes calling from out a crowd: "Buying or window shopping?" in a suspiciously deep vocal fry.
Ettore can't contain his giddiness between fits: "This place has changed, eh?"
Dante squirms. "What do I say?"
"I am still human, honey," with a twirl showing off layers of fishnet. "Test drive?"
"Err, I'll pass. We're looking for Rick Vitro. Ever sing his song?"

The walker shakes, leans on the car, still trying to show off the goods as some theatre-goers hoot and holler at the gunshow.

"Ricky Rouge."
"You got business with Ricky?"
"Not the kind of business you knuckle down, but that's a yeah."

She nods like you've spoken in secret code and fuses back into the queue.

"This place always been so Goddamn degenerate?"
E cops a chuckle: "Go smoke your sausage, you stifled sister. Get with the times."

Out from the horde emerges Ricky, not so much rouge as tan in olive threads that couldn't pull him apart from a hobo smugshot lineup; open bowling shirt leaving scars on display - behind each a story better left untold.

"Oh, the two ays! Must be near a nickle since we last stacked a deck."
"Must be," Dante says under a smirk. "Gotta say, Rick - words fail me."
"What, these finooks? Needs must when the devil drives. Took some business classes, can't say they went untried."

Someone opens the floodgates and the crowd flows into the theatre; your eye is caught to the outdoor signage as its neon triple-Xs start blinking in unison - come one, come all, and as they head in a couple more streetwalkers gather under the neon and chew some chew and give the Hellenbach an eyeful. Pink glow, exotic environs - hitherto the intro to your ladies of easy virtue.

"So what's the play here? Pay me some mind after all this time, I hope you're onto something worthwhile."
The two ays take turns waiting for the other to pipe up - the plan isn't much of a plan, but ol' Ricky doesn't need to know that. E - "Those magic fingers are gonna take a safe is all. There's a couple grand in it on ice - butcher shop, nobody's gonna know nothing."
"Couple Gs being held in a meatmarket safe? I'm real tickled you thought of me, but sounds like that wishful thinking I've gone fine without for half a decade."
Dante pipes in, creeping peeved as he's been checking his watch. "It's a drop shop, I hear some small-time crew. And you can rest easy about any browbeating, tribute to the powers-that-be is gonna be cut equally. Whaddya say?"

White lies - no discussion. "I say you'd best be true blue, Dante. I'll bite."

After Ricky hops in you get the idea that the three musketeers are now winging it; no planning and no forethought springing to faking it until you're making it.

"Who's next?"
"You know I think we're about sewn up - the picklock, the brawn and yours truly the brains. Anything more and we're taking a loss," Ettore leads into the new.

Ricky demands an approach, gives heed to an old idea: delivery truck parked metal to brick - opened side panel and the group cuts in and gets out without a head knocked. The old pals say they'll head down to Post OP HQ just up the road and swipe a van, you're on duty of getting the necessary brickbreaking tools. From a weeklong tenure at a warehouse on the east side Ettore knows they're packing the necessities and more.

They get the car. Pushed out the driver's, you'll find yourself laid bare in the Red Light District - trudge down they alley behind Rick's joint and through the bubblegum gloom you see a clean ol' Miter hugging a wall with its owner necking a tramp beside it. Your best bet is to steal the thing quiet, he's too tied up to take note. Pick the lock and you're in - the man screams bloody murder as you hightail it down the road. Crawl the streets past midnight, old school R&B humming from the AM. Street traffic's light and so are the neon clubs, jazz and pizzazz lines lining up the sidewalks alongside hoods with no innocent destination in mind.

Your destination's a masonry plant - E said no guards, "What kinda prick's gonna steal some bricks?", but a cruiser's playing nightwatch by the gates as two flatfeet gorge on donuts inside. Eye's drawn to blips, both explained - the masons' breaktime is taken outside working walls and they're fond of tossing their eCola bottles into a sewer grate. Option one's the oldschool approach, tossing one into the cop car's quarter panel and making a run for it down the streets, through empty train cars and over knocked fences until they're air behind you. Play it long enough and the opportunity presents to lock the fellas into a boxcar themselves; you'll have all the time in the world as they yell and tell until sunrise. If you're not feeling any grief then hobble over to a nearby payphone for option two as Dante mimics a street hood to the local county PD; wringing the department's desire to pillage the Lojack Lounge a couple streets down. Dispatch works fast, the cruiser lights up and takes off, and you're wide open. Keep either method in mind for future reference; you're nearly always better off playing the distraction game than an outright fight.

Once the peacekeepers are taken care of you'll make quick work of jumping the wrought iron gate. Hug the brick wall down to the southeast corner and you'll see why the cops are playing safeguard - Dick's Brickwork doubles as an overnight truck stop; keep your feet close to the ground or you'll come face-to-face with some drowsy gun-toting midwesterners all but willing to extend stand-your-ground laws to the golden state. Dante's on his own for this one, no directions in your face - use common sense to trek to the storage shed holding your fabled tools and pick the lock, a touch more difficult than that of the Miter. You need a trunk at hand, so pull the car into the lot and take your pick; if you're so inclined you can grab a sledgehammer and keep it for good measure at the same time. Once you're loaded creep back out just in time to find a Post OP boxvan barreling down the road toward Centanni's - "Oh for God's sake" - you better keep to the bumper to satisfy that competitive edge.

Follow close and the van will pull up adjacent to Centanni's - Ettore cuts it a little close and claws the starboard side against the brick grain. Pull the Miter up beside and the scene will cut to Dante tossing the drill inside; he and E get to work on boring as Rick starts sorting through the mail scattered all over the box floor: "Damn, Fran's two-timing old Tommy with Joe!"

"Quit the quidnunc and come lend a hand."
"Sorry, Dante. These hands need to be fresh in the flesh if you want any safes cracked tonight."

The minigame's similar to breaking into the Humane Labs in V - align the jackhammer with the indicated outline onscreen and weaken the structure. Grabbed the sledgehammer beforehand and Dante also gets the opportunity to deal the death blow - you're inside. The trio head in through their makeshift entry and wait for Ettore's lead. "Nice. This is your gig, Streak. Where we headed?"
Ettore plays it like a dog sniffing out his owner on a bender. "What I heard, the end of the rainbow's in the office."
"Jesus Christ, 'Tor", Rick says after you clamber out of the bathroom you've bored into. "Another foot eastward and we'd'a drilled right into the freezer. Can't hurt to case the joint beforehand."
"I do my best work off the cuff."

The office is past the freezer room of pig heads and meat hooks, wood-paneled and parquet-floored - the safe's in the corner under a brilliant gold crucifix.

"Tasteful. Very Christian; I like this guy already." Rick pulls his tools and a glove and gets to work.
"I think we're in the clear on this one, D, but I fear you'll feel untapped if I don't give you something to do. Wanna play watchman?"
"I'd love to."

Outside, out back - the front leads to dead-end foundries and a single gentleman's club frequented by ungentlemanly men. Play it by ear, no going-ons out back but a few meat trucks sleeping tight under an awning; Dante comments on the thrilling task just as some headlights signal a roadster speeding down a nearby alley straight towards you. No cutscene; make a judgement call.

Pull your gun but give ol' speed racer the time to make a move, the driver pulls the car broadside in front of you, exits aiming a lupara over the roof.

"The f*ck you doing, motherf*cker? Step away from my store or I'll blow your Goddamn head off!"
Dante's looking down the sights: "Ditto mac, put the gun down and we'll talk."

Fatty goes on a terrific rant of threats and challenges, at a few points flailing his gun into the night sky before settling - if you're confident in your decision, a headshot's all it takes to merge this approach into the second, otherwise you're prodded to listen to the man. Holster your pistol and he'll come around the car; D gets a sawn-off barrel in the small of his back. "How many inside?"

D ignores, asks how he got word of the intrusion. "Silent alarm, bub. Courtesy of The Ear of Couira."

Inside, Rick's still working the safe and E's nowhere to be found. Fatty orders Rick up and begins negotiation; he'll only call his friendlier paisan if you give up who sent you.

"You tyros are done, you hear me? I'm gonna get the brass, f*ckin' everyone down here and you're gonna tell 'em everything. Just a pair of flappin' gums when it's over."

Your cue as Ettore emerges from the shadows holding that trusty sledgehammer; press the indicated button and you'll learn how to disarm. A rhythmic button mash and D pulls his fingers back for the shotgun, bashes him over the head and E moves in, misses his shot and tumbles forward. You've got the lupara and an angry lardass so you can hit where the drunkard can't - pull the trigger and Fatty flies out of the service door you just came in, settles dead in a red mist on the concrete outside.

Alternatively, had you shot the tub earlier the rest would play out the same - only outside instead of in.

"Why can't this f*cking sh*t ever go smooth?" Ettore rises.

Camera at the lupara barrel; E and D lean out the doorway to get an eye on the corpse.

"That's him, that's Fatty Gemelli," mumbles E running his hands through his hair.
"Who?"
"The f*cking owner of the f*cking store, you Goddamn gagguz'! He was supposed to be down south. This was supposed to be a simple job!"
"Oh he's down south alright. Don't get maudlin on me, you prick, this whole thing was your gig."
"F*ck it, nobody knows we was here. Go pull the car 'round, I'll get Rick to scratch before the red and blues show."
D grabs his arm - "We are not coming off a job playing catch-up with a body on me. He's gonna crack that safe."
"No, Dante, he is not. I love the thrill of the chase but I am not risking an accessory bid on account of your conscience."

Dante ignores his glazed friend, turns to Rick.

"How much longer on that thing?"
"It's a dura, this one. Ten minutes give or take, but something tells me we're about to split."
"What about the sledgehammer?"
"Useless without a crowbar."
E runs up tipsy. "Rick, we're getting out of here. Chalk it a loss."
Rick takes offense, slams his tools down. "Same old sh*t. Off the cuff my ass, it's always amateur hour with you. Small-time crew - Goddamn Couira City?"
"Amateur hour? Compared to what, the trials and tribulations of peddling queer ass in the Red Light like a mezzofinocch'?"

Their quibble fades into the back as we see Dante give the office a 360. His eyes return to the safe and drift upwards, slow, and the camera pans to life-sized golden Jesus on a gilded cross. Salvation.

"E, you still know that guy that works at the foundry?"

You're saved the tedium of pulling it off the wall; cut to black and back and you're in the Miter, back where Ettore and Rick ditched the car in exchange for the van. They take off in silence, a zoom out from first person shows the crucifix pinned to the roof rack. Head two streets west to that foundry to complete the mission - Dante mumbles four-letter words at himself as he covers the car with a tarp, ditches it to wait for sunrise so they can swipe up some excuse for profit from the meltdown.

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+ $150.00

+ Lupara

 

Post-mission phone call(s)


1st - Jacky Gallo (mandatory)
Dante: Rory's Rugs, how may I help you?
Jacky: I thought I told you to knock that off, you sound stunad. What you going to do when a would-be employer calls?
Dante: I'll answer like that and he'll think I'm a go-getter with a mind for business. Win win.
Jacky: Mmhmm. Have you heard?
Dante: Heard what?
Jacky: A friend of mine's store got hit last night. Stole a crocifisso, the animals, and shot the owner dead.
Dante: Yeah, Centanni's. I saw in the daily. Too bad, they had good capicola.
Jacky: Thieves broke in through the brick so they wouldn't set off the door alarm, Dante. I thought it sounded old hat.
Dante: Nothing particular to using power tools to get a job done. What, you think it was me? We gave that up years ago, you know that.
Jacky: Of course not. Whoever would hit a drop of our friends from the east would be throwing down the gimlet. Especially with a body on them.
Dante: Damn sure.
Jacky: At any rate, our friends are flying someone in. Jon thinks I should give you a call when the welcome wagon arrives.
Dante: Sure thing, Uncle Jacky.
Jacky: You keep an eye out for the animals that put Sal Gemelli in the ground. Stunads will've skipped town if they know what's good for them.
Dante: If they knew what was good for them they wouldn't be stunad, would they? I'll see you at home.

2nd - Rick Vitro (optional)
Rick: Bella's Bagnio, Ricky Rouge on the horn.
Dante: Rick.
Rick: Dante? Hey. Didn't think I'd hear from you again.
Dante: If a job going to sh*t stopped me then I'd have never seen you after '63. Ettore serve you your slice?
Rick: A box and a half of ziti at the cost of a life. No wonder we stopped rolling. When are you gonna cut him loose?
Dante: Rick, we all grew up in the gulch. Can't just cut someone loose like that.
Rick: F*ck, I did, and I've been doing just swell on that count.
Dante: Yeah, you did. I'll let you know when I wanna take up soliciting closet queens and we can all tell the same tale.
Rick: You do that. Come around and I'll give you a two-for-one special, my treat.
Dante: Don't hold your breath.

----

Las Venturas Retractor
By Titus Zell
Staff Writer

---- A nighttime burglary at Centanni's Meat Market in the North Side has left a man dead and the store light of a religious memento. Salvatore Gemelli was found dead on the premises of his famed pork store on Sequoia Street early this morning. When police arrived and combed the area, they found that a hole had been bored into the women's lavatory under the outside cover of a Post OP boxvan and Gemelli's prized golden crucifix had been filched. "We're relivin' the early years all over again," says Michael Caputo, sergeant with the Las Venturas Police Department. He is referring to the so-called Glory Hole Gang of yesteryear, known for their covert robberies under the cover of night, committed by penetrating the target's vulnerable spots using power tools. The exploits of the gang were previously believed to have come to an end in 1963, when a botched robbery in Mendelson resulted in three dead. With this new development considered, city councilman Robert Decker has vowed to outlaw the nighttime practice of parking vehicles adjacent to dwellings, much to the chagrin of both businessmen and sensible citizens alike.

