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Liberty City Limits: A GTA Fan Fiction

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Don’t Blink


Dwayne Forge stood peering through his rain-streaked living room window, looking past the darkened storm clouds to a brighter future hovering on the horizon. He had more options to consider now that The Triangle Club was back in his control. Something that made the rift between himself and his protégé, Playboy X, grow even wider. Niko had warned Dwayne about the threat from Playboy, but Dwayne had no intention to concede his rightful position in this city. He laid the foundation years ago for the empire to which Playboy has claimed ownership. Quietly fading to the back of the line was not an option for Dwayne. Now was the time to rebuild a stronger, more loyal army of soldiers capable of striking the deepest fear in the hearts of his enemies. He would do whatever he had to do to regain what he created, even if it meant taking out Playboy. Dwayne hoped it wouldn’t come to that but he knew he would do just about anything if cornered.


A faint tapping at the apartment door lured Dwayne away from his thoughts and back to his troubled reality. Checking his watch, 7:47AM was too early for anything good to come knocking. He found the Micro Uzi that Niko had given him yesterday and eased down the short hallway to his door. A second series of knocks and Dwayne wiped away small beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead. Dwayne cursed to himself and continued to the door. He checked that the ammunition clip was secured, tightened his chest against the genuine fear surging through his body and called out with a bold voice.


“Who is it?”


“Bobby West.”


Initially the name was not familiar to Dwayne. He filtered through the mountain of names that he had been associated with through the years but came up empty. Spending fifteen years of his life in prison and dealing with the vices of living behind bars took its toll. Sometimes memories faded and slipped away while others stuck to Dwayne like superglue. The memories of how he had grown paranoid of those surrounding him the months leading up to being targeted by the LCPD and then finally arrested never went away. His fame and wealth had grown to near mythical levels which led to an outbreak of jealous haters. He lived the life of a King with all the trappings of a Prince. Dwayne propped himself up with everything that money could buy but all of it was gone in the blink of an eye.


The first few years of his incarceration, Dwayne stayed in contact with the outside world. Giving orders and directing his crew through a system of coded messages. After the realization of imprisonment had settled into his mind, the paranoia soon turned to desperation. Dwayne became despondent and openly spoke of ending his life. Alarmed by this development, prison officials placed Dwayne on suicide watch for most of his incarceration. Unable to keep his crew as one cohesive unit, Dwayne entrusted the leadership of The North Holland Hustlers and his business ventures to his protégé, Playboy X. The two communicate regularly during visitations at the prison. But Playboy soon began to operate independent of his mentor. Time between visits grew longer and longer until visitation day was as empty as Dwayne’s soul.


“Jermaine sent me over,” said Bobby after an awkward moment of silence.


Dwayne unlocked the door and opened it just enough to steal a peak. He recognized his friend immediately. Standing there he looked much the same as he did ten years ago, perhaps slightly more heavy. He laid the Micro Uzi aside and invited Bobby and his companions inside.


“Muchi, it’s been way too long. Sorry about the fire power at the door,” said Dwayne with a hearty, friendly laugh.


“That’s okay, a man’s gotta protect himself,” replied Bobby.


The two embraced as brothers would. Bobby introduced Maxwell and Pete and they all moved down the narrow hallway to the tiny, ill-furnished living room.


“We ran into a little trouble downstairs. Nothing big. Probably some of Clearance’s crew,” said Bobby as he sat on the mashed sofa.


“Yeah, to tell you the truth, I been keepin’ a low profile since Bohan,” said Dwayne.


“Everybody has, but Jermaine sent me over here to let you know personally that Firefly has your back. Anything you need, call us,” said Bobby, stretching his long legs out to be more comfortable. “Playboy is the leader of the Hustlers but he ain’t consolidated us all. He’s lettin’ Clearance operate a little business over in East Holland and he’s got his hands in the real estate business too.”


“Real estate?” Questioned Dwayne.


“Yeah. Word is, he’s real tight with this big time Arab developer. He even got a record label called X Spins. His most popular group is some cats from Northwood, calling themselves The Beat Boyz.”


Dwayne settled back in his chair taking in all the information that Bobby had to offer, opening up the world tremendously for Dwayne. Letting him know how the game had changed and who all the players were, sparked an enthusiastic interest from Dwayne. Even though the fast easy money was still made illegally, there were legitimate options to earn huge sums of money. Dwayne looked around his small apartment allowing himself to dream once again of brighter days. M.O.B. was a force that could stand and deliver whatever Dwayne needed. He was feeling more confident about his earning potential and his ability to regaining his empire, taking his rightful place back at the top. Dwayne’s chest swelled with pride this time instead of fear as he realized that he still had some respect on the street.


Dwayne rubbed an open hand across his face as to wipe away the pride that he was feeling. “Thanks Muchi, that’s real good to hear man. I wasn’t expecting all this.”



Dwayne glanced over at Pete. A fresh-faced young man who sported a tiny Emerald rivet in his left earlobe, sat patiently between two veteran gangsters. He couldn’t have been more than seventeen but Pete presented himself as someone much older. He listened to the discussion between Dwayne and Bobby closely and never interrupted. Qualities that Dwayne knew would make Pete a good soldier.



“You ready to be a part of something great young blood?”


Pete straightened up and answered. “Yes sir.”


“I like that,” replied Dwayne allowing a slight smile to spill onto his face. He tossed a fifty dollar bill on the coffee table. “Hey Maxwell, why don’t you and Pete go get some breakfast across the street. Muchi will meet you downstairs in a little bit.”


Pete stood after Maxwell, stretching out his hand to Dwayne. “Nice to have finally met you sir.”


Dwayne took a firm grip of Pete’s hand. “I think we can get along just fine young blood.”


Maxwell picked up the money and shook Dwayne’s hand, and then he and Pete left the apartment leaving Bobby and Dwayne alone.


* * *

Russell had made it back to his apartment in Schottler, showered and was sitting on the sofa as an episode of The Men’s Room played on the television set. He knew the incident earlier was not meant to kill him but to warn him that he could be killed in an instant anywhere in Liberty City. He leaned forward on the sofa, head bowed low, breathing slowly and heavily. The shower did little to settle his nerves. He felt the weight of the world pressing down on his soul. Ray Boccino will surely come knocking for more and now Dwayne Forge is ready to deal. Russell gazed over at the plain white envelope resting against a glass dish on the coffee table. BOHAN stood out like a beacon. He reached down and picked up the crumpled piece of paper near the envelope.


Russell smoothed the wrinkles out as best he could. Jermaine didn’t have the best handwriting but Russell knew the name was meant to be Dwayne Forge. The numbers were written slightly better but he would have to guess at the last digit of the phone number. It was either a one or a seven. Even turning his head sideways did not help to discern the number. He thought for a moment then placed the paper back on the coffee table. He would contact Dwayne after examining the contents of the envelope.


He picked up the envelope and moved over to the small wooded table near the window. This had become Russell’s favorite spot in the apartment. He pulled back the curtain to get a better look at the street below. It was still raining steadily and there were few people out meandering around the shops on Earp Street. Gawking at weary pedestrians had been his pastime for the past four days in Liberty City.


Russell turned his attention back to the envelope in front of him. He carefully broke the seal, lifted the flap, and removed a single sheet of folded paper. A photo of a slightly attractive woman appeared as he unfolded the paper. He recognized her right away as Elizabeta Torres, the undisputed drug queen of South Bohan. Russell carefully read through the passage beneath her photo. He had barely managed to secure one deal that almost costed him his life. Dwayne Forge has only agreed to talk and now the drug baroness of South Bohan has been tossed on his to-do list. It was almost too much for Russell to tolerate.


Elizabeta Torres, a.k.a. Liz, immigrated to Liberty City from Puerto Rico along with her parents when she was 14 years old. The year was 1991 and crack cocaine raged through the city destroying lives, families, and property as it swept from Broker to Bohan. Elizabeta and her parents found housing in a run-down tenement in South Bohan. Seeing opportunity in the desperation of the drug addicted community, young Liz used her contacts in Puerto Rico to start a lucrative drug dealing operation. Her parents worked long hours at menial jobs to make ends meet leaving Elizabeta alone to fend for herself. The apartment was empty all day and most nights giving Elizabeta the perfect location to operate her drug business. She had learned on the streets of her neighborhood in Puerto Rico how to build quickly and operate efficiently. Her reputation grew immensely and soon she was known throughout Bohan as a feared business woman, capable of swiftly dispatching her enemies at the least whiff of betrayal.


Russell tossed the paper onto the table, bordering on the verge of despair. He raked his fingers through his thick black hair leaving it crisscrossed and standing at odd angles. He pushed away from the table; standing abruptly the chair tumbled backwards and crashed onto the floor. Russell swung his clenched fists, striking at an unseen enemy; his eyes wild with anger. He had not agreed to get this deep inside the criminal world. He was supposed to make deals and bring in the money. Russell snatched his phone from his pocket and quickly dialed a number. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Voicemail opened and Russell clicked off the line. You won’t answer b*tch, I’ll make you answer. Russell repeatedly called his contact without a single pick-up.


He finally laid the phone aside and collapsed back on the sofa. His head ached. His mind swirled with wild outrageous thoughts. He needed to calm down before the whole situation spun out of control. His freedom was on the line and most of all, Jimmy D.’s death had to be avenged. Russell exhaled a long frustrated sigh and drifted to sleep.


Vice City had been Russell’s safe haven for more than a year. The beautiful sun-drenched beaches spilled over with marvelous women ready and willing to throw caution to the wind and take a chance with life. Any other time Russell would have had the time of his life but he was too consumed with guilt and fear. The safety of his beach house provided some relief from the aggravations of reality but not from the inner turmoil that followed him from Liberty City. He was a wanted man on the run trying to hide in plain sight. When the doors were closed and the shades pulled, Russell could hide from a warrant but not from his demons. He was forced to flee his home after a drug deal went horribly wrong, leaving his best friend lying dead down a darkened alley in Schottler. The LCPD had issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the shooting death of James D. Bataglia and for the distribution of a controlled substance. Believing that he had been framed and had caused his friend to be killed, Russell felt he had no other choice but to slip out of town in the middle of the night.


He had spoken to James hours before the deal was set to take place. James had expressed his concern about dealing with the Jamaicans but Russell convinced him that the deal would be the start of something big and most of all the money was too good to pass up. James reluctantly joined Russell at the lot behind the abandoned Burger Shot in Cerveza Heights and the two men drove to the meeting place on Cassidy Street.


The cold damp night air rushed through the open windows of the black Marbelle as Russell cut through the nearly deserted city streets. Neither man spoke. James leaned close to the door, letting the cold air rush past his face, almost making his eyes water. The hypnotic music of Fusion FM oozed from the car speakers as Russell gripped the steering wheel with both hands like it was going to fly away from him. He stared straight ahead as the city raced past. The Marbelle climbed the steep incline leading from the tunnel and stopped. James inhaled deeply, reaching over to turn off the radio. The alleyway was straight ahead. Russell crossed Cassidy Street and pulled into the gravel-covered lot next to some row houses. The headlights revealing three men standing in front of a Huntley Sport, painted the traditional Jamaican colors. Russell dimmed the lights and glanced over at his friend.


“Alright Jimmy D, you ready?”


“Yeah, let’s do this,” said James, struggling to convince himself more than Russell, that he was ready.


“Five minutes man and we’re gonna be laughin’ at Cluckin’ Bell and flirtin’’ with the girls from East Island City I promise you,” replied Russell, attempting to reassure his friend.


Russell reached and grabbed the bag from the back seat and the two men step out into the night, breath frosting from the cold air. Russell moved ahead of James, asserting his confidence. James stayed a few paces behind, making sure that they were not ambushed from the rear. Their eyes traced the fire escapes running along the back side of the row houses for any potential dangers. Russell eyed the three men standing near the Huntley Sport. The tallest one wore a yellow suit and green shoes. He stepped forward, pushing his fedora back away from his face.


“I be Olive Reckord. You be Russell Cobb no?” he asked in a heavy Jamaican accent.


“Yeah, and this is my associate Jimmy D,” replied Russell half turning to acknowledge his friend.


James stepped forward from the shadows and stood next to Russell. The tall Jamaican tilted his head sideways letting his eyes drift to meet James’. A wide curious grin lingered on Olive’s face longer than needed. Russell’s eyes darted from the tall Jamaican to his friend and back again. The two other Jamaicans moved away from their vehicle to be closer to their leader.


“Where’s Samuel?” asked Russell. “I’m supposed to meet with him tonight.”


Olive puffed on a thick cigar then tossed it to the ground. “Don’t worry about Sam, he be okay. You meet with me now. We can talk a little.” Taking the tip of his shinny green shoe, Olive stepped on the end of the cigar to fully extinguish the dying ember.


“Let me see the sh*t.”


“Not so fast Russell. I be Olive Reckord.”


Russell moved forward to assert his authority. “I didn’t come here to chit-chat now let me see the sh*t or the deal is off.”


Olive bellowed a tremendous laugh, throwing his head back in sadistic mockery of Russell’s feeble attempt to assert himself as a strong man. He looked past pretentiousness, allowing his gaze to linger on Jimmy D.


“Jimmy D, we could have had good times my breda,” said Olive. “But not tonight.”


Olive motioned for the inside of his long coat. Realizing the danger that they had stepped into, Russell alerted James to take cover as he dove behind a nearby garbage bin. A thunderous boom from a pump-action shotgun reverberated through the narrow alleyway. The impact of the shell tore open a gaping hole in James’ chest and sent him tumbling backwards to the ground. Russell called out to his friend as bright crimson blood collected around his body. There was nothing he could do to save James. He fired off a few rounds from his pistol to cover himself as he sprinted back to the car. Sirens filled the air as the black Marbelle darted across Cassidy Street and back through the tunnel to Cerveza Heights.


An insistent chime gently roused Russell from his slumber. He blinked, taking a moment to shake the cobwebs free. Another chime enticed Russell to reach for his phone. Feeling the stiffness pull at his back, he longed for the sanctuary of his beach house. A text from Jermaine flashed on the screen. His car would be ready for pick-up in the morning. Russell fell back on the sofa and tapped in Timmy’s number. He needed a friendly voice.


“You got me.”


Russell recognized the heavy snarl of a voice immediately and was glad to hear it.


“Timmy, how you doing man?”


“I can’t complain. The sun is shinin’, the women are beautiful and the Vice City PD ain’t harassin’ me.”


“Wish I could say the same.”


“What’s goin’ on?”


“Well I’m gettin’ in some deep sh*t up here that I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get out of so easy.”


“D*mnit Russi, I told you to just go back to Liberty and face the music. I know you was scared back then, but you didn’t kill Jimmy D.”


“I should’ve listened, because I killed somebody now.”


“They gotta prove it, don’t they?”


Russell didn’t answer. He knew the threat that whizzed past his head early this morning. He had no idea if anyone had seen him plant a 9Mm bullet inside Samuel Barkley’s head as he lie helpless in the shadows of the Broker Bridge in Hove Beach. The fear and despair that he suffered through down in Vice City for many months, had crept back into his life.


“Hey Russi, you still there?”


“Yeah, I’m here,” replied Russell. “I’m just feeling”…


“I know man,” said Timmy consolingly. “Try to get back down here.”


“There ain’t no way I can do that. I’m just gonna ask for more trouble.”


“H*ll Russell, sit tight I might can get up there soon. Try to keep it together.”


“I guess that’s all I can do,” said Russell flatly.


“Alright man. Take care of yourself.”


The line clicked off and Russell placed the phone on the coffee table, starring at the wrinkled piece of paper with Dwayne Forge’s number scribbled across it.



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Lost and Found


Niko turned onto Galveston Avenue, trailing a red and black Hakuchou. The driver stopped at the red light and lowered his foot to the pavement, balancing the weight of the super-fast sports bike. Without provocation, he revved the engine and abruptly sped away, cutting in front of traffic, nearly colliding with the front end of a brown Bobcat. Niko inched forward as he watched the biker fade out of sight. The light turned green and he continued on to his destination.


The day had been frustratingly long for Niko. He had spent most of his time pursuing the leads that Ray offered him early this morning. The nasty rain showers had made it difficult to make any headway in finding Florian Cravic, the man that Niko had been searching for, for so many years. The city lights, rushing past in a blur, glimmered brightly against the night sky. Niko wished he had Carmen at his side, but it would be time for that later. Now, the past thumped inside him like a jack hammer. Florian Cravic could be within reach and Niko dared not let this opportunity slip away. It wasn’t until he reached the stoplight at Lucky Winkles that he eyed the GPS. He was close now. One more block and so many lingering questions could finally be answered. The last time that he saw Florian was at their campsite. The war had dragged on for years and it ended for Niko after the bloody massacre of most of his unit. Niko left Florian and one other survivor standing at their campsite amidst the slain bodies. He ran as fast as his young legs would carry him in search of refuge. Since then, Niko has not stopped running as he sought revenge for the betrayal of his unit.


The light turned green and Niko slowly pulled away. He paid no attention to the horn honking behind him attempting to make him accelerate. Niko signaled and pulled over to the curb across the street from the location. The sidewalk and part of the street in front of the building glowed from the pink neon sign that hung prominently over the entrance. Niko looked a second time at the sign and noticed the not so obvious sexual innuendo of what was going on behind the closed door. Not a place that he thought Florian would frequent, but it was a lead. Niko waited for traffic to clear then he pushed open the car door and headed across the street. A light pink haze wrapped around the seven or eight men wearing tight pants and low-cut shirts. They waited in line moving in rhythm to the muffled music seeping from behind the metal door. Niko eyed a man standing near the door with his arms folded across his chest, looking seriously unhappy.


“Are you Troy?” asked Niko as he approached the front of the line.


“Excuse me honey, but you got to pay to get in front of me,” exclaimed one of the men waiting behind the velvet rope.


Niko half turned. “I’m not talking to you.”


“Well I’m talking to you sweetie. Troy, are you just going to let this happen?”


“Settle down Evan,” interrupted Troy. “It’s obvious the gentleman is not breaking the line.”


“So, you are Troy.” said Niko, turning to face the man.


“I guess I am. What do you need?”


“I was told that I could find someone by the name of Florian Cravic here.”


“OMG, Bernie?” shrieked Evan. He cut short any answer that Troy might have given and preceded to hand Niko more information than he needed. “Yes he comes here but he’s not here tonight. No foam. He met his boyfriend here. Maybe they’re having their own foam party right now.”


Zealous laughter cascaded from the men standing in line. Niko turned away in disbelief. It had been years since he last saw Florian and the realization of just how little he knew about the young soldier fighting beside him suddenly stuck him as bizarre. Many things are taking for granted or assumed to be as one thinks they ought to be. Not once had Florian ever reveal or even hint at his true feelings. Perhaps he had not accepted his feelings as true until he moved to a country that would allow him to be truly free. None of that mattered now and in many ways, it did not matter then. Betrayal is betrayal, whether it is dealt out harshly or served wrapped up in a pretty bow. Niko was close now. All the years of searching have been squeezed down to one spot in this city; a city so far away from the proving ground of young boys.


Niko turned his attention back to Evan. “If he’s not here tonight, do you know where I can find him?”


“I don’t know. I can hardly keep track of my own boyfriend. But you can try his apartment over in Middle Park West on Ivy Drive. Don’t ask me how I know that.”


“Okay, I won’t ask.”


Niko filed the information away in a small crevice at the back of his mind and walked back to his car. The first promising lead all day gave Niko a much needed jolt of energy. He tapped the address into the GPS and started the engine when his phone chimed. Niko almost ignored the call but thought differently and answered.


“Hey Packie, thanks for interrupting me.”


“Get your head screwed on right boy and meet me at the Sprunk warehouse in South Bohan on Attica Avenue in an hour. The deal is goin’ down tonight.”


Niko went silent, letting his head fall back onto the headrest. Florian was within sight and now he had to do Ray’s bidding. There really was no choice to be made. Niko exhaled sharply through the phone.


“I’ll be there.”


“Alright. Come prepared,” responded Packie. Then the line went dead.


Niko tucked his phone away and checked the mirror before pulling away from the curb.


* * *

Dwayne sat on his mashed sofa surrounded by a mess of loose-leaf paper flung in every direction. He had been at it for hours, constructing his master plan to take back what rightfully belonged to him. Years ago he laid the ground work that made him a very rich man, a well-respected man, and a man that had all the material possessions that anyone would want. However, almost everything was lost during the years that he spent incarcerated and now since his release, Dwayne wanted it all back.


He sat hunched over the final draft of his plan. The information that Bobby West had shared with him earlier proved to be most helpful. Above all, he needed a cash flow which The Triangle Club was providing. He needed territory and he needed a supplier. His crew was in place waiting to get the order. Jermaine and the M.O.B. had filled a huge void that would make Dwayne’s efforts to regain his former status in Liberty City much easier.

He laid the papers aside and eased back on the sofa. His head fell gently on the stained cushion as his eyes drifted closed. For the first time in years, Dwayne allowed himself to dream of better days. The stink of a dirty cheap apartment infested with the stench of dried blood and urine stained walls would be gone; replaced by the luxury of a high-rise residence, possibly even the Penthouse. Champaign for breakfast, brought to Dwayne in bed by not one but two of the most beautiful women in Algonquin. A gold toilet and the finest porcelain shower heads would adorn all four bathrooms. A flat- screen TV would…


An incessant buzz and vibration pulled Dwayne to the real world. He reached deep inside his pants pocket and fished out his phone. He answered before the call went to voicemail.


“Who this?” responded Dwayne, leaning forward to knock the cobwebs from his brain.


“Is this Dwayne Forge?”


“Identify yourself fool,” demanded Dwayne.


“I’m Russ Cobb and I hear you need to fill your inventory.”


Dwayne inhaled sharply, holding his breath like it was his last. He had just been released from prison and was still on edge and not trusting of phone calls that came in the middle of the night. It could be Jermaine’s contact or a set up. He had no way of telling for sure. He wished Jermaine had introduced this guy to him. But he didn’t and he had to trust his instincts.


“How’d you get my number?”


“From Jermaine Andrews last night at the Pay ‘n Spray in Hove Beach. I’m on the up and up man. Just got some product from Vice City that I want to spread around. Jermaine was the one to mention you to me. Not the other way around.”


Dwayne’s chest loosened. The story seemed to fit so he went with his street smarts. “Alright Russ, we’ll meet to talk things over.”




“In my neighborhood. There’s a nice little place on Wardite Street called S&D Diner. They serve the best hash browns in the city. We’ll meet at 6AM.”


“I’ll be there.”


“Good,” said Dwayne. “You park on Wardite and flash your high beams twice exactly at 6AM.”


“I’ll be driving a Blista Compact.”


“Alright. You flash and wait for me. If I feel like this is a setup, you won’t see me,” said Dwayne.


He hung up the phone and quickly dialed a number from memory and waited for an answer. A quiet confident voice answered the line.


“You got Bobby.”


Dwayne stood, pressing the phone to his ear. “Yeah Bobby, I got a meet with this cat that Jermaine knows. I need a few guys at the S&D Diner tomorrow morning.”


“What time?”


“At six, so have the guys in place a couple hours before that. You know what we talked about this morning.”


“As good as done boss.”


“And Bobby, bring young blood along on this one.”


A brief silence fell on the line. “You sure he’s ready?” Bobby cautiously questioned.


“I think this will get him ready if he’s not. Put him in a car. I might need to get out there if things go south. I don’t think it’ll go down like that though. I trust Jermaine.”


“Right. Jermaine is grade A in my book. I’ll get things set.”


“I’ll call you in the morning with any last minute changes.”


Dwayne hung up and laid the phone aside. He shuffled the pile of papers together and tossed them into the garbage. He took one last glance at the final draft of his plan, committing it to memory before ripping it to shreds and throwing it away as well. The garbage shoot was down the hall from his apartment. Dwayne tied a knot in the bag to secure the contents when he heard a knock at his door. He glanced down at his watch. 11:30PM. Dwayne left the garbage bag on the kitchen floor and headed down the hall to the door.


“Who is it?” asked Dwayne as he released the safety on his pistol.


“Elizabeta Torres.”


Dwayne lowered his pistol. The name struck him immediately. Liz Torres, as she was famously referred to back in the early 1990s, burst onto the scene almost immediately after arriving in Liberty City from Puerto Rico. She quickly snuffed out any competition that dared challenge her authority and soon became the undisputed Drug Queen of South Bohan. Her small operation based inside her parent’s apartment grew rapidly and Elizabeta began to enjoy the fruits of her labor. She moved out of her parent’s apartment when she was 17, living in several locations in Bohan before finally settling back in the projects of South Bohan.


Dwayne never crossed paths with the Drug Baroness but her reputation stretched all the way across the river to Northern Algonquin. He admired her tenaciousness and her swift punishment for betrayal. She possessed the strength and respect needed to build an Empire and retain power. Even though Elizabeta has been arrested for assault, possession of a controlled substance, and weapons charges levied against her, she has managed to stay out of prison. She continued to expand into the realms of heroin and weapons as her picture is shown on the evening news as the face of crime that persists throughout the city.


Dwayne removed the chain and deadbolt and pulled the door open. Standing before him was a tall attractive woman. His eyes seductively roamed up her long powerful legs, settling momentarily on her full hips. He continued the journey to her voluptuous breasts spilling from a low-cut blouse. Dwayne felt a tightness pull at his groin as his eyes finally loitered on the most inviting pair of lips that he had ever seen. He almost could not contain the excitement of having this beautiful woman, wrapped up in flawless caramel-colored skin, standing at his door. He stepped aside and invited her into his home. She stepped confidently inside the apartment, smoothing an open hand across her cornrowed hair. Dwayne closed and bolted the door and led the way down the narrow hallway to the living room.


“Before we get started, I just want to let you know that I did not come her for that,” bellowed Elizabeta, gesturing to the obvious bulge in the front of his gray sweat pants.


“You sure about that?” replied Dwayne. “I still got a lot left in the tank.”


“Look, big man,” spat Elizabeta. “The last time a bandito tried to take something from me, I cut off his junk and threw it in the ocean.”


The roar from such a beautiful woman seared in stone, his respect and admiration for her even more. Dwayne laid the pistol on the coffee table and collapsed on the mashed plaid chair. Elizabeta eyed him closely as she sat comfortably on the far end of the sofa. Knowing that he had no chance of even a quick encounter with Liz, Dwayne slyly laid his left hand over the firmness still rising beneath his pants and found comfort of his own.


“It’s all over South Bohan that you were the one to make a big move the other night. Is it true?”


“Why you wanna know?” asked Dwayne.


“I just want to know how far you gonna take this. Daddy’s home and he wants the b*tches to stop playing with his toys.”


Dwayne chuckled. “Playboy is a b*tch and yes, daddy is home and I want my f*ckin’ toys back.”


Elizabeta leaned forward, digging her elbows deep into her thighs. “You making moves playa and I don’t want no conflict is all.”


Dwayne cleared the rasp from his throat, relieved that the heaviness between his legs was just about gone. “Northern Algonquin has always been my proving ground but I can’t promise that I won’t expand if the opportunity came up.”


“Sounds like you already got the opportunity to me playa.”


“I’m trying to get my sh*t back from Playboy. I ain’t got the time to be interfering with you, Liz.”


“Them f*ckin’ Spanish Lords interfering. They got something big going down tonight,” said Liz, pulling her phone to check for messages. “They gonna meet over at the Sprunk warehouse. Talking about the sh*t is outta Vice City and that it’s better than anything here in Liberty.”


Dwayne stretched his legs out, rubbing at the course hair on his face. It seemed like Jermaine’s friend is making the rounds through the city. Even though he had not met Russell Cobb, this deal with the Spanish Lords has legitimized their conversation. He felt more confident about tomorrow.


“I definitely ain’t got sh*t to do with them.”


“What do you mean playa? You just took out the Trunchez. You betta watch your back.”


“You mean, Playboy betta watch his.”


Amused by the trickery in that comment, Liz knew she had to maneuver the playing field very carefully. She had gotten this far and wasn’t about to let petty squabbling between the pretend relationship of father and son invade her Empire. South Bohan was under her control and that’s how it was going to stay even if it meant severing ties with Playboy X.


“I don’t need no troubles playa. I’ll respect your territory if you respect mine,” said Liz as she stood, coyly eyeing Dwayne. “If you ever get your hands on that miracle from Vice City, come find me. I know you have a lot to offer. I’ll find my way out.”


Elizabeta turned slowly to leave the dimly lit living room, making sure Dwayne had a chance to enjoy all that she had to offer. She stepped confidently past him, rubbing an open hand playfully across his bald head. Dwayne gripped the arms of the chair and held on like his life depended on it. He dared not reach out to touch Liz; her vivid warning still fresh in his mind. He let his eyes wander over her perfectly shaped body as she continued down the narrow hallway to leave the apartment.


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Partners in Crime


The sun pushed higher above the horizon, casting long angled shadows across the streets of Northwood. Russell circled the block several times, inching along behind early morning commuters before finally pulling over near the subway entrance on Wardite Street. Jermaine had worked his magic in record time on the repair job of his car which now drove much better than before it was nearly demolished in Alderney a couple nights ago. Russell cut the engine and flipped the sun visor down to help conceal his identity. The S&D Diner was clearly visible from his vantage point and the smell of sausage and fresh coffee drifted through the air like a blow torch making his stomach burn for a forkful of the salty meat. He glanced down at his watch. It read 5:28AM. He noticed several men standing on both sides of the street near the diner. He lowered a hand to the duffle bag in the passenger seat to settle the swell of nerves that had suddenly cropped up in his stomach. The men seemed to be keenly aware of their surroundings. A tall, bulky, broad-shouldered man stood closest to the diner, puffing on a cigarette and throwing up hand signals to the others. None of them resembled Jermaine’s description of Dwayne Forge. Russell had no way of knowing the reason they were there. But memories of the ambush in Berchem played over in his mind making him wondered if he had stumbled into another bad situation.


