Quantcast
Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
    1. Welcome to GTAForums!

    2. News

    1. Red Dead Redemption 2

      1. Gameplay
      2. Missions
      3. Help & Support
    2. Red Dead Online

      1. Gameplay
    1. GTA Online

      1. After Hours
      2. Find Lobbies & Players
      3. Guides & Strategies
      4. Vehicles
      5. Content Creator
      6. Help & Support
    2. Crews

      1. Events
      2. Recruitment
    1. Grand Theft Auto Series

    2. GTA Next

    3. GTA V

      1. PC
      2. Guides & Strategies
      3. Help & Support
    4. GTA IV

      1. Episodes from Liberty City
      2. Multiplayer
      3. Guides & Strategies
      4. Help & Support
      5. GTA Mods
    5. GTA Chinatown Wars

    6. GTA Vice City Stories

    7. GTA Liberty City Stories

    8. GTA San Andreas

      1. Guides & Strategies
      2. Help & Support
      3. GTA Mods
    9. GTA Vice City

      1. Guides & Strategies
      2. Help & Support
      3. GTA Mods
    10. GTA III

      1. Guides & Strategies
      2. Help & Support
      3. GTA Mods
    11. Top Down Games

      1. GTA Advance
      2. GTA 2
      3. GTA
    12. Wiki

      1. Merchandising
    1. GTA Modding

      1. GTA V
      2. GTA IV
      3. GTA III, VC & SA
      4. Tutorials
    2. Mod Showroom

      1. Scripts & Plugins
      2. Maps
      3. Total Conversions
      4. Vehicles
      5. Textures
      6. Characters
      7. Tools
      8. Other
      9. Workshop
    3. Featured Mods

      1. DYOM
      2. OpenIV
      3. GTA: Underground
      4. GTA: Liberty City
      5. GTA: State of Liberty
    1. Red Dead Redemption

    2. Rockstar Games

    1. Off-Topic

      1. General Chat
      2. Gaming
      3. Technology
      4. Programming
      5. Movies & TV
      6. Music
      7. Sports
      8. Vehicles
    2. Expression

      1. Graphics / Visual Arts
      2. GFX Requests & Tutorials
      3. Writers' Discussion
      4. Debates & Discussion
    1. Forum Support

    2. Site Suggestions

albanyave

Liberty City Limits: A GTA Fan Fiction

Recommended Posts

albanyave

Westminster

 

Francis McReary sat hunched over a trail of linked paperclips that snaked from one end of his desk to the other; ending in a tiny coil near the multi-lined telephone. It was a habit that had only recently started since his promotion to Deputy Police Commissioner a year ago. The stresses of ridding the city of its criminal element were of greater consequence than when he was just an Officer trying to make Detective. The politics coupled with his ambition to one day have it all; to be the city’s top cop with all the adoration for being the one that had made the sacrifices through his entire career to rid Liberty of the low-life scum that ruined life for everyone else. He sacrificed his family, leaving them when perhaps they needed him the most. If he had stayed closer to his brothers, maybe their father would have had less of an influence on them. His mother couldn’t handle four boys who quickly grew into men way before they were ready. Their father saw to it that his sons knew who they were and where they came from.

 

Years ago, the McReary name was something to be respected and feared amongst the criminal gangs that ran wild through the city. The Irish Mob, headed by Mr. McReary ruled Purgatory and other areas of the city for years. Eventually their influence dwindled as the Italian gangsters grew in number and strength, soon claiming territory that was once controlled by the McReary Family. Francis wanted no part of his family’s legacy. Believing that the Priesthood would set him apart from his inheritance, Francis dove deep into his studies. But he finally realized that he was more like his brothers than he wanted to admit when he was caught cheating on his final exam, thereby ending any hope of being a Priest.

 

As Francis set off to begin a new career in law enforcement, he wanted to redeem himself by cleaning the city of its criminal element. However, the gates of H*ll were flung open almost right from the beginning. Waiting inside was the path to a stellar career adorned with fast promotions and commendations for bravery and excellent work as a Law Enforcement Officer. Through his entire career Francis made deal after deal with the devil, believing it to be the right thing. The ends always justified the means. As an Officer, Francis would reach past his authority. He almost never followed police policy. Be it an armed robbery or a homicide; planting evidence at a crime scene was no stretch for his imagination and Francis did it as often as possible. He used the justification that the suspect was guilty of something and this was just a quicker way to get at justice. While his partners questioned his tactics, they were soon convinced to go along to get along.