Rumors had been swirling around town of late relating to Mr. Gemelli's organized crime connections to Couira City; within his office safe was over $4,500 in small bills cash and numerous unserialized firearms. District Attorney Duane Banyal declined to comment on any further developments. Mr. Gemelli left behind a fiancée, Miriam Ordóñez, who when approached by The Retractor broke down in tears: "I only wanted green card!"

Mr. Gemelli was 46.

Edited by Cebra

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----

 

The mission begins through a phonecall placed at home between wetwork jobs - a cutscene at the Pryor apartment, Doug picking at his empty fridge in the kitchen as Joanna enters and almost exits with Bonnie in tow, stopped by Doug's pique with the phone to his chest: "Why have a goddamn fridge when its always empty?"

"I'm going to the market on Cristo to try and fill it, thanks for your concern."
"With what money? We got eggs; yesterday you said you wanted to make a quiche."
"An egg quiche? Eggs are the base of a quiche, not the whole shebang."
"Forget it then. Even I know fifteen different ways to cook em on their own."
"Bonnie needs formula."
"No, she needs sustenance. And I know a much better way for her to get it."
"I'll get you some fruit, too. Maybe some vitamins'll knock that chip off your shoulder."

Out she goes with the baby - "I don't wanna see the bill, Jo!"

Phone up. "Hello."
"Don't let me interrupt your marital squabble, Mr. Pryor."
"Water under the bridge. Who's this?"
"Calvin Leung. We discussed that I'd reach you through Mr. Ying when we needed you."
"Mister, mister, toss the Ps and Qs, Calvin. We're all equals here."
"So you say. Are you available, Mr. Pryor? I'd like you to come down to the Pink Dilian."
"Can I bring a friend?"
"Excuse me?"
"Friend, pal, buddy. Sidekick if you will. Assuming you need some work done; I can vouch."
"No."

Click. "F*cker."

Get going, it's only a couple blocks over. Down the steps he takes a long glance at 102 - Marcus. Joanna's taken the car so you might have to hoof it - two west and one north and you're in the heart of Chinatown again, arches and all. Early morning has nothing on Johnny-on-the-spot Oriental foot traffic, carts and pedestrians alike, vendors offering succulent smoky pork buns and fried rodent along the sidewalks. Buy something on account of Dougie's empty fridge and make it to the Dilian, still not pink but this time surrounded by Asians in red leather.

You might expect suspicion but don't get it - walk into more red, carpets and ceilings and serpents and pagoda lights. To your left behind a fish tank and wall dividers sits Calvin with a group of like-minded Chinese who don't give two looks your way. Calvin rises and meets you in the hallway, continuing the trend of abstract dress shirts with his Gordian knot now hanging around his neck.

"You made it fast."
"Yeah, and I walked. I ran track in high school."
"Of course."

His hand guides you toward a separate table near the kitchen, past old ladies sipping tea to a band of fellows significantly less sophisticated-looking than the oldies at the first - the man's in a rush, typical courtesy be damned. He lets you go: one plays with a yo-yo, another picks cuticles, another's cheek-down asleep. Calvin starts off on the first in Cantonese, words here and there, a few "gwai-lo"s of which Doug's lived in San Fierro long enough to get the gist. Yo-yo makes eye contact - cheeky, ballsy prick under long hair and a wide grin.

"Mr. Pryor," Calvin gestures, looks at you and speaks snappy. "Wei, Arnie, and Oscar. You're going for a ride."
"The royal you, or you mean with them?"
"With them. Make fast friends; Wei's new in town and I'd like you to show him a good time, even as an outsider."
"Hope were not reading the same dictionary." To yo-yo Wei: "English?"

Wei nods and continues the smile of a man with no intentions to become a fast friend.

"Tell him to head on over to Niptown for a mojo massage - they'll knead that gall right outta you. It's a good time, trust me."

You get a laugh from Oscar and dead eyes from Arnie; you might get the idea the former's been feigning sleep and perhaps he's a bit of a flake. Calvin takes off in his newfound speed - "important business" - and heads back to his table of negotiation; you notice he's walking with a limp. Oscar wipes eyes, heads up and off towards the back door. Use your intuition to follow his impressive height, passing through the kitchen of nebulous steam and curt Chinese ordering around, knife slams and tenderizers - out the back to a familiar car that you're left to steer.

"What's the gig, Greg?"
"My name is Oscar. Regular collection to show Wei here the way of the world. I don't know why you're here."
"Maybe Calvin thinks you guys are going softhave me swoop in and save the day like last time."
"Swoop all you want, but today won't need saving. To the massage parlor on Cerent Street."

Quiet down a few avenues, run parallel with a streetcar before the emigrant pipes up.

"Such hot sh*t you think you are. I been here two weeks and all you Americans the same - I have big gun and I must shoot. I don't need you to show me how things are, yang guizi."
"My friend Calvin says I do. Get into the American spirit, Wei, polite small-talk included. Spill about how your English's so good before we go beat on some folks, it'll help you grow on the inner disconnect."
"Small talk." Laugh. "In Yangshan I lived in complex with a landlord; Englishman come to study Mao Zedong Thought. Only white devil I know until America. Being a landlord not so good in Yangshan - public execution for them to disseminate land to farmers. I say I was farmer, get the house, which I then offered to the Dragon Head's cousin in exchange for higher position. Not America."
"That's what I'm talking about, amigo. Way to break the ice. Welcome to the land of the free, home of the indebted - you'll fit right in."

You'll find the parlor blends, dime a dozen; its facade somehow comes across as both prime residential property and typical sh*thole storefront alike in its position atop Calton Heights. "Anything I should know?" - Doug to Oscar, an attempt to force words, but Arnie's up to bat.

"Deadbeat's rubber stamp as they come. Name's Bertrand. Thinks his big win's on the upswing any day now - he's been from the wops to the Chicanos to us, thirty Gs in the hole. Calvin thinks we make his last wits fly out his ass and maybe he'll at least cough up the juice."
"He was talking to me."

You look inside past cheap display gimcracks to a fat stressball sitting behind the counter, white as they come in an Asian-themed establishment, hand on the thigh of a masseuse.

"What's the play?"
Oscar's already out of the car, Wei's on his way inside - "We lay into him. Simple as."

Inside you might think the very appearance of three Tongs and a pissed off vet did the job - Bertie's shaking at the sight, sweating bullets trying to look cooler than a subzero cucumber. He sends off a tattooed succubus in back and steadies: "Oscar, boy! Who're these fellas?"

A thumb at Wei - reverted to intimidation through his yo-yo - and index at Arnie, Doug takes charge: "Clarence and Maxwell. Men of the cloth come to damn this unholy place." He laughs at himself, Oscar does harder, deep and roaring, at a joke lame even by Dougs own standards.

Game time - glass displays of knock-off memorabilia, wicker chairs, tall bonsai and thin walls sitting in wait to inspire a payment. Make fists fly; kicks, breaking glass, smoke from drywall holes to the tune of Oriental massage music
; "Come on guys," Bertie pleads from behind the counter between the sound of crunching glass. "The executive game's tonight! I'll get it all back!"


A meter with a minimum and a breaking point - the damage incurred is to get it to the sweet spot in between the two extremes, but don't destroy too much; a totaled store gives Bertie nothing to lose and he'll make a run for it. The scene cuts at the right spot; Wei's had enough of the crying yang guizi, hops the counter and uses his yo-yo for a chokehold - Bertie's gone uncle in under ten and the gang can't help laugh. "I have no money!" rings too true, you realize something else is needed to cover the interest alone. The yo-yo goes limp and Wei sends Bert reeling over the counter and crashing head first onto one of those glass displays.

Back to gameplay as he howls over some glass in his eye, step over him and into the back through some beaded curtains. Arnie's hand stops you: "You go in heavy. I know the clientry." Doug pulls his piece from his holster with a smile and Oscar leads the charge - in another clouded hallway, topless masseuses and a couple knights in flannel armor. One tries to pull rank on Oscar, who promptly backhands him into the wall, and Doug feels free to do the same further down. Clear rooms, illicit actions behind closed doors, a weapon or two laid bare on cheap wood as its owners cower at your own.

The gang won't find much; all roads lead to the door at the end of the hallway - a garbage-filled parking lot out back, a slick new Sentinel gleaming in the sun between beaters. Doug gives Oscar a look, ESP permission to check the door: unlocked, f*cking idiot. He raids the glovebox, pulls the pink slip. Bertrand Young. F*cking idiot.

Oscars thrilled and doesn't hesitate to show it, but the moment's cut short by a yell and breaking glass way back in the reception. You're to stay alert, but don't hesitate to think fast and hotwire the thing in anticipation of what's to come. More yelling - something Slavic, rough, and a bloody Artie is the one to come back: "Go! Get back to the Dilian and don't f*ck around!"

No answers - get in and gun it, out the alleyway and a powerslide in either direction leaves you in the lap of gun-toting Sovietsky on your trail in a tawny Rancher. You're too close to the resto to make a beeline without the Russians riding your ass; take a detour up Elwood Avenue and use the element of surprise to toss them - a sudden sharp turn between Victorians and the ute spins on its wheels and flips; you're free. Drag it long enough and they'll start to take potshots - detracting from your payout - and the best course might be to pull down a familiar alley and return fire until they've fled or are dead.

When you pull around the back of the Dilian you're met with Calvin; a shawl draped around his neck, frantically signalling you into a nearby garage. You can sense the bemusement radiating off Doug.

"I miss a red carpet expo?"
"Can it, chatterbox."

Doug stands back and Calvin comes forward, examining the Sentinel for damagedoors, mirrors, trim, prone for the undercarriage.

"Could be worse but this covers a tenth of the float, max. Not even what the juice has amounted to. It compounds, you know."
"I don't. You asked me to tag along on this gig to show Wei the good American work ethic, and that I did. The rest is not my territory, Calvin."
A retort interrupted by a lightbulb: "Mr. Leung - where are the others?"
"Hopefully on the way with a couple heavy Reds in tow. Your friend Bertrand has a real network around him - you weren't the only one hoping to collect today."
"Yes, that was a calculated risk. I had faith in your abilities and I didn't expect you to flee."
Doug laughs, lights up and blows smoke in his employer's face: "Following orders. I'm not a fan of playing insubordinate, especially when the upshot comes so cheap."
"That's not what I've heard."
"Oh yeah? What have you heard?"

Calvin straightens himself, still a half foot short of the man hes playing superior to, and looks up at the sun before starting.

"We don't have to like each other, Doug, but you'll find I know things only a select people do. I have no doubt you'll come in use, and if you play your cards right we can do great things together. But that demands respect. Separate from our mutual friend."
Dougs thoughts run wild, Calvin answers unasked questions: "Eddie Segal. Steven Ho."

Doug swallows, more pissed than confused, but the car interrupts their own tango. Calvin snaps out of it, pulls the garage door closed and heads to greet his entourage, and Doug watches as a newly invigorated Wei jumps from the backseat in kung fu pose.

"That don't happen back home!" He comes for Doug, grabs his shoulder with a bloody hand.

"Maybe I grow to like this place."

 

piUfBpw.png

No reward.

 

Post-mission phone call(s)


1st - Winky Marquez (optional)
Winky: Caller, you're on the air.
Doug: Ha, you as a disk jockey - that could've worked out, you know.
Winky: Gave it a try freshman year, didn't pan out. Dougie, I hear you've been putting in work for our Tongy friends.
Doug: I'm a summer student. Believe it or not I've got more pull working for you.
Winky: Gotta start somewhere. Under whose belt?
Doug: Calvin the crepehanger. That's why I called - what's the guy's deal? I've worked with my fair share of screwballs but I can't get a read on him.
Winky: He's just playing his part. All roads lead to the Dragon Head.
Doug: What?
Winky: Yeah, Kong, Quang, something chinky like that. The man upstairs - eventually the screwballs get tired of dealing with the John Q. Publics themselves and send you up. Just gotta fight through the fog of bullsh*t in the meantime.
Doug: Chinky, eh? What happened to extolling the virtues of your ancient ancestors?
Winky: I'm set, who gives a sh*t? That whole Ying thing might've been pushing the envelope anyway. These f*cks'll give you nothing if not a fair shake.
Doug: That's what worries me.
Winky: Worry not, amigo. I just told you we're set.
Doug: No, you said you're set.
Winky: E plutonis unum, right? Sh*t, I gotta split Dougie. I'll see you later.
Doug: Hope so.

 

----

 

Iron City Inquirer

By Roy McCarthy
Opinion

---- A recent spate in ethnic crime of late has led the citizens of San Fierro to ask a singularly obvious question: is our great city falling to sabotage by the apparatchik agenda? Crime is surging in certain areas of note: Vista Park and Suppleham, both neighborhoods with one distinct trait in common - a demographic push for transparently pinko legislation. After falling victim to last year's public parade of anti-American exhibits of affection that has unreasonably been given the moniker the Summer of Love, both boroughs have developed a significant swell in criminal activity perpetrated by brutes of the Maoist and Soviet variety. Have we fallen victim to a systemic infiltration of our society by those who intend to provoke the downfall of America? Experts say no - that such activities can be attributed to a socioeconomic disparity that results in a last resort to achieve success through crime - but we know better than to believe them. We are being perverted from the inside out. Only we can resist this permeation of our society's fabric by the red menace before it's far too late.