A police cruiser glided past Russell’s parked car and stopped down at the corner. A slim clean-shaven officer stepped out from the passenger side, skirted around the front of the car and entered the diner. Russell stole another look at his watch, 5:34AM. He kept his eyes glued to the front door, waiting for the officer to return. Minutes inched by and still the officer remained inside the tiny soul-food restaurant. Russell shifted his weight slightly to relieve the stress on his shoulder. Finally the officer appeared holding a white paper bag and two cups of a covered drink, one perched on top the other. He carefully made his way to the passenger side, pulled the door open, handing his partner the bag before he scooted inside. Russell watched as the cruiser pulled away from the curb and disappeared around the next corner.


Dwayne sat alone inside a tiny apartment with the shades pulled to block any prying eyes. He tapped the top of a boxy television set with an open hand to bring the distorted picture back into focus so that he could see the opening credits to I’m Rich play across the screen. The volume was muted as Dwayne only wanted to hear the thoughts bouncing around in his mind. He was on the verge of reentering a way of life that had the odds of winning stacked against him. What he didn’t want was to pull another fifteen year prison sentence or worse, end up dead down a back alley somewhere. He needed this transaction to go quickly and smoothly.


He eyed the gym bag on the coffee table and leaned forward to drag it closer. Inside was enough cash to purchase two, maybe three kilos of un-cut cocaine from a contact that Jermaine Andrews had given him a few days ago. Dwayne unzipped the bag and rifled through a layer of shorts, shirts and shoes to finally reach the bottom of the bag where the money had been safely stashed. He pulled out the wads of neatly stacked notes, gripping them tightly in his hands. A second chance at greatness was just minutes away from being realized. A chance to get it all back; the money, the respect, and the power would mean he was worthy of this life and deserving of everything it had to offer. Dwayne placed the cash close to his face, inhaling the distinct smell of money that had been passed from hand to hand carrying the stories of happiness as well as regret along the way. This second chance could very well be his last chance and he wanted no regrets so he pushed all doubt to back of his mind and trusted his instincts. The display on Dwayne’s iFruit phone lit up with the green Sprunk logo and then the phone began vibrating indicating an incoming call. He laid the money aside and plucked the phone from the coffee table, seeing that it was Bobby so he answered.


“What’s up?”


“I think our boy is here,” replied Bobby. “A blue Blista Compact has been parked down by the subway entrance since 5:28.”


Dwayne glanced at his watch. It read 5:50AM. “Yeah, that’s probably him. Keep watchin’. Young blood in place?”


“Yeah he’s over on Vauxite in front of the Copper Bottom as you requested. And the other guys are in place also.”


“Alright, call when you see the signal.”


“Will do boss.”


Dwayne hung up and tucked the phone inside his pants pocket. He pulled on a white t-shirt and slapped on a cap to cover his shiny bald head. Dwayne stuffed the money deep inside the gym bag and zipped it closed. He pulled on a jacket to conceal his trusted 9Mm that was tucked in the waistband of his jeans. I’m Rich was still playing on the television when he left the apartment with the bag hanging from his shoulder.


Traffic in and out of the tiny soul food diner had drastically increased over the last thirty minutes. Russell kept a keen eye on his watch. The time for the signal was nearing. He reached over to the passenger seat and placed a hand on the duffle bag containing five kilos of pure cocaine. A siren hollered off in the distance, sounding more like an ambulance than a friendly Liberty City Police racing to the scene of gang related activity. Northwood was a decent enough neighborhood to look at as you drove through to another destination. High-rise apartment buildings, neatly manicured patches of grass and rows of brownstones meandered through the neighborhood concealing the chaotic life of drug dealing criminals that lived and operated behind triple-bolted doors. Russell was poised to meet one such ex-con.


Russell’s phone chimed two short beeps letting him know that 6 o’clock had arrived. He flashed his high beams twice as directed and waited. A few moments later he saw a tall bald black man emerge from the diner. He sat alert behind the stirring wheel paying close attention to his movements. The man crossed the street with other pedestrians and headed straight towards where Russell was parked. Russell grasped the duffle bag, weighing it down as to keep it from flying through the window. The man suddenly broke his stride, turning his head towards a group of men near a bench. He veered of the sidewalk, down a set of steps leading into the housing project. Not my guy.


Russell turned his focus back to the diner. A knock on the passenger side widow quickly drew his attention. He snapped his neck around and noticed a black man wearing a cap standing beside his car, gesturing for Russell to unlock the door. Russell recognized Jermaine’s description so he found the proper button and the lock popped up. He snatched the duffle bag from the seat and tucked it on the floor between his legs. The man pulled the door and quickly slid inside the car.


“Drive,” said Dwayne Forge, holding a 9Mm pistol to Russell’s side.


Russell felt the poke in his side and immediately froze. “What the…”


“Hands where I can see them,” demanded Dwayne.


Russell let the duffle bag fall to the floor and placed both hands on the stirring wheel, glaring hard and long at the man holding the gun. His heart pounded. A wave of heat raced from the pit of his stomach to his face. There was no way he could get the upper hand in such close quarters. He had not expected to be held at gun point and there was no way to get to his pistol quick enough. He would definitely lose the battle.


“Jermaine is a close friend of mine and he said you were ready to deal,” responded Russell, trying to quickly explain.

Dwayne ignored the comment, shoving the nose of the pistol harder into Russell’s ribs. “I said drive.”


“Where to?” asked Russell, trying to remain calm.


“The next block down. Turn left into the alley beside the Unisex Boutique.”


Russell turned the ignition switch and the engine roared to life. Still feeling the gun at his side, Russell did as he was told. The alleyway was dark and cramped but the compact car had no trouble maneuvering the tight corners. Even though Dwayne could not see, he knew two armed M.O.B. gang members were hidden in the shadows perched on fire escapes high above the undersized car. Three other men were on ground level fully armed and well hidden.


“Stop here and cut the engine,” ordered Dwayne pressing the gun harder into the side of Russell’s torso.


Russell tapped the break and his Blista Compact came to an immediately standstill. He slowly shifted the gear to the park position and turned off the ignition. His heart pounded loudly inside his ears as small beads of sweat developed on his forehead. Russell placed his hand back on the stirring wheel contemplating a way to talk his way out of this situation.


“You don’t have to do this,” stuttered Russell.


“Do what?”


“I told you I know Jermaine and he said you are ready to deal. I got the stuff. We just need to do this and move on.”


Suddenly a masked man pulled the car door open and yanked Russell from the driver’s seat, tossing him to the ground. A heavy boot landed squarely on the side of his face, penning him to the ground. Two other masked men crept from the shadows, standing like death warriors over Russell. Their Micro-Uzis trained precisely at his head.


“One wrong move *sshole and you are dead,” barked one of the men.


Dwayne was out the car and standing with the other men. Russell whimpered in pain as his arm was caught awkwardly beneath his body. The delicate tendons in his shoulder strained under the pressure causing sharp pains to shoot through his shoulder down to his elbow. He growled deep in his throat, hoping the pain would somehow subside.


“Let up off him,” ordered Dwayne. “Stand him up and pat him down.”


The man lifted his heavy Hinterland boot from the side of Russell’s face and dragged him to his feet. Russell cringed from the pain and drew away from the Uzi that was at the side of his head. The masked man spun Russell around and pushed him hard against the brick wall. He retrieved one pistol and a serrated blade and tossed them on the hood of the car. The dimly lit alleyway swirled around Russell and he could barely see the silhouettes of the men that surrounded him like wolves.

“Alright, let him go,” said Dwayne as he moved closer to face Russell.


The masked man released his vice-like grip on Russell’s arm and drifted back into the shadows. Russell reached to massage the pain from his shoulder. The world around him had come back into focus and he saw that Dwayne was unarmed now.


“What the f*ck is this about,” bellowed Russell. “I called you in good faith. I came to you on a request from my friend Jermaine and this is what I get.”


Dwayne threw up both hands in an attempt to settle Russell down. “Calm down. I’m not gonna kill you. I just wished Jermaine had introduced us first and none of this would have happened.”


“So I guess you think I want to die. I trusted Jermaine enough; maybe you should have done the same.”


“Good point, now let’s make a deal.”


“My bag is pushed down in front of the driver’s seat,” said Russell, wiping a hand across his face, attempting to settle his nerves.


Dwayne retrieved the crumpled bag and placed it on the hood of the car next to the pistol and blade. Russell unzipped the bag and pulled one neatly wrapped package from inside and laid it next to the blade. He could feel the hairs crawling on his neck as he knew the gunmen still lingered in the shadows.


Pete Downing sat behind the wheel of a gray Marbelle parked near an East Indian restaurant on Vauxite Street since 5:30AM. Bobby had told him to wait in front of the Copper Bottom and be ready to move quickly. When Pete joined the M.O.B., he had no idea that he would be on point for the living legend, Dwayne Forge. He lived with his mother at The Firefly Projects until three weeks ago when he became a full member of M.O.B. His mother tried to keep her only son on the right path but knew she had failed the day Pete came home wearing the insignia of The Fly Boys. The gang was formed nearly a quarter of a century ago by five friends who decided to drop out of high school to earn fast easy money by robbing shop owners and stealing cars.


The Fly Boys quickly gained the reputation of being a small but lethal force throughout the neighborhood. Other, more established gangs took notice and began recruiting from their ranks to bolster their own prominence in the struggle for territory throughout the city. Even though the gang did grow over the years, their numbers were kept small enough to be easily controlled by the leadership. Their signature initiation mission morphed from armed robbery to assassination. The theory being, if you can kill, you can do anything. Pete Downing had been plagued with the troubles of poverty, growing up without his father in his life, and having an overly protective mother. It took little convincing by one of his close friends to quit his job at the Laundromat and to join The Fly Boys. He spent three years of his life training for this very moment. M.O.B. was bigger, more organized, and their lethalness was beyond belief.


The extraction point was the alley next to the restaurant. Pete eyed the clock on the dashboard. It was now 6:06AM, six minutes past the scheduled meeting time. The early morning quiet had not been interrupted by gunfire that would have sent alarms sailing through his body, readying him to move quickly. An ambulance siren had cried out earlier but all else was quiet in Northwood. Pete leaned forward, peering over the stirring wheel in the direction of the alley. He fumbled with the Emerald rivet studded in his left earlobe. No sign of Dwayne. Don’t screw this up Petey. Just sit and be ready.


Dwayne let the white powder settle on his tongue, smacking his mouth to reveal a better taste. He emptied another small scoop into the palm of his hand, sifting through for any imperfections the darkened alley would allow to be perceived. Satisfied with the quality of the product, an exchange was made. Dwayne tucked the three kilos deep inside his bag and draped it across his shoulder.


“I’m sure the product won’t disappoint,” said Russell, tucking the cash safely inside his bag. “My friends call me Russ. If you want more, here’s my number.”


Dwayne took the card and tucked it away without looking at it.


“If this sh*t don’t put you back on top, nothing will.”


“I’ll be callin’ you,” said Dwayne as he walked away, leaving Russell standing by his car.


Russell breathed a deep sigh of relief as Dwayne disappeared around the corner. This could have turned out a lot worse. His shoulder stiffened as he gathered up his pistol and blade, tossing them inside the bag. He couldn’t see the masked men but knew they were still there hidden in the shadows. He moved around to the driver side and slid behind the wheel. He started the engine and shifted to reverse, easing back onto Wardite Street.


Pete inhaled sharply when he spotted Dwayne slowly exit the alleyway. He walked confidently towards the passenger side of the car and slide inside.


“Glad to see you young blood,” said Dwayne. “Pete Downing, right?”


“Yes sir. Thank you sir.”


Dwayne half laughed, as his outlook on life seemed better than it had been in years. “Alright partner, let’s ease on over to Bohan.”



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Hello everyone. Glad to see that you guys are returning to my thread. I hope that means everyone is enjoying the story so far. I really appreciate the interest and I hope you all will sticj around to the end.


I've been posting chapters rather quickly thus far, but I want to let you know that I will begin my journey into being more patient. I am going to take more time to polish each new chapter so that when I do post, it will be the best that I can do. I hope to give you all a better product and at the same time fine tune some very value-added skills that every writer should have. So, do check back, because I will comtinue to build on and improve Liberty City Limits.


Thanks for following and have a great day. :)

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Hi, based on your post above^, I think you are already practicing some of the review comments I am going to make in this post, but I'll put them here, for the record, anyway.


Here are some high-level comments on your prolific story output to date. First, I’ll note that I’m too lazy to review it at the fine grain level of a proofreader and editor, like Mokrie did for one of your chapters, but here’s the broad-brush:
From the get-go, when I started reading your first chapter, I was impressed with your clean and crisp style, the good word choice, and good logical flow. It was pleasing to see this, from the very beginning. If your experience is like mine, I realized as I wrote chapters, that I was getting better at the practice of writing, and I hoped that my early chapters would not look naïve in comparison. Your early chapters seemed tight and competent to me, fully up to speed.
One of the things I have noticed about some fanfiction that I have read recently (which I’ve sampled a bit, after having given fanfic a try myself) is that some fanfic writers tend to make their writing very dense, with adverbs and adjectives and ponderous literary style. Reading it is basically like slogging through a deep, viscous thesaurus, like fighting through a gauntlet. Conversely, it takes skill and discipline, and a good overview of the nature and craft of writing, like you seem to have, to avoid this. Your writing has been pretty clean and easy to read.
The one thing I will suggest for you, and which Mokrie mentioned in his review, is the value of proofreading and re-reading, tuning, correcting, improving, before publishing. As long as you are using this fanfic exercise as a means to perfect your craft and your breadth and depth as a writer, you could / should put more emphasis on these extra, valued-added steps. You’re very prolific and motivated, clearly, and so it seems that you want to get the chapters published as you write them.
I think you alluded to the idea that you think through the whole chapter before writing, so you don’t have problems with continuity or something that you wish you had written differently to be consistent with future text. I suggest that it is good, in general, to think through the next chapter as well, or maybe the whole story arc for the section you are in, to best avoid these risks.
In my case, instead of thinking it through before writing, I dive in, and have fun seeing where the story goes, and then I go back through the chapter several times, fixing up the front to match the story that evolved later. I can’t just write a chapter serially and not go back to fix it. For that reason, I try to keep two or so chapters in the pipeline. Like you, I don’t want to write myself into a corner.
While I see a lot of good word choices, good rhythm and well-constructed, easy-to-read sentences in your writing, which makes it read pretty well, I also see some opportunities, as mentioned above, to clean things up a bit, as an editor would do. We self-publishers have to play multiple roles, as muse, author, editor, proofreader, and typical reader / focus group, in order to get the full benefit of the process.
I like the way you use some characters’ inner thoughts and dialog to give insight, motivation, flow and depth to the story. That’s what especially has made me empathize with Dwayne. I'm rooting for him, in your story.
Bottom line, I feel that you have done a great job of diving into fanfic, trusting your instinct that you can do it well.
One last thing, a small thing, but important, is that I like the font size and font that you chose for your writing in this thread. It’s very readable and professional, to my eyes, much better than the default forum font, for reading long text.

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Thanks saintsrow. I really appreciate all the feedback. I have tried to make improvements in the next chapter. It sure is a huge challenge but I'm up to doing what it takes to get better.

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Let’s Talk


Dwayne shoved the gym bag down onto the floor, letting it settle snuggly between his feet. Stuffed deep inside was enough cocaine that, if packaged and sold the right way, could garner a street value nearing two hundred thousand dollars. Not bad for a ten minute deal in a dark alleyway. The traffic light up ahead turned green and Pete Downing signaled to turn left, quietly maneuvering out of the Northwood neighborhood and on to Bohan. Dwayne could almost feel the wind rush past his face as he thought of riding on a red NRG900, racing through the city, leaving the familiar scent of burning rubber lingering in the air as he vies for the pole position. Freedom to be outside, breathing the stink of the city was what he missed the most during his incarceration. Money was the path back to freedom and he took the only path that he knew. The cost of the drugs was far cheaper than he had expected. Hoping that it was a favor for Jermaine and not the true quality of the powder, Dwayne blinked back the doubt and glanced over at Pete.


“You did good today.”


“I didn’t know what to expect but Bobby told me to be ready to move in a hurry,” replied Pete as he stopped for the red light.


Bobby ‘Muchi’ West had accepted the position of being Dwayne’s first Lieutenant. He was the perfect fit for Dwayne; old enough to remember how things used to be with a long history of being out on the front line of crime in the city.


“So, you think this is the life for you?” asked Dwayne, bluntly.


“I do now.”


“Why now?”


“A whole lot of reasons.” Pete paused, searching for the words. “I don’t have to tell you how it is growin’ up in the hood.”


“True, but not everybody in the hood is a gangsta.”


The light changed and Pete tapped the accelerator, causing the Marbelle to drift easily around the corner where a street vendor was calling out to hungry customers. He stayed silent, following close behind a slow moving yellow cab that finally pulled over in front of a row of brownstones to let out a passenger. Pete slipped past the driver before he had a chance to pull back onto the street. Letting out a low moan, Pete pushed the button to let the widow down just enough for a blast of cool morning air to rush inside the car to help calm a sudden influx of nerves fluttering around inside his stomach. Without realizing, his hand drifted up to fumbled with the Emerald stud fixed to his left earlobe. It was a habit that always seemed to spring up whenever he felt anxious. There was nothing serene about being questioned by the actual mythical Legend occupying the passenger seat.


Pete signaled and turned right onto the Northwood Heights Bridge that spans the distance between northern Algonquin and Bohdan. He pushed a little harder on the accelerator to help the Marbelle climb the initial steepness of the bridge before quickly flattening out into a multi-lane stretch of highway that seemed to float above the Humboldt River. A few glossy speed boats cut through the calm sun drenched waters, moving closer inland. While a handful of canopy boats lazily meandered farther out to sea, perhaps on an early morning fishing trip. Pete settled behind a long procession of stop and go traffic. He rarely entered Bohan from the west. He and his buddies drove in from the south. Getting to the Triangle Club seemed to be easier and closer from that direction. Pete allowed his hand to settle back on the steering wheel. The cool salty air had slightly settled the nerves dancing around inside his stomach.


“I tried to stay straight for a long time,” Pete finally admitted, clearing his throat. “I wanted to do it for my mom but it was so hard dealing with just tryin’ to go to school. Gettin’ pushed around. Gettin’ suspended you know. So one day I just said forget it and I quit. Especially when I got jacked at the Laundromat where I worked. That’s when I joined The Fly Boys.”


“Your life sounds like the life of so many kids spread all around this city. Believe it or not, I could have been you years ago. Matter of fact, I was you.”


Dwayne turned away. His own childhood demons racing towards him like the deprived streets of Bohan in the distance. A man’s life is the culmination of a thousand decisions. Some already forged in steel for him but most were the product of his own free will; a will that stretched back to his childhood. The only thing that was decent in Dwayne’s life was his mother. The sun light danced across the waters of the Humboldt, casting an occasional tiny speck of gold on the surface, a little reminder to Dwayne that everything good had not vanished.


“Where’s your dad?” asked Dwayne as he let down his window.


“He ain’t around. In prison or dead I guess. Mom didn’t talk about him much. She just said she don’t want me to be like him.”


“Young blood, my dad wasn’t worth sh*t. Some dealers from the neighborhood killed him right in front my face and I felt nothing. Try to stay in contact with your mom,” urged Dwayne. “She’s a very important part of your life. Maybe one day she’ll tell you the reason why he stayed away. I don’t want you hatin’ your father the way I hated mine.”


“I hear you sir.”


Dwayne chuckled. Hearing someone call him sir was the most respect he had gotten in years.


“How about Boss instead of sir?”


“Whatever you say sir,” answered Pete as he turned right onto San Quentin Avenue.


The huge housing projects of South Bohan almost ran the length of the avenue. Elizabeta Torres made her home there. Being the undisputed Drug Queen of South Bohan, Liz needed to be near the action and opportunity. Dwayne kept a keen eye open for the building that Bobby had described to him. A train roared into the elevated subway station across the street. Pete had slowed to almost a snail’s pace to help Dwayne locate the building. Seeing the entrance to a small parking area, Dwayne slightly pointed in that direction. Pete signaled and pulled onto the lot, stopping the car near a low concreate wall and cut the engine. Dwayne quickly looked around, surveying the area, taking mental notes of the property and people loitering near the building. He reached down and dragged the gym bag up onto his lap, rummaging through the contents until he found one neatly wrapped package of the cocaine. He artfully slid it into an inside pocket of his jacket before closing the bag. He looked over at Pete with wide proud eyes.


“You did good Pete. Now I want you to head back over to my place. Muchi will be waiting for you. Give him the bag. He’ll know what to do.”


“No problem Boss.”


Dwayne stuffed a folded bill inside Pete’s shirt pocket. “More will be waiting when you get back across the river.”


He pushed the door open and stepped out, leaving the gym bag tucked neatly on the floor. Before closing the door, Dwayne reminded Pete to contact Bobby if he had any trouble. Pete started the engine and pulled away leaving Dwayne standing in the empty lot. Elizabeta lived on the 15th floor of the building adjacent to the parking area. Dwayne walked with a spring in his step towards the front entrance, adjusting his jacket so that it hung loosely over his t-shirt. The roar of the train pulling into Windmill St. Station nearly drowned out the quick popping sounds of gun shots in the distance. Dwayne snapped his head around in the direction of the gunfire. He had not acclimated to the sounds of the city yet. Prison was a whole different world with different sounds and smells to get used to hearing. He rounded the corner and followed the narrow walkway to the entrance of the building. Remembering the seductive invitation that Liz had extended to him the previous night, Dwayne pushed confidently through the door and started towards the elevator.


“You got balls the size of Jupiter to step foot on this side of town brother,” bellowed a voice from a recessed area of the darkened hallway.


Dwayne felt his breath snatch away from his chest. His boots were like lead. The sweet thoughts of holding Liz close, smelling her lovely scent, suddenly warped into a push me; shove you, war of words.


“Why don’t you step out of the closet so I can see how scared you really are.”


“I ain’t your punk, b*tch.”


Dwayne lifted a hand to where his 9Mm was tucked into his waistband. “Well come on out and prove it then.”


“I ain’t gotta prove sh*t to a prison b*tch.”


“I don’t see no bars separatin’ me from the world now,” said Dwayne as he stepped forward. “You gonna stay back there and suck your momma’s tit or what?”


“Don’t think you’re gonna live much longer son. There’s a bullet with your name on it right now.”


“I been hearin’ that same sad song for fifteen years and I’m still breathin’.”


Dwayne caught a glimpse of movement down the hall. He raised the bottom of his t-shirt, grasping the handle of his pistol tightly in his right hand. The man bolted from the shadows. Dwayne squeezed off two shots in quick succession; both burying themselves deep into the wall. The man tore around the corner, heading for the back exit. Dwayne followed and managed one additional thunderous shot that only succeeded in tearing away a chunk of concrete. He ran to the exit, gun still out in from of him but the man was long gone by the time he made it outside.


Dwayne’s chest heaved up and down as he scanned the area for any trace of who had just threatened his life. Thirty-five years old was by no means over-the-hill, but he still felt how he had diminished. Ten years ago he could have chased down and put a bullet in whoever was brave enough to insult him. Dwayne headed back to the elevator and pushed the button. Fifteen flights was more than enough time to regain his composure. One flight for each year of his incarceration, ending in a pleasure that he hadn’t felt in years. The number indicating Liz’s floor glowed a pale yellow and the doors slid open. Dwayne raised an eyebrow, surprised by how clean and bright the hall appeared as he stepped from the elevator. The walls were painted a brilliant crimson, trimmed in copper-gold with a Berber styled carpet that covered the tiled floor. Decorative paintings adorned the walls, hanging on either side of her apartment door. The Drug Queen of South Bohan truly lived like a Queen. Dwayne rubbed at his bald head as he strolled over to the door. He pushed the call button and waited.


* * *

Sargent Theodore Tims sat at the front desk, marking the last of a tiny stack of booking forms from the previous nights’ arrests. Desk duty had been something that Sargent Tims had not expected he would be doing when he graduated from the Police Academy fifteen years ago at the top of his class. A couple years back he caught a bullet in his left leg when he and his partner were investigating a rash of armed robberies in Lower Easton. The tibia was shattered just below the knee which led to three consecutive fitness test failures and eventually to being relegated to desk duty at the Westminster precinct. Sargent Tims had difficulty adjusting to his new career path. Ultimately he found satisfaction in being able to see the city in a way that he never did when he patrolled the streets and then as Homicide Detective. Nighttime duty was the most enjoyable, especially when he had the opportunity to work in the huge file room upstairs where files were kept on the most notorious criminals in the city. He was rubbing the blurriness from his eyes when the front door flew open.


Detective Bradley Coleman and his partner Detective Steve Shannon marched heavy-footed down the short corridor leading to the front desk. They had been on stakeout most of the night, surveilling the movements of Elizabeta Torres, the known Drug Baroness, living and operating in South Bohan. She had managed to stay relatively below the radar but the LCPD has made deep inroads into her criminal empire over the last year.


“Hey Tims, is he in?”


Detective Shannon, a short prickly man with jet-black hair arrived first at the front desk. He had a bad habit of gnawing on a toothpick which reminded Sargent Tims of the countless number of thugs that he had encountered during active duty. When an opportunity arose to work in the Liberty City Narcotics Division, Detective Shannon grabbed it. He and his young wife moved to Broker, from Vice City where he had spent the early years of his career. They quickly settled in the more trendy area of the Outlook neighborhood, renting a small apartment across the street from Outlook Park. He fearlessly accepted the chance to infiltrate Russian organized crime, but was subsequently removed from the project and transferred to the Westminster precinct where he met his current partner. Detective Coleman stood behind him far too concerned about his hair to say good morning. Sargent Tims learned to ignore the antics of these two hotshots. He leaned forward looking down from his station at a visibly irritated Detective Shannon. The scowl on his face softened once Sargent Tims offered a response to his question.


“Yeah he’s in, but you might have to wait. He has somebody in there.”


“Who?” asked Detective Shannon.


He snatched the toothpick from the corner of his mouth and tapped his partner on the shoulder; bring his attention from his hair to the closed door across the hall. The two men walked a little less enthusiastically over to the door before Sargent Tims had a chance to answer. He didn’t know anyway. His boss had quickly ushered the man into the office and closed the door. The two had been inside for almost ten minutes now.


The detectives stopped near a bulletin board, pretending to read the notices attached. They could see two blurry figures behind the frosted glass pane. Both were extremely animated, arms flailing wildly in the air. The detectives strained to discern the muffled voices emanating from behind the closed door. The louder, more distinct voice had a thick Eastern European accent. The man moved away from the desk, abruptly ending the conversation. The office door swung open, banging hard against the wall. A white male, medium build with meager attire barreled from the office determined to leave the station as fast as possible.


“I seen that guy somewhere,” said Shannon, eyeing his partner wondering what that was all about.


Their boss stood alone behind his desk with hands on hips and a look of contempt across his face. They moved cautiously closer to the doorway. Shannon tapped a bare knuckle on the glass to gain his attention. The man looked in the direction of the sound.


“Come in and close the door behind you,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Francis McReary.


Francis was raised in an Irish Catholic family with a sadistic father and a mother that turned a blind eye to her husband’s criminal behavior. He was the second oldest and most selfish amongst his three brothers and one sister. As a young man, Francis hoped to be a priest but had to abandon that dream when he was caught cheating on his final exam. Now as Deputy Police Commissioner, he abides by a philosophy to rid the city of crime one crook and drug dealer at a time. He knows they are guilty so why waste time and taxpayer dollars on a lengthy trial, when a bullet to the head from an assassin’s gun would do just fine. However, his selfishness and illicit behavior have gotten him tangled up with some of the same criminals that he is trying to eradicate, putting his advancement to Police Commissioner in jeopardy if the information ever fell into the wrong hands.


Detective Coleman plopped down on the chair in the far back corner of the office. That’s where he always sat whenever he and Detective Shannon came in to discuss more sensitive matters of the city. Detective Shannon was better at dispatching information while Detective Coleman had a special knack for procuring whatever was needed to advance the plan. Shannon eased down on the chair in front of the desk and jammed the toothpick back in the corner of his mouth.


“What you got for me?” asked Francis still irritated by his previous visitor.


Steve fumbled with the toothpick, twirling the gnawed piece of wood to the other corner of his mouth. He eyed the Deputy Commissioner briefly, trying to coax details about the man that had just stormed from the office. Francis relaxed back in his chair, rocking slightly as he swept a disdainful glance at Detective Coleman.


“That guy that just left here is none of your concern Steve.”


Detective Shannon shifted slightly in the chair, accepting the explanation for the moment.


“In that case, we’ve been keepin’ a watchful eye on Elizabeta Torres. Last night we followed her from her residence in Bohan over to Northwood. She made one stop at Burger Shot before making her way to the Gov. Greg Johnson Housing Projects.”


“She pick up anybody along the way?”


“No, but you know who lives in those housing projects.”


“Yeah, Dwayne Forge and I’m working on him right now.”


“How so? Asked Detective Coleman. “That guy that just left?”


Francis put up a hand to ward of any further inquiry. “Not your concern at this point. What else do you have for me?”


Detective Coleman thumbed through a law magazine, letting his partner continue with the brief. He didn’t much care for the stuffiness of being in the office or the arrogance of Francis McReary for that matter. He learned a long time ago that the door swings both ways in this profession but McReary seemed to be more of everything. More of a liar. More of a hypocrite. More of a crook. More of a killer. It was obvious that McReary was not ready to share any details so Detective Shannon continued with the observations of Liz Torres.


“She entered the building at 11:27PM and stayed inside for 10 minutes. She left alone and got back in her pink Voodoo and headed straight to her residence in Bohan. As far as we know, she didn’t leave the rest of the night.”


McReary reared back in his leather swivel chair taking in the information. He stayed quiet for a short while then kicked his feet up on the desk.


“What else?”


“Our contacts will be here tonight,” continued Steve.

“Yeah, they speedin’ up the coast as we speak,” said Bradley, glad the subject had finally changed.


“When will they be here?”