 

Francis moved quickly through the ranks, making Detective after having one of the highest arrest and conviction rates in the precinct. With a promotion, came a new partner and another opportunity to reach deeper into the criminal world. His long held belief of ridding the city of crime one criminal at a time took hold once he was assigned to the Narcotics Division. Francis knew the city well, making it easy to locate the pimps and their place of operation. He threatened to shut down their businesses if they didn’t give up information on the pushers that were getting their girls strung out on drugs. Not wanting to deal with an arrest or have their cash flow interrupted, most pimps cooperated and even offered the services of their best girls for free. Once the pushers were found, they were met with a gun to their head if they didn’t give up their dealers. This was a mode of operation for Francis and his partner for years.

 

After several dangerous encounters with The Spanish Lords and The East Holland Hustlers, Francis was recognized for his bravery and exceptional work as a Law Enforcement Officer. He won several commendations which set him on the fast track to making Sargent. Nothing stood in the way of his ultimate dream of becoming Police Commissioner. He had one foot in the legitimate world while dragging his other through the ditch of the criminal underworld, snagging contacts, informants, and other corrupt officers and politicians along the way. And that’s how one deal led to the next until Francis McReary started dealing with the Gambettis, the most powerful Organized Crime Family in Liberty City.

 

The Deputy Police Commissioner picked up the tiny rectangular magnetized container, shaking it to free the final paperclip. The loop of metal tumbled around inside the clear container before falling unto his desk. He linked the clip, completing a five foot chain that now dangled over the edge of the desk much like his life dangled on a precarious ledge of deals with almost every hoodlum he could find. Francis coiled the last of the chain into a neat little pile as he caught a glimpse of his reflection staring back at him from his computer screen. He looked awful. He felt even worse. The dark circles beneath his deeply sunken eyes seemed to age him by a decade, making him almost unrecognizable to himself. The deals had finally caught up with Francis. No alibi would save him from the absolute conviction by the Gambetti Family. The terrible mistakes made at the jetty were left at his feet and his feet alone.

 

Last night was supposed to be without incident; a quick exchange of cash for narcotics in a secluded area veiled by the night sky. But something went horribly wrong and now the Gambetti’s money was gone along with most of the cocaine from a Vice City Crime Syndicate. Francis had few options; either find the money and drugs or pay with his life. Neither being anything that he wanted to contemplate. The drugs and money were all but lost, nearly impossible to recover and his life was not something he was going to give willingly.

 

The phone had been silent for hours. Russell Cobb had disappeared again, leaving Francis to wonder if he had something to do with the ‘so called’ ambush. He lowered his head in time to see the display of his cheap disposable phone light up. A string of numbers appeared with the letters MC attached to the end. Francis had given Detective Shannon that code for MY COP when the two began their illicit partnership nearly four years ago. The phone chimed a full three times before Francis had the nerve to answer.

 

“What you got?” He asked, trying to conceal the shakiness in his voice.

 

“Not a d*mn thing. Cobb is gone. It’s just like the guy vanished into thin air.”

 

“Well, he’s done it before,” responded Francis with a pinch of bitterness in his tone.

 

“Me and Bradley turned his apartment. Even waited around for a while. And nothing.”

 

Francis sighed deeply, letting his frustration be known. “Were you able to find his buddy Jermaine Andrews?”

 

“Just left Native Engines and put the squeeze on the guy. He claims he knows nothing. Saw Cobb a couple nights back. Haven’t seen or heard from him since.”

 

“D*mnit,” exclaimed Francis. Something ain’t right here. What about that guy who came up in place of Jeff?”

 

“Like I said, we dropped him in Broker. He acted like he didn’t know Cobb but all that could have been pretend. For all we know, they could be on a bus headed to who knows where. This is bad Frankie, and you know why.”

 

“Yeah, yeah Steve. I know why,” spat Francis, frustration and anger cutting through his usual arrogance.