Edited by Cebra

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Posted (edited)

view hungry cebra

 

This reads terribly with the way the forum update, aka the GTAF Death Knell, merges the posts. Persevere if you so wish

 

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Head on over to Stanislaw Choppers any time between dusk and dawn, the place no less bustling in the absence of daylight - dozen choppers with a half dozen custom warpaints, that orange inferno of light drawing you into the blaze. Park up in the one space set aside for your kind: CAGES HERE - a first being that one’s already there.

As Julius gets out your eye’s drawn to a shape behind a nearby chain link - big, no lights, but the burning tips of cigarettes in the cab. He gives it half a staredown before heading inside to displays of camaraderie; blowtorches replaced by booze, rock and roll - Sweet Jane on scratched vinyl. Dave notices you first and tosses a beer - caught and pulled to the side Julius walks up. Dirk and his toadies AWOL, the only bikers on scene being those less tattooed and less likely to attack you with a blowtorch for your taste in records.

“Speak of the devil.”
“And appear he shall,” snipes Julius. “How’s business?”
“Hunky-f*ckin’-dory.”

He motions to "the man beside; black, tall, and tank-like with eyes on another realm trying to bore into the soul of a stranger.

“Julie, this is Doctor Keno Rizzo - our Providence Eye into the gutterpups of this great city.”

Jules goes for a shake, the doctor instead points a closed fist and waits on you to reciprocate, surges ecstasy when you do: a masterfully enigmatic “Motherf*cker.”

Bemused and beaming, J turns to Dave and points outside. “I think you got a couple shadows down the path. That those foregoing ‘narc probers’?”
“No, just the gooks. They’ve been pissier than a chick on the rag ever since we tried to bust up that deal up over the gate. You’d think keeping an eye out would be easier said than done for them, you know?”

He makes slant eyes, laughs, nobody budges. “I let Dirk off his chain and they’d be air.”
“In nobody’s best interests,” Rizzo butts, briefly more lucid than he gives off - a crack interrupted by his sight of something spectacular on the ceiling between spots of mildew.
“Dave.” Julius pulls him away by shoulder: “I’m impressed at this show of brotherly love but camaraderie ain’t my forte. You got something for me?”
“I do, matter of fact. Sure you don’t wanna let loose a spell?”
“Give it to me.”

He pulls away, directs you into the office of concrete as he chugs something brown. Julius follows, settles inside and keeps eyes on Doc through the window - eyes up, speaking in tongues or something, hand gestures galore - Dave watches you watch until the spell’s broken. “What’s this dude’s deal?”

“Believe it or not I don’t keep him ‘round for erudition.” He finishes off the bottle, tosses the remains of his smoke into it and lights another. “Like I said, gutterpups.”
“I don’t follow, man.”
“Matter of fact I don’t rightly know if it’s Keno Rizzo or the other way around. We’ll say Doctor Keno.” Hand waves: “Howbeit he’s a loony son of a bitch - one of my boys ran into him at the coast of the Greenie shore, sticking up some poor biddy with the brush end of a broom while dronin’ on about polar bears and tribadism.”
“And now he’s here.”
A chuckle that turns into a coughing fit: “Ain’t it something how things work out. You seen those prints been up the last few weeks? Every lamppost from Elwood to Burgundy, every f*ckin’ corner.”
“Not my grounds.”
“Seems your grounds to me, but what do I know. The uh, the acid tests, I think they’re callin’ em. Y’know, dust. Never bought into that sh*t - eternal consciousness at three bucks apiece? Sucker a minute.”
“I dunno. All some folk need is the promise of wild blue yonder to get through the grind.”
“Oh man, you’ll fit right in with these fellas. It’s his work. Tonight’s the night, matter of fact - you’re gonna hitch Dr. Livingstone over there to the promised land. His car.”
Eyes back out: “Can I put him in the trunk?”
“No, that’s the gig - trunk’s full up, San Andreas sunshine. Not usually my wing but these fellas were cryin’ for it.”
“That’s it? Straight delivery?”
“F*ckin’ A, I got no other use for the sh*t. Time to liquidize. Maybe you’ll make some friends.”
Julius walks: “You got it,” but gets stopped short in the doorway.

“One more thing. The chinks outside, they gotta be dealt with. Doc’s right, you know, so no rubbing out by misadventure or anything. Just dealt in the way we deal.”
Julius stays silent, receives elaboration: “Dirk wouldn’t show. You know,” Dave points to the good doctor, “considering. He got some guys playing license plates down by the distillery down on Borrachera. Hit the road with ‘ol bruiser over there - draw ‘em to Dirk and the harbingers and give ‘em some three dollar haircuts. I don’t want that cage driveable neither.”

Julius exits the office, drops the beer, and heads backs into the garage, gives Keno a pat and a point: “Let’s go, daddy-o.” He follows you out, follows your gaze as Jules again eyes the stalkers down the way: “We time pressed?”
“Daylight.” He starts to hum a tune.

Hop into his car, the anomaly under the cages section - brand spanking new Voodoo. “Two streets west of Windy Windy. Big brown stone.”
Julius lumps it: “Brown ... stone?”
“Brown brownstone.”
“We call ‘em townhouses on this coast, doc. We got a little detour to make, anyway.”

Ride slow up to that field fence - Tong cigarette tips flagging you down. Jules rolls the window down and makes it count, flips the bird: “Eh goo-goos, let’s go for a ride! Arnold got something to show down!” and pops two off into the night sky before speeding off. You gain control as the Triads start their engines, pull out of the lot - Jules cackles at their eager virtue. You’re not going far with them shadowing; dead-of-night void gives way to a spattering of yells, bikes revving.

“You in a state to throw down, Rizzo?”
“You buy the ticket, you take the ride. Turn up the music.”

The beginnings of That's Not Me - twelve bikes next to the distillery, Dirk clasping his .44 before he makes an I.D. - slam the brake as the Triads slow, slide it broadside as everyone comes to a stop in sync. Julius hops out, points Dirk and his cronies to the Surfer and they register before you can say assault. The Triads try their hand, five come out, three armed - knife, knife, and a goddamn nunchuck. Get to work, Rizzo going kamikaze at the fellas as they play defense against fourteen gorillas. If you can get in on the chaos before the Dirk wing finishes them, throw down with Nunchuk to get a chance at swiping the weapon unsold in stores. For good measure Dave asked you to wreck the ride - simple as slashing the tires, though no one’ll stop you from wrecking some glass on the way out.

After the vehicle’s taken care of the scene cuts to Dirk, hollering with his pals as one of the Triads tries a death crawl across the street. He passes his booze along, gives Julius a look: “So he’s got some stones after all!” and hones in on the Chinaman.

“Bought myself a television just to watch your people starve. Better than any cheap sh*t on the radio.”

Triad makes a swipe at him, knife tucked in pants, hits his mark low at Dirk’s ankle and gets a flat foot in the back of the head as the bikers holler at the scene. Dirk’s famous rage steps in, grabs the Tong by the hair and drags him to the curb as Julius watches from afar and Rizzo plays with sky demons. The picture comes clear to J - Dirk pulls the man face down, teeth on the curb, grating, razing, and you gain control just in time to play hero - you can rush him before the other foot comes down. If not the sound’s not a pleasant one - a hard stomp, a scream, teeth flying left and right as half the bikers palpitate and the others go wild. The first option brings you Julius’ own wrath - “Arnold said no more blood than needed, and that means no poor motherf*ckers gettin’ their f*ckin' jaws snapped!”, met by Dirk’s assertion that some lessons only come through teeth in the gutter. He splits with the help of two others, limps away before an argument can be had, choppers roaring as they head back to home base, leaving Julius and the doctor and a crawling Chinaman potentially toothless.

Eyes on the body, limp, half-dead in the street. Red mist. “Let’s go, doc. Let’s split.”

Settle back in, ride uptown through little to no traffic and plenty of panhandlers and do-no-gooders under crumbling overpasses - not a word over the little diversion, the Tongs, the task at hand. SF at the wee hours is a sight - a ghost town broken apart by bums and dope fiends alike driven home by the hauntings of Sun Ra.


“So, uh... how’d you get in with those fellas?”
“They have killer mescaline. Dabble a bit in brown, too. A taste here and there and we’re all rainbows. In exchange for very little, such situations excluded.”
Julius snorts at doc’s sub-Saharan accent playing funny against slang: “Yeah, I’m familiar. You know I think I got an idea by now, but maybe you wanna clear the air on what the hell an acid test is in the first place.”
“An event like no other, brother. Dallas procured us some live music for this one - grooviest stuff I heard since Los delfines maricas down in Argentina. Have you been?”
“To Argentina? Nah. Who’s Dallas?”
“Dallas is the star.” He dies down. “I’m feeling a bit faint, my friend - maybe you should drive.”
“Mhm, I don't know what you drivin' but it ain't this car. Who’s Dallas, my man?”
“He organizes. Procures the product. Dallas is the man.”
“Looks like you’re procuring tonight.”
“He’s preoccupied. Writing a book. Oh, I feel this will be a very difficult night.”
“Don’t say that, man.”

The conversation’s a dead end - but by then you’ll be up in the heights anyway. You’ll see the destination; indeed brown, a miracle. Jules gives his retinue a nudge who tells him to back it up the alleyway, stop at a green garage of corrugated metal, pop the trunk. Someone’s standing at the ready, hops out a back door and gestures you in as a couple more concrete chumps start to bring the trunk packages through and in.

Doc looks back: “Trust me, brother. Come meet the band.”

The doorman bumps Rizzo, leads you up a flight of stairs surrounded by peeling wallpaper leading red brick - an electric guitar growls, loud voices, laughter. Around the corner the scene is entropic, a good dozen men and women on tables, on the floor, on each other; one shirt for every three, purple canopied walls, blackout curtains.

Julius laughs and whispers “This nigga'.” A separate group of merrymakers huddled around a guitar turn to you and give Rizzo a standing ovation for his artful act of turning the corner.

Resumed guitar tuning - one fella walks up as Rizzo walks away, offers a shake: “Bikers or backers?”
Julius shakes, says “What?”
“Bikers it is. I see you’ve come with Rizzo - you look a little too square to take that on alone.”
“Maybe so.” A call to Dave. “Is it Keno Rizzo or Rizzo Keno?”
“I doubt he knows himself to tell you the truth. I’m Dallas Bloomfield.”
“Julius Cole. Nice to put a face to the name - I read your articles. Doctor said ‘Dallas’, I shoulda supposed.”
“I know what you’re thinking, man - no, he’s not licensed in the state of SA. I don’t think he’s licensed anywhere, but he’s a loyal friend. You gonna hang around?”
“Might for a while. What’s the whyfor?”
“Expanding horizons, man.” He gestures you to the ball of hair tuning his ax in the corner.

“You heard’a the Suicidal Failures? Local guys but real men of the world - that’s their frontman Rocky Muñoz. They’re our track tonight. You talk to him, whatever you do, don’t bring up Milk. Chick on the floor is our woman Mona.” Topless, hips like a wild rose. J doesn’t push.

Guided walk, big suit standing by: “Slick dick next to him’s their manager Hyman Katz. Thinks we’re bosom buddies ‘cause he pals around with the f*cks at ZAP. Scumbag supreme.”

Dallas begins checking them off, rotating: “Ol’ pig commissioner Jack Lange, Post columnist Artie van der Linde, disgraced scion Noah Shrewsbury. We get an assortment.”

“Rest of the band’s fashionably late - as in two hours - but we got all night. Rest of the crowd wandered in off Hedone. We got enough to go ‘round thanks to you.”
“Off the streets? You don’t worry ‘bout UC?”
“A pig can samba with the best of us given the motivation. I’m not vexed.”
Julius gives the place an eyeful. “Alright ... but what do y’all do?”
“We drop acid and listen to Rocky and the band.” He points to a desk by a broken window covered in papers and pot. “You scratch down your address on the notepad, pocket it, and we get going, man. No holds barred. Sometimes we get a couple wake up in the valley, sometimes in the back of a caddy car. You’re in it to win it but at least you got your address down.”

You’re in it now - you know the names, you know the score. Acid test indeed - the intentions of man. Jump into traffic with your eyes closed but at least you’ve got your addy. Julius gives the place a final lookdown - voices come calling from another room: “Dallas! We need one more to unpack!”

“You in, man? It’s alright if you ain’t, but I got a feeling this is your scene whether you know it or not.”
The job at hand - make friends. “I think I'mma kick back and watch this one. Rain check?”
“We’ll be here ‘til PD raids us. I give it a month, tops, so we got a couple left in us.” He looks his groupies over. “Arnold’s garage - we’ll run into each other there.”

A man of no goodbyes - Dallas runs off to what looks like a kitchen without appliances and leaves you to mingle. Hobnob with the madcaps - Commissioner Lange on a tangent about the department’s approach to psychedelics, Shrewsbury sh*tting on the submachine gun, Muñoz practically getting down with Mona with his guitar in one hand. Katz eyes you, keeps his gaze wherever you go but hasn’t a word.

You’ll find a friend in the ol’ doctor, who makes conversation about the Argentinean dream while gradually losing layers of clothing. The door’s open for when you’ve had enough, but stick it out long enough to find the missing links of the Suicidal Failures stumble in to immediate applause - they gather as Muñoz disappears behind a curtain with Katz, reappears invigorated a moment later as the set begins. The dozen merrymakers pop microdots in unison to the easing in of an electric guitar gradually growing, growling, popped to a synthesizer and haunting tenor.

Stay for the ride of dimmed lights and red candles or prowl the streets to find a cab in the hours before dawn. The guitar will keep.