Steve pulled the gnawed piece of wood from his mouth. “We got two shipments, both arriving around 10 o’clock tonight. Me and Sal will drop at the jetty under the Hickey Bridge, Varsity Heights side of the river. Bradley and Andrea will drop at our usual location over on Charge Island.”


The Deputy Commissioner pulled his feet from the desk and leaned forward. “The Hickey Bridge? That’s near Angels of Death territory.”


“Yeah, that’s why me and Sal will need some extra fire power just in case.”


Bradley stood up and tossed the law magazine on the empty chair. Charge Island is always quiet so me and Andrea won’t have no problems as usual.”


“Why the Hickey Bridge?” queried Francis.


“It’s secluded and The AoD clubhouse will be empty tonight according to our informant. Some kinda induction ceremony goin’ on at the Skyway Diner in Tudor.”


“I can get my hands on a couple of Speedos before tonight,” said Bradley confidently puffing out his chest.


“Okay. Sounds like you guys have covered everything as usual,” said Francis standing to reach for some papers. “And for you Steve, I have the perfect guy just in case you and Sal run into some unexpected trouble. Wait for my call.”


Steve stood agreeably and he and Bradley left the office pulling the door closed behind them.

Francis tossed the papers into a plastic container to be shredded later today. He turned and gazed out the window noticing a group of his patrol officers entering the 60 Diner across the street. He remembered his years as a young officer. The city was in chaos then and it had only gotten worse. A shiny new coat of paint and carnival lights didn’t change the raging criminal underworld that had a choke-hold on the city. A million tourists visited the city each year and they never knew how close they were to real danger. They stay for a few days or a week, snapping pictures, visiting Happiness Island, or hoping to see someone famous at The Star Café. But never know what’s happening in the basement of fine Italian restaurants or at a parade in Chinatown. Francis has grown weary of the criminal always winning and the decent hard working guy never catching a break. That resentment fueled his desire to rid the city of one common criminal at a time and in the meantime tout his ambitions of becoming the next Police Commissioner.


Francis broke away from the window, snatching his keys from the desk drawer. The thought of passing up the best breakfast in the city made his stomach moan even loader. He headed for the door but was stopped short by a tiny chime sifting from an inside pocket of his black blazer. He reached and pulled out a cheap disposable mobile phone and answered.


“I hope you have something good to tell me Russell.”


Russell ignored the condescension. “I need to get outta this. This. This whole situation. I was never tied to anything this big and I just can’t do it no more.”


“Settle down Rus. You’re breathing way too fast and…”


“Don’t tell me to settle down,” growled Russell. “I’m tellin’ you that I can’t do this. Give me something else. Anything else.”


“Russell, don’t beg. There is nothing else. This is it.”


“You’re not the one out there puttin’ your *ss on the line dodgin’ bullets or being held at gunpoint.”


“I think you told me that already. Besides, you knew what you were getting into,” replied Francis, as he walked back to his office window.


The truth in those words stung Russell into silence. A month before arriving in Liberty, he had gotten clumsy down in Vice City. He saw in his rearview mirror what no one on the run wanted to ever see. He made several lefts and rights to test the driver’s intentions. The black Serrano remained two car lengths behind him for two miles. Russell wondered if he had been made or was this just a ridiculous coincidence. There was no way that he was going to alert Vice City PD by trying to lose the tail. So he decided to pull into a parking lot to see if the person would simply pass him by and continue on to their destination. That was the biggest mistake of his life.


“I never agreed to do your job,” said Russell struggling to stay calm.


“What did you expect to be? A Choir Boy,” asked Francis sarcastically spitting the words through the cheap mobile phone. “It’s you’re freedom or your life. If you want both, I suggest you fight for both.”


“I did not murder my best friend,” said Russell through gritted teeth.


“We have witnesses that say otherwise.”


“What f*ckin’ witnesses?”


“Olive Reckord for one. He said you shot and killed your associate because you wanted the money for yourself.”


“No, no, no that’s not how it happened. That tall b*tch blew a hole in Jimmy D’s chest and I barely escaped with my life.” Russell’s voice morphed to a rabid growl causing Francis to pull the phone from his ear.


Francis sat down and swiveled around to look through the window. “Pull yourself together Russell. You’re in this for the long haul boy. Try not to end up like Jimmy D. But that’s up to you. You have a job tonight and things could get ugly. I’m warning you this time. Meet me at the salvage yard in Northwood at 11 o’clock. That’s three hours from now. Don’t be late.”

Edited by albanyave

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Marlon Bridges sat tucked in a corner booth at S&D Diner eating a mound of salty hash brown potatoes, scrambled eggs, and four strips of the best bacon in the city. His companion sat directly across from him, arms folded across his massive chest. A Liberty Tree Newspaper lay on the table, headline facing upward, ‘The Humboldt Runs Red’. A title reflecting the unchecked killings throughout the city pushed the reality straight into the reader. The Governor Greg Johnson housing projects, across the street, represented the tenuousness of life in parts of Liberty. Gang tags scrawled on buildings indelibly told the story of a completely different way to live and survive in this city. However, things were quiet in Northwood this morning for such a neighborhood overrun by crime.


“How can you eat that sh*t?” asked Cater Jones, turning away in disgust.


“I can remember when you used to tear this sh*t up.”


“Not no more though.”


Carter had his own crew over in Alderney and has been a longtime friend of Marlon. The two met at a block party the year that Marlon joined the North Holland Hustlers. Carter had broken away from the Hustlers and moved over to Alderney seeking to make a name for himself. His prostitution and pornography operation ring in Tudor proved to be a real money maker. He worked as a bouncer at Honkers for several years meeting many beautiful women who wanted to be dancers but were turned away for one reason or the other. Carter saw opportunity in their heart break. He would boost their spirts with a little sniff of cocaine them turn them into pros in front of the video camera. His XXX DVDs sold like solid gold from his online store. Occasionally Carter would butt heads with members of M.O.B., mainly dealing with the treatment of his prostitutes. Most of the time issues were solved amicably with little or no blood shed. He had not seen Marlon for a few months and did not hesitate when his friend called to invite him to a late breakfast in his old neighborhood.


“Ain’t gonna live forever man. Might as well enjoy yourself,” replied Marlon, as he bit into another strip of bacon.


He and Playboy X had been lying low since the massacre at The Triangle Club a few nights ago and he missed the savory meals served at this diner. Marlon was relieved to be away from his boss even if it was for just a few hours. The animosity between the two men had been growing steadily since Playboy snatched his privileges and demanded a larger portion of his profits. Marlon had no idea how long the new rules would be imposed on him, but he sure was not going to drive around town in a brown pickup truck. He had been sent to gather information about the whereabouts of the one believed to be responsible for ordering the deaths of the Trunchez brothers.


Dwayne Forge was nowhere to be seen. Marlon almost had the guts to venture inside his apartment building. But without a crew beside him at the moment, he thought differently and stayed at the corner booth devouring more food than he needed. He noticed a small M.O.B. entourage hovering around the entrance to Dwayne’s building but thought nothing of it.


“So, why you call me over here anyway man?”


Marlon wiped the corners of his mouth with a crumpled, grease-stained paper napkin before taking another glance across the street. “Just wanted to know how the fallout was in Alderney and of course, I hadn’t seen you for a minute now.”


Carter folded the newspaper over, pushing back in his seat. “You and X plannin’ to expand across the river?”


“Naw, nothing like that.”


Carter raised an eyebrow, skeptical about his friend’s intentions. “So, what is it? You want to step out on your boss?”


A crooked smile crept out, revealing what had been playing around in Marlon’s head for a while. “You know a brother real good,” said Marlon.


“Wouldn’t be the first time a number two wanted to shine. Wanted to be the shot caller.”


“H*ll, X been expanding into other areas besides drugs and whores. He even got some hire gun to take care of some union guys on a construction site. What about me? Am I still just some little errand boy?”


Marlon tossed the napkin on top of the remaining food having lost the taste for it at the moment. Carter kept quiet, letting the full effect of what his friend had just said marinade. The chatter inside the diner served to calm Marlon, bringing him back to center. He didn’t want to lose control in front of the man he hoped would extend an invitation to Alderney. He had taken as much as any one man could stand to take before bowing down below his dignity. If he had to, he was prepared to blaze a trail of his own. But having associates would be the better way.


Carter unfolded his brutish arms and leaned forward to speak frankly. “There’s obviously a problem. I hear that Dwayne Forge is back and he’s making a lot of noise for an old man.”


“And we haven’t even done sh*t about it either.”


“I don’t know if you remember, but before that cat got pinched, he was one h*ll raiser. Ruthless as sh*t. He laid the foundation for Playboy. Young cat just walked in and took it over when Dwayne was sent up.”


“He held sh*t together though,” replied Marlon.


“Not the way I’m hearin’ it now. M.O.B. over in Firefly is tossing their loyalty to the old man. Maybe this is the time to get out. While you still can. The Trunchez? If he can do that…”


“Nuff said.”


Carter lifted his enormous body from the booth, towering over Marlon like a behemoth. “If you’re serious about cuttin’ your own path, call me. There’s plenty of room in Alderney for another creative mind. Another hustler.”


Carter grabbed the fold newspaper from the table and left the diner. Marlon stayed, quietly finishing his breakfast. He paid the bill and soon left to head back to his boss’s residence. He crossed the street, jogging towards the subway entrance to catch the train. There was a new found spring to his step, realizing there is another opportunity waiting for him to grab it and squeeze the h*ll out of it. He quickly skirted around to the entrance, grabbing onto the black bars of the rod-iron gate for leverage. Taking two steps at a time, Marlon was soon standing on the platform waiting for the next train. He looked down the track almost trying to will the train to arrive. Noticing a familiar face in the crowd, he called out to get his attention.


“Hey Jimmy," bellowed Marlon, raising his voice over the tawdry chatter of the crowd.


Jimmy looked over near a bench and recognized Marlon right away. He threw up a closed fist to acknowledge his friend and trotted over for a proper greeting. The two men locked hands and pulled each other into a brotherly embrace, slapping one another on the back. They quickly broke apart and struck up a conversation.


“So how you been?” asked Marlon.


“Just tryin’ to hang in there man. You know how sh*t goes.”


“Crazy about the Trunchez though.”


“D*mn, that sh*t is bad.”


Marlon scratched at his goatee. “Word on the street is ol’ Dwayne Forge gave the order.”


“Yeah, yeah I heard that too. I don’t know though. I ain’t really seen him much since he got out. Jermaine was over here a few days ago and he went up in his building. Maybe he knows what he’s up to.”


“Maybe so.”


The men heard the train rattling in the distance as it approached the station. The crude conversations quieted as the crowd moved closer to board.


“Alright Marlon. I’ll be seein’ you. I’m gettin’ a friend off the train. She kinda scared of this station.”


The two men parted with a friendly handshake as the train roared towards the platform. Jimmy fell back behind the crowd so that he could get a better view of the passengers exiting the train. Marlon stepped onto the second cart and quickly took a seat on the opposite side of the isle. The doors folded closed and the next stop was announced. Marlon peered through the grimy window as the train pulled away. His heart jumped when he spotted Jimmy’s lady friend. The two disappeared as the train bolted through the tunnel heading to North Holland.


* * *

Francis McReary stepped out of the 60 Diner greeted by the thick heat of a late Algonquin morning. The Deputy Police Commissioner brushed bits of toast crumbs from his neatly manicured mustache as he quickly made his way down the street to the covered parking lot. Breakfast was satisfying but put him in a pinch for time to meet with his newest informant, Russell Cobb. The lazy stream of cars finally stopped for the light, allowing Francis to trot across Galveston Avenue. He always parked his Landstalker at the far left corner of the lot to decrease the chances of inadvertent damage done by careless drivers. Distracted by an unexpected phone call at the station this morning, Francis did not notice the young man standing near the entrance as he stepped into the coolness of the enclosed parking lot. He was fumbling through his pockets, looking for the car keys when a voice echoed from behind.

“Keep diggin’ Frankie and maybe you’ll finally find the truth.”


Francis recognized the sarcasm immediately. He turned to see his younger brother standing there with an annoying smirk on his face.


“What are you doing over here Packie?” Ma finally kicked you out?”


“Ha,ha. Very funny,” replied Packie. “Something you would know nothing about but I just got finished enjoying the company of a very beautiful woman I met last night at Maisonette 9.”


Ignoring the insult, Francis finally pulled the ring of keys from his jacket pocket, shuffling through to find the ignition key.


“Well I do know something about last night involving you in Bohan, at the Sprunk Warehouse. Seems a Spanish Lord got pinched and the way he’s telling it, I can put two and two together Packie.”


Packie raised his hands to shield himself from the accusations being thrown his way. “Like I said, I was at Maisonette…”


“I don’t want to hear it Packie. You and Gerry. Let’s not forget Derrick. I hope he stays in Ireland or where ever the h*ll he is. The whole lot of you is nothing but blight on a good decent society.”




“Yeah, blight. Look it up.”


“You sure are one arrogant hypocrite Frankie.”


“Look Patrick, I’m already late. You better clean up your act before one of my officers pulls your cold dead body from the Humboldt. Tell ma I said hi.”


Francis left his brother standing alone as he slipped behind the wheel of his recently detailed Landstalker. Disgusted by his family’s criminal behavior, he rammed the key into the ignition, started the engine and pulled out onto Galveston Avenue. Union Drive West was the quickest route to the salvage yard in Northwood. Fewer traffic lights meant less stop-and-go, something that accommodated Francis being that he was already well past the meeting time. Russel Cobb was getting antsy and he had to quell any uneasiness that he might be feeling. The traffic moved at a good clip but the midday congestion packed Union Drive to the point of near saturation. The salvage yard was all the way uptown and he didn’t want to give Russell another reason to get nervous. He needed his mind to be clear and focused.


The sun had grown brighter as morning moved to afternoon. Francis reached down and pulled his sunglasses from the middle console and slipped them on to block the glare bouncing off the hood of his truck. He had gotten it detailed the day before, leaving the immaculate paint job to gleam in the early afternoon sunshine. Traffic thinned as he moved on uptown. He peaked at his watch while waiting for the green light. Another block and Francis swung the Landstalker into the salvage yard, kicking up a spray of dust and pebbles. A few daisies had managed to push up through the barren lot but were almost lost in the weeds that grew beside them.


A blue Blista Compact was parked near a row of scrapped school busses so Francis pulled alongside the unoccupied car and exited the vehicle. He scanned the area for any sign of Russell. Two men stood near a car, looking under the hood scrutinizing any parts for sale. Neither man was Russell. Francis closed the door, secured the lock and walked over to a low platform that overlooked the harbor below. Two huge barges stacked with construction raw materials were docked at the pier. Some supplies had already been off-loaded and piled neatly on the landing. Francis spotted Russell standing down at the opposite corner, away from the workers. He was speaking on the phone but was too far away for Francis to hear the conversation.


A ladder near an enormous crane trailed down the side of the wall leading to the harbor. Francis carefully maneuvered past the piece of heavy machinery and moved down the ladder. Russell had ended the call and tucked the phone away by the time he had made it over to the part of the landing where Russell stood gazing out across the ocean where gentle waves lap against the harbor wall.


“Don’t even think about it.”


Russell turned slightly. “Think about what?”


“Vice City is way too far away for you to even think about getting back there.”


Russell remained silent and turned back to face the ocean. The cool Northerly breeze whipped through his thick dark hair, tossing it to one side. Francis grasped his tie, holding it in place as he walked over to stand beside Russell.


“The water is calming. I’m glad to see that you have settled down since our conversation this morning.”

“No need to be jacked up. Like you said, I knew what I was getting into.”


“Good. Pleased to know that we are back on the same page. Now tell me, how did it go with Dwayne Forge this morning and have you made contact with Elizabeta Tores?”


Russell swept his hand over his hair to tamp it down.


“Dwayne purchased three kilos. I haven’t met with Elizabeta yet. This belongs to you.” Russell lifted the bag from across his shoulder and handed it to Francis.


“Try not to be overly enthused,” said Francis turning to face Russell. He took the bag, unzipping it to examine the contents. “Now that’s how a good informant is supposed to act. You do something for me and I’ll do something for you. You’re a good kid. I wouldn’t want you to end up like your friend.”


Russell closed his eyes and turned away from what seemed like a never ending nightmare. He was actually working with the worst kind of cop and he saw no way out. This could go on until he died. It wasn’t too far-fetched for Russell to believe he could be dead tonight. Russell’s mind had drifted as far as the quiet waves would take him.


The thunderous bang of a shipping container being lowered to the landing jolted Russell back to reality. He turned to see Francis mumbling on his cell phone, beckoning him. He pushed his hands deep into his jacket pockets and wandered over to the ladder.


Francis ended the call and tucked the cheap phone away. “I want you to meet the guys you’ll be working with tonight. We’ll wait for them up top.”


The two men climbed the ladder back to the salvage yard, leaving the serenity of the ocean behind.

Edited by albanyave

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In Too Deep


A single lamp mounted above the bed casted a soft yellow hue across the room. Heavy blood-red draperies served as a shield, blocking the sharpness of the afternoon sun from filling the room as well as the prying eyes of vengeful enemies. A pair of Hinterland boots lay next to a pile of carelessly tossed clothes at the foot of the bed. The room was still and cool, filled with the potent scent of sex. Dwayne lay close to Elizabeta, cupping the fullness of her breast as she slept. His hard broad body relaxed against her delicate curves, allowing the stress of the past few weeks to drain away. Dwayne inhaled deeply, taking in the fruity scent of her hair. He gently moved his calloused hand from her breast and trailed down to her voluptuous thigh, enjoying every peak and valley along the way. She stirred slightly but did not awaken.

It had been years since Dwayne enjoyed a woman this way. There had been conjugal visits during his incarceration but nothing compared to the complete privacy of a romantic encounter as a free man. Cherise had stopped visiting years before his release and Dwayne soon refused to see most of the women who came just so they could tell the tale that they had been with a legend. He lay there quietly remembering the many women that he had been with and how different it felt to him now. It was almost like he had forgotten how to pursue a woman. The interest was still there but Cherise had truly broken his heart and maybe he did not know how to move on.


Elizabeta stirred once more, stretching and yawning, trying to shake the heaviness from her head. She rolled over to face Dwayne, letting him drape his muscular arm across her stomach. This was the second time that she awoke to see that Dwayne was still at her side. He saw the satisfaction in her eyes and was glad that he could still please a woman after so long. She slid a leg from between the silk sheets, signaling to Dwayne that she was ready for round three. He found her breast, squeezing a handful of the softness as she pulled his bald head towards her slightly parted lips. Dwayne acquiesced, finding the wetness of her mouth with his own. He let lose a deep satisfying moan as he drew closer to her. Feeling him firm against her thigh, Elizabeta broke from the passionate kiss.


“You sure you can handle this again playa?”


Dwayne poked her thigh. “What do you think? I'm not the one fallin’ my *ss to sleep.”


The two shared an honest laugh before Elizabeta spread her legs to make room for Dwayne to ride in deep. He found his position to slide home but a knock on the door stopped him cold.


Looking over Dwayne’s broad shoulder, Elizabeta called out. “Who the f*ck is it?”


“It’s Andreas.”


“Andreas!” bellowed Elizabeta. “What the f*ck. I thought you were cleaning the oven or some sh*t. The building better be falling down Andreas.”


Andreas firmed up his voice before answering. “No, the building is okay but Johnny the biker is here. He wants to see you.”


After a moment of desperate silence, Elizabeta responded. “Okay. Give me a minute or f*cking ten.”


Dwayne, still locked in position, gazed down at Elizabeta pleading with his eyes to allow him to finish what he started. He was gorged to the point of nearly exploding. Elizabeta lifted her knees, wrapping her legs around his waist. That was all the signal Dwayne needed. He pushed his aching manhood deep inside her pleasure pool and rode the waves of ecstasy.


* * *

Niko stood in front of de Koch, a fine jewelry store located on Albany Avenue a short distance from the penthouse apartment that he and Roman shared. Recently though, Roman preferred to spend a lot more time with his girlfriend Mallorie over in Bohan, leaving Niko alone most days. Niko adjusted his sunglasses and peered through the display window. The thick protective glass showcased a beautiful matching necklace, bracelet, and earing set that would look stunning on Carmen. The yellow diamond-cut stone fully ringed the bracelet with tiny diamonds set to link each stone, ending with a brilliant gold clasp. The earrings shimmered, catching the rays of the afternoon sun perfectly. One stone set at the center of a skinny gold necklace, completed the set. Niko had not seen Carmen since the morning he quietly slipped away from their bed to meet Ray. He left a note, promising to make it up to her for having to leave so early and he thought a gift would be perfect to accompany his apologies.


Niko broke away from the window and entered the store. He stood at the entrance for a moment, looking around the brilliantly lit space. The showroom was quaint and sanitary. The displays were neatly arranged, almost enticing customers to move closer for a better view. Niko finally closed the door, keeping the much welcomed coolness inside. A smartly dressed young brunette woman stood behind a glass countered that also served as a display case; her bubbly personality evident from the start.


“Good afternoon sir. How can I help you?”


Niko looked around to make sure he was the next in line. Seeing that he was the only customer in the store, he moved forward to speak to the young lady more directly. Having never bought such a gift before, he was unsure of the proper words to use.


“I’m looking to buy someone a gift,” he finally said. The words flowed out as easy as thick concrete.


“Oh sure. Do you mind telling me who this gift is for?”


Niko rolled his eyes to the side, trying to figure how to characterize his relationship with Carmen. They had been dating for a couple of months now and his feeling were growing stronger for her with each passing day. Most women in his life had served as pleasure pieces, to be discarded once the desire had been spent. This relationship was different on so many levels. Maybe he had allowed himself to surrender to his frailties for the first time since the deep betrayal he suffered as a teenage boy. Or maybe it could be that Carmen had both fight and flatter, something that Niko admired. Finally drawing the conclusion that Carmen was someone special in his life, Niko answered the young lady bluntly.


“She is a good friend.”


“Okay. A good friend,” she repeated.


Not wanting to judge her customer’s spending power too harshly based on his meager attire, the young lady moved over to a display case that housed an assortment of mid-range priced bracelets. Niko trailed behind her hoping he would be able to choose something quickly. He gazed down at the selections and noticed the price right away. He had gotten paid a good amount from Ray for doing a job last night in Bohan but it was not nearly enough to spend in one location. He gazed a bit longer then finally responded to the young lady who had started fumbling through a set of small keys.


“We are just beginning to be friends. We’re not too deep into our friendship yet. Perhaps you have something different.”


Understanding his meaning she gestured for him to look at a tiny four sided swivel display perched on a counter on the other side of the room. Niko padded over and was pleased to find a more suitably priced selection and quickly chose two bracelets. One gave the appearance of what was displayed behind the protective glass; while the other was a bit more casual. He turned to find the lady and held up his selections indicating that he was done.


“That’s a beautiful choice for a friend,” she commented. “I’m sure she will adore them.”


“I hope so,” said Niko.


“Would you like for me to gift wrap them for you?”


“Yes. Please,” responded Niko, handing the bracelets over to the lady.


Niko felt his phone vibrate so he pulled it from his pants pocket and check the caller ID before answering.


“Roman, I’m glad you called.”


“Yes cousin, I’m worried about you.”


“Well worry no more. Meet me for lunch at the Lancaster Star Café in an hour.”


“I will be there with a smile on my face.”


Niko chuckled. “Okay Roman I will see you later.”


Niko ended the call and tucked the phone away.


“Okay sir, your total comes to $285. Cash or credit?”


Niko pulled out a wad of cash and paid the bill. The young lady smiled, stuffing the receipt inside the shopping bag before handing it to Niko. He cupped the tiny package in one hand, thanked the lady, and left the store.


* * *

Marlon stepped from the elevator, inhaling deeply, trying to gird against the bitterness that still swirled around deep inside his soul. He resented Playboy for treating him like a child that needed time-out or like a second-hand errand boy. The apartment was still but the patio doors were open. Marlon had no reason to believe that Playboy had left the apartment and his belief was confirmed when he heard a muffled conversation coming from outside. He moved over to the window and recognized who Playboy was talking to right away. A half empty bottle of the most expensive Champagne that Playboy owned was perched in the center of the table between the two men. Playboy and his companion tilted their glasses upright, draining the last bit before placing them down in unison. The two men bolstered a tremendous laugh before Playboy poured yet another glassful of the sparkling liquid for himself and his guest.


Marlon’s nostrils flared with anger. He had been hiding from the world for the last two days and all Playboy could offer him was a cheap can of eCola. Now he shared what appeared to be a celebratory moment with another one of his lap dogs. Marlon filtered through the memories of how and when he first met Playboy and all the promises that were made only to be broken at the slightest perceived misstep. Playboy had misunderstood Marlon’s ambition for betrayal and had taken too harsh of a step to correct the problem. He had done everything that Playboy demanded, even relinquished the keys to his beloved Silver Patriot. But seeing Playboy share such a confident moment with Clarence Little was the last straw.


The afternoon sun washed over Marlon as he stepped out onto the patio, making him squint against its intensity. “Afternoon gentleman,” said Marlon, making his presence known.


Playboy turned as he swirled the last bit of Champagne at the bottom of his glass. “Marlon,” exclaimed Playboy in a grandiose gesture of open arms. “Glad to see you finally made your way back to home base.”


A pretentious gesture followed by yet another insult. It was far too obvious that he wanted to let Clarence know that the great Playboy X was still running the show inside the tarnished barriers of Northwood and that Marlon would not be interfering with Clarence’s operations in East Holland. Marlon ignored the grandstanding and walked over to the small table. He did not bother making eye contact with Clarence because he truly did not trust the man. Marlon reached out and grabbed the bottle from the table, turning it up to his mouth and not relinquishing its smooth silky taste until half the remaining Champagne had been devoured.


Playboy stood. “I guess you know you’re gonna pay me for that playa.”


“Just send me the bill,” huffed Marlon as he slammed the bottle back down on the table.


“Okay X, I see you have your boy back at your side so I will see myself out,” said Clarence.


“You ain’t got to go nowhere money.”


“Yeah I do. I gotta get back to the crib,” responded Clarence as he slid a tiny box across to the other side of the table. “Here, this is what you been asking for. Next time we’ll meet up at my place.”


Clarence gulped down the remaining bit of Champagne in his glass. “That’s some good sh*t playa. It’s a shame I had to take it down so fast.”


Clarence set the glass down and quickly skirted around the table, disappearing inside the apartment. Playboy eyed Marlon facetiously, trying to figure if he was being serious or auditioning for a spot at Split Sides comedy club. For Marlon to attempt to upstage him would have been funny if it was not so tragic. Playboy circled around the young man, sizing up his strength. Marlon seemed steely, bloated with disdain; something Playboy could not figure the reason. Marlon had been a work in progress, moving through the ranks quickly and showing real promise. He had the right balance of heart and fight. But now he seemed distracted.


“What’s your problem Marlon? You come in here disrespecting my guest, my bottle, and most of all, me.”


“Look X, I just wanna get things rollin’ again. I mean the Trunchez are gone. There ain’t nothin’ we can do to bring them back. We just gotta make sure nothin’ like that happens again.”


“Just what I wanted to hear,” said Playboy as he twirled the tiny box between his hands. He removed the lid and picked up one capsule-shaped object and held it up to examine it against the afternoon sun.


Marlon squinted, attempting to get a better look. “What’s that?”


“The thing that’s gonna tell me what I need to know about ol’ Dwayne.”


“How so?”


“You’re gonna get this little b*tch inside his apartment, that’s how.”


Marlon threw his arms in the air. “How am I gonna do that X? I can’t even get within ten feet of his building much less inside the man’s apartment.”


“D*mn Marlon, think.” barked Playboy. “Get your head out your *ss and use that cheatin’ex-girlfriend of his.”


Marlon blinked, realizing the possibility of Playboy’s plan. It didn’t matter anyway because he had no intentions of following through with any more plans that Playboy was formulating. His days of being an errand boy were fast coming to an end. It was obvious that Playboy had grown past any loyalties to him. With the words from Carter still fresh at the front of his mind, Marlon was more convinced now than ever before that he was always going to be the outsider, never trusted enough to be back in the inner sanctum. If Playboy was not going to let him shine, Marlon was determined to blaze a path of his own.

“And what did you find out this morning? Is my man still hidin’ or is he out prancing around like he owns the hood now?”


Marlon had few words on the subject. “All I saw was a few M.O.B. hangin’ in front of his building.”


“M.O.B.?” questioned Playboy.


For the first time Marlon witness a slight waiver in the king of confidence. Playboy’s eyes shifted as he took a step back, putting distance between his fantasy and the fast approaching reality. Maybe the rumors about the shifting loyalties amongst the ranks of M.O.B., kept him from retaliating against Dwayne for the brutal murders of the Trunchez brothers. A show of weakness was like death to Playboy. He had not gotten this far by being weak even though Dwayne was the one to do the heavy lifting before he was incarcerated. To his credit, Playboy did manage to hold on to what was handed him and even expand the organization far beyond the neighborhood borders. But with Dwayne, his mentor, back and showing real strength and renewal, Playboy has begun to feel a fracture in what used to be an impenetrable bastion of control through intimidation.


“So X, you want me to do this now or what?” asked Marlon, interrupting Playboy’s thoughts.


“Yeah,” replied Playboy, handing the tiny capsule-shaped listening device to Marlon. “You know what to do.”


Marlon slipped the tiny object into his pocket, turned and disappeared inside the apartment leaving Playboy standing alone on his rooftop patio.


* * *

Niko pulled over to the curb outside the Star Café in Lancaster, an expensive residential neighborhood near Middle Park West. He had gone home, showered, and changed into clothes better suited for the stifling afternoon heat. He switched the engine off, grabbed the folded paper lying on the passenger seat, and exited the car, stepping into the heavy thick heat that immediately fogged the lenses of his sunglasses. Roman sat alone at a table on the lower level of the café having an animated conversation on his phone when Niko strode through the door. The laid-back music of IF 99 poured through the PA system making for a relaxed lunchtime gathering at the café.