 

Francis had every right to be worried. Jon Gravelli lay dying in a hospital bed at Schottler Medical Center, but he wasn’t dying dumb. As the leader of the Gambetti Crime Family he still had the respect and support of The Commission. Francis knew that his life was on the line and if Jon Gravelli wanted to, he would have him killed. A cop that was bad straight from the beginning deserved to be gotten rid of as quickly and mercilessly as possible. He could beg to be spared. What could he loose? He was already a dead man walking. The Gambettis are the most powerful crime family in Liberty and they did not get there by being sympathetic. Francis knew all too well what kind of people he was dealing with; not to mention the Syndicate out of Vice City. Their connections reached to the Cartels in Mexico and that frightened Francis more than any Gambetti hitman.

 

“Frankie, you still there?”

 

“Just thinking. You and Bradley get back over to the precinct and get on the clock. If I’m not here, more than likely I’ll be over in Schottler visiting a sick friend.”

 

“You know what you’re gonna tell him?”

 

“What can I tell him?” growled Francis. “The boat sank and the f*ckin’ money flew away.”

 

“Sh*t Frankie, this is real bad. You want me to track down your brother, see if he knows where Cobb is.”

 

“No, I’ll handle Patrick myself.”

 

“Alright then. Me and Bradley will head back to the precinct.”

 

Francis clicked off the line and let the phone drop heavily onto the desk, not caring if it shattered into a thousand pieces much like his life had suddenly fallen apart. He leaned back in his swivel chair and covered his face with both hands imagining how things could have gone so wrong so quickly. He had so carefully built a network of minions that were willing to bend, twist, and break the law for the better good if something was in it for them. His informants wanted to stay out of jail. His corrupt cops wanted a little piece of the action and being on the payroll of the Mafia meant seeing more money than they would ever hope to see being a cop. Sometimes city officials were caught in the wrong place at the right time. To keep their secrets safe, a judge wields a lot of power from the bench. But that power is not nearly as strong as the power of a Mafia Family Don. Even the Deputy Police Commissioner had little or no authority in a world organized and run by men with closely held traditions that ran deep into the past; traditions that would not be altered, even for Francis McReary.

 

The phone chimed loudly against the wooden desk. An incoming call was something Francis did not want to be bothered with at the moment. He allowed the call to go to voicemail then leaned forward to check the caller ID. THE CLEANERS ticked across the display. A jolt of adrenaline shot though Francis like a lightning strike, making his breath catch in his throat. Why didn’t I call immediately? Thought Francis. He gently placed the phone face down on the desk as he ran through alibis to justify his tardiness. None of the reasons made any sense and he dared not to even try to excuse his behavior or grovel for forgiveness. Roy Zito is the Gambetti Family Underboss and fiercely loyal to Jon Gravelli. THE CLEANERS is the codename Francis uses because Roy owns and operates a chain of Dry Cleaners throughout the city specializing in the removal of forensic evidence. A lump formed in Francis’ throat at the thought of how brutal his life could end. He stood up and pranced around his tiny office to shake the nerves away. He had to call Roy. He just wished he had done it without being prompted to do so. Again, the cheap phone chimed, sickening Francis to his stomach. He quickly snatched it from the desk and saw THE CLEANERS trail across the display. This time Francis inhaled deeply and pushed the call button to answer.

 

“Hey Roy, I was about to call you,” said Francis, trying to push past the tenseness in his voice.

 

“I wished you had. Boss wants to know how things played out last night.”

 

The feeling of defeat sank deep inside Francis’ stomach. He knew what he had to say but the words seem too few to fully explain exactly what happened. Maybe Roy wasn’t the one who needed to hear the explanation. Mr. Gravelli was the one to decide if Francis was going to live or die. He squeezed the cheap mobile phone in a death grip as the silence on the line lingered for a moment too long. Roy chimed in for a second time, demanding an answer.

 

“So tell me Frankie, is everything good?”

 

Francis’ heart pounded. His throat tightened with anxiety. He had to say it and just deal with everything that came along with the admission. Finally clearing the stiffness from his voice, Francis answered the question.

 

“No, everything is not good.”

 

“Explain.”

 

“I need to speak with Mr. Gravelli.”

 

“No, you need to speak to me and tell me what the h*ll went wrong,” pressed Roy.

 

“Look Roy, I’m at the precinct and…”

 

I don’t care if you’re at your momma’s funeral, you’re gonna tell me what happened last night.”