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+ $75.00

 

----------

 

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Don’t sit around too long after the disaster at the butcher shop - Jon Gravelli’s waiting on you. He’s at a house not too far from your own digs - the south part of Arcadia Willows where the outlands are made not of sand blown in from the Ahwati Desert but carefully manicured lawns.

 

Keep to the street - driveway’s full up, lime Roachee boxing in a begrimed Schyster Bayadere, rental tags still hanging from the rear view. Up the drive it’s birds chirping across palms, sprinklers peppering - then a low-flying Hunter blazing saddles across the sky, over the mountain range to the area-not-to-be-mentioned. Dante shields his eyes from the sun and watches it disappear, rings the bell and waits. Gravelli answers in a blue velour robe and a mutt comes charging between his legs to nip at your heels: “What the f*ck is that thing?” Dante asks between defensive kicks.

 

Gravelli nudges the thing, gestures in: “Pain in my ass is what that is. Chihuahua. Not my choice.”

“That’s not a dog, it’s a f*ckin’ rat.”

 

He closes the door behind you, walks and talks as he leads you to the back living room. “This place - can’t walk two feet without some kinda animal sinking his teeth into you. What can I do for you, Dante?”

 

Cut short by the entry of a model-worthy blonde in orange who scoops the mutt up with one and a purse in the other: “I’m late for work, Jono. Gimme a call later, alright?”

 

Nod, kiss goodbye, Jono’s hands low, and she goes out the front door with a half abashed bow at Dante as her little monster snarls. “Hey, ain’t she from the Bahama?”

 

Pink Swan sunlighting at Queen’s Crown Jewels.” Gravelli leads you into a conversation pit, pops a glass on a bar cart and begins pouring before asking what’s your poison. “Drink?” He’s cooled since the girl left - you get the idea that a no would probably mean doubling up his own.

 

“Sure. Something brown,” Dante says to an already-poured something brown.

 

He gives a glance outside: professionally trimmed hedges, stone walls against the back of the lot leading into a waterfall pool: “Mr. Cangelosi’s a generous man.”

 

Hands the drink: “That he is. Siddown.”

Sit on one of the loveseats - cute place, healthy variety of orange shades and wild plants and carpet and sunlight. Professionally decorated most like, Cangelosi’s contacts not settling for any less and Gravelli opting not to put up a fight to prolong the process.

 

“How’re things, Mr. Gravelli?”

“How the f*ck d’you think, kid? Your uncle tell you about the casino?”

“Don’t think so. What’s up?”

He sits across a red table on cabriole legs. “When we signed you onto Silver Sixes it was made unduly clear to you that it was not a no-work and definitely not a no-show. I told you that - specifically. Carlo says you only been by twice in the past month.”

“I been occupied on the side. My uncle said it’s alright, Mr. Gravelli. Something about Local 369, that it’s all covered.”

 

Gravelli downs his drink, gets up and pours himself another one from the cart - Dante still hasn’t touched his own, plays it sober to a quickly mellowing Jono. “Sure. Look, kid - when I was your age I got pinched on a 1040 discrepancy and ended up doing sixteen months for attempted murder. A bunch of bullsh*t you can be sure, but the whole thing’s a goddamn house of cards.”

 

He sits back down, gives Dante a chance to speak who instead opts to sheepishly sip at his liquor.

 

“All I’m saying is you’re a far f*ckin’ cry from bein’ equipped to take on the IRS - that’s how they took down Vin Colella, you know. We all hold our own in this thing. You need to put in some hours before the curtain-raiser.”

“You set a date?”

“A couple weeks, give or take. Carlo’s been having some, eh, headaches, and if he keeps it up that’s something else you can add to your fast growing list of responsibilities.”

Dante downs his drink, stands up and goes for a shake of fault: “I’m sorry, Mr. Gravelli. I don’t want to let nobody down.”

He takes it, corrects. “Anybody. Your uncle sees something in you. I’m waiting for the day.”

 

He leads you back out front and stops short at the door, opening a new line of thought on the front stoop.

 

“Not all business, though. I want you to do a favor for me, though. Personal. The girl you seen, her name’s Dee - works the stage at the Swan, we’ll say she has a way of drawing the flies to the honey. Sonny and I want her brought over to La Penisola. I made an offer, Sonny made another - her boss is a mule-headed Jew f*ck.”

 

Jono’s worked himself into a tizzy: “Who ever heard of forcing feather girls into contracts? F*ckin’ cocksucker.” He’s got a strange way of showing it; no kicks nor flaring veins, just a straight gaze ahead of irate words.

 

Dante uses the trail off to push and lighten: “Fellas who wanna rehash a Bobby Fontaine situation?”

“That’s cute. You know the club. Two-bit Pavano joint ran by Baby Bats.”

“No sh*t, he's still around? You really want me to put the squeeze on him?”

“Within reason. He don’t know you from Adam, kid. Play the jealous steady, take a bat to his car, I don’t give a damn. I want the honor of taking her contract to the shredder myself.”

“I’ll get it done.”

 

Dante starts walking, Gravelli calls back: “Show this out, kid. I’ll see what I can scare up with Carlo.”

 

As close as it’ll come to a promise of the big leagues, at least for now - jump back into your ride and pull out into the hot sun. You’re served a reminder of the tool shop on Coventry Parkway; plan ahead if you’re going to brute force your way into a breach of contract. The streets up there are cool and quiet, the tendency of Las Venturas - nightfall and daylight reversed, sidewalk jaunts of bobbing cowboy hats and covert millionaires in tennis gear alike headed to the courts.

 

The Pink Swan sits at the southernmost end of The Strip, perilously straddling the line between the glory of its neighbors and the seediness of Champlain Avenue’s joints further down. It testifies to its name - a giant pink swan, wings extended, backing red cathode rays; a cursive name, restaurant, coffee shop, casino, the whole shebang. The lot’s mostly empty, a couple night campers excepted and a silver Benefactor Magnum parked by the side entrance; vanity plate OHBATS - bingo.

 

You can head inside and things’ll play out all the same, but gift OHBATS a few dings courtesy of your newfound inner demolition man; a hammer, sledge, metal bat to the windshield, target the shiny gleaming rims or play some golf with the side mirrors. As intended the racket brings out a skinny Vinnie with a million questions, slicked hair with matching leather jacket who flies back inside the second he finds his answer. The scene cuts to Dante heading under the entrance awning with his weapon; leaning against a pink marble column and lighting a cigarette while waiting for the inevitable uproar to make its way outside.

 

It does, fast.

 

Baby Bats - fantastic three-piece navy blue suit on a skeletal frame; he comes running out in his bifocals with slick Nick at his side, a seething rage arching his shoulders to a height exaggerating his minuscule frame: “What the f*ck are you doing to my car, you f*cking wop?”, a dig that finds his ginzo buddy unperturbed.

 

Dante plays it up, pops the smoke between his lips, lifts his weapon sky high and brings it down on the roofline, - it dents like it’s made of clay with glass and premier grey enamel seesawing across the lot. He’s having a grand ‘ol time: “Totaling it! You should get a better pair of glasses, pal!”

 

Bats sics the unarmed goon on you with a wrinkly finger - a decent sized unarmed goon; he comes charging like you’re holding a muleta in front of your face, rallies you into the side of the car and pulls your bludgeon from your hands. He tries to bash your head in but you can dodge it - he f*cks the car up even worse in the process. As you continue to skirt his blows Bats runs back inside yelling for help but it seems nobody’s around. Avoid getting squished until the goon’s out of juice and disarm him if you can’t brute force your way to completion - get your weapon back and turn his head into pulp until he falls to the concrete mumbling sorries in the crunching of broken glass.

 

Run in through the open doors. The place’s barren inside, a sight usually reserved for those from the inside track - gilded adornments and a whole lot of pink neon left unlit in the daytime. It’s almost eerie; the floor, the pit - rows upon rows of slot machines sitting empty, silent, but the adorned pink wig wags above still flashing back and forth like some pony playing phantom. Find Bats - he’s around, playing some f*cked up sort of hide and seek around or under the roulette and craps tables. Dante taunts him with playground derision, knows he can’t be far - both exits are wide open, open season; the only alternative the padlocked count room that’s still cinched down the hall. Maneuver through the table-made corridors, crouch to check underneath the tables. You might come upon a wallet or two dropped in the huff of a losing streak; help yourself at the cost of some unlucky midwest schmuck realizing his dilemma at McCarthy International.

 

If you don’t find Bats fast enough he’ll find you; a golf club to the back of the head that knocks you flat. The man’s got a mean drive but the follow up’s not great, not swift enough to kick your own weapon away. Dante rises feeling around for blood, a bit dizzy, met with “Who let you loose, cocksucker? Think some gonif’s gonna take me down after all, huh? Think so?”

 

Up, a bit wonky - sidestep him through a shaky cam, balancing Dante in the process. You’d think you’re an easy target in this state but the pioneer of Las Venturas isn’t the most nimble despite his name. Tire him out like his goombah shield outside with a new approach - a hit with the club will knock the wind right out of you. A kick here and lopsided punch there and you know he’s no match when he goes down flat onto a blackjack table with the golf club hovering above in Dante’s hands, panting and sweating buckets: “Uncle, uncle! You want money, is that it? You want--I--I got money, loads of it, a f*cking boatload of cash in the safe in my office. That's what you want, right?”

Dante drops his threat, plays along. “That’s the spirit, you f*ckin' bull. Lead the way.”

 

He lets Bats down, shadows him, finds himself hard pressed to keep his mouth shut. “I gotta say, I expected more outta you. The tales I heard growin’ up, the ire of Baby Bats and his metal sock...”

“I knew you weren’t some two-bit hood. You know whose radar you’s gonna be on now?”

“Hearing folk tales don’t make me any more than a two-bit hood. But I ain’t worried.”

 

Bats fidgets with his office keys as he makes his way there, tries to single the one out, fails and relents to Dante: “It’s the one with the green sticker on it.”

“Bifocals ain’t doing you justice?”

“Not anymore.”

 

Dante finds it and lets the man in - the situation’s taken a bizarre turn, the facade of a brazen robbery turned a pity for a man long ago feared far and wide; remnants of the first play, Dante’s still holding the club as he follows Bats’ mope to the safe in the black marble wall and leans on a centered desk. The room overlooks the parking lot, a couple palms; no strip sights, nothing that can’t be found at the Checkout further on Las Cruces - as they say, God ain’t making more real estate. Bats fiddles, Dante looks over his shoulder - stacks of paper, dollar piles rubber-banded, a pistol; he steps forward and swipes the gun from a Bats growing agitated who’s taken to mumbling to himself, Yiddish and English mixed and matched, fetching the bills and placing them on the desk like a gambler’s cashed his chips.

 

“Ain't money.” The mumbling rises to a heat: “Ain't money.”

“What?”

“Just get it over with, you mamzer. I told you I won't be taken by no gonif. Never! Who sent you - was it Mazursky? After all this time? No - Costigan. Soon so shall it be by you. The veneer has faded.”

“What the f*ck are you talking about?”

 

Bats steps forward ready to throw hands again, instead takes one more and collapses in the desk chair.

 

“I know what you're here for. I want to know who. I won't be taken by no gonif and in lack of a reasonable request.”

Dante's out of his element, unsure whether to reach for bemusement or amusement - settles for neither. “You're outta your tree. I wanna see the contracts for your feather girls.”

“Huh?”

“The contracts. They in the safe?”

“The contracts? You're here for the contracts? That's what this’s for?”

 

He’s howling now, slaps a palm down on the desk to get across the hilarity of his little fit. “Yeah, yeah, they’re in the safe,” he squeaks out between roaring whoops.

 

Dante holsters his gun, head shaking, and goes for the goods. Bottom shelf next to a box of Cubans and two fifths of absinthe, a pile of brass fastened papers. You’re in control to take it all or stick to the mandate; the contraband’s worth a pretty penny in the right markets, otherwise the smokes are good for a sunset dinner to watch the Strip scenery at Watcher’s Eye.

 

He flips through, each a second glance until he lands Dee Hofstadter; executive dancer, whatever the f*ck that means, details of the non-compete clause complete with the penalty laid out in green terms.

 

“Poor girls.”

Bats echoes, wiping his tears dry with a handkerchief. “Poor girls, poor girls. We’re putting them through school. Tell that to your ungrateful c*nt.”

“I got what I came for.”

 

That’s it - the money Bats laid out on the table in his moments of clarity’s still there for the taking if the pity factor’s run dry - $2500.

 

“I thought I was done for,” he mumbles to no one in particular.

“This ain’t no Fort Knox, I’ll tell you that.”

“Nobody’s had the gall to rob a casino. Not even in the light of day.” He pauses and gives a second thought: “Lemme guess. It’s Kathy. No, Dee. It is, eh? I knew the shiska was getting ideas. You tell her to enjoy her time in the kitchen.”

“Will do.”

 

Dante gets to walking: Bats takes a tone worthy of his name: “Don’t let me ever see your f*ckin’ face again.” Half way down the hall you hear the laughs start growing again.

 

Leave from where you came in. The protection’s still writhing next to the Benefactor, gives off an extra moan when he sees your return. There’s a payphone on the south wall - head over and make a call. Gravelli’s home phone rings, rings, no answer on the end - Dante makes it to La Penisola instead.

 

It picks up, a voice on the other end: “Yeah?”

“Carlo, hey - Dante. I got something to give Jon, he around?”

“You mean Mr. Gravelli?”

“Yeah, I mean Mr-f*ckin’-Gravelli. How many Jons you know out here?”