Niko pulled the chair and sat down, rolling the paper into a tight tube as he waited for Roman to finish his conversation. Roman put up a finger indicating that he would not be much longer so Niko tossed the make-shift tube onto the table and went over to the bar to order two iced Strawberry Lemonade drinks. The bar tender quickly tossed a scoop of ice into two tall slender glasses and filled each nearly to the brim with a frothy bright red liquid. She sank a straw in each glass and slid them towards Niko. Roman had ended his conversation and was searching through his contacts by the time he had gotten back to the table.


“Here Roman, I know how much you like strawberries,” said Niko as he placed the ice-cold drink in front of him and sat down.


“Yes cousin, I do love strawberries, especially if there is a beautiful woman attached to the end of one,” joked Roman.


Niko laughed. “Speaking of beautiful women, how’s Mallorie?” asked Niko before taking in a long sip of the sweet drink.


“Actually she is fine when she’s not on the phone bustin’ my balls for being an overly enthusiastic gambler.”


“She has a point Roman. Do you not remember what happened in Broker? What if I had not shown up when I did?”


“I know cousin. Don’t get yourself worked up about this. It’s all in the past. You did show up and taught those would-be-killers a very good lesson.”


“This is not something to be laughed at Roman. You could have been killed.”


Feeling the seriousness in Niko’s words, Roman thought better, that he should not trivialize the dangers that his gambling had invited into their lives. Even before Niko moved to Liberty City, Roman had gotten into many close calls with the people that he owed money to but had managed to escape with his life and limbs still intact. But now he had Mallorie to consider and a cousin that was more like a brother. Roman lifted the glass and pulled long and hard on the straw, taking in a mouthful of the fruity drink. Niko remained quiet, letting the tension pass before taking another sip of his lemonade.


“So cousin, why haven’t you returned any of my calls?” Roman asked, finally breaking the silence. “Like I said earlier, I’ve been worried about you.”


Niko placed the glass back on the table. “I’ve been busy looking for someone.”


“Why do you carry so much weight Niko when you talk about this person?”


Niko leaned heavily on the table. “The war Roman and the betrayal of our unit by this man.”


“Niko, cousin, a decade has past. Can you just let it rest and enjoy this wonderful life that we have now?” pleaded Roman.


“I cannot do that Roman. I’ve invested years of my life in search of this man. I am in to deep Roman. I cannot stop now that this man is within reach.”


“Well, who is he and where is he?”


Niko unrolled the skinny tube, smoothing the paper flat with the palm of his hand. He turned it so that Roman had a full view of the image copied from the LCPD database. “This is Florian Cravic. The one I believe betrayed our unit so long ago.”


Roman lifted the paper from the table to examine it closer. Niko had finally shared with him the name of the person he believed had betrayed his unit during a highly specialized mission during the last days of the war. Roman farrowed his brow, trying to match the face with the name. He could only imagine the horrors that Niko had experienced and how deeply it had scared him. Roman laid the paper aside and sat upright.


“I remember Florian. He lived just down the road from us. He was a poor kid just like the rest of the village. But he was a dreamer, a fantasist of sorts. Are you sure he was the one?”


“There is only one way to find out. Come with me. I know where he lives.”



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^^ Now this... *this* is how you start a chapter. :^::^: Sexy as hell, rich with metaphor, and not clinical. Good reading. :)


High fives to my man Dwayne :colgate: And Elizabeta.






"He pushed his aching manhood deep inside her pleasure pool and rode the waves of ecstasy. "


You've got a hell of a future as a romance novel writer, son. :p

Edited by saintsrow

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Thanks a lot saints. I was hoping to raise some eyebrows. I'm really trying to get better, to dig deeper into character development. I enjoyed writing the opening scene. I wanted to paint a picture without such explicit terms.


Glad you are still reading.


A big thanks to everyone else for following.

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Taking the Bait


Russell sat at the tiny wooden table, staring blankly out his living room window. It had not truly dawned on him until today that his life belonged to Francis McReary. The hope that this incredible nightmare would soon be over quickly faded once he met Detectives Shannon and Coleman earlier at the salvage yard. They were no more than criminals with a badge entrusted to protect and serve the very people that fall victim to their criminal activity. The realization of how easily he had been baited scared Russell. After all, he was just a kid from Dukes whose parents died way too soon. He had no one to help him maneuver through the growing pains of becoming a man. Pains that have ultimately tangled his life with little escape.

Russell’s mind raced with wild thoughts of how he could break free and somehow make it back to Vice City where he had finally found solace in a friend after his best was murdered. None of the ideas ended well for him. He would be dead or endlessly running from a relentless foe or forever a prisoner of Francis McReary. Russell had been back in Liberty for only six days and so much chaos had wrapped itself around his life. The regrets swirled like a never ending nightmare. He hated lying to Packie. He resented involving Jermaine in the scheming plot of a greedy selfish cop. But most of all, Russell grieved for the life he took down a darken alleyway in Hove Beach. He knew Samuel Barkley was in some way responsible for Jimmy D.’s death even if he did not pull the trigger. If only he had not given chase early that morning or if he had been in more control of his own guilt and rage for believing he should have been the one to die instead of his friend, Samuel would have still been alive to answer for Jimmy D.’s murdered.


Russell pushed away from the table, raking clawed fingers through his thick dark hair. The guilt was too much to accept all over again. He found the 9Mm pistol lying on the coffee table and snatched it up, squeezing the handle and barrel until the blood had drained from his knuckles. He paced the tiny living area. His face glistened as beads of sweat trickled down his forehead, some finding his eyes causing them to sting. His chest heaved up and down as he pulled the magazine from the handle to check for fullness. Seeing that the clip was full, Russell slid it back inside, tapping it into place. His best friend was dead and his life would never be the same no matter how he tried to fix it. Russell inhaled deeply and slowly pulled the slide to ready the pistol. The clicking of the mechanism locking in place reverberated through Russell like a shock wave. Waves of abandonment, guilt, terror, and helplessness washed over him, making him tremble as he began to raise the pistol towards his head. A full deluge of tears streamed down his face. He breathed in short jerky spasms. Russell saw the gun in his hand. He felt the weight as his hand grew ever more unsteady. His shoulder ached as he remembered his last high school football game; the one that tore his rotator cuff and ended all hope for a professional career. Then the last time he spoke with his mother played like a song in his mind. Russell, make sure you keep your grades up so you won’t lose the scholarship. Russell heard sorrowful cries off in the distance but was not sure exactly where the sound was coming from. The tip of the pistol pointed upwards. Russell starred down the barrel of the pistol that his friend Jermaine had given him. Soon he felt the cold steel resting against the side of his forehead. It was cold the night that Jimmy D. was murdered. He could barely see through the blurriness of tearful eyes but he saw Carlie. He still loved Carlie. He needed to see her, to touch her; the one real thing in his life that had not been compromised. Russell pressed the gun harder to the side of his head. Carlie used to touch him so gently. He squeezed his eyes closed, trying to blot out the beautiful image of her face. She called his name. Russell froze in place. He held his breath and opened his eyes. He spun around but no one was there. Russell allowed the weight of his trembling hand to fall to his side before collapsing onto the sofa. The tears dried and his breathing slowly returned to normal. Russell still gripped the pistol, believing the vision of Carlie had given him a reason to keep pushing forward, to hope that a better day was possible.


He sat for a short while gathering his thoughts before calling Packie. The phone rang once then the familiar voice of his friend answered.


“What the h*ll? I thought you had skipped out on me again.”


Russell cleared his throat. “Nope, not a chance,” answered Russell, attempting to cover the strain in his voice.


“You alright man?”


“Yeah, just waking up,” responded Russell. He quickly moved on to the reason he had called in order to avoid any further analysis of his voice. “You know I asked about Carlie but wasn’t ready to see her yet.”




“Well I think I’m ready now.”


“Since you’re so ready boy, how about gettin’ your *ss over to Meadows Park. She and Katie just left to go play a few sets of tennis.”


Russell grabbed at his chest to quiet his pounding heart. He had not thought that he would get to see Carlie so soon. A slight smile touched the corner of his mouth but soon slipped away. It had been nearly a year and a half since he left the city and went into hiding. He suddenly felt a pinch of doubt creep to the surface. How would she respond to him popping back into her life after so long? Was this the best time? Russell inhaled deeply and pushed all doubt aside. He had to grab the opportunity that could very well save his life.


“Sounds great Packie. I’m leavin’ right now.”


“Alright boy. Let’s get together soon and do somethin’ I’m bored as h*ll.”


“Will do buddy.”


Russell clicked the line off and tucked the phone inside his pocket. He quickly scooped up his car keys and left the apartment. Meadows Park was in Dukes and he hoped afternoon traffic would not be a problem. The thought of Carlie had given him hope and he needed to see her before tonight.


* * *

Frankie Gallo pulled his aging Washington up along the curb near a dry cleaner in Hove Beach. The air conditioner had stopped working just before Valentine’s Day when work had slowed during the winter. Frankie was reluctant to spend money on anything unnecessary and needing air conditioning with eight inches of snow on the ground was a waste of time and money. But now during the middle of summer, the inside of his car felt like a casting iron factory even with the windows all the way down. Frankie wiped the pouring sweat from his face with a balled up ratty looking handkerchief then tossed it onto the passenger seat.


His Uncle, Phil Bell, managed Honker’s over in Alderney and on occasion would give Frankie low level jobs with little risk and an even smaller payout. When the opportunity for a real job arose, Frankie jumped at the chance to prove he could be more than an errant boy. The pay was better than normal for just a straight reconnaissance job so he pounced without hesitation hoping it would lead to something bigger and better with a steady cash flow. Frankie found his phone in the center console and dialed a number from memory. Ray Boccino answered.


“Hey Frankie, what’s the problem?”


“No problem Ray. I just thought I would let you know I’m over in Broker right now.”


“That’s good Frankie. Just remember what I told you. Don’t talk to anyone. Order a drink and sit down with your listenin’ ears on. Okay. You got it?”


“Okay Ray. I got it. It’s hot as h*ll over hear. I been sweatin’ like a whore in a barber shop. All those men, everybody gets a cut. Get it? Get it?”


“Ha, ha. Focus Frankie. I get it.”


“Okay Ray, I got it. I’m one street over from Comrades Bar. I’m gettin’ ready to go now,” said Frankie as he wiped another handful of sweat from his brow.


“Call me when you’re done.”


The line went dead before Frankie had a chance to respond. He peaked in the rearview mirror and wiped his matted hair to one side before stepping out of the car. He muttered Ray’s instructions as he skirted around the front end of the car to make his way to a fenced lot beside Comrades. The smell of sweet onions and the unmistakable aroma of salty hot dogs from a nearby street vendor made Frankie stroke his empty stomach. He ignored his hunger as a gray Super GT parked alone behind the wooden fence caught his eye. The car of his dreams sat vulnerable to theft and would be easy pickings if Frankie had the time. But he didn’t, so Frankie repeated Ray’s instructions as he moved past the car, making his way out to the street where the food vendor called for customers.


Frankie noticed a burned out building across the street and wondered out loud what had happened to the unlucky tenants. More than likely they were Russian given that this part of Hove Beach sounded like it could have been a small town straight out of Russia. A tall gaunt looking man stumbled out of the bar, nearly colliding with Frankie but managed to stay on his feet long enough to get into a waiting cab .The door swung open once again this time belching out a young woman with short brown hair who joined the man in the cab.


Don’t talk, sit, have a drink, and listen. Frankie inhaled and stepped inside Comrades, a front for one of the most powerful Russian organized crime families in Liberty City. A thick fog of cigar smoke met Frankie as he entered the tiny bar. The space was big enough for a good dozen grown men to come in and get lost for a few hours. But small enough to quickly invite trouble if just one of those men over saturated himself with his drink of choice and developed loose lips and flying fists. The entire area could be taken in at a glance. A couple of beefy guys matched skills at the sole pool table with two spectators quietly enjoying the game. One guy with a case of the shakes sat at the bar, hunched over his drink, speaking incoherently with a Russian accent. Frankie’s eyes drifted to the rear where two men seemed to be engaged in a tense conversation near a door that must lead to a back alley was Frankie’s best guess.

Frankie found an empty barstool and firmly planted himself so that he could be within earshot of their conversation.


“Hey pal, what’ll you have?”


Frankie looked up at the chubby bartender.


“Mickey’s the name,” said the bartender as he wiped the counter in front of his newest customer. “What’s your poison?”


Finally finding a suitable response, Frankie answered. “Whatever you have for a man down on his luck.”

“I’ve heard that a thousand times and I always have the same cure.”


While Mickey busied himself with mixing the drink, Frankie noticed the array of postcards from Vice City covering the wall behind the bar. Big busted women wearing flimsy bathing suits seemed to be the trend. Vlad must have been one lucky man being that most of the cards were meant for him. Mickey gave the mixer one final shake before pouring the contents into a glass and placing it in front of Frankie.


“Here we are friend. This will cure any problem.”


Wishing he had gotten something from the food vendor to fill his belly, Frankie wrapped his hand around the glass and took a sip.


“That’s pretty good Mickey. What…?”


The conversation between the two men at the rear had grown louder, making Frankie whip around to see that the dispute had gotten more animated. Clearly one of the men had the upper hand. The other revealed his displeasure with being publicly reprimanded by turning away in defiance.


Frankie turned back to take another sip of his drink. “I wonder what that’s all about.


“Hey, what’s it to you friend?” asked the man sitting at the bar.


Frankie’s eyes darted up from his glass, feeling a pinch of anxiousness. “I was just…”


“You were just butting in where you have no business. Sounds like you’re a Alderney piece of sh*t to me. ’cause you sure ain’t from around here.”


“Hey, settle down Ivan. Here have another. On the house,” responded Mickey, attempting to calm an all too familiar opening salvo to a barroom brawl.


Ivan ignored Mickey, standing far too quickly made him waiver to one side. Ivan steadied himself against the bar as he downed the remaining whiskey before slamming the glass back down on the bar.


“Hey Dimitri, you better look at this one. He ain’t from the neighborhood.”


Dimitri Rascalov and his friend Mikhail Faustin immigrated to Liberty City from Russia in the 1990s. Being seasoned criminals, the two men settled in Broker and quickly set up their criminal organization that came to be known as the Faustin Family. With Mikhail at the helm and Dimitri as his Lieutenant, their influence and operations spread through Hove Beach, Firefly Island, and Beachgate. Recently Dimitri has been acting against his boss’s orders, growing restless of Mikhail’s paranoid cocaine induced outbursts. Lately his erratic behavior has put the Family’s business dealings in jeopardy of being discovered by law enforcement; something that needed to be avoided at all costs.


Recognizing the drunken rants of Ivan, Dimitri turned to see what had caused the outburst.


“Ivan, what is the problem?”


“He’s asking questions. He’s asking questions and he ain’t from around here,” responded Ivan as he pushed himself away from the bar.


Realizing that he had said too much, Frankie tossed a bill on the bar to cover the tab and started towards the exit. The two beefy pool hustlers blocked his way but did not touch him.


“Hey guys, I’m just another guy wanting a drink is all. I can see that I’m not wanted here, so I’m leaving,” said Frankie, throwing up his hands to show a friendly sign of surrender.


Neither man took the bait. They stood their ground with no hint of abandoning their post. Frankie swallowed hard, feeling the hairs crawl up his back as Dimitri Rascalov neared. Ivan staggered over to join the men blocking the only sure way out of Comrades Bar. Mickey had gone silent, knowing it wasn’t much else he could do to quell the misstep of his newest customer. Dimitri was right on Frankie’s heels. Frankie turned slightly, looking at him from the corner of his eye.


“Turn around. And keep your hands at your sides.”


Frankie did as he was told and was soon facing the most dangerous man in Hove Beach. A man who respected the rules of the game and hated rule breakers, especially those who had nothing to offer him. Frankie’s face flushed as fear crept to the surface. Dimitri was a slightly built man with light brown hair swept away from his face. His voice was almost that of a teenaged boy. There was nothing at all convincingly horrible about the man except for those cold hateful eyes staring back at Frankie from behind prescription eyeglasses.


“Two things. What is your name and who sent you.”


“I, I just came in for a drink is all,” muttered Frankie.


“Speak up, I can’t hear you,” whispered Dimitri.


The mocking change in tone frightened Frankie even more, making his entire body tremble.


“He said he just came in for a drink,” said Ivan who had moved closer. “Like there are no bars in Alderney.”

“So you’re from Alderney?”


Frankie remained silent.


“This is what you should have done. Had you stayed quiet and enjoyed the drink that Mickey so carefully prepared for you, we would not be at this point now. Dimitri straightened Frankie’s sweat-stained shirt collar. “Now I wonder who could have sent you all the way from Alderney?”


Dimitri gestured for the two beefy pool hustlers to come closer. They place their pool cues across the table and marched heavy-footed to where Frankie stood. They towered over Frankie like sentinels. Sweat pooled at the circular indention between his clavicles. Frankie cleared his throat in order to speak but Dimitri stopped him with his own speech.


“Seems like our friend is being stubborn. Don’t be stubborn it only serves to waste time. It will be much easier just to tell us what we want to know.”


Frankie remained quiet, contemplating what to do next. He knew the odds were stacked against him and there was no need to swing a punch. His silence only caused Dimitri to quickly lose patience. He stepped aside and gave the two sentinels their orders.


“Take him in the back and see what you can find out. Then make sure he gets back to Alderney.”


Frankie’s eyes went wide at the thought of what these two brutes were going to do to him. His mouth parched and his knees gave way when the two men grabbed him by the arms and ushered him to the door at the rear of the barroom. Frankie’s feet dragged behind him, leaving scuff marks on the hardwood flooring. Fright had swallowed Frankie’s courage, rendering him unable to fight off a fly much less two absolutely huge men.


“Tell them what I want to know friend,” said Dimitri before the back door slammed shut.



* * *

Russell had been sitting inside his car for the last twenty minutes watching Carlie and her friend Kate McReary volley tennis balls back and forth. He was close enough to hear their giggles and when traffic was still he could even hear the sweetness of Carlie’s voice. She was still the pro, beating Kate on triple match point and celebrating her win with a hand shake at the net. Carlie was just as Russell remembered her; beautiful, with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, flawless golden brown skin, and a smile that could melt the coldest heart. When Russell left for Vice City, he and Carlie had been dating for nearly a year but he did not know just how much he loved her until today. When life was less complicated, he and Carlie made Meadows Park their place of choice to build their relationship. Every spare moment they would pick up a game of tennis or go ice skating at the huge complex that housed a state-of-the-art Museum, tennis courts, and ice skating rink. Even today Russell could hear the crack of the bat as there was always a community baseball game being played just down the hill.


A gentle breeze played through Carlie’s ponytail, picking it up and slightly tossing it to one side. Russell could stand to be an onlooker no longer. He left his car parked on Stillwater Avenue and marched directly to the bench where the two friends were sitting to take a break. The tree-lined walkway made perfect cover from the afternoon heat. Russell slowed as he approached the bench. They had not noticed him yet. Another few yards and he found himself standing next to the woman he had not seen or talked to in a year and a half. And until today, the woman he thought he would never see again. It seemed like time stood still for an eternity. Kate was the first to recognize him. Seeing her friend’s eyes drift away, Carlie turned to see what had caught Kate’s attention.


“Hi Carlie.”


Even though he was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, she recognized Russell immediately. Carlie closed her eyes then opened them again to make sure she was not dreaming. Her body was like lead. She wanted to jump up and throw her arms around him but uncertainty and confusion kept her pinned to the park bench.


“I know you have a lot of questions,” said Russell, responding to the stunned look on her face.


Carlie looked away, wiping at a tear that had formed in the corner of her eye. Kate stroked her shoulder consolingly as she leaned forward and whispered something before leaving her friend and Russell alone. Knowing that Carlie’s heart was broken, Russell cautiously moved closer and sat down next to her. He reached out to take her hand but stopped short and pulled back. Carlie exhaled her pinned up grief and finally turned to face Russell.


“I thought you were dead,” said Carlie, voice strained almost beyond recognition.


Russell dropped his head. The pain on her face and in her voice was something he had never seen in Carlie. They had not had an argument or even a real serious misunderstanding the entire time they were together. He now knows that leaving Liberty was a huge mistake. It was a mistake that he was determined to correct.


“I’m sorry Carlie. I never wanted that to happen,” said Russell, gently placing his hand on her arm. “I don’t have much time. But if you give me a chance, I can explain.”


“Explain how you are connected to James’ death. Your face was all over the news last year Russell and it was just like you had disappeared. No one knew anything. And when I didn’t get a call after a month, I just figured you were dead because I know you couldn’t have killed James.”


Russell hesitated before responding. He wanted to consider how much he should tell Carlie. He finally trusted her enough to tell her everything. “You’re right Carlie, I didn’t kill Jimmy D. I’m being framed.”


Carlie narrowed her teary eyes. “Framed? By who?”


“You can’t tell anyone. I’m trusting you.”


Carlie blinked to clear her eyes. “Okay, I won’t.”


“It’s Kate’s brother.”


“Patrick?” responded Carlie in disbelief.


“No, another brother. Francis, the Deputy Police Commissioner over in Algonquin. He’s a real piece of work,” said Russell, voice full of contempt for a man who bullied and baited the most vulnerable. “I’m wrapped up in a lot of his schemes but it won’t be forever Carlie. I’m gonna clear my name and figure out why Jimmy D. was murdered.”


“Please be careful Russell,” said Carlie, reaching to grab his hand.


“I will. And remember, you know nothing. I have to go now. I’ve stayed far too long.”


Russell squeezed Carlie’s hand to reassure her that he would be fine. Tears welled in her eyes as he stood and left without saying goodbye.

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To be honest, you are doing a great job. I love reading your story, it's really suits my taste, lol.

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Thanks. I having fun writing it. Sometimes the words don't come all at once even though I know exactly what I want to write. Although I have noticed that I have improved, not to say there is no room left for improvement. This is a great place to buuild confidence and to learn. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to follow the story.

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I'm a bit over halfway through now, and have to say, I'm glad you went forward with this. I like how you're adding more depth to the already great story, as there can never be enough character development, and I like seeing interaction between some characters who never met in the game itself. (or its episodes)


I also noticed the scene Saintsrow was talking about earlier. :D Echoing him a bit, that's how you do a sex scene. Normally I dislike them in fanfiction because of how serious or awkward they are, but the tongue-in-cheek style, filled with metaphors, was pretty ecstatic to read.

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Special Delivery


Bobby West stood bent over the front of an old square television set trying to fix the distorted picture. He wiggled the cable wire plugged into the rear of the set but the picture remained cloudy. Static crackled through the speakers and the snowy picture tossed a ghostly haze over the tiny living room. Dwayne had been secluded in his bedroom down the hall since returning from Bohan. He had received a phone call and closed the door for more privacy.


Bobby noticed that Dwayne’s whole demeanor had changed. He was less agitated and felt more confident with his decision to trust Jermaine. He was more talkative and even managed to joke about his incarceration. Gone was the self-doubt and anxiousness. Dwayne projected confidence onto Bobby, giving his old friend the hope that Dwayne would be the leader that he used to be. Russell Cobb had kept his word and delivered a product that was better than anything circling Liberty City at the moment. Dwayne left a kilo with Elizabeta, knowing she would call for more, thereby increasing his cash flow. The faster Dwayne could get the product on the street the better his chances of regaining power in the city. Power was exactly what he needed if he had any hope of defeating Playboy and regaining his position as Prince of the city.

Frustrated by his futile efforts, Bobby gave the old set an open handed whack that made the picture clear enough to reveal an episode of high stakes poker. He found a comfortable spot on the mashed sofa and settled there to watch the remainder of the program. Christopher Cocksure had just bluffed his way to a win and now threatened to sweep the round. The bedroom door pulled open, raking across the carpet. Dwayne emerged, wearing a comfortable pair of blue track pants and a black tank. He sauntered down the hall to join Bobby in the living room, plopping down on his dilapidated chair.


“Everything alright boss?”


“Yeah, just gettin’ some things straight with Jermaine.”


“Maxwell called while you were down the hall.”


“What he say?”


Bobby shifted forward. “Our guys are almost finished cuttin’ and packin’. Firefly Projects, Hove Beach, and Boaboa will be flooded by tonight.”


“Sounds good. I’ll give him a call a little later,” said Dwayne, rubbing his bald head trying to keep his enthusiasm in check. “You know Playboy ain’t made a move yet.”


“He might be planning something though since that little b*tch Marlon was over at the diner this morning,” said Bobby, reaching to lower the volume on the television. “He was talkin’ to an ex-Hustler by the name of Carter Jones.”


“Don’t know him.”


“Nah, you wouldn’t. He came around while you were on lock-down. But left a few years back for some reason and went to Alderney before Marlon joined up. He got his own sh*t now and the way I hear it, he’s doing pretty good for himself.”


“So Marlon is meetin’ up with an ex-Hustler. Emphasis on ex,” said Dwayne. “”Maybe ol’ Playboy is having more problems than just losing the club. Like Jermaine said, loyalty in his crew is waning.”


“Could be. I hear a lot out on the streets. If it’s true, I guess he’s hoping you’re satisfied with the Triangle Club.”


“Well he can hope in one hand and sh*t in the other. Because I want what’s mine. And I ain’t stoppin’ until I get stopped.”


Dwayne rubbed an open hand across his face as to wipe away the contempt that he felt for Playboy X. He spent years behind bars molding and shaping his protégé into a strong confident leader who could step up to the challenges of running the crew while Dwayne faced his own challenges behind bars. Now Playboy has disrespected Dwayne’s tutelage, pushing him aside like yesterdays’ news. That more than anything else lit a fire inside Dwayne that he never knew existed. For the first time Dwayne felt the strength that he wished he had when his father was mistreating his mother so many years ago.


Dwayne no longer admired Playboy X or his accomplishments. He viewed him as an enemy and as someone who has rejected the tenets of loyalty. Playboy had grown greedy and selfish, developing a reckless disregard for allegiance to anyone but himself. Dwayne refused to bow down to a coward who chose to hide behind a telephone inside his penthouse prison, sending his minion out to do what he ought to do himself. There was no way he would ever regain the respect he had for Playboy. There was no forgiveness. The betrayal ran too deep.


“Hey boss. Boss.” Seeing that Dwayne had drifted away in his thoughts, Bobby tapped the coffee table to get his attention.


Dwayne leaned forward, inhaling deeply. The realization of how profoundly he felt betrayed by Playboy had sent his mind reeling to the past. He needed to stay focused on the present if he ever wanted to have a future in this city. He shrugged the thoughts aside, refusing to allow a fool like Playboy to destroy his confidence. Doubt was the last thing that should be on his mind. He turned his attention back to Bobby who was fumbling with his phone.


“Just got a text from Gabe. Our friend has finally come back home.”


“Get young blood up here. We movin’ now,” said Dwayne, quickly scrambling to his feet.


He rushed down the hall to his bedroom and returned with a package and a clipboard holding shipping documents. Dwayne placed the package on the coffee table and laid the clipboard on top in the center. Bobby eyed the display with curiosity as he dialed Pete’s phone number. Dwayne disappeared once again down the hall, returning with a crumpled brown paper bag in hand.


“Hey Pete, come on up. Boss wants to see you.”


“What’s all this about?” asked Bobby as he tucked his phone back inside his jacket pocket.


“It’s time for someone to get shipped out. His time is up,” said Dwayne with a coy grin spilling from the corner of his mouth.


“Agreed,” responded Bobby. “The b*tch is back home and I know he didn’t think the Trunchez was it.”


“Too bad for him if he did.”


“Pete’s gonna be a special one. Kid already got that look. The same one I had when I was his age: wide-eyed and scared as h*ll.”


The big man’s chest swelled with pride as he reminisced about his induction into the gang life. His big brown eyes wondered off, knowing that Pete was about to step into a life with no easy exit. If he was lucky, Pete would spend a long life avoiding jail time and dodging the bullet with his name on it. The reality of most gangsters was quite different. His life would more than likely end either in a pool of blood on the streets or in a prison cell serving a life sentence for murder. Bobby’s life was more the exception than the rule. He had never done one day of jail time for all the crimes that he had committed and bullets seem to zigzag past him, never leaving a mark.


Within moments a faint tapping was at Dwayne’s apartment door. Seeing that Bobby had drifted deep into his thoughts, Dwayne nudged an elbow into his beefy bicep to coax him back from where ever he had wandered.


“No time to day dream Muchi. Get the door. That’s probably young blood.”


Bobby bounced back immediately, apologizing for losing focus. His long legs quickly carried him down the hall to answer the door. Pete stood alone in the hallway plucking at the stud in his ear. Bobby ushered the young man inside and closed the door. Navy blue cargo shorts and a matching shirt laid folded neatly on the sofa. Dwayne tossed a black cap next to the uniform and stepped back to eye the young man, trying to imagine if he would fit the role. Pete stood beside Bobby eagerly awaiting his next task.


“Perfect,” said Dwayne. “So Pete, how would you like to make a special delivery today?”


* * *

An unmarked silver van slipped into a nearly vacant lot nestled between two office buildings overlooking Northern Middle Park. The driver pulled into an empty parking space near the back of the lot and exited, shielding his eyes from the sharp late afternoon sunshine peeking through the tall structures. He strolled around to the rear of the van and yanked the doors open. Inside he found a work order and a few work rags and stuffed them inside the pocket of his coveralls. He slid a tattered-looking hat on his head and dragged an oversized toolbox out and placed it on the ground. The slimly built man slammed the van doors shut and slid a Redwood cigarette behind his ear. He picked up the toolbox and walked towards the entrance of the parking lot.


Topaz Street buzzed with traffic as it was a main thoroughfare into Alderney. The man adjusted his hat and entered the building behind a well-dressed man. The area was clean and minimally decorated. Shades of green ceramic floor tiles created a pattern that made the close area seem more spacious. A bench and two chairs were bumped up against the wall and a leafy potted plant sat near the security desk. The well-dressed man flashed an ID card and continued down the hall, past a picture of Algonquin at night hanging on the wall over a water fountain. He tapped in a security code to disengage the lock and disappeared inside an office. The man reached inside his pocket and pulled out a crumpled work order and held it up in front of the young man.