 

Hearing the anger build in Roy’s voice, Francis moved away from his office door. Even though the door was closed, his office was small so he wanted to keep his voice low and measured. Francis sat down in his chair and swiveled around, putting his back to the door before he began explaining the events of the previous night. Roy listened without interrupting once. This made Francis more panic-stricken. The violation was so egregious that there was no hope of any reconciliation. There would be nothing that he could do to even come close to setting thing right. It was his crew and his idea to choose the locations for the drops. No past good deeds could buy Francis out of this situation. All debts were paid and the Gambettis owed no favor to a corrupt Deputy Police Commissioner.

 

“You need to talk with Mr. Gravelli,” said Roy, his voice now calm and absolute. “Come over to the hospital by 10am Frankie, and don’t be late.”

 

The call ended before Francis could agree to the time. Things were out of his control now. He felt like a criminal, trying to avoid a warrant for his arrest. He could leave right now. Disappear, never to be seen again. Was Roy giving him a head-start or did he just need time to speak to the old man first? The clock on the wall read a quarter after 7am; nearly three hours before he had to meet Gravelli. Wild ideas played through his mind like quick bursts of electric shocks. He had time to close his bank account, go see his mother for the last time, and then be at Francis International Airport purchasing a ticket to Ireland before anyone knew the difference. His heart pounded louder than thunder, sending sonic booms to the tiny bones of his inner ear. The pain pulsating through his head soon became unbearable, making Francis slap at the side of his head until the agony subsided.

 

How desperate Russell Cobb must have felt nearly two years ago when he was pinned against the reality of a warrant for a murder he did not commit. Russell must have felt he had no other choice but to flee the city as fast as possible knowing that he was being falsely accused of murder; knowing that he and Jimmy D. had been stealing cars and funneling the money from their chop shop back into their drug dealing operation for years. Late one night, Russell’s desperation got the better of him. He decided to leave the city he loved, his friends, and Carlie; the one true love of his life. He packed a small bag of his most precious belongings and slipped out into the cover of darkness. It took almost two years, but the law showed up on his doorstep in Vice City demanding that things be set right. Now demands were being made of Francis that he’s not so sure can ever be made right.

 

The guilt of how many young lives Francis had so cruelly destroyed in the pursuit of his own selfish ambitions suddenly swept over him, snatching breath from his chest, nearly bringing tears to his eyes. The guilt ran especially deep for Russell Cobb because he was a good kid once, with a promising future until his parents were killed on the Algonquin Bridge in 2002. Their death sent the young man spiraling out of control which eventually led to a reconnection with his childhood friend, James D. Bataglia and the start of a criminal career. Francis turned his gaze to the 60 Diner across the street from the precinct. He imagined that Russell must have felt the same kind of guilt believing he was the one that caused his best friend to be murdered.

 

Jimmy D. had been street savvy since he was fifteen, getting into trouble with the law and spending days at a time locked up in Juvenile Detention Centers. Jimmy did not let a few nights away from home deter his ultimate goal of earning fast easy money. He soon graduated from petty crimes such as purse snatching and shoplifting to committing more sever offenses as car-jacking and moving packs of dope for neighborhood gangsters. Jimmy was a quick study when it came to being street wise. Older, more experienced gangsters took notice and soon began using him for their own benefit. Jimmy’s reputation as someone that could be trusted grew stronger with each passing year. He became well known to those who had the power to make things happen. His network of connections to the criminal underworld stretched all the way to Hong Kong when he met and befriended a spoiled rich kid by the name of Huang Lee at an illegal street race in Meadow Hills in 2002.

 

They became fast friends, making the rounds on the party circuit throughout Liberty. Huang eventually confided in Jimmy D. that he was a Triad member, though not fully participating, but reaping the benefits granted through his father who is the head of the Lee Family. Jimmy did not care. He saw it as another opportunity to earn money. A month into his visit to Liberty City, Huang found himself in the unusual position of being arrested for grand theft auto. He and Jimmy were working on a high-end score in Dukes when the sight of red flashing lights appeared in the rearview mirror. Not knowing the city that well, Huang pulled over, hoping his quick wits could spare him an arrest. Unfortunately, Francis McReary and his partner made the collar that night. Where Huang’s cockiness had failed, his family’s influence succeeded. He was released from custody almost immediately after placing his one and only phone call to his uncle. Jimmy, on the other hand, spent ten days in jail. While Jimmy D. saw his time in custody as a way to rest up before the next score, Francis McReary saw an opportunity to enlist another stoolpigeon into his ranks by making sure that this would not be the last time that he and James D. Bataglia would meet.