“I got three on the moving crew alone. Lotsa Seans too.”

“That’s what happens when you run to the Micks for all the manual labor. He around or not?”

“Yeah, he’s around, you f*ck. Come on down.”

“On my way.”

 

It’s a little walk if you’re feeling it - cutting through an artificial pond between the Swan and The Algiers leads you right into the back entrance. Pre-landscaping; lots of unmarked asphalt and gravel under mismatched Biffs, construction crew giving Dante a nod as he walks by.

 

Inside’s ramping up; workers on scaffoldings a couple feet from the ceiling, on their backs wiring electrical for the chandeliers the Johnny Q. Publics can swing from during their cataclysmic loss tantrums. They’re everywhere - maneuver through the brow sweat Michaelangelos into the same back office in which you first met Dante - Carlo’s behind the executive desk with his sleeves rolled up, in the midst of getting sh*t from Gravelli. The two give a quick glance toward Dante as he walks in the room but Jon finishes his sh*t-shoveling duty before daring acknowledge a job well done, something tied off with a “but don’t let Valentino catch you saying that.”

 

“Who’s Valentino?” Dante makes himself comfortable, sits deep on one of the plush brown armchairs facing the desk.

“You don’t know no Valentino?”, Carlo asks.

 

Dante shakes his head, gives Gravelli a look in the corner to ask if he’s being f*cked with, gets met with stone.

 

“Don’t matter, it’s nothing. Settle up your business with Jon.”

 

Gravelli approaches the desk seat, tells Carlo to get to stepping without a word and takes the seat. It’s been adjusted to compensate for Carlo’s height - can’t have the big man looking small - bringing the already lanky Jon Gravelli to tower over you. Carlo stands idly by the door - “Go play in traffic,” Gravelli orders.

 

The door closes. “Like a vulture, this guy. Likes it up there by the sun and you know he’ll pick your bones clean. You get it done?”

“Done as dust.” Dante slides the papers across the desk. You can tell he’s trying to hold it in and fails: “Give it to me straight: the f*ck is wrong with Baby Bats?”

“Lots,” Gravelli spits, donning reading glasses and giving the papers a lookover. “Narrow it down.”

“The man I heard about growing up’s gone with the wind. F*ckin’ nutso. Went after me with a golf club and started rambling about Lou Mazursky and veneers and c*nts.”

“C*nts?”

“Don’t get too excited; as in ungrateful.”

 

Gravelli waves it away, drops the glasses satisfied with his lookover, interlocks his fingers on the desk. “I’d think you youngins would have your finger on the pulse of this town.”

“Not when it comes to the old-timers, funny enough.”

“He’s got cancer of the brain or some sh*t. Gone oobatz like his car plates. The Pavanos’re trying to save face by keeping the man up, but it ain’t working out so well. He still breathing?”

“Far as I know. Disgraziad’.”

“Never meet your heroes, kid. Especially when they ain’t long for this world.”

 

Gravelli stands with the paper and heads to the back wall; a cut-out section in the oak paneling juts out and he places the contract in to be shredded.

 

“I had a talk with Carlo.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. His plate’s full and your uncle thinks time spent sitting on your ass at home might be better used solving our problems.”

“Can’t say I disagree. Gets numb after a while anyway.”

“Right.” Gravelli sits back down and cracks knuckles. “Come down here whenever and I’m sure he’ll have something for you. See what it’s like to work with a deadline breathing down your neck.”

“I’ve always found those motivational.”

 

Gravelli looks up at the grandfather clock in the corner, ticking away, and to the window next to it - hardhats hauling in baccarat tables smothered in stretch wrap.

 

“Give it time.”

 

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+ $75.00

 

----------

 

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Pocilga Lodging, apartment 10. It’s familiar ground but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise — down a flight from Doug’s quarters it’s somehow a whole world darker and dingier, peeling forest paint and wood blinds coming off their rails half-covering smudged windows.

 

The chained light bulb fizzles and burns out, the red end of Doug’s cigarette all that can be seen around shade as he knock-knock-knocks. He leans on a cranking radiator in wait, tosses the cig on the floor and eyeballs down the hall at strange sounds coming from 9.

 

The door opens a peep, an eyeball above the chain lock: “Doug? Sh*t. Come in.”

“I would’a made an appointment if I’d known it’d be this f*ckin’ complicated.”

 

Marcus hurries you inside, shuts the door behind, relocks the chain. The place is stuffy visualized; incense and tobacco clouding throws and clothes strewn willy-nilly in a place maybe half as big as your own. Bay windows papered-over; SAN News, protests and paragonism. Doug looks around: count your blessings, as they are.

 

“You’re acting more uptight than a nun in a whorehouse. I come at a bad time?”

Marcus sits at a formica table covered with ashtrays: “They’re all bad.”

 

A good in, but then he continues.

 

“I borrowed some dough. Don’t you get involved.”

 

“Gave that up a while ago. Look, I finally got us a job, Marc.”

 

“No bullsh*t?” He goes still: “Don’t bullsh*t me on this, Doug.”

 

“No bullsh*t.”

 

Marcus hits the table, turns the frown upside down. He lights a cigarette in his fervor, speaks through his lips.

 

“F*ckin’ A—knew you’d come through eventually. When do we start? Where?”

“ASAP. It’s a deterrent gig, you know. Nothing heavy, just gotta look tough. That kinda thing.”

“For who?”

 

Doug hesitates. “Marquez et al.”

 

Marcus does the same, two beats too long. “F*ck that.”

“You don’t got the luxury of being fussy, amigo.”

“F*ck yes I do, unless I wanna wash up in the Gullet with no fingers. That’s not how I get my rocks off, but you do you. I’ll take my chances.”

 

Doug knew it was coming, didn’t prep. “That...hasn’t even been established. Look, it’s not Winky himself per se, it’s the Triads. Y’know, on his behalf. F*ck, you don’t need to know the ins n’ outs, just stand still and look like a hard-hitter.”

 

The two have a stare; ritualistic, as old as the friendship.

 

“You stopped being able to bullsh*t me back in the Corps, Douglas.”

“I’ve never been a great pitch. I know you know I owe you.”

 

Marc smiles all teeth: “You do. Shall we go?”

 

The rhetorical answer speaks for itself; back out and go down the steps as Marcus follows you. The car’s been idling streetside — a hobo gawking through the window for goodies takes off with a shopping cart in tow as you approach. You’re headed to the docks, San Fierro this time — the unnamed tract between the official port and the bayou of the Flatlands. It’s a short drive peppered with late—day street corner panhandlers seeking small change or spare dust, whichever comes first.

 

Marcus tunes the dial to WCTR - union brat John Tamburlaine, AKA Union Jack, quacking back against the growl of Harbormaster Andy Bialek; back-and-forth aplenty about the very destination you’re headed to, filling the silence:

 

“- stark changes in worker’s rights. Instead, we’ve seen decreases in every little component and piece of the docklands: 12% down on imports and 5% in employment count, 32% decrease in average lunchbreak time, 19% decrease in injuries…”

 

“Alright, who’d you borrow from?”

“Jesus, I almost thought you’d let it slide. Is it really so much to ask that you butt the f*ck out?”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Too bad. You ain’t my priest.”

 

Someone sputters as you trudgeon through the financial district, through 5 PM traffic luckily absent a gridlock; the Hasselhoff Monolith’s construction site finally broken ground, cement trucks to spare.

 

“But you’re still gonna confess. I’m vouching for your talent here and it really ain’t gonna help our prospects if you start waxing liable in the near future.”

“Ouch.”

“If this deal works out you should be able to cough up the vig at least. Get ‘em off your back, whoever they are. Come on.”

“I went to the payday loans on Vannatter, alright? F*ckin’ Ruskies up to the rafters. By the time I found one that could speak the local tongue I’d talked myself into 20% tacked onto the principal.”

Doug whistles: “20%? Maybe I spoke too soon.”

“I’ll tell you right now, I ain’t doing this unless it’s worthwhile.”

“No, you’re doing it unless you wanna get kneecapped — don’t kid yourself.”

 

The exchange is bookended by Tamburlaine overprounouncing: “ ...and facts don’t care about your feelings. This is the 20th century, and your techniques and your management processes are stuck in the 18th.”

 

Crossing the gate into Port Authority, there’s no resistance — PA on strike, union issues, political issues, something about a reduction or renaming or reorganizing, thanks given to the very same hardass union brat John Tamburlaine on the radio, AKA Union Jack — outstepping his Las Venturas roots in Local 369, sticking his nose into the ports across the river.

 

Marcus asks where you’re headed — “the waterfront”. Nothing further — scope the place out. You might have to start riding headlights; the orange sky’s tasting a burnt flame as the city’s famous fog sets over the bay. Pull around warehouses, some barren from floods — the Quest Sound retaining wall having split half a year past, high tides spilling onto concrete, companies splitsville; traded for higher elevation.

 

Get to the payphone.

 

After a short time Doug’s patience will run out; nobody’s around, the legit workers are sitting in standstill on the 416, the nightcrawlers are held back yet by the orange tinge. Doug kills the engine as the radio makes a cut after Bialek loses it and calls his adversary a “sniveling little f*cking rat.”

 

Make for a payphone nearby, get out and let Doug dial.

 

“It’s me — yeah, it’s me. Listen, your guy ain’t showed.” He snaps a couple times to dissuade Marcus from fiddling through the glovebox. “I don’t like it. You told me this wasn’t gonna happen or I wouldn’t’ve stuck my neck out.”

Calvin on the other end, unmoved through static: “Relax, take a breather, have a smoke. This guy is A—1 on a scale you haven’t even tipped. If he wasn’t going to show, he would have let me know.”

“He’s not f*cking here. You said the waterfront — another step and I’m practicing my backstroke.”

“He’ll show. Red Blade — wait it out.”

 

Click — Doug hangs it up and kicks the pole. He heads to the concrete edge, looks down into the watery abyss and lights a cigarette. Before long Marcus’s next to him, bumming one for himself and trying to look thoughtful.

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard down the grapevine that Marquez was the Tongs’ new connect.”

“Yeah. So?”

“So, you said this was on his behalf.”

“Out with it, bucko.”

 

Marcus takes a long drag and looks around; the place is too quiet — just buoy bells and waves hitting the retaining wall. “Just ‘cause it’s my first day on the job doesn’t make me a schmuck. Word travels fast in our little complex, Doug. Winky Marquez is a two—timing bum — the Wing Wangs don’t trust him further than they can throw him. They’d take him out just as soon as they put him in.”

 

Doug hits back: “That’s a very insightful take from a man busy running scared from the Ruskies.”

 

“I hold all my Bolshevik bands in equal regard — conniving. So, am I right or am I right? We’re here over Winky’s head. Maybe in exchange for Winky’s head?"

 

Nobody’s right, nobody’s talking — Marc cuts in on the answer when he catches eyes between warehouses, a tone reserved for situations that befit it: “Is that our guy?”

 

A Red Blade indeed — shadowed by a trio of red-and-blues waving their colors into the sky.

 

“I’d put money on it.”

 

The two stand idly, bemusedly; Marcus cusps his holster in anticipation as the fracas comes racing down the concrete, sirens wailing — and the chase shoots right past, hair flailing in the slipstream, further into the docks.

 

Whatever he was expecting, Doug springs: “That’s our payday on the run! Get in!”

 

Jump back into the driver’s seat and try to catch up.

 

Your ride tops out at about 120 HP, sad to say — you might be driving the same model as SFPD standard issue but it’s clear as day they’ve been tuned sky high — so keep deft at the wheel as the police poach your payday through the docks.

 

Try to stay close around tight corners and wailing sirens as the pair try to form a plan, hoping the heat hasn’t called for backup. “Doug, you’ll lose the front half of this piece of sh*t if you try to take out their fender” — plan one’s out. They come to a compromise — level your car’s right side with the copper’s left and Marcus will “christen this new gat with the pigs’ tires”.

 

Your timing needs to be spot—on, as do your alignment skills — there are long stretches of straight concrete running parallel to warehouses, but an equal amount of hard turns in the dead—end district.

 

After the first shots are fired you know backup’s coming in fast, but not too fast; if you’ve a steady hand Marcus will make quick work of the other two cruisers — a crash into bricks, barriers, boxes — before they can return fire. If not, you’ll face down a few more — two or three until you figure out what you’re doing. Feel compelled because once bullets start flying the coppers get more aggressive, if not against you; they’re after the Blade’s precious cargo. As they ram your payday the trunk will open and bricks will fly — and the payday’s lost for everyone.

 

When one car remains someone makes a crucial miscalculation — a concrete barrier between them and a 20 foot drop into the bay. The Blade drifts 90 degrees to a broadside stop, the cop hitting breaks, you hitting them harder — two beat cops jump out, too far from their element; the driver aiming at the Blade and the passenger looking her sights down at you.

 

A waterside standoff.

 

The cops try authority phrases — “Hands up! Now!”, spread between you and the escapee. You and Marc have your doors for cover — he’s already drawn his piece, you’re left with little choice but to follow suit over the driver’s door.

 

The female cop calls for advice from her partner; he snaps back “Keep on ‘em!”. Taking advantage of the impasse, the Blade’s driver crawls out the passenger side — the car’s whole body giving him leeway. But rather than run, he opts for dialogue, plops a sawed—off down on the roof and talks turkey:

 

“This is all a big misunderstanding. Get back in your cruiser and hit the dirt and we’ll all forget about this.”

 

The cops have less leeway, continue their marching orders: “Put your f*cking hands up!”