“Liberty Water Works. I have a work order for a broken water valve.”


The young man tapped his finger on the desk. “Um, maintenance is that way,” pointing to the right. “And the service elevator is right around the corner from the office.”


“Thanks pal,” said the man as he stuffed the paper back into his pocket.


His heavy work boots thudded loudly on the tiled floor as he moved down the hall, passing the door clearly marked as maintenance. He rounded the corner and was greeted by a tower of boxes and carts lined against the wall near a fire exit. Tucked at the end of the short corridor was the service elevator. He shifted the toolbox to his other hand and pushed the up button on the wall panel. The doors banged open almost instantly. The man stepped inside, tapping the button that corresponded to the top floor and waited patiently for the doors to close.


The lift rattled and moaned as do almost all service elevators as it carried the man to his destination. He was glad when the drone of the pulleys finally ended and the doors sprang open. The short corridor looked much the same as the one downstairs. He stepped from the lift and maneuvered around the crates to find the fire exit. The chatter of female voices approaching piqued his curiosity. Any other day he would have made himself available but today he needed to get to work and complete the job. The man gently pushed the door open. He checked to make sure the lock was not engaged before allowing the heavy metal door to quietly settle in its jam.


The narrow corridor was dark and smelled like motor oil. A red strobe light rotated on the far wall, lighting the area enough to show the man the way to a set of metal stairs. He quickly trotted up the flight of stairs to find the final door bolted and chained with a padlock. He cursed out loud. His eyes had been off the streets long enough. He placed the toolbox down on the landing and looked around for an alternative exit. As the man turn to descend the stairs, light from the rotating strobe caught a small piece of metal hanging next to the door. It was a key. He grabbed it, hoping it would work. The man clinched the lock in his fist and jammed the key into the chamber, turning it once. The bolt popped, releasing the chain that spiraled into a neat pile of links next to his toolbox. Knowing no one would be past this point; he released the bolt and pushed the door open, letting it bang hard against the brick wall.


Sunlight flooded the corridor making the man squint. He pulled a length of chain to block the door from closing fully before grabbing his toolbox and moving outside. One final flight of stairs took him directly to the rooftop. He walked over to the rear corner of the roof, laying eyes on the East Holland Projects in the distance. The buildings towered high above the city streets. He placed the toolbox down, flipping the latches to release the lid. The man pulled out a soft, neatly folded blanket and spread it out on the blacken roof tiles. Inside were the disassembled parts of a Combat Sniper Rifle. The thin man had professional hands that were trained and highly skilled in the area of firearms. He quickly assembled the rifle, attaching the telescopic scope and adjustable bipod before locking the ten-round magazine into place. He moved back to the corner of the roof and propped the bipod atop the low wall. His sights were focused on one particular spot of the East Holland Projects and the crosshairs lined up perfectly. The sniper pulled his phone and tapped in a one word text. READY. He pressed send and tucked the phone away.


East Holland was a neighborhood south of Northwood burdened with some of the same challenges as its northern neighbor. Crime and poverty ran hand in hand, showing most residents of East Holland what it meant to have nothing except hope and fear. The hope that they would not fall victim to the ongoing gang related violence and the fear of that same violence kept them awake at night. There was no escaping their reality so most residents stayed quiet, rarely reporting any crime even if the assault happened in plain sight for all to witness. The drug dealers and pimps controlled the streets and alleyways that cut through the decaying neighborhood, preying on the weak and vulnerable.


One such shameful individual has earned a good amount of money from his heroin and crack cocaine drug dealing operations at the behest of Playboy X. Even though the set-up is relatively small, Clarence Little has managed to control an entire East Holland Housing block through intimidation and violence. Recently the LCPD has turned a blind eye to his criminal ways, leading some to believe he is paying favors to the precinct. His apartment had been vacant since the Trunchez brothers’ massacre at the Triangle Club in Bohan a few nights ago, but he has finally returned home.


* * *

Pete Downing rang the bell at Auto Cowboys. He tugged at his shirt collar, feeling uncomfortable in the uniform. The metal door swung open and a short man wearing greasy overalls appeared. He gave Pete a stern look as he wiped his hands on an even greasier rag. Kevin Combs used to be a close associate of Dwayne’s crew back before Playboy X took the reins. He and Dwayne were closer than brothers. But one night during a drug run, the deal fell apart and a bullet slammed into his knee. He never walked right again. Kevin’s injury forced him off the streets and into the legitimate world. He was sadden when Dwayne was sent to prison and honored when he called a few days ago to ask for a favor.


“Yeah, what you want?”


Pete cleared his throat, forgetting about how uncomfortable he felt. “Dwayne sent me.”


Kevin’s eyes widened. “Wait here.”


The door slammed shut and Pete stepped away, turning to see an ambulance speed past the garage, sirens wailing. He turned as the gears that pulled the garage door up grated against each other, making a noise that almost sounded like someone crying. Kevin sat behind the wheel of a navy blue Speedo. He drove the van out onto the lot and got out. A Huge decal depicting Alpha Mail’s logo was attached to both sides of the vehicle. Pete raised an eyebrow. It looked real enough. He just hoped he could deliver the goods.


Kevin hobbled around to the rear of the van where Pete was waiting. “Here are the keys,” slapping them in Pete’s palm. “Make sure you tell Dwayne that he still has a brother.”


Pete clinched the keys in his fist and watched as Kevin limped back inside the garage and lowered the door. He pulled open the back doors of the van then quickly removed the package from the car and placed it and the clipboard in the cargo area. Pete secured the doors and slid behind the wheel. East Holland was a short drive south of Northwood. Go to the housing projects, deliver the package, and leave the van somewhere in Varsity Heights. Pete repeated the instructions that Dwayne had given him as he continued south through Northwood. It was a way to stay calm and focused on the task.


He had done a lot worse than delivering a package as a member of The Fly Boys. But being selected by Dwayne Forge was an honor that brought with it the awesome challenge of making doubly sure that everything was done right. Sometimes the smallest tasks are the most important. Pete had hoped that he would be given the chance to showcase his skills from the very first moment he met Dwayne. He had not been told, but Pete almost knew that today was the start of his initiation into M.O.B. Being the driver for Dwayne and now he would kick-start something big with a simple delivery.

Go to the housing projects, deliver… Pete stopped repeating the instructions as he rounded the block, seeing the East Holland Housing towers rise up in front of him made ever thing real. The familiar feeling of stomach flutters were back. Pete tugged at his earlobe as he drew closer to the housing block. He wished he had a gun but knew the reason why that was an impossibility. He had to rely on his other skills. Pete completed the final sequence of instructions as he pulled over to the curb and cut the engine.


Any remaining nerves were replaced by Pete’s gut instincts. He stepped out the van, quickly moving to the rear to retrieve the package. He pulled his cap low and hoisted the box with the clipboard on top from the cargo area and kicked the doors closed with his foot. He could hear the heavy beat of his favorite song drifting out to the street as he walked down to the chain-linked gated entrance. Pete shoved the gate open with the front of the package and stepped inside the housing block. A sign overhead directed him to the stairwell to the left. Getting past the three fancy-dressed guys that didn’t mind throwing up their gang colors might be a problem. Pete did not hesitate. He was the mailman with a delivery that needed to be made. Even though the package weighed close to nothing, Pete shifted it to get a better grip and continued on towards the stairs. He thought for a moment that he would be able to pass without question. But one of the guys wearing a backwards ball cap stepped forward.


“Don’t nobody go up who don’t belong up.”


“I’m with Alpha Mail,” responded Pete.


“Looks like you alpha female with those shady *ss clothes you got on.”


Laughter oozed from the three men, attempting to intimidate Pete. He feigned nervousness, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. One of the men broke away and walked down to the entrance. Pete began to fidget even more, looking from the men still blocking his way then back down to the man that was peering out to the street who called back to his companions.


“Hey O’Dell, he really is the Alpha Mailman. Little punk’s van is parked right down there.”


“This is my first day on the job and I just don’t want to mess up,” said Pete.


O’Dell eyed Pete and the package he was holding. The clipboard covered the address label perfectly. Pete wanted to conjure up another nervous fit but decided to let O’Dell respond to what his partner had told him.


“Alright. Go ahead. You too scared lookin’ to be anything but a mailman.”


The two men parted, allowing Pete to pass. One down, two more to go thought Pete as he quickly trotted up to the third floor winding through the litter-filled hallways. Apartment 3A overlooked the abandoned playground. Parents had stopped their children from playing at this playground from fear of the unchecked violence that has grabbed ahold of this community. Clarence Little lives and operates his drug dealing business in apartment 3A and he has finally returned home. He and Playboy X had an afternoon toast to new plans for expansion. North Holland is growing and with growth comes opportunity. As a reward for his loyalty, Playboy gave Clarence the green light to begin dealing in the Eastside of North Holland.


Pete placed the package down and banged on the door. “Alpha Mail, delivery.”


Pete stepped back and waited. He looked down at the deserted playground, remembering when he used to be a kid. Pete didn’t hear any movement inside and was about to bang on the door once again when it finally pulled open to reveal someone that matched the picture that Dwayne had shown him.


“Delivery for Clarence Little.”


Clarence poked his head out the door, looking at the package bumped up against the wall behind Pete. His eyes bounced back, suspiciously scrutinizing the young man. He couldn’t be too careful given the unexpected attack at the Triangle Club, leaving the Trunchez’s brothers dead and the club back in the hands of Dwayne Forge. Clarence had left a small security detail downstairs for added protection. He hadn’t received a call so he decided to answer the door. He has fearlessly marched through his twenty-three years of life and he wasn’t about to start letting fear win now. Clarence was strapped and ready to kill if it came to that.


“Yeah, I’m Clarence. Can you bring it in for me partner?”


“Sorry sir. I’m not allowed to enter a customer’s residence. All I need is your signature right here.”


Pete extended the clipboard and pointed to a line at the bottom of the page. Clarence grabbed the dangling pen and scribbled his name on the line.


“Okay sir, that’s all I need. Have a good day.”


The crosshairs were trained on Clarence Little like a laser.


“Come on out little Clarence,” said the sniper in a sing-song voice. “Okay kid, time to leave. You’ve done your job.”


The package was supposed to lure him out into the open for the best shot. The sniper knew he needed a headshot in order to kill the target immediately. Multiple shots to the body would most definitely reveal his location; something the sniper did not want to happen. Clarence was exposed even more once Pete tucked the clipboard under his arm and disappeared around the corner, leaving him alone at his apartment door. The sniper looked away to refocus his eyes then adjusted the scope. Clarence remained at the door with the phone to his ear. Soon he shoved it back into his pocket and stepped out into the hallway. Clarence looked left then walked over to the package. The sniper placed his index finger firmly on the trigger. One shot, one kill. Clarence leaned forward for a closer inspection of the package. The sniper squeezed the trigger sending a 7.62x51mm caliber round sailing down the barrel, heating the air as it burned a direct path to the top of its target’s head. The round tore through his skull, shattering bone and mutilating brain tissue. Bits of brain, bone, and blood sprayed viciously over the outside wall of Clarence’s apartment as the bullet finally came to a rest, buried deep inside the concrete.


The sniper confirmed the kill and quickly dropped down behind the low wall to take cover from any curious residents. He pulled his phone and quickly tapped in another one word text. DONE. The sniper disassembled his rifle just as professionally as he had assembled it. He replaced the parts back inside his oversized toolbox, covering them with the soft blanket. He heard sirens approaching as he slipped back inside the building securing the door with its lock and chain.


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So sorry I forgot to read the Writter's discussion forum. I just want to let you know, I'm still following your story as I'm a BIG fan. I don't know if I could give you a feedback or not since English isn't my first languange, but I'll let you know that I keep reading your story by clicking the likes button everytime you post a new chapter.


But of course, if you want a feedback, I'll do my best.

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Dead End


The crack of a single high-caliber bullet exploding from the barrel of an unseen rifle reverberated through the East Holland Housing complex The miniature missile easily found its target, leaving Clarence Little lying dead in the hallway outside his apartment. The back of his head torn away like a jagged watermelon, exposing his scrambled brain tissue. Pete had quickly traversed the three flights of stairs, making it back down to the ground floor only moments before the hollow crackle of the rifle alerted O’Dell and his companions to possible trouble.


Any other day the sound of gunfire in East Holland would have been as normal as walking down the street. But with the recent resurgence of Dwayne Forge and the wild accusations that he was the one to order the hit on the Trunchez, O’Dell’s gut told him a different story. One shot, no volley gave him a reason to be uneasy. He turned to Brandon with concern in his eyes.


“Where’d it come from?”


“Sounded like the park,” said Brandon, pulling at the brim of his cap.


“D*mn. Hey Trent, give C. a call,” said O’Dell, trying to keep his voice solid even though he felt something was terribly wrong.


Trent pressed one on his cell phone to quick-dial Clarence. He eyed O’Dell as he waited for a response. “No answer. It went to voicemail.”


“Sh*t,” exclaimed O’Dell. “I’m goin’ up.”


O’Dell turned and started up the stairs when a jarring holler filled with fear and revulsion sent chills crawling up his spine. He froze for a moment, jerking his head upward in the direction of the screams. His worst fear might have been realized. O’Dell pulled his pistol and dashed up the steps, pounding each with the firm determination to reach apartment 3A. Trent and Brandon were tight on his heels with their pistols drawn and ready to meet whatever had caused such an outburst.


O’Dell quickly arrived at the third floor landing, using the railing as leverage to whip around to the open hallway. He jammed the pistol out in front, cautiously leading the way. Trent and Brandon moved deliberately, keeping a few paces behind. The shrieks from the woman had quieted to a muffled sob coming from behind a closed door. O’Dell flattened himself against the wall to protect himself from whatever could be waiting around the corner. He held up a closed fist to signal for Trent and Brandon to hold their position. O’Dell sneaked a quick look and saw Marcus and Calvin hunkered down behind the low wall just outside Clarence’s apartment. They were left to guard the stairwell on the other side of the building but manage to move quick enough to be the first to arrive at his apartment. Their guns were drawn and aimed down the hall. O’Dell snapped his fingers to alert them to his location. He crouched low, scanning the open hallways on the other side of the courtyard. No sign of trouble so he moved quickly towards Marcus and Calvin, waving for Trent and Brandon to follow.


Sirens filled the air as the LCPD approached the vicinity of Middle Park. O’Dell turned the corner and was stunned by a horrifying sight. His boss and business partner lay dead near an unopened package with half his head blown away. His apartment door stood open with the quiet sound of his television spilling into the hallway. O’Dell slowly stood, looking down on his fallen friend. He had heard the finality in the single shot that took Clarence’s life but seeing the devastation sickened him to his stomach. He covered his mouth to try to hold back the sick that churned inside his gut. Eventually he lost the battle, turning away from the gruesome scene he bent over as his stomach forced out the contents of his last meal. O’Dell thought he had been around long enough to witness the most horrifying killings but this one looked different. It felt different. Whoever did this, meant to finish it. No threats. No drive-by. Just a notion in someone’s head and it’s done. No questions asked.


O’Dell moved away from the body, standing in the open to brave the unknown. He searched the tops of the buildings across the street and beyond with wide anxious eyes. There was no way to know if the sniper was still out there. The wail of sirens had gotten closer, nearly concealing the muffled scuffing of footsteps approaching from behind. Trent was the first to hear the ominous sound. He turned and hollered out but it was too late. The intruder emptied an entire clip from his Micro-Uzi, peppering both Trent and Brandon full of bullets before either had a chance to respond. Their bodies fell where they stood. Death was not immediate but would come soon. O’Dell spun around as stray bullets whizzed past his body. He dove forward, taking cover just outside of Clarence’s apartment. His pistol was up and ready, but not ready quick enough to save his friends who were lying on the floor gurgling in their blood. He heard the intruder change out the clip and another spray of bullets peppered the concrete wall where Marcus and Calvin had previously been crouching. The two men had moved farther down the corridor, stumbling over the corpse of their boss. Another clip change. Another volley. The three men were pinned with little to no options for escape.


“O’Dell, we can’t stay here,” bellowed Marcus.


“I know that,” growled O’Dell. “What we gonna do? Jump the h*ll outta here.”


“I don’t know, but I sure the f*ck ain’t stayin’ around to figure it out.”


O’Dell took a moment to think. He heard the intruder change the clip again but this time no volley. “Let’s go around. C is dead and Brandon and Trent are dying. The other side could be clear.”


The three men stood, O’Dell took lead and they moved down to the other end of the corridor. He glanced back one last time at Clarence then peered around the corner. His heart pounded like a drum in his chest. The hall was quiet. No one insight. O’Dell inhaled and moved around the corner into the open. The three men hurried down the hall, keeping their pistols up and ready. Calvin glanced back to make sure their rear was covered. The other stairwell was just around the next turn that would take them down to ground level and out of the housing block.

Another volley of bullet echoed through the hallway, making the men accelerate around the corner and straight into a small entourage of M.O.B. Their hope had run out. They could not retreat and neither man was going to surrender. O’Dell managed to squeeze off two shot in quick succession, both missing their target, before a perfectly placed 9Mm bullet tore into his chest, killing him almost instantly. Marcus turned to face his attacker who had traced their path from the other side of the building. His fate was much the same as Trent and Brandon. His body toppled backwards, falling awkwardly to the floor. Calvin was the last of Clarence’s East Holland crew to be dispatched by M.O.B. They quickly regrouped and filed down to ground level, passing an empty security booth as they left the housing block. They piled into a waiting van, leaving the carnage for the LCPD.


Dwayne paced the hall outside his bedroom, holding his phone tightly in his hand. The text from Gabe, confirming that Clarence was no longer a factor, also let him know that Pete had done his job flawlessly. The rest of the plan needed to be completed in five minutes or less. And that limit was fast approaching according to Dwayne’s watch. The LCPD weren’t the brightest bunch but they were fast on their response if they responded at all. The pimps and drug dealers owned East Holland and the cops knew it. By the time the police figured out the true crime scene, Dwayne hoped his boys would be a safe distance away, blending back into the neighborhood. The phone vibrated and the display brightened, stopping him in his tracks. Dwayne recognized the number and answered.




“Everything is cleaned up. East Holland housing block is yours if you still want it.”


“D*mn right I still want it Slim,” chuckled Dwayne. “What took so long?”


“I took a little time to toss his apartment and I got his phone. Couldn’t get too much though. Just his duffle bag and some papers. The rest is for the boys in blue.”


“That’s good enough. Bring everything by tonight and I’ll have a little something for you and the guys then. We got a lot to discuss.”


“Sounds good Dwayne. Glad you’re back.”


“Feels real good to be back.”


Dwayne clicked the line off and went into the kitchen. Relieved that everything had gone perfectly, he scooped up two Dusche Gold before joining Bobby in the living room. This was a time to celebrate another small victory. Dwayne had gained more territory and the trust and confidence from M.O.B.; while Playboy’s world continued to crumble around him. Dwayne had stolen one more money-maker from Playboy. Remembering the threat that Niko had passed along from his former protégé, Dwayne knew exactly what his next move was going to be.


* * *

Niko pulled his car close to the curb in front of Florian Cravic’s apartment building and cut the engine. He sat for a while gripping the stirring wheel, staring intently through the windshield at the traffic rushing past. Liberty has been his home for only a few short months but he has quickly grown accustomed to the way the city operated. He admired the rituals of the everyday man struggling, yet persevering through the absolute mania of the world around him. Niko thrived in a separate world of delinquency and loose morals; the hidden pockets of crime buried in the deep recesses of the city.


He had spent almost half of his life filtering in and out the dark corners where power and corruption ruled. The men who wielded this authority always seemed to catch and pull Niko into the fray. Be it as an assassin, a counterfeiter, a trafficker in illicit drugs or unsuspecting human beings, Niko has done it all with only a glancing bit of regret. His age of innocence closed quickly during the war back in his homeland where he witnessed atrocities beyond the most skilled imagination. He was just a teenager when the deepest betrayal sliced through his soul like a flaming sword. A cut so deep that only revenge could heal. A vengeance that has brought him here to Liberty City to search for the man that has haunted Niko for so long.


“Cousin,” sang Roman. “Why are you stewing? We are here again, are we not?”


Niko tapped the stirring wheel. “Yes Roman, we are here.”


“Are you having second thoughts? Because that might be a good thing.”


Niko did not respond. He turned to look at Roman, solemnness on his face.


Roman loosened his seatbelt, letting it snap back into its compartment. “Cousin, what is it that you have in mind to do to Florian once you two are face-to-face? You seem to be still pretty worked up. I had hoped that you would have found a calming place on our second trip to Florian’s apartment.”


“No Roman, I am not calm. Florian was not here earlier, but he will be here now. I can feel it.”


“Maybe it’s those three glasses of Strawberry Lemonade that you guzzled down at the Café that you are feeling now cousin.”


“I am in no mood to joke right now Roman. I’ve been looking for this man for years and I refuse to just let him stay lost in Liberty City.”


“Okay Niko, have it your way. Let us go up one last time today. We are losing sunlight and nothing good ever happens in this city at night. Except perhaps we may get to see a titty or two.”


Niko ignored Roman’s incessant obsession with a woman’s anatomy. He released his seatbelt and stepped out of the car, leading the way to the entrance. Niko had no patience this time to wait for the slow aging elevator so he and Roman took the stairs to Florian’s third floor apartment. The hallway was quiet. Niko moved quickly down the hall, stopping short of Florian’s apartment.


Niko held up a hand to slow Roman’s advance. “Do you hear that Roman?”


“Yeah. It sounds like some sh*tty music no one...”


“It’s coming from Florian’s apartment,” interrupted Niko. “See, I told you he would be here.”


Niko pulled his pistol. He wanted to meet this man with his intentions clearly stated.


“Niko!” shrieked Roman, running to block his way. “What are you doing?”


“Get out of my way Roman,” demanded Niko as he pulled the slide to chamber a bullet.


“Niko, please stop before you do something that you will regret.”


“I have but one regret Roman. And that is not being able to find this man sooner. Now move aside.”


Niko pushed past Roman’s stubbornness and marched over to the apartment door. The music was definitely coming from inside. He heard muffled laughter and a conversation between at least two people. Niko did not care who was behind the door as long as he could finally lay eyes on Florian Cravic after so many years chasing his ghost. He curled his fingers into a tight fist and banged relentlessly on the door, calling out his name. The music stopped and the laughter went silent. Niko had a limit to his patience and it had run out. He stepped back and landed one solid kick on the door, breaking the lock instantly. Another forceful kick from his heavy booted-foot and the door swung wide open. Niko aimed his pistol out in front and entered the apartment.


“Florian!” Niko’s voice was full of rage and urgency as he moved down the short hallway and deeper into the apartment.


“Answer me Florian! I know you are here.”


Niko scanned the living area noticing two wine glasses on the coffee table and a black double breasted blazer tossed across the back of the sofa. A quiet whimper from the bedroom caught his attention. With his pistol still aimed, Niko snaked around the bulky furniture and stepped inside the room. He was greeted by two lightly dressed men cowering down beside the bed.


“Who are you? And what do you want?” asked one of the men, voice shrill and shaky. “You are one of those haters who love to hate.”


Niko had gone quiet. Confused and embarrassed for interrupting such an intimate moment. But he came here for answers and was not leaving until he got them. He tightened the grip on his pistol, thrusting it at the two men, making them shrink back. He had not seen Florian since the war but was pretty sure he was the one speaking.


“Why did you do it Florian?”


Florian stood, slowly recognizing the intruder as Niko Bellic. “Niko, is that you?”


Niko did not answer. “I want to know why you betrayed our unit. A betrayal that caused so many young boys to be slaughtered like lambs.”


Florian covered his mouth in disbelief. “You think I was the one? No. It was not me. I always thought Darko did it. Never you Niko.”


Niko starred long and hard at the man standing before him. He was too good to do something so wrong. The time he spent growing up with Florian in their little village, Niko never saw darkness in Florian; only hope and big dreams. He lowered his pistol, dejected once again. He believed Florian. The only one left now was Darko Brevic. Roman was standing in the doorway thankful that his cousin had not reacted too quickly like he did with Vlad in Hove Beach.



“Florian is that really you?” asked Roman as he moved inside the room. “You have not stayed the same,” noticing the obvious.


“It’s Bernie now. And I can see you really love Burger Shot Roman.”


Roman ignored the jab at his weight even though the comment made him float a hand across his expanding belly. “Yes I do. The Bleeder Burger is my favorite.”


Niko tucked his pistol back in its holster, looking at Florian truly for the first time. “I am sorry Florian for interrupting your evening. Let’s go Roman,” said Niko, frustrated by another dead end.


He pushed past Roman, leaving the claustrophobia of the bedroom. Niko did not bother waiting for his cousin. This time he took the elevator back down to the lobby and left the building. Night had come quickly and he wanted to be alone. Ivy Drive was packed with young people probably from the University. Soon Roman scurried to the car and slid inside. He saw the disappointment on Niko’s face and knew he was in no mood for jokes.


“Cousin, can you please give up this manhunt now. You have your answer. Florian has changed and moved on. And by the looks of it, he is very happy with our married Deputy Mayor. Can’t you do the same?”


Niko exhaled sharply. “I don’t know Roman. This is my life and I can’t give it up so easily. I’ve been carrying Goran, Mijo, Dmitar, Dragan, and all the other boys around with me since the war.”


“Then let them rest now Niko. You need it and they deserve it.”


“I do have a limit though Roman, and this city has tested my limits in so many ways.”


“Don’t you have a woman that you love?”


Niko looked away. “Yes, I do.”


“Then be limitless and bountiful with her. Not this awful depressing way of life. You are better than that.”


“You may be right Roman. I just need to be alone right now.”


“That’s fine Niko. I will take the subway home tonight.”


“Thank you Roman and I will call you soon. Perhaps we can go bowling.”


“That sounds like a good plan cousin,” said Roman as he got out the car. “Don’t stay away too long.”


Niko watched as Roman headed down the street, getting tangled up with the mass of people until eventually he disappeared. He started the engine just as his phone rang. He took a deep breath and answered.


“Hello Ray.”


“Nikki, I’m glad I got you.”


“Tonight’s not good Ray,” barked Niko.


“Look Nikki, I don’t have nobody else to do this. I got the feelin’ somethin’ ain’t right.”


Niko gritted his teeth, regretting answering the call. “Okay Ray, what is it?”


“I need for you to go over to Hove Beach. I can’t raise Frankie Gallo. He drives an old piece of sh*t Washington and he was supposed to recon Comrades Bar this afternoon. See what you can find out.”


“I’ll do it Ray but I’m not gonna spend too much time on it tonight.”


“That’s fine Nikki. Just let me know what you find out.”


Niko clicked off the line, once again being pulled back into the fray of power and corruption. He checked his mirror before pulling out onto Ivy Drive. The memories of Hove Beach played like a movie inside his mind.


* * *

The roar of an engine approaching from the south alerted Glenn to a lonely straggler, probably an out-of-towner this time of the night. He had sent Chase home earlier to celebrate his five-year wedding anniversary. Traffic through the marina had slowed and Glenn could handle the end of the day business. It was nearing closing time and he hoped that whoever it was, would only need a refueling instead of a slip lease. Even better Glenn hoped they would pass him by. It had been a long day and he wanted to go home. He did not want the hassles of all the paperwork needed to lease a slip.


He drained the last bit of his diet cola, crunching the can into a small aluminum ball before leaving the tiny office. The cool night air danced on his exposed skin, giving Glenn an unsightly patch of chicken skin on his thick forearms. His hope ran thin for a passer-by when he heard the engine throttle down. He walked down to the end of the dock, looking out onto the calm flat waters of the bay he saw two spot lights approaching. One was farther out than the lead but definitely on the same course. As an avid reader of boating magazines, Glenn knew by the silhouette of the boat coasting ashore, that it was a Squalo, one of the fastest speed boats on the market. He didn’t get to see many of those beauties in person being born and raised in such a small sleepy town.

The two man crew had coasted close enough to the dock for Glenn to toss them a line to secure their craft. The driver cut the engine and called out a friendly greeting.


“Ahoy there. Can we bother you for a refuel?”


Glenn bent down to fix the line to the cleat. “Welcome gentlemen to Westbrook Marina. I’m Glenn and if fuel is what you want, then fuel is one thing we always have.”


“Sounds good partner.”


“You almost missed me. I was getting ready to close up shop and head on home to the wife.”


“Well we won’t keep you too long. My buddies are pulling up the rear and they’ll be swingin’ in for a refuel if you can wait.”


Glenn popped his head up, seeing the second boat approaching. “Is that them?"




“Alright, no problem. Let me get my hose and I’ll top you off.”


The two men watched as Glenn scurried back to the pump. “We’re making good time,” said Morris, looking at his partner squirm in the passenger seat.


Kirkland unbuckled his seatbelt and wriggled in the seat for a more comfortable position. “D*mn, I need to stand up. I’m gettin’ too old for this sh*t.”


“Kirk, you’re thirty years old. When we get to Liberty, I’m gonna see if I can find you a woman to rub out all those kinks.”

The two men shared a hearty laugh. They had 100 kilos of cocaine lining the floor boards of the Squalo. The money was good and each man would give an eye-tooth to make the run from Vice City to Liberty City. Morris and Kirkland had made the trip countless times without incident. This time they were going to flood the streets of Liberty with some of the purest product ever known to the industry. Liberty was a huge place and the distribution machinery set in place operated like a Vinewood whore; always on rotation.

Glenn had arrived back at the dock with hose in hand. He loosened the fuel cap and it wasn’t long before the gauge reached the full mark. Morris paid with cash and received a receipt for payment.


Morris pulled an extra bill from his pocket and handed it to Glenn. “Here’s something for your troubles. Thanks for stickin’ around. Looks like our buddies will be here shortly.”


Glenn took the money and shoved it into his pants pocket. “Thanks fellas. I’ll send your friends on soon.”


Morris untied the line and handed it to Glenn. He started the engine and eased away from the dock and back out into open waters. Liberty was just another couple hours away.

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The Night Shift


The Broker-Dukes Expressway off-ramp was like a parking lot as Niko inched forward into Hove Beach. The memories of what forced him and Roman to flee for their lives tumbled freely through his mind, making Niko grip the stirring wheel with both hands. Up ahead, the procession of cars finally began to quickly file out onto the street, relieving Niko of some built up anxiety. Mohawk Avenue and Comrades Bar were only a short distance away. Niko kept a keen eye out for any sign of Frankie’s Washington as he meandered through the neighborhood streets. Hove Beach had been his first home in Liberty when he arrived at the Broker Navy Yard a few months ago aboard The Platypus cargo ship as a Merchant Marine. And with a full population of Eastern Europeans, Hove Beach proved to be too much like home.


After the war ended, Niko wandered aimlessly through Eastern Europe trying to mend the wounds of war, both physically as well as mentally. His cynicism for life and the will of men grew out of the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield. A great void opened up in Niko’s soul that seemed to ache and grow with each passing year that the man who betrayed his unit went unpunished. Betrayal had become familiar territory for Niko as he sank deeper into the immoral underworld of crime. Trusting the whore at his side or the so-called friend in a seedy port-side bar almost surely would have meant a swift and brutal end to his life. Niko had scooted out of back doors or jumped from second-story windows more times than he could remember, taking cover in the shadows from an unknown enemy only to repeat the same thing again and again.


By the time a very wealthy and powerful Russian mobster crossed paths with Niko, he had hardened against kindness and trust. His skills as a seasoned criminal and professional killer were sharpened to the point of perfection and proficiency. Niko was hired by this powerful Russian to smuggle people into Italy from Eastern Europe, but when the ship sank in the Adriatic Sea, Niko was blamed. Knowing that the shipment was a total loss, he fled with a debt on his back and a bounty on his head. The Platypus cargo ship served as welcomed respite.


Months at sea with the Merchant Marines allowed Niko to rest from the tortured life as an underworld criminal constantly bargaining for the smallest scraps in exchange for the worst transgressions. He had time to reset his purpose and to regain a solid hold on his life. His cousin Roman had been living in America for ten years and Niko was glad when the Captain announced that their next stop would be Liberty City. He would finally have a chance at a new start and perhaps find the man he had been chasing for so many years.


The light turned green and Niko snaked around the corner, parking along the curb on Mohawk Avenue. He cut the engine and gazed down the street at the building that he and Roman had once shared an apartment. The roof had half collapsed and the outside wall blackened by the fire that had driven Niko and Roman away from Hove Beach. Niko believed that Dimitri Rascalov and Ray Bulgarin, the wealth Russian mobster that had recruited him years ago in the Balkans were somehow connected to the blaze. Niko shook the thoughts from his mind and stepped out into the cool night air. The smell of sweet onions and the meaty aroma of a foot-long Frankfurter guided Niko to the best street vendor in Hove Beach.


“Hey Mitch. Can I have one of those?”


Mitch turned to see Niko approaching the cart. “Niko, glad to see you. It’s been a while. You used to be my best customer. Sometimes eating four or five of my juicy dogs in a single day.”


Niko Chuckled. “Yes, I remember. I really needed them and besides they were good.”


“Yes, very good,” replied Mitch as he opened the lid to the steamer. “I will fix it the exact way I used to.”


Mitch busied himself with preparing the hot dog just the way Niko wanted it. Comrades Bars was just down the street and Niko knew from past experience that anything could happen at a moment’s notice. The blood was still bad between Niko and the Faustin Family. Vladimir Glebov, a senior member in the Faustin Crime Syndicate, was the former owner until his untimely death at the hands of Niko.


“All done,” said Mitch, handing the piping hot Frankfurter to Niko.


“Thank you Mitch,” said Niko as he handed him a single bill for payment. “It’s been a while since I’ve bitten into something this good.”


“It’s a shame that you and your cousin got burned out. I was here the night of the fire and it took forever for the fire department to arrive. These old buildings, you can’t trust the wiring. My lights flicker all the time.”


“Yes, the building was quite old. I hope nothing like that ever happens to you.”


“It would be a terrible shame if it did.”


Niko pulled out his phone and thumbed through the display, looking for the picture of Frankie Gallo that Ray had sent earlier. He held it so that Mitch could see the image on the screen.


“Did you see this guy anytime today?”


Mitch did not have to study the image too long. “Sure did. It was lunch time. He was standing right there, gesturing to an area near Comrades. I thought he was going to buy something from me but he finally went on inside.”


“Are you sure this is the guy,” said Niko pointing sternly to the image on his phone.


“Sure I’m sure. A guy like that stands out. He wasn’t a familiar face and he acted like he wasn’t too sure if he should go inside. That’s why I thought he was going to buy something from me.”


“Okay. What time did he leave?”


“He didn’t. At least I never saw him leave.”


Niko sighed. He had done all he was going to do tonight. Ray would have to be satisfied or get someone else to find Frankie. He cleared the image from the display and tucked the phone back inside his jacket pocket.


“Thanks for your help Mitch and I promise I will come back for another one of the best hot dogs in Liberty.”


“Okay Niko, don’t be a stranger.”


Niko didn’t have a good feeling about Frankie Gallo. He knew there was a back exit to the bar that emptied into an alleyway. He quickly made his way past a fenced-in lot and to the back of the buildings to discover only weeds and empty crates. No sign of even a struggle. Niko pulled his phone and dialed Ray who answered almost immediately.


“What you got for me Nikki?”


“Nothing good Ray. Frankie was here and now there’s no sign of him or his car.”


“Maybe he’s laid up somewhere. Lost track of time,” said Ray, trying to stay optimistic.


“I don’t think so Ray. These are some ruthless people you want to deal with. I told you that Dimitri was a dangerous man and you still wanted to play with him. Now I fear Frankie blew his own cover and paid the ultimate price.”


That was the last thing that Ray wanted to hear. Phil Bell did not want his nephew involved in such high stakes and now Ray might have led the boy to his death.


“Okay Nikki, stop by tomorrow. I’ll get someone else to take it from here.”


“I’ll see you then Ray.”


A shadowy figure crossed in front of Niko as he made his way back to the vacant lot. The man was heading to what appeared to be a DF8-90. Niko grew closer to the man and his vehicle, gradually realizing that the person partially concealed by the darkness was Dimitri Rascalov. Niko changed direction to avoid any contact with the man he felt was responsible for destroying Roman’s apartment building and his business. Dimitri was a scoundrel and Niko did not want to give him the satisfaction of thinking he had won the battle. He stopped and turned back to confront Dimitri who had gotten to his car when Niko called out to get his attention.




Niko saw the man reach for his car door but did not open it. He stood still with his back to Niko. He did not respond.


“I know it is you Dimitri. Turn around and face me now,” demanded Niko.


“Niko Bellic.” The man lifted his head and turned to face Niko. “So, you have come back to Hove Beach. When you left with your tail between your legs, I thought you would have gone swimming in the Adriatic by now.”


Niko ignored the obvious reference to Ray Bulgarin which revealed that the two men know each other well. His suspicions that they were involved in some way with the fires were true. Niko kept at a safe distance for he knew that he was dealing with a cruel killer. Not even the dark of night could fully hide the vindictiveness in those calculating eyes.


“What you did Dimitri was wrong. Roman could have been killed for something I did.”


“I did nothing. Your fat cousin had a gambling debt. He owed people and now they have been paid.”


“Hurt my family again Dimitri and that will be your death wish.”


“You, Niko Bellic, have a death wish for defying a direct order from Mikhail.”


“I told you the boy got away.”


“I’ll believe that when your fat cousin stays out of debt.”


“I think you ought to leave now Dimitri. You have my warning.”


“Yes I do, Niko Bellic. Yes I do.”


Niko backed away, keeping an unflinching eye on the evil standing in the shadows. Dimitri faded to a slender silhouette before Niko disappeared behind the wooden fence.


* * *

Detective Steve Shannon sat comfortably in the driver’s seat, tapping his short thick fingers on the stirring wheel as he waited for traffic to clear before pulling back out onto Topaz Street. The delicious aroma of hot burgers with onions and pickles drifting from a Burger Shot bag filled the cab of the aging Speedo, making his mouth water. Salvatore Burk, a former LCPD Officer, sat in the passenger seat, tinkering with the six preset radio stations before finally settling on the evening talk show. Believing that he would have a long distinguished career in Law Enforcement, Salvatore was nearly destroyed when he had an incredible fall from grace two years after posting up with the Hove Beach Precinct in Broker. His partner was killed when they responded to a reported assault at a Russian owned porn shop. Wanting to quickly advance his career, Salvatore was willing to take risks. But that night, his risky behavior caused his partner to be fatally shot by an unknown assailant. He was forced to resign in disgrace and stripped of all honors. He tried to adjust to security work but found it too mundane and half-witted.


Traffic cleared and Steve pulled out and followed a slow procession of vehicles to Northwood. Morris and Kirk had called earlier to let him know that they had refueled and would be arriving on time. It was almost 9 o’clock when Steve gently pulled onto the barren lot of the Rusty Schit Salvage yard, leaving a trail of tire marks in the dampened gravel. He parked near crates that were stacked high against a fence that enclosed the yard so that the van would be out of sight from prying eyes. Steve cut the engine and doused the headlights. He and Salvatore were to wait for their designated look-out and extra gun for the job in North Holland. Steve turned to Salvatore who was rummaging through the Burger Shot bag, trying to find his special-order burgers.


“Hey Sal, gimme one of those. No, make it two.”


Salvatore pulled two burgers from the bag, checking the wrapper before tossing them over to Steve. One bounced off the window and landed on the floor.


“Hey, hey, take it easy. This could be my last meal,” joked Steve.


“Every time we do this you always have to joke like that. Not funny.”


“What could go wrong baldy?” Asked Steve, forgetting the reason why Salvatore was no longer a Police Officer. “We’ve done this a hundred times.”


“So tell me why we need an extra guy this time. And who is he? You haven’t told me much about this guy.”


“Because I don’t know much about him,” said Steve, swallowing a mouthful of half-chewed hamburger. “I asked for extra help and this is who we got.”


“Sh*t, we could have dropped over in Bohan instead of right at the AoD clubhouse.”


“Who do you want to deal with: the Spanish Lords or the Angels of Death who won’t even be home tonight? Cobb is there for a just in case we need him. And trust me, we won’t need him.”


“Nothin’ never happens to Bradley and Andrea over on Charge Island. We should switch up sometimes.”


“What’s wrong with you tonight? Nothing never happens with us either. Now cover up that shiny dome of yours. Russell should be here soon.”


Salvatore was cautiously satisfied for the moment. He had not met Russell and hated working with someone without an established trust. He slipped on a black stocking cap and finished his burgers. The two men kept a close eye on the entrance to the salvage yard. Time was pressing in on them and Steve did not want to leave without Russell or jeopardize the job by showing late. Sirens cried out and were fast approach from the south. Salvatore looked over at Steve.


“Where is this guy? We need to go ahead and leave.”


“Settle down Sallie. Give him another minute and then we’re out.”


Steve started the engine and set the gear. At that moment, a blue Blista Compact slowly pulled onto the lot and park near a pile of broken crates. A tall man slid from the driver’s side and walked towards the van.


“That’s him,” said Steve.


“It’s about d*mn time.”


Steve wound down the window and called out to Russell. “Pile in the back buddy. We got to go.”


Russell hustled around to the rear of the van and climbed inside, slamming the door to secure the lock. Steve pulled from the lot and headed south. He quickly picked up Vauxite Street and trailed down under the Union Drive West over-pass. The area was home to a small homeless community who were out scavenging for the last scraps of food set out by the local restaurants. The eroded ground was littered with paper and broken crates. Heaps of discarded trash and tires lay scattered around the area giving a smell of decay and foulness. Steve parked the van down by the steps leading up from the jetty on the Humboldt River, turning off the engine and headlights. Salvatore was the first to slip out of the van into the stillness of the night followed by Steve. They moved around to the front of the van for a closer inspection of the area and the Angels of Death clubhouse in the distance. Russell opened the back doors and jumped out, joining the two men but keeping a safe distance. Salvatore gave him a sideways look of distrust, something that Steve quickly laid to rest.


“Sal, this is Russell. He wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t handle himself now cut that sh*t out. We don’t need no distractions tonight.”


“Hey, I don’t know the guy. That’s all I’m sayin’”


“Well now you know him.”


“What you carrying Russell?” asked Steve as he slip on a black stocking cap that covered most of his thick black hair.


“Glock 22. Five mags.”


“Good, but I want you holding a rifle with your eyes glued on that building right there.”


The Angels of Death clubhouse appeared quiet and deserted, tucked neatly beneath the over-pass. Any other night, the thump of Hard Core music would have spilled out onto the street; accompanied by a half dozen rowdy club members hovering at the front entrance. But only the Angels’ signature scarlet red neon lights made an appearance at the doors tonight. Their bikes were gone and no light showed through the windows. Steve was confident that the informant had given reliable information about the club members being over in Alderney tonight for an induction ceremony.


“Okay Sal, take care of these lights. The city will get around to fixin’ them one day.”


Salvatore pulled his silenced pistol and took aim at the security lights, plunging the area into the shadows to help conceal their activity. Steve ushered Russell to the back of the van to retrieve the assault rifle and ammunition. Russell slung the strap across his shoulder and popped in a magazine, trying to be as confident as possible. His life depended on it. He was ready and unsure all at the same time. Being an informant for a corrupt Police Department was one thing but trafficking in illicit drugs for the purpose of profit was something he had not agreed to. The conversation with Carlie today at the park was still at the fore of his mind. He had tried to convince her that everything would be okay and that he would be fine. In actuality, he didn’t believe his own words but he had to tell her something.


“Okay Sal that’s good. Let’s get down on the jetty. It’s almost time,” said Steve as he grabbed an armful of duffle bags from the back of the van before closing the doors. “And Russell, stay up top with your eyes on that building. Whistle if you see anything. Don’t call out.”


Russell nodded in agreement and took a position near the side of the van so that he could have a perfect view of the clubhouse as well as Steve and Salvatore as they made their way down to the jetty. He exhaled and turned his attention to the clubhouse brilliantly lit against the night. The rush of traffic above echoed through the recessed area, bring with it a potent smell of exhaust that made his eyes water.


The Humboldt River was unusually quiet tonight. Only a handful of boats traversed the calm waters, leaving soft ripples behind as they continued on their journey. Steve and Salvatore stood on the jetty looking out across the river at the illuminated skyline of Alderney. Salvatore had grown up in the low-rent section of Acter. His mother had to work as a dancer at Honkers in order to keep food on the table. It was a sleazy gentleman’s club where women were routinely assaulted and forced to use drugs. Salvatore’s mother was one of those women and she passed away from a drug overdose ten years ago when he was just sixteen years old. From that point, he wanted to do something that would make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged and he believed Law Enforcement would be the perfect way to accomplish his dream. But now he has found himself on the wrong side of the law he once swore to uphold.


“You miss it?”


“Miss what?” asked Salvatore.


“Being a cop.”


Salvatore took a long time to answer, looking out across to Alderney. “It wasn’t meant to be. I have to reconcile the fact that I am breaking the law in order to catch those who believe the law does not apply to them; those who operate in the shadows to bolster their power at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing.”


“You would have made a great cop Sallie. Much better than I turned out to be. I came up here from Vice City full of ambition and I actually bought into his one-percent rule. Francis McReary is without a doubt the most corrupt cop I know and I know a lot.”


“Why hasn’t that guy been found out yet? I mean he’s got his hands in every part of this city and nobody is willing to take him down.”


“He’s got the deck stacked. If you blackmail him, he’ll just send someone he’s blackmailing to make you a nonissue. Get what I’m sayin’?”


“D*mn, that’s messed up. But his time is coming. He may even be part of his own one-percent rule.”


Steve looked up river when he heard the distinct sound of a Squalo approaching. He couldn’t be sure if it was the guys but it was time for them to show and they were never late. He moved out closer to the edge of the platform and saw that the boat was heading his way and had throttled down to coast up to the jetty. Steve bent down to tie the boat up to the cleat and noticed that someone other than Jeff had accompanied Ken.


“Hey, what’s the deal? Where’s Jeff? I got a call from Morris and he didn’t mention a change in personnel.”


Ken cut the engine and released his seat belt. “That’s because he didn’t know. Jeff had to bail at the last minute and Timmy here was there to pick up the slack.”


Steve eyed the man sitting in the passenger seat. He suddenly knew how Salvatore must have felt. He didn’t know this guy but he looked like this wasn’t his first rodeo. Even in the moonlit sky, he could see that Timmy had the battle line drawn on his face to tell the story of his life. Steve accepted Ken’s explanation and let the subject rest.


“Alright, let’s get this sh*t bagged.”


Russell shuffled from one foot to the other. He had heard the boat approach their location, throttle down, and finally cut the engine. His attention had been focused like a laser on the Angels’ clubhouse which remained deserted. A couple of men had entered Jakey’s Bar next door to the clubhouse, a few minutes ago. No alarms, they were probably having a beer before calling it a night. His curiosity got the best of him and he stole a peek at the men down on the jetty. It looked like a chaotic spectacle as they shuffled around on the tiny platform. Russell squinted hard, trying to make out the identity of the men. He had spent more than a year in Vice City and wondered if he knew either of the men that had made the trip up to Liberty. The darkness revealed little, making his efforts useless.


Russell’s mind wondered to Carlie and the time he spent away from her. So many regrets filled his mind, making him drop his head in defeat. He shook away the distractions and turned his attention back to the clubhouse but it was too late. He had not seen the two men scurry across to the abandoned warehouse, keeping low and in the shadows. He had not seen the Micro-Uzi that each man carried close to his body.


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An Angel Among Us


Simon and Donny huddle close in the shadows of the abandoned warehouse eyeing the van peculiarly parked over by the jetty access point. Ten years ago, the two men joined the Angels of Death, an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang. They were rebels at heart and nearly impossible to tame. Law Enforcement was no stranger to these two; they spent weeks, sometimes months locked up for one reason or another. On occasion, their membership in the club was in jeopardy of being revoked if their antics continued. Simon eventually settled down, keeping a low profile after a warrant for his arrest was issued once again. However, Donny needed to pacify his criminal impulses and soon convinced Simon to join him in a prostitution racket in Broker.


The two men set up operations in the warehouse district of Boabo close to the source of their money-making scheme. The women were handpicked by Donny as they emerged from container ships docked at the Broker Navy Yard. Most of them were young and vulnerable from Eastern Europe with big dreams of a better life in America. None spoke English or spoke it very poorly. They went willingly with their would-be savior, believing that they would be safe and well taken care of in America. However, the tumultuous journey across the Atlantic Ocean did little to prepare them for the horrors that waited. They were housed in deplorable conditions with no heat or running water and brutalized daily. The women were forced out on the street daily, sometimes several times a day. They would systematically be returned to the warehouse bruised and bloodied, crying hysterically.


Months into the scheme, the money had begun to accumulate fast and the men started getting sloppy; especially Donny who was seen arguing with the girls in public. He needed to pay the Russian Mafia for their generosity and felt that the girls were holding back some of the money. The LCPD learned of their operation and raided the warehouse in the middle of the night, rescuing dozens of teenage girls. The building was cleared and the girls were taken into custody by Child Protective Services but not before Lester Arnold, the leader of the Liberty City Chapter of the Angels of Death learned of the ploy.


Simon and Donny were put on probation and made to hand over all their earnings. All club amenities were off limits to the men. Lester did allow them to sleep at the clubhouse if they chose but were not allowed to participate in any club activities. The induction ceremony over in Alderney raged on without them tonight.


“Hey Simon, what you think is happenin’ over there?”


“Something they want to keep secret. They busted out the lights. I can hardly see a d*mn thing from here.”

Donny swatted at a swarm of gnats. “Think its drugs?”


“A van parked in the dark down by the access; I’d bet my balls on it. If I hadn’t been at the window when they drove up, we would never have known they were here.”


Donny squinted, trying to focus. “We need to get a closer look. I only see one off’em now. If we can take that van, maybe Lester will forgive us for what we did over in Broker.”


Simon shrugged off the thought, not having much hope for a reprieve from their punishment. “Yeah, it might help. He’s such a hard *ss. But if drugs are in that van, we got a buyer over in Bohan and that’s somethin’ Lester will love. Let’s move up.”


Simon and Donny hustled over to one of the concrete pillars supporting the Union Drive West overpass. Simon was sure now that only one man stood next to the van. They hesitated momentarily before quickly moving to the high curbing of Vauxite Street; the same street that the van had quietly drifted down a short while ago. Simon was the first to arrive at the curbing, pressing his back hard against the cool damp concrete. Donny was right behind him.


“He don’t know we here,” whispered Donny.


“Looks like he’s holdin’ a rifle,” responded Simon. “There’s somethin’ definitely goin’ on down there,” lifting his head just above the curb for a better view.


Russell adjusted the strap across his shoulder. He could hear the muffled voices of the men down on the jetty and the thudding of duffle bags being tossed aside after being filled with kilos of cocaine. He kept his eyes focused on the clubhouse as bag after bag fell heavily on the wooden planks of the jetty. His stomach sank from the thought of being ordered around by such a crocked cop in order to save his own life. He wrapped his hand like a vice around the barrel of the rifle, squeezing until his hand went numb. That’s how Russell felt since his arrival in Liberty six days ago. His life had been a whirlwind of lies, betrayals, and threats. Some were blatant with a gun to his side, while others were veiled in smart innuendo from Francis McReary. However artfully spoken, the implication of his words was clearly understood.

Russell turned towards the jetty when he heard heavy footstep echo off the wooden ramp leading up from the jetty. By the time the men made it to the steps, he saw that Steve and Salvatore were weighed down with duffle bags stuffed to capacity. Steve was the first to reach the top landing and he quietly called out to Russell.


“Open the back.”


Russell slid the rifle to his side and scooted around to the rear of the van to open the doors. He knew by the number of thuds that he heard that there were a few more bags to be loaded. Russell swung the doors open and stepped aside grateful that this night was almost over. But tomorrow was another day of h*ll. A h*ll that would not last in to perpetuity. He had promised Carlie. And that was a promise he intended to keep.


“Any troubles?” asked Steve.


“None. Just two guys went in Jakey’s,” responded Russell.


“That’s good. Nice and quiet like I like it,” said Steve as he heaved the bags into the back of the van. “The other guys will bring up the next load.”


Salvatore brushed past Steve as he made his way back down the steps. He gave Russell a sideways look again, still not comfortable with working with a new face. Russell casually looked away in the direction of the clubhouse. He wanted to hide the disgust he felt for both of those guys. Two cops pretending to be upstanding and righteous were more repulsive than the actual crook. For all Russell knew, the entire LCPD could be corrupt. Salvatore tossed the bags in the back of the van without saying a word to Russell then turned and went back the way he came.


Russell saw a man turn the corner at the abandoned warehouse and stagger down the steepness of Ivy Drive. He pulled his rifle up from his side and watched the man as he continued forward. The man stopped, looked left then right before moving around the corner into the shadows. Another set of footsteps pounded heavily up the ramp, bring Russell’s attention away from what he figured was a homeless man. He saw a tall broad-shouldered figure approaching the steps. He kept the rifle cradled in his arm as the man made his way up to the van. Half way up the steps his eyes went wide once he recognized the person approaching. Russell stepped away from the van, trying to hold back his elation. The man stepped on the landing, making eye contact with Russell.


“Keep quiet kid.”


Russell moved back not wanting to draw attention. Timmy Carrillo had gotten to Liberty just like he promised. He had saved Russell’s life from demons that he had dragged down to Vice City over a year ago. The friendship developed quickly, giving Russell the stability that he needed in his life after his parents were killed in an automobile accident in 2002. The loss was devastating, leaving Russell alone and vulnerable to the trappings of a city that had begun to fold in on itself. It was not long after his parent’s funeral that reality landed hard on Russell’s shoulders. College became a distraction instead of a place of encouragement and achievement. Russell found himself struggling to get to class and even more to complete assignments. Half way through his second semester Russell dropped out of college, leaving his hopes and dreams shattered beyond repair.


Timmy hoisted the duffle bags into the back of the van, coyly looking over his shoulder. He saw that the way was clear so he quickly gave Russell instructions.


“Alright Russi, after this is done, meet me at my apartment in…”


Tearing a hole in the quiet darkness, a barrage of bullets battered the side of the van, shattering the driver-side window and leaving the sheet metal dented and ripped through. Russell and Timmy ducked and scurried to the other side of the van to take cover from the endless spray of bullets. Daring to look around the front end, Russell saw the blast-pattern of a Micro-Uzi illuminate the night from two gunmen. He looked back at Timmy who was hunkered down with only a pistol and a whole lot of courage. Russell hoped the other men heard the gunfire and were heading to their location as he swung his rifle around to take aim. He could not see the men, but he fired in the direction of the barrel-flash that only stopped when the gunman changed out the clip. The tremendous fire-power of his rifle seemed to do little to stop the relentless shower of bullets that picked at the ground near the van, dislodging small chunks of earth. Timmy moved over to Russell as the front tire gave way and then the rear, hissing from the damage inflicted.


“This ain’t your fight kid. Cut out. I’ll stay here as long as I can. The other guys won’t be able to get up here without being mowed down. Wait for me at my apartment in Leftwood. 387 Manzano Road across from Westdyke Catering. Go down the alley and park around back.”


“No, I can’t leave you Timmy,” protested Russell as another battering inflicted more damage to the van.


“Yes you can Russi and you will.”




“No buts,” barked Timmy trying to speak over the noise. I have to stay here. You didn’t leave Jimmy D. that night. You were trying to save your life just like right now. So go,” said Timmy shoving a key in Russell’s hand. “Apartment 4D. Now get outta here.”


Russell argued no more. He laid the rifle on the ground and searched for a way out. He remembered that there were a set of concrete steps in the distance leading up to the pedestrian walk alongside Union Drive. He waited for a lull in the gunfire then darted off in the darkness towards the steps that he hoped would lead him to safety. Russell did not look back. He couldn’t look back. The guilt from the death of Jimmy D. had suddenly washed over him like a tidal wave. Despite what Timmy had said, Russell knew he had left his friend to die alone in the darkness that cold night. He could barely accept that he had left Timmy alone this night. He pounded forward. With each step his soul floated farther away. This night would not end well. It started wrong and it would come to a devastating end with his friend dead and left alone.


Russell was nearing the top of the steps when the gunfire rang out once again. This time he heard the sporadic fire of the rifle he had left behind. It was a good sign, Timmy was still alive. The steps leveled off, turning into the pedestrian walk running alongside Union Drive West Highway buzzing with vehicles heading south into the city. Russell slowed to catch his breath and to calm the thoughts racing through his mind. He bent forward, resting his palms on his knees for support. A fierce battle still raged behind him, sending fear and doubt surging through his body. He wanted to turn back to somehow help Timmy but thought differently when sirens cried out in the distance. Maybe Timmy would find his way up the same steps to safety as Russell. He turned to look back the way he came but saw no one approaching. The exhaust was even more noxious than down below in the recessed slum area near the Angels’ clubhouse. Russell moved away, peering down at the dark still water of the Humboldt River and saw that the boat still remained at the jetty. More rapid-fire from a Micro-Uzi filled the night. The sirens grew nearer and still no sign of Timmy.


Russell waited for what seemed like an eternity. Timmy had not come up the steps to safety. He hoped beyond hope that his friend was alright; that he had found refuge somewhere. He heard Timmy fire off a succession of bullets from his pistol followed by another volley from the gunmen and then silence. Suddenly the Squalo engine roared to life. The spotlight popped on and the boat sped away from the jetty heading down river. Could Timmy be aboard? Russell had to get back to the Salvage yard to get his car and then to Timmy’s apartment. That would be the only way to know if he made it out alive. A crosswalk was just up ahead. Russell hailed a cab and scooted inside.


“Where to pal?”


“Rusty Schit Salvage in Northwood and step on it,” spat Russell.


“Alright buddy, you asked for it,” said the driver, peering through the rearview mirror. “Hey pal, don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like sh*t back there. I got the cleanest cab in the city so don’t mess it up.”


“Just get me to Northwood,” demanded Russell.


“Okay. I know a fun way,” said the driver as he peeled away from the curb.


Dipping in and out of traffic, and sailing through traffic lights like they did not exist, the cab driver made the trip in half the time. He pulled up to the entrance, coming to a screeching halt as he rolled over a discarded crate that had somehow found its way out onto the street. Russell tossed the driver a single bill and scooted out without waiting for his change. He hurried over to his blue Blista Compact where he had left it, searching for the ignition key inside his jacket pocket along the way. Russell quickly slid behind the wheel, slamming the door closed to block the distractions of the outside world. He sat there momentarily, trying to settle his nerves. The cab ride was harrowing and the thought of leaving Timmy still tumbled around in his mind.


Manzano Road in Leftwood. Russell quickly replaced his guilty thoughts with the instructions that Timmy had given him. He did not know Leftwood well enough so he plugged the address into the GPS and started the engine. He inhaled deeply and pulled out onto the street. The GPS animation directed him to the Hickey Bridge that crossed the Humboldt River into the State of Alderney. He caught a glimpse of flashing lights illuminating the darkness beneath Union Drive as he continued across the bridge and into Alderney. Timmy immediately popped back to the fore of his thoughts. A tiny ting from his GPS indicated a turn up ahead. The first stop light took Russell to the narrow streets of Leftwood that wound through an area still showing the scars of economic struggle from a working-class that had given Leftwood its flare for diversity. Even in the darkness, Russell saw the neglect of the neighborhood. The streets were in desperate need of repair. Potholes sent the tiny Blista Compact gyrating, nearly causing Russell to careen into a parked vehicle. He slowed to a snail’s pace as the destination on Manzano Road appeared on the GPS screen. Another left turn and Timmy’s apartment should be within sight.