 

Doug looks for an angle, Marcus pipes up: “Someone better come up with an out here or I’ll gladly shoot every Goddamn one of you!”

 

“Shut the f*ck up, Marcus!”

 

He’s too slow on the draw; Blade continues, points down the next alley easy peasy: “Run. There, just down there. Run.”

 

The demand doesn’t ring; they don’t budge. Doug starts off: “Alright, look —”

 

Buckshot—everywhere. Gameplay segues in as you and Marcus dive for cover behind your doors, paint chips flying and shell casings hitting pavement. It might seem time to pick some shots off but its not; cutscene’s back, people yelling, a sawn—off cracking on the ground, someone making a run for it.

 

Nobody says a word before you’re on the run too—a quick look at the coppers: the guy prone and pooling red; girlie writing in pain but alive, reaching for her revolver a short step away. Looking back, Marcus walks up and kicks it, wags a cool finger like he’s no worse for wear.

 

Before things can settle down, a cruiser pulls up—then another, and with them another contingent of contentious cops whose barrels you’re looking down before they can even step out. Blade pumps the forend, blasts slugs through windshields and hoods as Doug and Marcus fly prone when the police return fire over screams.

 

Marcus yells “Go!” over bedlam, gestures his pistol toward an idling step van with its ass halfway in a loading dock.

“What?!”

“Get in the f*cking truck, Doug!”

“We go together!”

 

Time your sprint just right to avoid flying bullets—sideways blindfire to encourage a ceasefire on the blue boys’ end and it’s a go.

 

You make it, so does Marcus—holed up on the other end of the step van you see Blade dive and disappear.

 

“We can’t move with these assholes shooting at us, Doug!”

 

Lean out of cover and make your shots count; a pop-up encourages you to shoot legs, arms, when it comes to public servants—a swift kneecapping or disarming brings about a lot less attention than an outright cop killer. Dispatch as many as you can with Marc’s help; when enough are down he starts pulling on the truck’s sliding door and it gives. Inside, you come face-to-face with your new found ally Blade - you’ve got the same plan and the other side door’s given for him too, but that doesn’t stop guns from being drawn at faces.

 

Doug, backed by Marcus: “You made this pop off—find your own truck, asshole.”

“Now ain’t the time to split hairs, baby.”

 

He’s familiar.

 

Bennie jumps into the driver’s seat and tells you to hold on as the remaining cops surround the van—slam the door shut as instructed and he guns it in reverse, scraping the top of the van across the garage and into the warehouse as workers yell and scatter out of the way. Out the other side he guns it again—this time with tight turns around barrels and shipping containers as everyone’s too tense to speak. He comes to a stop in a tight alleyway behind another warehouse; Marc jumps out first, clearly pissed, takes a little stroll down the way and lights up.

 

Bennie steps out, beaming. “I’ll take my word of thanks.”

 

Doug gives it in the form of a right hook to the jaw—Bennie topples.

 

He’s flat, Doug’s got a gun on him. Bennie whines.

 

Cupping his nose and speaking between his fingers: “Goddamn! Uncle, alright? Uncle!”

“Give me a reason why I shouldn’t pop your f*ckin’ skull open, asshole.”

“Well, your boss wouldn’t very much like it for one, fella.”

“Yeah? You think he likes to find cop corpses on his bill?”

“Lemme up.”

 

He reaches out for a hand—Doug hesitates, contemplates more blunt force trauma; settles on holstering his piece and helping red man rise to his feet.

 

“Sh*t. I ain’t had the blood pumping like that since track.”

“Answer the question.”

“It couldn’t be helped. What, d’you and your buddy wanna take a rap for pig poaching? You should be thanking me, baby.”

 

Doug steps back, looks down the narrow alley they came from to see if Marcus is around—nay but fog.

 

“Listen.” Bennie scoffs. “Listen to me. I don’t know much about Calvin Leung, but I do know he’s got a stick of epic proportions up his ass. And now all I have to answer for this deal is cops with holes in ‘em and a car I’m gonna have to go liberate from impound. So yeah, you want thanks, you got it. Thank you for making my life just a bit more complicated.”

“Aw, sh*t,”—there was a reminder somewhere in there. “Goddamnit, I just bought the damn thing. $3200 in the hole to ditch in a deal gone bad.” Bennie laughs. “That shine was custom.”

“I wish I could commiserate but my only problem’s with the 15-odd kilos in the back.”

 

Sirens start wailing in the distance. Doug and Bennie peek around the corner—Marcus hightailing it himself, springing along the water wall’s edge back to Port Authority, .45 in hand.

 

“Your friend can run.”

“He ran track too.”

“Look, man— I need that car. I got a little something inside too that really don’t need to get into the pigs’ hands. Throw me a bone here.”

“Who am I, Recovery Ray? You f*cked this deal, my man. I don’t know if the Tongs won’t gut you and toss you into the Bay after this.”

“Hundred bucks, come on. A little markdown for busting my nose up but I’ll do you one good, baby. The name’s Bennie B. and it comes with a rep.”

“Never heard of you. And I got bigger things on my plate now by your grace.”

 

Doug starts to walk in the direction Marcus ran; Bennie calls: “$250 and whatever else’s in the car’s yours. Just get me my stuff.”

Doug doesn’t look back: “Good luck, baby.”

 

The cops are out for blood—follow Marcus’s lead in sneaking out the docks, avoiding the perimeter being set up, and blend back into the curious crowds forming on the outside. Images come to mind: a distinctive muscle car impounded in the company of the family sedan and 15 kilograms of heroin.

 

A sigh full of “Sh*t.”

 

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No reward.

 

Post-mission phone call(s)

1st - Calvin Leung (mandatory)

Calvin: This is Leung.

Doug: Wasn’t my fault.

Calvin: Oh, you. I solemnly hope you haven’t f*cked us over so soon.

Doug: Believe it or not I’m angry too - I’m short a couple hundred rounds of ammo and my wife has no car.

Calvin: I don’t want to hear your sorrows, I have enough. I trust you plan to return our wares to its rightful owner, one way or another?

Doug: Trust you may.

Calvin: Good. You can bring it to Oscar’s apartment when you’ve delivered. He lives on McAllister Street.

Doug: Sure. But first tell me the deal with your contact—Bennie? Real eccentric you picked. Hope you realize it kicked off thanks to him.

Calvin: We’ve assessed the situation as we see it. You need not worry about him, just recover our product. I’ll be in touch with you, Mr. Pryor.

 

2nd - Marcus Vogel (optional)
Marcus: If you call here again I’m gonna find your ass and kick it six ways to Sunday.

Doug: No Ruskies here, just calling to see if you’re alive. Practicing your disappearing act?

Marcus: Doug - yeah. Think I made the right choice, you listen to the news?

Doug: Not the worst kickoff we’ve had.

Marcus: Ha, remember Papa Lupe’s chop-shop? That was a sh*tshow.

Doug: I’ll never be able to look at motor oil the same way again.

Marcus: The not-so good ol’ days. Fair to say I’m not welcome back next time?

Doug: F*ck that, I’ll try to square it with the Tongs. They’ve taken to me.

Marcus: We getting paid?

Doug: Collect on delivery, so it sounds like I’m gonna be making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the impound lot in the Coastlands. Wish me luck.

Marcus: Sh*t, you’ll need a damn sight more than that.

Doug: Hmph.

 

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Special guest spot by slimeball supreme

 

----

 

You’ll be cruising down West Greenwich when you spot him, nestled up in Saratoga Hill on a park bench, whittling away into a notepad, muttering to himself with the backdrop of the Painted Ladies right behind him. Take a moment to check your surroundings, strollers clashing with hippie types staring into the clouds, skyscrapers poking out in the distance. You get in proximity: by approaching or even just walking by absentmindedly, he’ll snap out his trance, look toward, and wave you over.

 

Mon ami, my friend!”

 

Doug stops. A scrunch of the brow, “Uh…”

 

“Yes, you! Come on, sit down.” He pats the empty seat, “I don't bite!”

 

Unsure, Doug pauses. Looks to his left, his right, then shrugs.

 

“Okay. Sure.”

 

What’s the harm? Take a seat, hold a moment as the camera swoons to keep the Victorians in view and the man, rubbing his nose, center stage.

 

He puts an arm back. “Ah. This town… it’s a modern day Florence, eh? Paris of the Pacific!”

 

“I mean, sure. Try to imagine Paris being a little more… grand.”

 

“I take it you haven't been?”

 

Doug doesn't reply. His look says it all.

 

“What's your name, mon gars?

 

“Uh… Doug.”

 

“Doug! Doug. I like that. Doug. I’m Stephane. Stephane Le Roi.”

 

“You French?”

 

“Québécois, good man. Montreal, eh. Not the best town to get the mind going. But this?” He gestures out, book on his lap, to the park in front of him. “Inspiration centrale. I'm a writer, you see.”

 

You get a look into the journal for a moment. Garbled chicken-scratch, barely legible. He slams it shut. “Nice. I guess.”

 

“You look like you can handle yourself, friend.”

 

“Sure. I was, uh… I was military. Marines.”

 

Stephane gets up, brushes himself off. “How about you and me, we take my car, you can tell me all about it. Might give you a little cameo in my book.”

 

Doug’s face is blank.

 

“...and a few bucks for your trouble. I need to get somewhere. Down Sollozzo, crosstown. Near Little Hanoi.”

 

Doug shrugs. “Fine.”

 

Do the same, dust yourself off, exit the park. Across the road, through the square’s dusty gravel and cut grass, lies Le Roi’s steed - a Pfister Rebelle. Pristine. Doug'll wolf whistle, “Nice whip, padre.” He laughs, “Y’gave me the whole, ah, starving artist vibe there.”

 

“Partly am now, heh. Mon bébé, she’s about all my royalties. But I'll double it this go, believe you me.”

 

So far, you likely haven't driven the most luxurious of vehicles, so admire the red leather bucket seats and the cigarette lighters while you can. You're eastward bound - trading prime real estate for tenant-free townhouses. Le Roi, ever giddy, starts the conversation.

 

“You got any war stories?”

 

“Everyone’s got stories.”

 

“I mean some real stuff. Rough and rugged terrain, crawling through the muck on your bedaine, knife in your gritted teeth kinda’ stuff, you get me?”

 

“And this is going in your book?”

 

“Something like it. It's called Hashville Horizon. Or, think I will, I don't know. Contemporary crime novel, cusp of the 70’s, three wiseguys in a city called Hashville.”

 

“Why Asheville?”

 

“No, no -- Hashville. You know... hash.” He does a little ‘puff puff’ with his fingers.

 

Doug, bewildered, just nods. “Uh… I don't think there are any cities called ‘Hashville’ though.”

 

“Hashville is kind of, like, based on San Fierro. I'm renaming all the landmarks, a bunch of brands, all kind of stuff.”

 

“...why?”

 

“Going for satire. We live in trying times, good man. Communism, hippies, the war, all kinds of things. Puttin’ a man on the moon. Crisse, they'll be writing about us come a couple decades, I promise you that much.”

 

“So it’s a satirical crime novel about… communism?”

 

“Oh, no. Not just that. It’ll be about, kind of like, everything. It'll be the next great American novel.”

 

“Written by a Canadian.”

 

Exactement!

 

You slow on Sollozzo, block or two away from Doug’s own pad, parallel a couple storefronts. Two tough looking Suppleham scumbags milling around in the alleyway.

 

“This your spot?”

 

“Yessir. Well. Not quite. Just wait here a second, I'll be back a moment, don't you worry.”

 

Let him go, he waddles off, starts conversing with the tough guys. Asks for blow.

 

Of course.

 

La Roi pulls a wad out a plump pocket, slicker of the two dealers pulls a baggie full of white to match. You can just make out the thank you's when crack - Stephane tumbles to the ground.

 

One has a bat. The other’s rifling his jacket pockets. Hop out the car, rush on over, though Chucky won't be pleased:

 

“Để lại bây giờ, người đàn ông nhỏ bé.”
F*ck off, little man.

 

“Để thằng ngốc một mình,” Doug snaps back.
Leave the fool alone.

 

Charlie with the baseball bat can't help but laugh. “Quỷ có một nền giáo dục, eh? Tiệc tùng nào!”
Devil has an education, eh? Let’s party!

 

It's a two-on-one, so stay nimble: bat means slow swings but counter too sloppy and fists’ll be on you fierce. Tackles mean the same outcome, fists behind you while bat boy pummels you in the stomach. You can ease the fight by pulling a weapon yourself, skip it entirely by pulling a piece and the hoodlums’ll scatter quick.

 

La Roi’s knees are shaky, help him up: “You speak Vietnamese?” he’ll stutter.

 

Doug’ll shrug, through bruises or otherwise. “Picked up a bit in the corps. One of the few. It helped.”

 

“T- thank you.” In an instant he perks up a bit, spots the wad of cash dropped by either frantic or sprawled goons. “You can have this,” he says. “I already got my tricks. You get the treat.”

 

“You said you were gonna pay me anyway.”

 

“Did I? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Sure. Thanks, Doug. Hey, I'm not feeling so good. On account of the, err,” he stops, feels his back. “Yeah. You mind taking me to my place? I'll throw in an extra few bucks.”

 

The player has a choice: accept, decline. Saying no leaves you here, wish-you-well’s and La Roi'll hobble off back to his ride. But who can pass up driving that baby again? Throw up a thumb and help him back, hop on in and drive. You're westward bound again, La Roi’s spot is up East Greenwich. Doug opens this time.

 

“You still want that war story?”

 

Through scars, La Roi’ll perk. “Certainly.”