The car ahead of him turned right and Russell signaled, turning left onto Manzano Road. Westdyke Catering was just down the street and as indicated, Timmy’s apartment building was across the street. The GPS emanated the final beep letting Russell know that he had arrived at his destination. He did as Timmy instructed and pulled down the alley to park around back. He turned off the engine and doused the headlights. The security light attached to the back of the building flickered as moths fluttered nearby. Vapor from a sewer grating floated up, casting a ghostly haze in the alleyway. Uneasiness settled on Russell, making him quickly leave the confines of the tiny car and head inside the building.


The heavy door slammed shut behind Russell, echoing through the empty dimly lit hallway. A pungent smell of mildew and old drywall whiffed past Russell as he moved to the front of the building to head up to the fourth floor apartment. The wooden steps moaned under his weight. They were nearly rubbed smooth from years of use. Russell pulled the key from his pants pocket and gripped it tightly in his fist. Timmy’s apartment was at the top of the stairs next to a window that overlooked the alleyway. He peered down to where his car was parked. Nothing unusual so Russell turned back to 4D and checked the knob, remembering when Francis McReary was waiting inside his apartment in Schottler. It was locked. The key easily slid inside and dislodged the lock. Russell turned the knob and pushed the door so that it slowly swung open. Darkness and warm stale air rushed out at Russell. He reached around, groping for the light switch. It clicked on, revealing a small neat living space similar to his apartment. The blinds were closed and the doors to the bathroom and bedroom were open. Feeling safe, he stepped inside and closed the door.


Russell breathed a sigh of relief just as his phone rang. Believing it to be Timmy, he answered without checking the caller ID.


“Yeah,” he said just a little too eagerly.


“Why did you leave?” growled Francis McReary, making Russell pull the phone from his ear. “You were supposed to stay and fight for your life Russell. Now the money and most of the supply are gone.”


“It was an ambush and I wasn’t gonna stay this time.” Russell heard his own voice shrill and exasperated. “You better check your guys to see who’s steppin’ out on your little deal.”


“What’s that supposed to mean Russell?


“You figure it out.”


“I don’t have to figure out a d*mn thing. You better figure out a way to get my sh*t back and I mean all of it. If not, you can say hi to your friend.”


The line went dead before Russell could respond. His nostrils flared with anger. There was no way he was going to do anything else for this crook. He needed Timmy now more than he ever did in Vice City. His life was on the line and this time there was a real possibility that it was going to end.




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Moving On


The drive from Alderney turned into another paranoid episode in the life of Phil Bell. The sky, gray and weighing heavy with rain clouds seemed to always play tricks on his already suspicious nature. The cars followed just a bit too long and far too close for his comfort. Police helicopters seemed to appear in the sky from nowhere, sweeping low and circling overhead. He changed lanes often, attempting to shake a black Rebla that had been following him since he left Honkers an hour ago. Nothing he did to break free from what he thought was a tail worked. The Rebla mimicked his every move; and so did a Bobcat and a Vincent, and a Blista Comact, and a half dozen other cars. Maybe everybody was heading to see Ray thought Phil as he emerged from the claustrophobic Booth Tunnel into Algonquin. He never liked how it meandered beneath the Humboldt River; tons of water prone to come rushing through the weakest point of construction to send everyone inside to a watery grave.


Phil reached down to tune his radio to the morning news when the sky opened up and the rain poured like buckets of insults, battering at the roof of his Intruder. He clicked on the wipers to help beat back the heavy rain that washed over his windshield partially obscuring his view. Traffic had slowed to a crawl as the early commuters gingerly inched through the streets of Star Junction. Phil turned up the volume a couple of notches when he heard the familiar voice of Mike Whitely of Weazel News chime in. ‘Another nameless body has been discovered on the banks of the Humboldt River. Apparently a homeless man was moving his belongings farther up river when he stumbled across the dead man’s body riddled with bullet holes. Could this be tied to the shootout that took place in North Holland last night? Only time will tell.’


“Poor bastard,” mumbled Phil, following the cars ahead of him as each turned onto Denver Avenue. He meandered through the cobblestoned streets of Little Italy glad that the downpour had finally diminished to a steady shower. Normally he would not be able to see the lights burning inside Drusilla’s but the gray dreary morning provided the perfect backdrop for an inviting warm light to shine through the dining room window of the restaurant. He pulled alongside the curb closest to the entrance and got out, quickly moving inside the building.


Phil closed the door behind him, making more noise than he had to. He wiped the raindrops from his face before moving on inside the dining room. As usual, Ray was perched at a table near the back of the room; his phone glued to the side of his face. He threw up a finger to acknowledge Phil’s presence and continued his conversation. Phil turned away to check his watch, slightly annoyed that Ray was distracted by what sounded like an intense conversation with his lady friend. He padded around the quaint dining room looking at the cheap memorabilia hanging on the walls; something he had seen a thousand times. Suddenly the door flung open, making Phil turn to see what the commotion was all about. A rush of wind blew through the restaurant, causing the draperies to sway and a spray of rain water landed on the hardwood flooring. The door banged shut behind a rain-soaked gentleman wearing no more than a track suit and a pair of sneaker.


Niko Bellic tossed his arms back and forth, attempting to shake as much rain water from his jacket as possible. He paid no attention to Phil Bell as he made his way to the rear of the dining room were Ray was still sitting, buried deep in discussion. Phil watched as Niko trailed back to Ray, leaving wet footprints along the way. He recognized him from a couple of days ago, sitting inside his car outside the restaurant. Recalling his name proved to be difficult, but he was sure it was the same guy. Ray stood and ushered Niko through the swinging doors that separated the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. Phil made eye contact with Ray before the two men disappeared behind the doors; once again feeling extremely annoyed, he threw his arms up in disgust.


Inside the kitchen Niko stood next to the door leading into the freezer with his arms folded across his chest. “I haven’t got all day Ray,” said Niko, urging Ray to end his conversation.


Anxious to speak with Niko, Ray sputtered a few more words then quickly ended the call. He tossed the phone on the counter and pulled a folded wad of cash from an inside pocket of his blazer.


“Here’s something for your troubles last night Nikki,” said Ray as he slid the cash across the countertop. “Do you know anything else?”


Niko scoop up the payment and tucked it inside a damp jacket pocket. “Look Ray, your friend is dead or will be soon.”


Ray lunged close to Niko, waving his hands in the air. “Keep your voice down. That’s his uncle out there,” he whispered.


“He doesn’t know who we’re talkin’ about.”


“Still… keep it quiet.”


Niko rolled his eyes, not understanding the point. “Before I go, I think you ought to know that there’s a black Rebla circling the block. The Russians inside are a long ways from Hove Beach.”


“So what are you sayin’ Nikki?”


Niko faced Ray with deadly serious eyes. “What I am saying Ray is that it’s very likely that Frankie is dead. But before he died he could have tried to save his life by pointing the finger at you.”


Feeling the weight of what Niko had just told him, Ray leaned his long lanky body against the wall to fully absorb the implications. A simple mission for the kid may have turned into something he had not anticipated. Niko could be wrong. No news is good news as some would say. Ray still had hope that Frankie was still alive even though his gut forced him to accept that Niko probably was right. He shrugged the thoughts away, changing the subject to something more mundane.


“Enough of the Red Army sh*t Nikki. “How did that Cravic lead pan out?”


“Not the right guy,” responded Niko, sounding a little demoralized.


“I figured as much. I mean, he didn’t fit the part of a killer. Don’t you think?”


“Maybe not Ray. I’m trying to move on from all that…” Niko stopped short of mocking what his life had been for more than a decade. He waved away the lingering thought and moved closer to the swinging doors.


“Good idea Nikki. But let’s stay in touch.”


Niko left the kitchen without answering; walking past Phil Bell who was sitting at a table near the front window. The rain pelted at the glass almost making it impossible to see the street. The door nearly tore from Niko’s grip as he left the restaurant with his head down to guard against the sting of the driving rain. Phil heard a commotion coming from inside the kitchen. Pots and pans were being tossed around like they had gotten swept up in the storm going on outside. Ray finally pushed through the swinging doors holding a brown leather case in one hand and his phone in the other.


“What the h*ll is goin’ on Ray. Sounded like a d*mn tornado in there,” said Phil as he made his way over to their usual meeting table.


Ray tossed the leather bag on the table and flopped down hard on the chair. “Oh that. Never mind.”


“Glad you finally made the time to see me already. I mean after your ‘clean up guy’, what’s his name, blew in here and broke the line without even a good f*ckin’ morning, I almost walked out.”


Ray chuckled. “Niko Bellic, that’s his name. And you weren’t about to walk out on this,” said Ray, tapping the leather bag.


“Yeah, whatever. Let me see what I came all the way over here for.”


Ray unzipped the bag and dumped out neatly wrapped stacks of cash. He saw Phil’s eyes go wide at the sight of the easy payday. Ray divided the cash and slid part to Phil and began placing the remainder back inside the bag.


“Hold it Ray,” barked Phil as he landed a hand across the cash to stop Ray’s progression.


Ray looked up. “What’s the problem Philly?”


Phil groaned deeply at the distaste for the sideways nickname that Ray had given him. “Look Ray, I wasn’t all that good in school, but I do know what half is and this ain’t it.”


“I’m taller so I get more.”


“Not funny Ray. It was h*ll gettin’ over here this morning and I’m not in the mood. My dimwitted nephew was supposed to cover for me at the club last night and he pulled a no-show. So that meant I had to do it myself. That’s where I slept last night. I’m tired and I smell like stale cigarettes and a d*mn stripper pole. I want to go home so stop jerkin’ me around and pay up.”


Ray stared blankly at Phil with his mouth half open. His gut churned with the truth of what could have happened to Frankie in Hove Beach yesterday. His heart pounded with guilt and fear, making his face flush. Phil took his hand from the stack of cash and waited.


“Maybe Frankie got tangled up with a woman last night. You know how that can be. He’ll show up sooner or later,” said Ray; the words tumbling from his mouth like a clumsy teenager.


“Yeah right. He should have showed up last night.”


Ray plucked a few more stacks from the pile and handed them to Phil who seemed satisfied. The guilt was chewing away at him by the minute. He had spent the night at the restaurant hoping that Frankie would somehow find his way there if he had gotten into trouble over in Broker. Not a call or a text came from him. Ray tried calling his phone numerous times to no avail. The call went straight to voicemail. Ray wished on all the Saints that he had listened to Phil and believed him when he said his nephew couldn’t handle a high-stakes job. Now the kid could be dead.


Alright Ray, this turned out to be a good morning after all. What about The Peg? Did he get his share?”


“I settled up with him yesterday and he’s none the wiser. He still thinks I only bought the one kilo instead of five and that’s good for us.”


“Don’t go gettin’ greedy Ray. This could turn into something big for the Family. And that means something big for us. I’m gonna head on home now and I’ll be talkin’ to you.”


“I’ll call The Peg today to see what he wants to do. That punk Packie wasn’t lying when he said it was the best sh*t.”


“Yeah Ray, before I leave, I swear there was a black Rebla following me from Alderney. I can’t be sure, but I think I saw it drive by when you were in back with your guy.”


“Go on get outta here Phil. You’re being paranoid again. There are too many Reblas in this city to be concerned about one.”


Phil dropped the cash inside his jacket, letting the waistband catch it as he walked over to the door. “Maybe so, but I’m just sayin’.” He pulled the door and left the restaurant, stepping out into the storm.


* * *

Cherise Glover stood on the corner with her head turned up to the sky, letting the rain pour over her exposed face. As a little girl growing up in North Holland, she always loved when it would rain; the harder the better. The rain seemed to keep the creeps inside; hidden away like a dirty little secret. Her father was one of those dirty secrets. He was never around much when Cherise was growing up. But when he was, it was like a nightmare that came true more times than she could remember. Cherise knew when he was coming for a court imposed visit because her mom would dress real nice and smell like vanilla. In the beginning the visits were nice. Cherise welcomed her father with open arms and a big grin spread across her face in anticipation of the gift he hid behind his back.


Soon the years passed and the gifts stopped. The once predictable visitations turned erratic and violent. Cherise would lock herself inside her bedroom whenever he would show up unannounced. She believed that the door would shield her from the brutality inflicted by her father. The insults, the violent outbursts against her mother all seeped down the hall, passing through the closed door and landing squarely on her heart, causing unimaginable damage to her self-esteem. She would beg her mother to not let him inside the apartment or to call the police but neither plea worked. He would force himself inside and then force himself inside her mother. Rape and assault were something eleven year-old Cherise witnessed often but never when it rained. That’s when she began praying for rain, because the rain would keep the creep away.


By the time Cherise turned thirteen, she had fallen in love with a young guy who lived two blocks from her apartment. Her mother forbade the relationship, arguing that the young man, at nineteen, was too old to date her daughter. Cherise defied her mother and continued to secretly see Dwayne Forge. He was just too charming and sensitive to let go. For a while everything was working out fine. Dwayne was full of confidence, making bold moves through the neighborhood as the head of the North Holland Hustlers. He was not good at reading and writing but he could add. Dealing drugs quickly translated into more money and power than he ever realized. Dwayne was building an Empire and he wanted Cherise to be a part of his world.


She was happy for the first time in years. Dwayne, in many ways, was the father figure she never had. He protected her. He loved her. He promised to give her the world if she would stand by him and give him a chance. It was easy for Cherise to acquiesce. Dwayne was everything that she had hoped for. As fate would have it though, Cherise would be devastated and her world would fall apart. The man that she had poured her heart and soul into was being torn from her reach and cast aside like garbage. The LCPD arrested Dwayne, charging him with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell. The charges stuck and Dwayne was sent to prison.


Startled by the howl of an approaching ambulance siren, Cherise jerked her head forward and opened her eyes. The cry of a siren was like the soundtrack of her life. Somewhere in this city there was someone hurting or in danger and desperately needed help. For so long Cherise had found herself in desperate situations where she was the one needing the help, but not this time. For most of her life Cherise had either been verbally or physically abused. Even when she was too young to understand the importance of a father’s love, she understood the meaning of his hateful words and cruelty against her mother. He meant to hurt the both of them and he almost destroyed Cherise in the process. The short time that she and Dwayne were together, a tenderness found its way back into her life, making her feel protected and loved. All that faded when Dwayne was sent to prison. Cherise wiped the rain streaming down her face as the ambulance rounded the corner and continued to its destination; the urgency of the sirens fading in the distance.


She crossed to the other side of the street to the Gov. Greg Johnson Housing when the sky burst; bring forth a heavy rain shower that pelted against her plastic poncho. The bright green covering kept Cherise warm and dry from the pouring rain. Marlon had told her that Dwayne lived in building 187 on the second floor. She hurried down the concrete steps, making a beeline for the front entrance. Suddenly the wind began to gust, tugging at her poncho, causing it to flap uncontrollably. She curled her shoulders, leaning into the storm to force herself forward. The door swung open as she stumbled inside the building. It slammed behind her sending loud echoes of metal hitting metal reverberating through the empty hallways.


Cherise had been reluctant to help Marlon spy on Dwayne but in the end she agreed. He had been released from prison a couple of months ago and old feelings began to stir within her. She slid the plastic hood from her head and looked around the deserted corridor. She took in a deep breath and sighed. The anxiety of seeing Dwayne after so many years had grown to nearly an unbearable state. Cherise wanted to back out of the deal she made with Marlon more than once. She wanted to throw her hands up and run home to hide inside her apartment; but something inside pushed her forward. Maybe she wanted to see him, hoping to rekindle a lost love.


The stairs leading up to the second floor were just around the corner. Cherise tiptoed up the single flight as if to surprise her old love. She stood outside Dwayne’s apartment door preparing for the unexpected; something she had done countless times with abusive former boyfriends. She raised her fist and landed two solid confident knocks then waited. She heard no movement beyond the door. Cherise stirred slightly, feeling the anxiousness well inside her chest. If she wanted to leave, this would be the perfect time to do so. She knew that the little girl who ran from her father and hid inside her bedroom for protection was long gone. Fifteen years had passed and that little girl was now a grown woman. Cherise drew in another deep breath and knocked once more.


“Who is it?”


The gruffness of his voice, muffled by the closed door startled Cherise. The reflexive motion snapped her arms up to her chest to calm her racing heart. She knew that voice. Even though it sounded defensive and hateful, she heard the man that she had fallen in love with so long ago. She fumbled for the proper words then answered.


“It’s me, Cherise.”


There was silence, no answer. For a moment Cherise thought she had not spoken loud enough. Then she heard the chain slide from its cradle and the deadbolt turn. The door inched open, slowly revealing Dwayne. She looked up at him standing there sullen-faced and unresponsive.


“Can I come in?”


Dwayne stared intently into her eyes, trying to judge her purpose for showing up at his home. Cherise looked away, quickly defeated by the intensity of his gaze. Figuring that she couldn’t want much, he stepped aside to allow her to enter. Cherise shook the excess rain water from her poncho before entering the apartment. Dwayne closed the door not bothering to secure the lock. Cherise looked around the narrow hallway noticing a suitcase, and two duffle bags placed neatly against the wall. She turned to face Dwayne.


“You goin’ somewhere?” she asked shyly.


“So that’s all I get?” mumbled Dwayne. “I don’t deserve a hello or how are you?”


Realizing her mistake, Cherise moved closer to him. “Sure you do Dwayne. I just noticed your bags and wondered if you were moving.”


A scowl crossed his face. “I am. But why would you care?”


“I do care and I apologize for Jayvon…”


“Look Cherise, I don’t want to relive the whole Jayvon situation. He was a rat and he got exactly what he deserved. You moved on years ago and this is where we are today.”


“I never meant to… I was just so alone.”


“Alone Cherise?” questioned Dwayne. “Try spending fifteen years in prison and then tell me how alone you feel.”


Dwayne stepped away from Cherise. She was a reminder of what was sacrificed during his incarceration. A pinch of pain played across his face. “We had something good Cherise. I’m not afraid to say that you were the love of my life. And yeah it hurt when I found out about you and Jayvon. It hurt even more because you knew the things I did for you when I was locked up. But that’s the past and this is now. And I forgive you Cherise. How can I not? Your life was just as screwed up as mine.”


Cherise fought back the tears. This was who she fell in love with fifteen years ago. It wasn’t until this moment that she knew she still loved him and always would. She inhaled deeply; sucking up the last bit of love from the man she knew would never be hers again. He still wore the same cologne and had the same dark mysterious eyes that could pierce her soul. A single tear finally squeezed from the corner of her left eye, streaming down her cheek to settle in the crease of her lips. She wiped it away and with it all hope of ever again being the love of his life. She blinked the blurriness from her eyes and gazed over at Dwayne leaning against the wall. Her mind being a muddled mess, the words did not come easily. But she had to try to win him back.


“You’re a good guy Dwayne and I need something good in my life.”


“No Cherise, I’m not a good guy. We were good together but that’s all over now. So I think we should just move on with our lives and say goodbye right here. Something I never got to do.”


Hearing the finality in those words struck a chord deep inside Cherise. Her father abandoned her as a child and now the one man that ever loved her and asked nothing of her, has left her unguarded and exposed to the truth. She’s damaged, used merchandise, and untethered to anything good. Cherise broke, covering her face to hide the shame. She bolted past Dwayne and left the apartment. She did not stop running until she felt the cold rain wash over her face. Cherise reached inside her pants pocket and retrieved the tiny listening device that Marlon had given to her yesterday. She pinched the capsule-shaped gadget between her fingers and tossed it into the nearby bushes.


Tears continued to stream from her eyes, mingling with the raindrops washing over her bare face. Cherise pulled on her hood as refuge from the storm and her shame. She lowered her head and slowly made her way back to the subway station. Using the wall as a crutch, she meandered down into the depths of the city almost oblivious to her surroundings. Her eyes were fixed forward, starring at everything and seeing nothing. She scanned her pass card and pushed through the turnstile, continuing down to the platform where she found an empty bench to rest. A lone musician played a haunting rendition of ‘Move’ by Miles Davis on his saxophone that seemed to stretch across the universe. In an odd way, the music helped to calm Cherise.


She reached for her phone to call Marlon. He answered on the first ring.


“Did you get it done?” he asked.


Cherise sighed heavily. “No. He’s moving.”


“D*mn. Where to?”


“He didn’t say.”


“Alright. Bye.”


The line went dead and Cherise tucked the phone away. Another train rumbled up to the platform. This time she boarded and took a seat in the second cart, sadness lingered on her face as the train pulled away from the station, leaving Dwayne and his pain in Northwood.


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Hello Goodbye


Russell woke; clutching the sofa cushion with both hands, Olive Reckord had once again invaded his dreams. His mind swirled as rain pounded heavily on the roof, making his ears ring. Unable to recognize the tiny room made his heart pound even harder. The sudden fear of being in an unfamiliar place forced him from the old musky couch; stumbling backwards but he quickly corrected his footing to avoid a tremendous fall onto the hardwood floor. The memories of last night slowly began to replace the horrors of his nightmare, bring with them the realization that Timmy was still missing in action. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, allowing his eyes to adjust to the poorly lit room. Russell retrieved his phone from the coffee table and clicked the button to brighten the screen. No missed calls or texts were indicated. His eyes went wide as panic began to set in. Had Timmy been killed? Had that crook McReary figured the connection between the two and was holding him somewhere?

Russell flipped the phone in his hand desperate for a call from Timmy. He couldn’t chance the wrong person answering if he called, so all he could do was wait. Russell placed the phone back on the coffee table and listened to his heart thump. He had to believe that Timmy would show just like he promised. He used to work for Jimmy Pegorino, proving that he was more than capable of being the last man standing in any fight. Russell leaned forward, bringing both hands up to his face as to pray for a miracle. He closed his eyes, allowing thoughts of the beaches in Vice City to drive away the hysteria that had taken ahold of his life.


He drifted miles away, feeling the sun burn on his back as he lay on the beautiful white sands in Ocean Beach; listening to the waves gently lapping at the shoreline. The soft sounds of water moving always settled the anxiousness that would sometimes well up inside Russell as a small boy. His mother knew that a quick dip in the bathtub would calm his temper tantrums. In deciding where to live in Vice City, Russell did not choose a small dingy apartment downtown, but he chose a place where he would be close to the ocean. His life had unraveled in Liberty and he believed the beaches of Vice City would help him to regain his center even if he was a fugitive from the law.


Russell had been in Vice City almost two months when thing took a turn for the worse. The serenity of the beach had not served its purpose. Instead of calming his inner demons, the trappings of the beach permitted him to indulge his weaknesses. Drugs, alcohol, and beautiful women were plentiful. As a young man trying to run away from life, there would be only a matter of time before life would hit him square between the eyes. The drugs and alcohol barely dulled the guilt that consumed him; a guilt that cut through his soul like the bullet that cut through Jimmy D.s’ chest, leaving him lying dead on the streets of Liberty. Russell blamed himself for his best friend’s death and no fancy drug or beautiful woman would ever be able to fix that kind of shame.


The debilitating guilt soon manifested itself in nightmarish dreams filled with the screams of his dying friend that robbed Russell of sleep and sanity. Hiding in plain sight by day and using his drug of choice by night to help smooth the kinks that ravaged his mind put Russell on a collision course with death. He knew he would not last much longer, being devoured by the helplessness he felt after his parents were killed in a car accident; but mostly the guilt over Jimmy D.’s death that consumed his every breath.


Before long, desperation bubbled to a raging boil, spilling over at O’Toole’s, a local pub with a reputation for trouble. The alcohol was cheap and the food barely palatable but Russell didn’t care. It was a place to drown his sorrows. That night, Russell sat alone at a back table when a beautiful blonde with a pouty smile invited herself to join him. He could not refuse such an invitation so he accepted her proposal. Half way through their meal, the heat of that summer night and one too many beers sent Russell into a rage when a local man known for his loose lips and jackhammer fists decided he was big enough to steal the woman at his side. Russell turned the bottle up to his mouth, catching a glimpse of a beefy muscle-bound man walking his way. He drained the bitter contents and slammed the bottle down on the tiny wooden table, annoyed by his intent. The man was at his side in an instant, glaring down at the scantily dressed woman sitting across from Russell.


“Hey babe, why don’t you leave this little punk and come with a real man.”


Without warning, Russell stood and tossed over the table, sending the plates of food and beer bottles sailing across the smoky room. He landed a heavy fist on the side of the man’s face, making spittle fly from his mouth as his head spun around. A solid punch to the gut caused him to bend over, coughing to catch his breath. The woman yelped, nearly tipping over her chair as she scampered away, leaving the pub as quickly as possible. The brute lunged forward, tackling Russell to the floor.


“You just signed your death warrant pretty boy,” he said.


Russell did not care about death. His best friend was dead. He didn’t care about anything. He squirmed beneath the crushing weight pressing down on his chest as he tried to free himself. One powerful hand wrapped around Russell’s throat, clenching to choke the life from his body. A tremendous blow crashed into the side of his face, sending a spray of blood across the floor as Russell’s head snapped sideways. A terrible sinking sensation made the room spin. Another thunderous blow and Russell felt a tooth jarred loose. Russell struggled for air, his feet kicking and scraping aimlessly at the floor. The room was going black. The sound of muffled voices was fading fast. Another hit and more blood, metallic at the back of his throat. Then the shattering of glass and the man loosened his vice-like grip and slumped forward, landing like a sack of potatoes on the floor next to Russell.


Russell groped at his throat, coughing and gasping for air as he rolled onto his side. He forced his eyes open to see a tall broad-shoulder man standing over him with an out-stretched hand.


“Come on son; let me get you outta here.”


Russell reached and took ahold of his hand pulling himself up. He looked back at the man lying unconscious on the floor.


“He’ll be okay. A bottle across the back of the head works every time. Cops never show up to a place like this unless they got a real good reason. And he ain’t a good enough reason.”


Russell looked at his savior. “Thank you,” he said reluctantly.


“No problem kid. That guy got what was comin’ to him. Name’s Timmy. Timmy Carrillo.”


Russell pulled himself back to reality. The rain continued to pound at the rooftop nearly obscuring faint tapping at the apartment door. He quickly stood up, elated by the possibility that Timmy could be on the other side. Tiptoeing closer to the door, Russell heard the coarse voice of his friend calling his name.

“Russell. Hey Russi, open up. It’s me.”


Russell released the chain and deadbolt quickly opening the door to let his friend inside. Timmy slipped inside his apartment, hair matted from the rain. He flipped on the light and flopped down on the sofa.


“What took so long? I thought you were…”


“Never count me out kid,” said Timmy as he placed a bag on the coffee table. “Close the door and come on over and get something to eat. I know you gotta be sarvin’.”


“Starving ain’t the word for it. I been drinkin’ warm tap water all night,” said Russell as he closed and locked the door.


Timmy was already digging through the bag looking for a breakfast sandwich when Russell joined him on the sofa.


“Well, what the h*ll happened after I left?” asked Russell, eager to learn the details. “You gonna keep me in suspense or what? I been here losing my d*mn mind.”


“I had to make a jump for it,” responded Timmy, swallowing a mouthful of egg and sausage. “There was no way I was gonna get out of there alive if I stayed. So, I fired off a few cover shots and jumped. Nearly busted my *ss in the process. Hopped on board and we sped away.”


“D*mn Timmy, you know I didn’t want to leave you there don’t you?”


Timmy waved the comment away. “Forget about it kid. That’s all settled.”


“They say anything about me?”


“Nothin’ really. I told them you cut out and I guess it was believable since we were doing the same d*mn thing. One guy, the tall skinny one he just gave a look like he expected it to happen that way.”


Russell found a breakfast biscuit and took a chunk out of the sandwich, stuffing more in his mouth than he should have. He continued the conversation through a mouthful of buttery biscuit, sausage and egg that were seasoned perfectly. “I almost forgot how good the food was here. McReary called me last night, demanding that I find all of his sh*t or else.”


“Or else what? There was no way we were gettin’ back up there with all those cops and flashin’ lights. Whoever got the jump on us, I’m pretty d*mn sure they got what was in the van and cut out before the cops got there.”


“I wonder who it was because the same thing happened over in Berchem. Outta nowhere, bullets start flyin’.”


“That’s something McReary has to figure out not you kid.”


“Yeah, I guess so. So where you been all night?” questioned Russell as he took another chunk from his sandwich. “All kinds of sh*t was flyin’ through my mind.”


“I knew you were gonna freak out. I lost my phone when I jumped and you know I can’t remember phone numbers. They dropped me way over in Hove Beach.”


“Hove Beach?”


“Yeah. So I been ridin’ the trains most of the night trying to make it over here and making sure I wasn’t being fallowed. Finally I got a cabbie in Varsity Heights to bring me the rest of the way.”


Russell unwrapped his second sandwich and took a bite; this one a little more modest than his first. He fell back in the chair, breathing a deep sigh of relief. “I’m glad you’re here. I was thinking about the night you saved my life down there in Vice and I hope you can work a miracle up here.”


“We’ll figure it out kid. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry. As a matter of fact I know just the person to talk to.”


Russell took a sip of the warm water left on the coffee table from last night to help wash down the seasoned meat. “Who?” He asked.


“I kept thinking about Samuel Barkley. He’s, well, he was deep into the Jamaican drug trade…”

Russell looked away, still feeling remorseful about having killed Samuel. It happened so fast; like something had taken control. He had not intended to kill Samuel but his mocking insults of Jimmy D. sent Russell into another world. He had pulled the trigger before he had time to even think of the consequences.


“…hey Russi, “Timmy snapped his fingers to bring Russell back from his day dream. “Stay with me now kid. I know what happened is hard for you to get over, but it’s over. So forget about it. You don’t want to end up like Jimmy do you?”


Russell blinked and cleared his throat. “No. No I don’t. I want to know why he was killed.”


“Alright. That’s what I want to hear. Now as I was sayin’, Barkley was deep into the Jamaican drug trade. You said Jimmy D. really didn’t want to be a part of the deal that you and Barkley had set up, right.”


“That’s right. I had to talk him into goin’. Told him it was gonna be a big payday for us and we would be flirtin’ with the girls in East Island City soon after.”


“Okay. Now you never had to convince him before. Ask yourself, why this time. The way you used to talk about Jimmy, it seemed that he was the one who had connections around the city while you were the bookworm.”


Russell dropped his head. Timmy could see that he was thinking hard, considering what could have made Jimmy so reluctant to do the deal that night. Russell and Jimmy had been best friends since third grade. Jimmy always seemed to struggle with school work but Russell was right there to help him get to the next grade. High School suddenly became more of a challenge for Jimmy. He was placed on a vocational track while Russell excelled at academics. For the first time the two were separated and Russell was not able to keep Jimmy interest in his course work. Jimmy soon fell in with a different crowd and started his journey of petty crimes. Being more interested in the next score, Jimmy finally called it quits and dropped out of school.


Russell went on to graduate with honors, earning a full college scholarship. However, an unexpected tragedy came sailing into his life when his parents were killed in an automobile accident. A careless driver clipped the backend of the car they were driving, causing them to spin out of control into the path of a sanitation truck. The impact was swift, killing Russell’s parents instantly. Devastated by their death, Russell dropped out of college and found solace with his childhood friend, Jimmy D.


Soon the two were inseparable, just like when they were in third grade. Money became a problem; there was never enough of it to support their fast reckless life style. They quickly hatched a plan to solve their money problems. Jimmy D. was never a big-brain but he had connections and knew how to survive on the streets of Liberty. Their tiny apartment in Outlook was home base for devising plans to steal cars to be chopped for parts. The money they received was reinvested in their drug operation. It was never big-time but a steady income was better than nothing.


Russell took another bite of his sandwich before placing it back in the wrapper, having lost his appetite. “So are you saying Jimmy owed the Jamaicans and that’s the reason they killed him?”


“I don’t know Russi. All I know for sure is that the Jamaicans scared him for some reason. You weren’t afraid. But the guy who had been street savvy since he was fifteen was scared.”


“We were best…”


“Yeah I know. Best friends. And best friends tell each other everything. But Jimmy didn’t tell you the one thing that could have saved his life.”


Russell stayed quiet. He had never imagined that Jimmy D. would keep something from him. They had been through everything together. Jimmy even knew how much Russell loved Carlie. Something he had not shared with anyone else.


Timmy pulled another sandwich from the crumpled bag. “Come on kid, fill your belly up. We’re gonna see what a guy by the name of Freddy Paparo can tell us about Samuel Barkley and Olive Reckord.”


* * *

Marlon sat inside his brown Bobcat, windshield wipers beating back the torrential downpour. He thought this city would be in his rearview mirror and another greeting him with opportunity. But the call from Cherise made him rethink his exit strategy. The world of the North Holland Hustlers was crumbling. For some time he had felt like an outsider in the crew and treated like an enemy by Playboy X. He needed a fresh start but not before he tied up loose ends once and for all. He would give the leader of the Hustle one last tribute by telling him the truth to his face.


The rain had slacked some so Marlon cut the engine and quickly went inside the building. As usual, the guard was posted at the security desk plucking inside his ear with his pinky. Marlon passed by without speaking and pressed the call button next to the express elevator. He had thrown the key in the river yesterday as a sign that his new life was beginning. The intercom crackled and Playboy answered.


“Who is it?”


“Yo X, it’s me Marlon. Buzz me up.”


The doors swished open and Marlon boarded, taking the elevator to the Penthouse for what he hoped would be the last time. Playboy was sitting in front of his huge television with the sound muted; his face like stone, unemotional. Marlon stepped of the elevator, immediately spotting the 9Mm pistol in his hand. His heart jumped, nearly stopping from the odd circumstance he had stumbled into. Marlon’s eyes darted back and forth, looking for any other troubling situations. The apartment seemed to be empty; no noise or movement anywhere.


“X. You okay?” asked Marlon as he cautiously moved forward.


“That mother is gonna die. And I mean he’s gonna die real soon.”


Marlon stepped closer. “Put the gun down X and let’s talk.”


“You can talk right now,” said Playboy, standing to face Marlon.


“You need to calm down first X.”


“I am calm Marlon,” shouted Playboy, desperately throwing his arms out to the side. “How much calmer do you want me to be? The Trunchez and C are dead. And that b*tch has control of the East Holland projects and the Triangle Club. He’s taking money out of my pocket Marlon. Messin’ wit my sh*t.”


Marlon almost regretted coming back but he wanted a clean break and a new start. “I know X. Things are fallin’ apart. Nobody expected Dwayne to come back swingin’ so fast like he did. We should have hit back after the Trunchez.”


Playboy narrowed his eyes, feeling the insult cut to the bone. “You questioning my leadership Marlon?”


Marlon saw Playboy’s finger play over the trigger, making him draw in a deep breath. “That’s not what I’m sayin.”


“Then what are you sayin’ playa?”


Marlon put up his hands to stop the situation from spiraling out of control. “I'm just sayin’ nobody saw this comin’. And now everything has changed X. So I came here to tell you that I’m out. I’m movin’ on.”


Marlon’s words struck Playboy as strange. He shook his he, turning it sideways as if he had not heard or understood what Marlon had said. Playboy slapped the side of his head with the pistol as impish laughter emanated from a place desperate for acceptance. Marlon took a cautious step backwards. Playboy was unraveling right before his eyes. He felt the weight of his pistol inside his jacket pocket, giving him a little comfort just in case the situation got to that point. The elevator doors were still open but there was no way Marlon could make it inside and close the door fast enough. His mind raced with ways to escape a sure death trap. He knew the layout of the apartment like it was his own. There weren’t too many places to take cover. Playboy’s bedroom was the closest and best location. If he could make it to the patio, the fire escape was easily accessible or he could take a chance and jump to the adjacent building. Marlon took another step away from Playboy as his laughter grew louder and more hysterical.


“You are so right Marlon,” responded Playboy, suddenly cutting his frantic laughter to a snicker. “Things have changed and yes, you are movin’ on,” said Playboy as the wicked laughter crept back. “Movin’ on over to Northwood to kill that motha.”


“Not gonna happen X,” said Marlon, his voice sure and steady.


Playboy jerked his arm up and fired a single shot. The bullet buried itself in the wall next to Marlon’s head, making him duck low for cover. Marlon threw his hands up to surrender.


“Don’t defy me Marlon,” growled Playboy. “Next time I won’t miss. What is all this talk about you movin’ on? You want your Patriot back? Is that it? Well it’s yours.”


“Okay X. That’s good,” said Marlon, trying to appease his friend. “But Dwayne is moving and Cherise don’t know where he’s going.”


Playboy lowered the pistol. Realizing what he had just done, he backed away from Marlon with confusion and sorrow in his eyes.


“I’m sorry Marlon. I shouldn't have done that. But we got to stick together playa. Everybody is leavin’ me. I remember four years ago when you joined the Hustlers, we were unstoppable. We can get it back. All we have to do is stop Dwayne.”


Marlon exhaled, relieved that Playboy had some semblance of normalcy once again. He looked over at the damaged wall and back at Playboy. “I want to believe that X, but he got too strong too fast. M.O.B. is backin’ him and you know what they’re all about. They like some paramilitary or some sh*t. They come equipped.”


Playboy lowered himself to the sofa like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He tossed the pistol on the coffee table and slumped back onto the soft cushions. He closed his eyes and went silent for a moment. Marlon stood, quietly respecting the defeat of his friend. Four years ago Marlon had not seen this coming. Playboy was on top of the world leading the crew to new and exciting ventures. For such a young man, he had the confidence and brilliance of ten men. Some of it came from being groomed by Dwayne but most was natural talent. Somewhere along the way, something went wrong. His larger than life personality began to overshadow the true brotherhood of the North Holland Hustlers; a crew that Dwayne Forged headed for several years, shaping it into one of the most powerful gangs in Liberty City. Playboy put earning ahead of loyalty, causing fissures in the chain of command. He quickly lost respect among many crew members who threw their loyalties to the highest bidder. However, Marlon remained a loyalist even through a recent humiliating demotion. But now with the writing on the wall, even he has decided to walk away from Playboy.


Playboy leaned forward, looking up at Marlon standing quietly near the elevator. “I always liked you Marlon. You were ambitious and smart. Real smart. So who am I to hold you back playa. If you wanna go, go.”


Marlon looked into Playboy’s eyes, seeing a man that’s slowly accepting the inevitable. Gone are the audacious comments, touting his accomplishments and promising a future bigger and brighter than ever before. Playboy searched through a ceramic dish and pulled out a set of keys. He clutched them tightly before tossing them to Marlon. The keys fell gently into Marlon’s hands.


“I keep it over in the underground parking in Lancaster.”


“Thanks X. For everything.”


Marlon tucked the keys inside his jacket pocket and stepped onto the elevator. Saying goodbye was never something he liked to do but Playboy knew this was the end. He sat on the sofa and watched as the doors slid closed, leaving him alone and exiled from the empire he helped create. He pulled his phone and thumbed through the list of contacts, stopping at the one person he never intended to ever speak to again. He placed the call and waited for an answer. Playboy hesitated for a moment when he heard that familiar voice, wondering if he had made a mistake.


Finally he said, “We need to talk.”



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Hello everyone. I would like to thank you all for your support as I journey through Liberty City Limits. Unfortunately a family crisis has occurred and I can only divide my attention but so much. That being said, I will need to take a brief hiatus from this project. I have enjoyed writing and sharing this story with the community and do have every intention on finishing it.




Where we are so far:


Russell Cobb has returned to Liberty after fleeing from a warrant for his arrest in connection with the death of his best friend James D. Bataglia, a.k.a. Jimmy D. in 2006.


While in hiding down in Vice City Russell meets and is befriended by Timmy Carrillo who used to work for Jimmy Pegorini.


Upon Russell’s return to Liberty, he confides in his girlfriend Carlie that he has agreed to be an informant for the LCPD under the supervision of Francis McReary. By doing so he hopes the charges will be dropped.


In the meantime, Russell has made deals with Dwayne Forge and Ray Boccino to purchase high quality cocaine brought out of Vice City. His next target is supposed to be Elizabeta Torres.


Playboy X, the new head of the Hustlers and one time protégé of Dwayne has refused to give control of the gang back to Dwayne after his released from prison. This has pushed Dwayne to strike out on his own.


After being convinced that there is no loyalty to Playboy X, Dwayne makes a bold move by sending Niko Bellic to the Triangle Club in Bohan to kill the new managers thereby giving control back to Dwayne. Dwayne is being backed by M.O.B.; a ruthless paramilitary gang based in Firefly Projects. With their support and the help of a new comer by the name of Pete Downing, Dwayne has Clarence Little, an associate of Playboy X, killed. This action has given Dwayne control of the East Holland Projects.


Russell is being pushed deeper into the criminal underworld; something he never agreed to do. He is desperate to get away but knows he is probably being watched by McReary’s goons. During a visit to Jimmy D.’s grave, he was shot at by an unseen gunman.


Being ambitious and sometimes careless, Ray has decided he wants to gain influence inside the Russian Mob. Against the better judgement of Phil Bell, Ray sends Frankie Gallo, Phil’s nephew, over to Broker to ascertain information at Comrades Bar. Now Frankie has turned up missing.


Feeling his world collapsing around him, Playboy X sends Marlon Bridges, his last best hope, to convince Dwayne’s former girlfriend to drop a listening device inside his apartment. Upon her arrival, Dwayne gives her the cold shoulder and ends their relationship once and for all. He revealed that he is moving but did not say where to.


Marlon has left the Hustlers for better opportunity in Alderney. Playboy is left isolated inside his penthouse apartment making one last effort to save his empire from the encroaching threat from Dwayne.


Timmy hitched a ride up the coast to help his friend. A huge drug exchange was supposed to happen at the jetty access point near the AoD clubhouse in Algonquin. Everything falls apart when two AoD club members ambush the exchange causing Timmy and Russell to flee the scene. Timmy sends Russell to his apartment in Alderney. There the two begin to put the pieces together to figure out why Jimmy D. was killed.

Edited by albanyave

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Mokrie Dela

All the best, fella, for whatever the family crisis is. Take your time etc 👍🏻

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Hey guys. A lot has been on my plate lately but I can say that things are getting better. I have started putting words down on paper even though my mind is still a little scattered. Maybe by going through the motions I can find my rhythm again. Thanks for sticking around and I really appreciate the support. I promise chapters will start flowing again.


Everyone enjoy the rest of the day.

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Mokrie Dela

I very much know the feeling fella. Life has a lot it's waiting to throw at you. And I gotta say, through my jadedness, real life problems and distractions, every time I see you and carbonox post a new chapter I see it as an inspiration. Keep up the work, but more so, find your own rhythm first. The best things I've written have come from dark places so if you're struggling to write this, try a short story, just to warm yourself up. Also helps to excercise demons 👍🏻

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A Soviet in America


Dimitri Rascalov, who is always perfectly dressed, wore a black suit accented by an apple-red vest and dark gray neck tie fashioned in a tight knot tucked neatly between the collars of his white dress shirt. He looked in the mirror and ran a hand over his neatly combed blonde hair before slipping from behind the wheel of his beloved DF8-90. After engaging the alarm to ward of any would-be car thieves, he quickly walked across the street towards Perestroika, the cabaret club owned by Mikhail Faustin. Dimitri threw up a hand to shield his eye glasses from the spitting rain that seemed to want to linger through the remainder of the morning. The reception area of the club was cool and quiet; too early for anyone to manage the cloakroom. As usual, there were three coats hanging lifelessly on wire hangers as unclaimed that would be given to charity if not claimed within a week.


Dimitri removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket to wipe away the tiny rain droplets that had collected on his sleeves and lapel. There was a time when Dimitri did not care about the rain or the dirt or his blood-stained clothes. The Cold War had taken a hold of virtually everyone’s life in the old Soviet Union where he was born and raised and where he learned how to be a killer. Long before he was born, tensions between the East and the West and their respective allies had developed to a belief of world destruction if the two sides ever met militarily. The United States and the Soviet Union battled each other after World War II at a suspicious distance; using the threat of nuclear war, espionage, propaganda, and political tactics as a way to try to gain the upper hand without actually meeting on the battlefield. Nonetheless, the possibility of military action always loomed on the horizon.


By 1987 Dimitri was eight-teen years old and struggling to find his way in an unforgiving world. His father had abandoned the family years ago, leaving him and his older brother Anton in the care of their drug addicted mother. Their childhood was more than harsh. It was downright brutal. Night after night Anton and Dimitri witnessed their mother prostitute herself with a parade of men tramping through their condemned tenement in search of a quick reprieve from the harsh world. She needed a steady supply of pain killers and selling sexual favors was the easiest way to get them. Thieves, killers, pimps, and even the clergy found their way to her bed almost nightly. When the fix was not enough, she began enlisting Anton to go into the city to procure the pills any way that he could. Sadly, Anton’s love for his mother drove him down the wrong alleyway and straight to his death. For Dimitri, that was the last straw. He packed what little he owned and walked away from the woman that gave him life just as his father had done years earlier.


The reality of being alone for the first time frightened Dimitri. The tortured human exhibitions that played on what seemed like every street corner could have ruined the shy frail young man, but Dimitri girded and became something that he never was or wanted to be; a killer. The night was cold and long. For Dimitri a pack of crackers was like a life saver. But to the man across the street, it was something worth killing for. He approached Dimitri; eyes fixed and intent set. In that moment, Dimitri knew it was time to survive or die trying. He pulled the knife that Anton had given him on his fourteenth birthday and quickly jabbed it into the man’s abdomen. Frightened and disappointed by his actions, Dimitri scurried away to hide in the shadows until daybreak, leaving the stranger on the street to die like so many others.


The weeks dragged on like hunger pains, a constant reminder that he was barely living; existing in a world of horrors that grew worse with each passing day. Dimitri missed his brother and at times he even missed his mother. But there was no going back. There was nothing to go back to; not even to the safety of a home. Desperate for some stability and comradery, Dimitri enlisted in the Soviet military where he met Mikhail Faustin; his brother for life and partner in crime.


Dimitri could hear the liquor bottles clang against each other as he pushed through the doors leading into the main area of the club. Straight ahead was the stage where local talent performed nightly to a crowd enjoying a light meal and their favorite alcoholic beverage. Dimitri casually treaded down carpeted steps to the open dancefloor, making his way over to the bar. Paintings of old Soviet culture and architecture adorned the walls of the expansive room; some depicting the last ruling family of the Soviet Union.


Dimitri leaned in close to the bar for a better look. The man stocking the shelves with a number of vintage wines did not notice his presence. “Good morning Yury.”


Startled, Yury spun around not aware that someone had come into the club. “Oh, Mr. Rascalov I did not know you were here. Good morning sir.”


“Why are we bringing out the good stuff?”


“Yes, yes, Mr. Faustin asked me to fully stock with our best stuff up front and our regular underneath. He did not say why.”


Dimitri made an introspective grunt, accepting Yury’s answer but wondering what Mikhail had planned. “So Yury, you’ve been bartender for how long?”


Yury cleared his throat and stood up tall not knowing if he had done something wrong he quickly answered with the most confident tone he could muster. “Eleven years sir. Since 1997. We didn’t have such a grand chandelier over the dancefloor back then. But it sure is a beauty now.”


Dimitri glanced over his shoulder, admiring the golden adornment hanging high above the perfectly polished floor. “Yes, it is a wonder. Isn’t it?”


“It always brightens my day and night,” responded Yury.


Dimitri pushed away from the bar and turned back to face Yury. “I just wanted to tell you that you have done an exquisite job here at the club and to keep doing what you’ve been doing.”


Relieved to hear the compliment, Yury bowed slightly. “Thank you sir. So kind of you. I will do that for you always. Thank you.”


“Don’t mention it Yury. I give credit where credit is due. By the way have you seen Sergei this morning?”


“Yes I have. He and Pavel left about ten minutes before you arrived.”


Dimitri pulled a keyring from his jacket pocket as he walked off towards the backstage area. “Okay Yury, I will let you get back to your work.”


Mikhail had been secretive lately, only sharing with Dimitri the most unimportant details of his latest ventures. His drug and alcohol usage had gotten worse even at the constant pleading by Dimitri for him to stop and regain his standing as leader. Mikhail erupted in a violent outburst after Dimitri offered him pain killers in place of cocaine. He tossed the pill bottles against the wall and ordered Dimitri to leave his home at once. Dimitri hesitated, reminding Mikhail that his behavior had gotten the attention of Kenny Petrovic; the most powerful Russian Mafia boss in Liberty City.


Kenny Petrovic had arrived in Liberty City years before Mikhail and Dimitri exploited a loophole in U.S. Immigration policy and entered the country, taking up residence in Hove Beach. During the decade before their arrival, Kenny quickly positioned himself in the criminal underworld to be the most powerful Russian crime boss in Liberty City. He continued to export vehicles illegally back to Russia and set up garages throughout the city as fronts for his chop-shops. His influence grew astronomically, giving him the accessibility and wealth that would push him to the top of organized crime and to be the most powerful Russian in the city and possibly the entire country. His reach was deep and his pull was strong. Kenny soon learned that having a hand in a broad array of criminal activity was the best way to ensure his longevity.


Having such tremendous influence and wealth was something that Mikhail had lusted after for a very long time. At one time Mikhail and Kenny operated their crime syndicates separately and in peace. Mikhail had carved out an area of operation in Hove Beach, Firefly Island, and Beachgate that did not overlap with the interests of Kenny. For many years this agreement had worked flawlessly, bring wealth and power to Mikhail far beyond his wildest dreams, but he wanted more. Lately, his drug induced paranoia and greed propelled Mikhail to carelessness and distrust. Weeks ago he openly accused Kenny’s son, Lenny, of being a rat with absolutely no proof of any kind. Tension between the two men grew to the point where Mikhail used their hired-gun, Niko Bellic, to bomb one of Petrovic’s garages located in Bohan. The LCPD never apprehended the perpetrator but word spread that it was Mikhail Faustin that ordered the bombing. Not wanting to start a full scale war, Kenny Petrovic never retaliated. Business was far too good to interrupt cash flow for the likes of a drug addicted alcoholic.


Dimitri fumbled through the keys loosely dangling on the metal ring. He noticed the tattoo in the palm of his hand then quickly clenched to make a tight fist. The reminder took him back to the bad times of his life and to his brother Anton. He found the key to unlock the door that always remained closed and locked even during the performances. It was Pavel’s job to guard, only allowing those who had been cleared for the night to enter. Dimitri looked up and then straightened the sign that hung in the center of the door ‘Mikhail Faustin’s Dressing Room’ before pushing the key into the deadbolt to release the lock. The door swung open, revealing a set of stairs descending to a maze of corridors beneath Perestroika.


The rush of cool musky air swept past Dimitri as he stepped forward, closing and locking the door. He tucked the keys back inside his jacket pocket and slowly made his way down to basement level. The overhead lights were dimmed, causing recessed areas to fall into the shadows. Dimitri pasted a set of doors on his left, reaching out to check that they were still locked. Yury was always good at safeguarding the good stuff. The grit from the concrete floor crunched beneath Dimitri’s shoes as he continued forward. The next room held the cleaning supplies. The door stood open, allowing Dimitri to reach inside and click on the light. He traced his eyes around the perimeter of the tiny room until he found a bundle of towels, a bucket, and a case of bleach. He grabbed a handful of towels, a bottle of bleach and dropped the items into the bucket before turning off the light.


Dimitri rounded the corner. The long corridor ahead of him suddenly forced memories to spring to life after being buried so deep inside the part of him that he thought had died many years ago. After completing a few years of military duty, Dimitri found himself on the wrong side of the law; accused of murder and sent to a Siberian prison camp. There, he and Mikhail Faustin, who had arrived a year earlier for a different crime, were cellmates, forced to share a cell suited for just one man. The work detail was harsh and constant. Most times Dimitri and Mikhail were separated, only crossing paths during meal time. Once again Dimitri felt like he had lost a brother and was thrusted into a vicious world where only the strong survive. Seeing prison life wear on Dimitri, Mikhail found a way to secure their bond as brothers. He convinced a fellow prisoner to tattoo a matching symbol in their palm as a reminder of that relationship.

As the months pushed on, Dimitri grew stronger; but he was never as strong as Mikhail who always was the more aggressive and powerful of the two men. One evening after work detail had ended; Mikhail had an opportunity to showcase just how violent he could be. For some time the prisoner three cells down from where he and Dimitri were housed had been eyeing the two men suspiciously. Just before mealtime, Dimitri had been called back to the workshop. Feeling something was not right, Mikhail followed after him. He heard what sounded like a struggle as he approached the entrance to the building. Mikhail gently pushed the door open and discovered Dimitri being held by one man, overalls torn away to reveal his nakedness. Mikhail recognized the other man who was about to rape Dimitri as the prisoner that had been scrutinizing the two of them for weeks. Mikhail found a metal bar propped against the wall. He grabbed it and swatted the side of the man’s head before he could finish his intent. The blow struck with so much power that the man immediately fell unconscious, bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth. Before the other man knew what had happened, Mikhail had dove across the table, tackling him to the floor. Raising the metal bar above his head, Mikhail pounded the man’s face until it was a bloody pulp, unrecognizable to the most discerning eye. Dimitri had crawled away to safety, cowering beside one of the heavy machines. That day Mikhail had been there to rescue his friend. But days later, Dimitri was cornered in the laundry room by three guards with nowhere to run. The streets of Moscow had turned Dimitri into a killer and the savage beating and rape that day in the laundry room at a Siberian prison camp turned him into a monster.


Dimitri clenched the bucket handle and pushed his eye glasses back into place. He quickly moved down the hallway passing by the prop room and dressing rooms for the most popular acts at the club. Turning left then right, finally the labyrinth of corridors ended at a metal door electronically sealed with a secret pass code only known to a few select men. The keypad was mounted to the right of the door frame with a brilliant red light flashing indicating that the lock had been engaged and was working properly. Dimitri’s slim fingers tapped out the pass code with expert precision. A tiny beep sounded, the lock disengaged, and the light turned green. For a moment Dimitri stood with his eyes closed before pushing the door open and stepping inside the room.


The musky room was hidden away deep under the city streets of Liberty. Cut off from prying eyes and law enforcement, the chamber served as a hold for various fire arms and ammunition. A light located at the center of the room illuminated dozens of wooden crates and racks aligning the walls with high caliber rifles and semi-automatic pistols. The foul odor that seemed to fill the room hit Dimitri unexpectedly. He used one of the towels to cover his nose and mouth, blocking the rancorous odor from sickening his stomach. Tucked in a back corner of the room, partially hidden in the shadows, was a metal chair. Tied to that chair was an unconscious Frankie Gallo. His head hung limply forward, saliva streaming down his bruised and bloodied chest. Dimitri stared at the naked man surrounded by a pool of vomit, urine, and feces before speaking to Sasha.


“How long has he been like this?”


Sasha checked his watch. “About twenty minutes. He goes in and out. I have not laid a hand on him for a couple hours now.”


“Has he given up any new information?”


“No, not really. His story has been much the same. Anybody that can withstand what I put him through, I don’t think he knows anything else.”


Dimitri looked down at Sasha’s bloodied gloved hands and then at the table where he had placed his chosen tools of torture. A blood-stained rock the size of a man’s fist, fashioned to the end of a five-foot link of chain, laid curled neatly at the far corner of the table. A rock hammer and a serrated blade were among the items that Sasha always kept in his collection. By the condition of Frankie Gallo, Dimitri knew he had done his job well.


“Go wake him up.”


Sasha walked over to the corner of the room, careful not to step in the mess. He slapped Frankie on the side of his face to rouse him. “Wake up idiot. Mr. Rascalov is here to see you.”


Frankie grunted and moaned, too weak to put up much of a fight. His head bobbed from side to side as he tried to regain consciousness.


Sasha slapped harder, pushing Frankie’s head back to force him to wake up. His eyes were swollen and bruised, giving him a look of disfigurement. His lip drooped on one side making it nearly impossible to keep the saliva from trickling from the corner of his mouth. Dimitri noticed the jaggedness of a few broken teeth when Frankie gaped as waves of pain went sailing through his battered body. He believed that another round of relentless beating and third-world torture tactics were about to begin as his awareness slowly drifted back. Frankie began to squirm in the metal chair, trying to plead for mercy but only managed a distorted babbling that neither Dimitri nor Sasha could understand.


Dimitri placed the bucket near the table and stepped closer. “Hold him steady,” demanded Dimitri.

Sasha did as he was ordered, holding Frankie still with one hand on his shoulder and the other on his forehead to keep him upright. Dimitri kept the towel close to his face as he grew nearer to the foul puddle of human excrement settling at the feet of Frankie. Frankie’s chest heaved up and down as animal-like grunts burst from deep inside his throat. Bloody spittle jumped from his mouth as he tried to form words that never materialized. The effort finally ended when Sasha jerked his head one last time, ordering him to keep still. Dimitri stopped, looking at Frankie almost with pity as he remembered his ordeal at that Siberian prison camp years ago.


“So, Frankie Gallo, you have had a very bad eighteen hours of your life. No? It seems we are at our whit’s end trying to figure why you came all the way over here from Alderney just to have a drink and listen to our conversations. Now it seems to me, your boss, Ray Boccino, had some kind of nefarious plan in mind when he sent you. He just didn’t bother telling you what it was.”


Frankie reared away from Dimitri’s imposing posture, babbling something unintelligible, bloody saliva still oozing from his mouth. Even though his eyes were nearly swollen shut, Frankie still saw the evil that stood before him; the same kind of evil that greeted him at Comrades Bar almost a day ago. Pretending to know what Frankie was trying to say, Dimitri continued the one sided conversation.


“I know you didn’t know Frankie, so don’t worry. But I am worried. I don’t like when people skirt around the rules and do things their way. That’s not right. Ray Boccino or your Uncle Phil could have contacted me or my boss directly if either of them had a viable business opportunity that they wanted to discuss. Perhaps I would have been more understanding when a stranger shows up asking too many questions. Now I have to let your boss know how displeased we are with the way he does business.”


Feeling like his life was in jeopardy; Frankie began to sputter what sounded like a plea of ignorance and to spare his life. Dimitri ignored the nonsensical gibberish and turned his attention back to Sasha.


“Make sure he gets back home by tonight.”


“What about his car?” questioned Sasha, releasing his hold on Frankie.


“That too. I left a bucket and bleach at your table. Clean up good. It smells like a prison latrine in here,” said Dimitri as he turned and walked away. Half way to the door, he turned back to Sasha to question the whereabouts of Pavel and Sergei.


“Yury said Pavel and Sergei left just before I arrived. Any reason why?”


“Sergei got a call. Something happened over at The Peep Hole. So they went to check it out.”


“Well get them back over here to help you. If you need me for anything, I will be with Mikhail. He usually stays home when it rains.”


Dimitri left the room, checking that the red light on the keypad had been triggered to secure the door. He was still curious about the reason why Mikhail had ordered Yury to stock their good stuff. Maybe the news of an infiltrator will wake him up to what’s happening in the real world instead of a paranoid delusion brought on by the over use of alcohol and cocaine.

Edited by albanyave

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Big sigh guys. My laptop battery has died on me. I hate to leave everyone hanging but I'm not going to be able to upload as usual. I'll try to find a way to post additional chapters. But with my schedule, the library is almost not going to be available to me. Hopefully I will be able to find a battery or get a new computer soon.


Thanks again for following but stuff happens and sometimes it sucks big time.


I'll be checking in to read what you all have written when ever I hit a hotspot with my tablet.


I hate to pull away from posting my story. And I hope I can find a battery soon.

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Mokrie Dela

As you know man, this section is slow at the best of times. No one is going to hound you because you haven't posted for 2 days (this isn't a certain immature crew who'll kick you out for not posting daily!). Keep up the good work and post whenever you can/feels right.


Says the guy who hasn't posted a chapter for months....

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Hello everyone. I still living and after an extending break from writing, something I did not want to do, I'm finally getting back on track. No luck at finding an HP battery for ny laptop. But come to find out, a few adjustments to my settings and there has not been a problem so far. I wished I had known that a couple of months ago. The problem happened after the Windows 10 update so I am going to blame Microsoft. Ha ha.


Anyway, thanks for the patience. Mokrie said to post when it feels right. I am working on the next chapter right now. I'm back in front of my computer and getting my groove back.

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