 

“Okay. You wanted some good sh*t, right?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Okay. Well…” Angle the camera right and you’ll get a good glance in the car, La Roi pulling out his journal again and readying a pencil. “We were up the gulf. The Tonkin.”

 

“So naval combat?”

 

“I mean, sure, I don't know. It's hard sailing, squad’s on a PCF tryna’ keep it low key. Sea isn't choppy or anything but there's always that worry guys’ll spot you. Boats moving to Da Nang, y’know, it ain't abnormal, but if you land wrong you got the dinks on you heavy.”

 

“So you're sneaking up the gulf?”

 

“I wouldn't say sneaking. Just, being careful. I remember, it's funny. There was this fella named Dutch, y’see we called him that because he reminded us of, y’know. Dutch London. Real cowboy, scowly, had these lines on his forehead. Guy‘d get pissed if you called him that to his face.”

 

“What was his real name?”

 

“Funny enough, it was Cal. Like the guy from Bullwhip Fury. Like it all pointed to him, but he hated the name, said it's because Dutch never served and all that. And he was a Freemason. He didn't like that, either.”

 

Dutch London was a Freemason?”

 

“I don't know if half the sh*t that came out his mouth were true, so take it with a grain of salt. But apparently, yeah.”

 

Beat. “Huh.”

 

“This loony motherf*cker, the boats slowing down and going the long route, up a river with these twisting inlets and all that. He dunks his hand in the water. We’re going pretty fast upstream so water’s lickin’ us all, he tells us it's warm.”

 

“So what?”

 

“So the guy rips off his shirt, throws his boots, jumps on in. Nothing else, no warning other than ‘water’s warm’.” Doug chuckles, “He's from Delisle so I'm half thinking he can't even swim. Babić is shouting, like, ‘Brother what the f*ck are you doing?’ and--”

 

“Babić?”

 

“He's driving the boat. But Dutch, he just, he doesn't say sh*t back. He's just in the water like it's nothing. So of course we gotta turn the boat around, try pick him up, Babić is going nuts. Yelling his head off at Dutch, Dutch just says we got time to kill.”

 

“So?”

 

Doug cracks up, “So we said f*ck it. All jumped in.”

 

“So you just… you went for a swim?”

 

“The water was warm.”

 

“And nothing else happened?”

 

“That's where it ended. Dutch didn't even get nothin’ for it, Babić ended up goin’ in himself. It was fun.”

 

“No action or anything?”

 

“Buddy, you know how much a hardass Babić was? This was a blue-moon experience, might as well be action. Throw that in your book.”

 

“It's a crime book. I need, y’know--”

 

“You asked, I told. Not everything was doom-and-gloom, partner. Remember that. Saw a lot but I had my lucky breaks.”

 

La Roi just sighs.

 

Roll up to La Roi’s pad on Charge Street, half-stingy apartments, weeds by cement. “This is it.”

 

“This is it?”

 

“This it is. Budget living is a luxury that cannot be overstated.”

 

Doug smirks. “That, I don't know.”

 

He’ll thank you, throw a few more bills in your lap. “On me.”

 

Out the car, he’ll walk the stairs and you can only watch. Don't touch the whip, it's locked and alarmed, but examine. 

 

Won't be the last time you see it.

 

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+ $75.00

 

----------

 

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Hot morning, shimmering air radiating off the tar—hotter coffee offset by lots of milk from the cart under the I-75 viaduct on the Flatlands-Conquest line. Julius buys, tosses the lid down a gutter and sips it as he makes for the chop shop down the block—a wake of Westerns taking the opportunity to fly past and into the lot first. As he approaches they hop off, and from the head position Dirk spots you and waits for your approach with two tattooed shadows looking tough behind him.

 

He steps forward and chuckles: “I did say it was your risk to take, brother.”

“I remember. Ain’t a betting man but I thought I’d take the odds.”

“You don’t seem the type to leave things to chance.”

“Only for work, my man. Only for work.”

 

Dirk doesn’t invite you, doesn’t even gesture, but heads into the shop as his goons follow. It’s Julius’ cue and he does the same—heads into the place in a newfound state, absent odious bruisers, blowtorches or music; bare natural light, dust floating through sunbeams. Just bikers with Schutzstaffel tats, a black man, and the indelible image of teeth in a gutter.

 

Julius stops at the door, watches and waits for directives—Dirk heads into a kitchenette and calls “Don’t be shy” so his goons hold back. Inside, he puts a kettle on the boil and leans on the stove, lights a cigarette with the flame. Doesn’t offer J a thing.

 

“I know, place just ain’t as gay and lively as usual, right? You can thank DOPE for that, had to clear out last night. 2 AM no-knock, f*ckin’ bedlam.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

 

Bet and a beat.

 

“David’s had the title for this shop for four years, y’know. Got it at a foreclosure auction up in Princeton. Good business, we had some good times—I gone through three choppers, Muñoz blew through three guitars out back before they were even gettin’ booked at Eden Hall. We ain’t heard so much as a peep until the last month or so.”

“Mhm, your boy mentioned when we first met up. I think he called ‘em narc probes.”

“Probes? If probes are a nonstop sledgehammer jam-packing the chute he’s right the f*ck on. We got the tip-off and got away warm this time but they’ve got eyes now. We gotta find a new place, they’re staking our homes. It’s happening too goddamn fast.”

“Shame. This place had a charm to it if not much else.”

 

Dirk turns to fiddle with paper filters, grabs a mug from the shelf—Korean scrawl on war-battered copper. He laughs, mumbles something.

 

Julius leans on the wall, scratches his neck. “Look man, is Dave around?”

“He’s got business down in the valley, fallout from the raid. You belong to me.”

“Don’t hold your breath.”

 

He sips it black from his war memorabilia, gets in closer—a return to Schoolyard Tactics 101. J sees it coming and doesn’t budge.

 

“I will. You work for me and do whatever I say. Ground rules. You hear me?”

Julius steps in too. “You got something you wanna say, man?”

“I’m not your man. I don’t believe in coincidences is all.”

“Speak then, get it all out. I don’t work with dudes got that whole pent-up inner turmoil thing going on—doesn’t do no favors to judgement.”

“Don’t worry your little head about my judgement. I never thought twice about calling a spade a spade.”

 

Dirk winks, drains his coffee, grabs Julius’s mostly-empty paper cup and tosses it too on his way out. “You want work, you got it.”

 

You’re Jules, following him back into the mid-morning air with a below-the-breath dig.

 

“Nigga’s playing on borrowed time.”

 

Follow Dirk outside; more sh*t shooting broken up when an army green Bravado Calhoun pulls up spitting fumes. The driver steps out with a twinkle in his eye; a middle-aged, bowl-cutted, turtlenecked individual with energy to spare, who’s clearly using all his might to hang back and not engage. From the side, Dallas Bloomfield comes around, Iron City Inquirer pawed.

 

He forebodes pissiness: “I don’t control the printing press, Dirk, so don’t get splenetic on me.”

 

Dirk grabs the paper, flips through; Dallas takes the reprieve to greet J with two fingers, cut by angry spiel:

 

“F*ckin’ degenerates, how can you write for this sh*t? Community correspondence on coons and fags. What’s left to go to sh*t when the fourth estate’s down the drain?”

 

The new arrivals cringe, the bikers spread around grin—Julius stays stone-faced and Dirk takes no heed whatsoever. He keeps on.

 

-a nighttime raid on Stanislaw Choppers in the Dutch Flatlands left the department with little in the way of illicit contraband, and even less in their efforts to secure a warrant on serial yardbird Theobald Dunne, who is believed to be an active participant in both The City’s and the national narcotics trade—

 

Dirk crumples and fumes, Julius cracks half a smile: “Theobald?”

 

Back to Dallas: “I should gut you like the gefilte fish you are.”

“Like I said, not my doing. I guarantee you ‘media columnist’ gets treated more like a mad dog with mange than the exaltation you think.”

“The shop’s in Dave’s name, for f*ck’s sake! I’m gonna have more eyes on me than a f*ckin’ tarantula. You can’t get this squashed you can kiss your exclusive gonzo.”

“I’m not sure you understand the concept of news media, dude.”

“Then you should explain it to me before I squash your goddamn head, brother.”

 

Dallas has to think it over, loses analogy: “It’s like jumping off Crimson Way and realizing that dreams are made to die and gravity don’t value your life any more than you do.”

 

“What?”

 

“It’s done, it’s over, you can’t unring the bell or unscramble the egg or close the goddamn barn door after the horse’s bolted. Every suitcase packer from here to the valley read your name along with their third cup ‘a joe this morning—count your blessings it wasn’t the Tribune with their afternoon circuit and buck up like Fairbanks after Dodd Escandeaux.”

 

“The f*ck are you talking about? The Tribune? The Tribune would’ve been a damn sight better considering nobody reads the goddamn newspaper at 3 PM!”

 

The group’s at a standstill as Dirk cools and ponders—his goons having taken to playing bloody knuckles further down the lot, he calls out to them.

 

“Kurt, Gerry, bring some boys to take care of you-know-what. Otto, get Dave on the horn before I get back. Bobo, you’re with me.”

 

He bumps shoulders with Dallas on the way out.

 

“If you really want your scoop to make it to print then you better hope this pans out.”

 

Dallas nods, rolls eyes. He hops back in the Calhoun, his friend whispers:

 

“You weren’t kidding. F*ckin’ goon squad.”

 

Shadow Dirk as he makes it to his baby fenceside—Western National on a mean black chassis, sun-shimmered, flag flying in the breeze.

 

“What, we riding together?”

A cabriolet is still a cage and it’s a beautiful day, Julius. I don’t bite.”

“Gonna need that in writing. Got a helmet?”

 

Dirk just laughs.

Let Dirk mount first and hop on—J opts to hold onto his own seat rather than his newfound employer as he hurls it out of the lot, twists the tail until the chopper starts to roar. Leaving the shop in the dust, Julius yells over revolutions:

 

“Where we goin’ anyway?”

“We are going straight to the Inquirer, my brother. See if I can’t request myself a retraction!”

“Are you f*ckin’ kidding me?”

“Hold on tight, cowboy!”

 

A bout of pissy silence throughout dangerous traffic maneuvers until Dirk roughs it through the downtown border and Julius budges:

 

“Hope you got a plan at least, man! I ain’t gonna pull muscle on any folk ‘til I hear you got game.”

“I got game. Thought you’d have figured that one out when I kicked Gook Number Four’s teeth down the street.”

“That’s what I’m talking about. Dallas said it right, the fat cats at the top of the chain don’t give a damn, it’s over and done.”

“You don’t know me at all, Bobo. I’m very convincing when I wanna be.”

 

Dirk pulls up curbside—Hauptmann Heights, clean bronze animal medallions stretching up the front facade in a final beckoning to some sort of forlorn zoolatry. Julius’s eyes follow up.

 

“This ain’t it.”

“Huh?”

Julius tires of yelling, yanks the keys out and the engine goes idle. “The Inquirer. This ain’t it. You ever read the paper you so hellbound on steamrolling?”

“Not really. Gimme my keys.”

J tosses them. “Maybe you should, man. They moved two, maybe three months back. Unless you lookin’ to sign on some new real estate or grab some animal blocks to add to some collection this ain’t the right place.”

 

Dirk double takes, acts like looking at the building long enough’s going to change who’s inside.

 

“You sure?”
“Sh*t-sure.”

 

J points across the redwoods of Sutter Squareclocktower spire sticking out above stories of brutalist car park.

 

“You really gotta read some more, man.”

“Couldn’t pay me to con that rag. Hop on.”

 

Julius looks through greenery and considers. “Nah, this thing’s less subtle than a woodie in church. Park up behind The Mint and meet me in front, Ima head on through the park.”

“You can’t park at The Mint, Bobo, and they got traffic cops on standby.”

“They’re reopening or some sh*t and you can park on 14th. Read. For me?”

 

Dirk tut-tutts, gets joined by his engine when he blasts down the ave. Cross commuters into the park and you’re halfway into a cityscaped Arcadia, a minute reprieve from hustle and bustle through tall redwoods, yucca and trimmed hedges on the outskirts—but asphalt paths driving you forward, faced with a row of department stores on each side, the Inquirer Building and Bonaventure Hotel straight ahead. Dogs being walked by, newspaper hawkers, bourgeois lunching under umbrellas; someone walks into Julius’s shoulder—he about-faces and double checks that his pockets are still full. Orient yourself with the yellow-framed stork of the Juank Air billboard atop Bonaventure, burgundy Bourgeoix on ice over the Inquirer; head toward the cello player on the corner of Conquest. A voice on a nearby platform echoes Brecht.

 

At the doors to the Inquirer, Julius waits—too long. He paces, hangs around the corner with an eye on the Mint and finds out why; Dirk in conflict with Traffic Cop on Standby in the back lot. Of course.

 

Help Dirk.

 

At this juncture help comes in few ways—just as you walk up the cop pulls a baton from his waistband and Dirk starts laughing, sparring, manages to keep his mouth shut when he sees Jules. The Mint’s back facade’s under repair, loose bricks abound—your best bet is to pick one up and smack Traffic upside the noggin and he’ll fall flat and bloody; otherwise you’re brawling against a metal rod and drawing a bit too much attention and too many scrapes in the process. A pop-up explains the backup dynamic; that the conflict will stay local as long as you keep radio traffic to a minimum—toolbelt walkie-talkie making a point of it.

 

Man down: “You can’t even park a f*ckin’ bike?”

“I said something the guy took the wrong way. Just a lark, Bobo—happens to the best of us.”

 

You’re prompted to give the cop’s toolbelt a once-over, Julius grabs a keychain: “We’ll put the cat in his booth, lock the motherf*cker.”

“Now you’re talkin’.”

 

Dirk grabs arms, you grab by the ankles—drag him into his little office in the lot’s corner, pray nobody comes around until he’s safe and sound in a fold-up chair under a Pussycat pinup and the door’s locked from the inside out.

 

“I’m fixin’ to tie you to a radiator if you pull something inside. Ain’t here to clean up your messes, that ain’t in the job description.”

“I’d love to see you try. Come on, tough guy, let’s get down to it.”

 

You walk, they talk as you round the corner you came from.

 

“Fixin’. Is that anything like goin’?”

“Would be if you spent any time below the Mason-Dixon.”

Wyoming born and bred, Bobo. I like my mountains and my milk and my straight-American vernacular. You a southie?”

Julius hesitates. “No. Mascouten. And passed through about six others on the drive here.”

“Shoulda’ guessed. You got airs.”

 

You can ignore him alongside Julius—your attention’s drawn inside as you head through the double brass doors: the place is decidedly unceremonious, linoleum and acrylic floor to ceiling with an unbecoming golden chandelier dangling from three stories up. Shirtsleeves workers cross from one double-door to another; a lone secretary centered under the newspaper’s namesake watches—keenly.

 

Julius plays the nonchalant, speaks: “Now what?”

“Dunno. Who we looking for?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“We’re already knee deep—start swimming.”

“Sh*t,” he thinks out loud. “It’s in Hauptmann hands now. There can’t be that many of ‘em in this place.”

 

Front desk bird watching.

 

“Go ask her.”

“What?”

“Go ask the lady where her boss is.”

“I heard you.”

 

Dirk gives him a nudge. Julius budges.

 

He walks up as she stares, darty eyes—he puts palms on the desk and clears his throat.

 

Standoff: “Can I help you, mister?”

“I, uh—I’m here to see Hau—Mister Hauptmann.”

 

The sweat practically drips, but her face suddenly takes on a whole new glow.

 

“Oh! You must be—you’re Lenny Couillard. I’m so sorry! I didn’t—um, I didn’t recognize you. I guess I should have, the papers, you know.” She laughs at something. “I had you penciled in for 1 o’clock but that’s alright, I’m sure Mr. Hauptmann will be glad to accommodate. Have a seat and I’ll be right with you.”

 

Julius—shellshocked—wanders to a few lime green chairs positioned alongside the stairwell wall. We segue back to fluid gameplay as Dirk wanders over in his spirit, sits, crosses legs. Julius cuts in:

 

“Don’t say nothing, man.”

“Who the f*ck is Lenny Couillard?”

“Black man penciled on a white sheet, I suppose.”

“This is gold, brother. I was ready to start cracking skulls.”

“I know—but now you gonna be my PA if you wanna get to the man.”

“This sh*t. Your what?”

“You’re Ichabod, Lenny Couillard’s personal assistant who made this business with the paper. You my shadow. You go where I go.”

“Ichabod.”

“Even hand when your cards say Theobald, man.”

 

Secretary walks up before Dirk can say boo.

 

“Are you together?”

 

Julius stands and puts on half a Winstonish imbroglio, introduces his newfound PA. Secretary lets you know you’ve unlocked elevator privileges. “The boss is ready for you.”

 

Follow the lady—who cuts in to let you know her name is Barbara—as she approaches the lift operator; months into his twenties at eldest. Black. In third person you can see Julius praying, Dirk blank, Barbara placid—enough to say it anyway.

 

“I don’t want to sound out of line, but Mr. Hauptmann was thrilled when he heard we’d received an exclusive with you, Mr. Couillard. He thought you’d be hesitant considering the new ownership but—”

 

The kid looks, crooked. Knowing.

 

“Yeah, uh—yes. Let me just say the Tribune has been more than receptive to Aldridge so it wasn’t a difficult choice.”

 

The ride is awkward and palpable—followed through in silence unless you prompt Julius to utter generalities about the weather with the contextual button. On arrival Operator Kid sighs, speaks with the tone befitting: “Luck, Mr. Couillard.”

 

Exit the elevator and follow Barbara down the hall—bamboo parquet and mouldings tell you it’s nothing if not an important floor, capped at the end by an important door. Someone important-looking crosses paths looking frazzled.

 

Barbara leaves you be, heads back to the elevator all smiles.

 

Jules: “Ima be honest man, I wasn’t expecting to make it this far without throwing punches.”

“Would’ve been fine with me.”

 

Julius actually laughs: “Alright."

 

Doors open: small man behind a big executive desk; coiffed and silver-foxed, dressed to the nines, writing away in a black book, Augustus Hauptmann stands and outstretches a palm.

 

“Mr. Couillard, it’s an honor. Sincere thanks for agreeing to meet with me so promptly, we’ve been under the wire here of late.”

Julius stutters at the prospect of improv: “No problemo.”

 

He sits, invites you to do the same, gestures at Dirk hanging around the door—”And who might this be?”

Cue. Indignant: “Ichabod.”

“He’s my uh—my personal assistant. Gonna be taking some notes.”

“Sure, sure.”

 

You’re gestured to sit—comfy blood leather. As they get to talking, you realize it’s your call when to put an end to it with a pull of the trigger and the speech prompt. Wait too long, Dirk does it for you; but the conversation begins first—and against better judgement Julius begins to play the role.

 

Fingertips touching: “You understand that above all we can’t afford to endorse you.”

“Mr. Aldridge called me an enemy of the community, sir.”

“Yes, and it’s in poor taste, but it’s our mandate to report in an impartial manner. We take no issue with reporting in your favor - the Tribune has all but signed off on Aldridge himself - but endorsing outright we cannot do. You’d think the JOA factors in but...”

 

Hauptmann enters verbosity bordering on tirade—of the bad blood between the two men, their position in the greater place of San Fierro civil rights orgs with Couillard at the helm of the local NAACP. If you let it go on long enough, it breaks when Julius flows:

 

“What a crock a’ sh*t.”

 

Hauptmann acts like you mooned his mother; Dirk reads it as a cue, flies into action with a meaty jolt. He kicks the chair beside you, sweeps the desk - contracts, notebooks, fine china and an elephant statue onto fine mahogany flooring while the patriarch screams. Julius stands in a rush when Dirk grabs the silver fox by the throat, calls at you to “open the f*cking window”.

 

The f*cking window is blocked by an AC unit made to match the drapes - and roaring like a fast approaching end. Fidget with it if you’re feeling dainty but it won’t budge until you kick the thing out of its spot once, twice, send it to a wood splitting crash three stories down as passers-by scream. Julius lifts the window and it slams against the frame; open, big, human-sized. Room for two.

 

Dirk passes Hauptmann off, who calls for help to someone, anyone, and Julius knows what to do - grabs the thick noose of his tie and promises him that he’s gonna “see if that motherf*cker can act as an airbrake.” It’s a balancing act where Hauptmann better hope he can tie a good Windsor, you too - because money going splat won’t do much good for publicity. Keep him dangling at the waist, suspended over a sidewalk newsstand 40 feet down while Dirk barks:

 

Dirk Dunne, you sad sack of slimy sh*t. I don’t know where you get off putting his name in print about that whole drug business, but if I don’t see myself a retraction in the next 24 you’re goin’ for one hell of a fall!”

“W-what are you talking about? I’m not the editor, I don’t sign off on every story about every two bit hood that haunts this city. Give me a break!”

“I don’t give a sh*t, you got nothing tying him to that. Nothing! It’s f*ckin’ slander, and if this news—”

Julius looks over as Hauptmann whimpers: “Libel.”

“What?!”

“Libel. Slander’s about spoken sh*t.”

“Call it whatever the f*ck you want brother, but if this suit wants to see another day he’s gonna be picking his words about me—about Dirk—a damn sight more careful from here on.”

 

The point sinks in—but quickly loses its standing when a big fellow in doorman garb comes rushing through the door, tackles Dirk to the floor. Julius lets Hauptmann have his tie; he runs for his life as Julius gets the lug off Dirk, throws him into built-in cabinetry strong enough that a dozen books come tumbling down. You get the jist through cursing on three parts—keep him away, get to connecting punches, feel free to introduce a book spine to his forehead while Dirk recovers enough to grab a pen; he lunges into the doorman with a “jig motherf*cker”, sinks it into his midsection one-twice-thrice.

 

The man stumbles, leaking blood, looks to Julius, to you: J recoils. “F*ck.”

 

He makes an eleventh-hour decision to go for one last shot at Dirk, only he charges into a fakeout, gets thrown—right to and out the open window.

 

No time to look—J calls Dirk to run, and they run: down the hallway, down the stairs, past oblivious workers and suits alike, back into the lobby where Barbara calls after you. On the street, a crowd surrounds Big Lug—writhing, not quite dead.

 

You’re on a sprint down past the Mint, into the lot Dirk pulled the parking stunt—the traffic cop banging on the locked door, begging, yelling, attracting attention—just in time for the SFPD Cruiser pulling around the corner to spot it all. “It never ends, does it?”

 

It doesn’t, and Dirk welcomes it—of all things throwing you the bike keys as he makes for the cops himself. Hop on, twist and turn until it roars again, let Dirk distract for the better part of ten seconds before the pigs are ordering hands up. Pull up, let him hop on; enough time for the cops to get back in themselves. You may be good on a bike, but Julius ain’t—some trouble with distributing his weight means you better calculate your turns proper, but there’s enough versatility to cut through alleys the cruisers can’t pull off.

 

“The f*ck was that?” Julius yells over the chaos.

“You can ask all you want when these pigs are off our backs, Bobo.”

“You threw the motherf*cker out the window, man.”

“Yeah, he grounded me. What is this, f*ckin’ SSA football?”

“I dunno, man. You think that worked?”

“I think we got what we came for, yeah. If a suit like that can’t be inveigled by some light terrorizing then this country’s going to sh*t faster than I thought. Now get your eyes on the goddamn road—if my baby gets one scratch on her you’ll be up on a pike before the day’s out.”

“I ain’t wearin’ a suit, Theobald.”

 

The chop shop is still sitting pretty with the usual suspects off your back—but an SFPD unmarked lurks under the overpass down the road. When you pull into the lot Dirk hops off, reaches for his wallet and gives them the finger in the same motion.

 

“I smell bacon. You smell that, Bobo?”

 

Silence as Dirk hands him a double dub, then as he pockets it: “Hope it works out.”

 

“Sure. Might have to give the goddamn rag a read after all.”

“Them’s the breaks. Might do you some good.”

“Ha.”

 

Leave Baby—spotless by virtue of your skill—and head off a couple bucks heavier as Dirk gets back inside, yells that Dave better be on the line. Pass by the cops playing suave under the overpass—mustachioed and loose-suited, fat eyes straight ahead.

 

Julius mutters “sowbelly motherf*ckers”.

 

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Post-mission phone call(s)

1st - Winston Cole (optional)

Winston: Winston Cole.

Julius: Brother, my brother.

Winston: Y'know, you can always just...come home. Talk there. Visit me across the Bay sometime.

Julius: Eh, phone calls get me the same amount a' eye contact anyway, hate to tell you but you're not the best conversationalist. Hey, I was thinking about you today. Had myself an appointment at the Inquirer.

Winston: Ah, the jewel of the Hauptmann crown.

Julius: Huh?

Winston: Spokesmen for the capitalists, Jules. Liars and birdcage liners.

Julius: Thought you'd be into the wordy sh*t.

Winston: Not that kind of wordy sh*t. What're you doing at the paper anyway?

Julius: Got confused with some fella, wanted to ask you about him. You know about a, er, a Lenny Couillard?

Winston: Yeah, I heard. Got my disagreements, not the kinda organizing I'm so passionate for these days. Ain't a fan of their talks with King. Disrespectful. But the movement's the movement, help's help. Why's this?

Julius: Ah, just wondering. Might take you up on that offer, cross-bay, been curious lately. We'll chat later.

Winston: Stay safe, brother.

 

---

 

Iron City Inquirer

By Benjamin Dover
Crime

 

---- A vicious attack on this paper's Chairman of the Board Augustus Hauptmann has resulted in a day of unadulterated pandemonium at its headquarters on Conquest Street. A Negro man portraying himself as The City's respected member of the Board of Supervisors and advocate for incrementalist civil rights Lenny Couillard arrived in the early morning and infiltrated the building under a guise of cordiality. He was accompanied by Theobald Dunne, known do-no-gooder described as having the "obdurate heart of a vulgar, witless blackguard" and wanted for questioning by the SFPD under suspicion of narcotics trafficking. The attack, as described by Mr. Hauptmann, consisted of a stream of menacing obscenities at the hands of Mr. Dunne followed by the unidentified Negro man dangling him out of his office's third-story window. Mr. Hauptmann saved himself from a sure defenestration and fought off his attackers until they fled with trepidation. 

 

The motive appears to be Mr. Dunne's insistence on this paper publishing a retraction; Mr. Dunne was named in its morning edition in relation to his continued pursuit by the authorities, a man behind crosshairs that show no sign of waning in the impudence of this new fledged criminality. This paper, championed by sources within the SFPD, stands by its statements issued earlier today.

 

Lenny Couillard, reached for comment, stated that he had no knowledge of the Negro man's role in the attack and "could not condemn in higher words the use of any violence in pursuit of any goal, political or otherwise, but especially political". 

 

The Inquirer will not be intimidated. Mr. Hauptmann will return to work tomorrow in the company of an eight-man security detail provided for by the police department.

Edited by Cebra

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