 

Francis looked up at the clock. The hands seemed to be frozen in place. He had filtered through the last ten years of his life, trying to justify the decisions he had made, the lives that he had destroyed or had attempted to derail, all in the name of Law Enforcement. Russell Cobb, the last life he had tried to ruin, had vanished, leaving him holding a heavy bag of regret, fear, and panic. If Russell could disappear not once but twice, Francis began to believe he could do it twice as fast and ten times better. After all, he is an officer of the law and knows all the tricks to disappearing better than anyone. Francis pulled on his slicker, grabbed his car keys from the desk drawer, and slipped from the precinct out into a dark rainy Liberty morning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

Paving the Way

 

It was already 7:17am according to the tiny dashboard clock when Timmy and Russell crossed the Hickey Bridge, arriving back in Algonquin where last night’s ambush occurred. Traffic was nearly bumper-to-bumper the whole way from Alderney and was not much better as Timmy turned the spirited Blista Compact onto Union Drive West, a main thoroughfare around the city. He hadn’t ever remembered driving a Blista with so much pep. The lanes opened up ahead and Timmy really felt the power of the tiny Compact as he accelerated, easily gliding over the rain-soaked highway. Russell must have had some work done on it, thought Timmy as he signaled and slipped over to the left lane. Spray from the car in front forced him to slow and drop back to avoid anything else obscuring the windshield.

 

Timmy glanced over at Russell who had been quiet since they left the apartment. He sat slumped in the passenger seat, staring blankly through the rain-streaked windshield, seemingly unaware of the city whizzing past. The day was gray and dreary, reminding Russell of his recent visit to Jimmy D.’s grave and how a hooded man at the cemetery had sent him an ominous warning to stay away from Beechwood City, a known stronghold of the Jamaicans street gang. They are the same bunch of criminals that Russell had trusted enough to do business with that ultimately costed Jimmy D. his life. Russell remembered Francis McReary urging him to pick up a game of pool at the Homebrew Café; a cross between a pool hall and bar. The location acted as a front for the gang, giving them a centralized base of operation and hideout in Schottler.

 

Russell shifted in his seat, adjusting the seatbelt across his shoulder. He wiped at the window to remove a small circle of condensation that had built up only on his side of the car. He could see the street sign directing traffic to Westminster and Star Junction straight ahead as Timmy slowed to make a left onto Kunzite Street which would take them directly to the Algonquin Bridge. They were heading to Steinway; a large neighborhood in Dukes, bordering the majestic Dukes Bay and Humboldt River where he and Jimmy D. grew up. Russell and his parents moved to Steinway from Broker the summer of 1991 when he was nine years old. His father had gotten a better job working in Algonquin. The promotion propelled the family into the middle-class and out of the low-rent district in Broker. The neighborhood had two major parks, perfect for families. Their home was nestled in a quiet residential area, much different from their four story walk-up near the Broker Bridge.

 

After a couple of weeks, the family had gotten settled into their new home and was getting used to their new life. Eventually Russell and his mother made their way to the local pool at Steinway Park to get a much needed reprieve from the summer heat. Being shy, Russell stayed close to his mother even when she tried to encourage him to join in water sports with the other kids. Russell wasn’t having any of it. He preferred to tinker with his action figures until he was approached by another little boy his own age. They struck up a conversation about comic book heroes and soon Russell abandoned his toys and left his mother to be with his new found friend James D. Bataglia. James was the polar opposite of Russell. He was confident and overly curious. This intrigued Russell and he and Jimmy D., as he liked to be called, became fast friends. Living two blocks from each other, the two boys spent the rest of the summer forging a bond to last forever.

 

Timmy stopped at the red light. He had almost forgotten how much it rained in Liberty. The wipers cried as they rubbed across the windshield, beating back a constant stream of water. The silence was getting a bit uncomfortable for Timmy to tolerate much longer. He needed Russell to be alert and ready for the unexpected. But at this point, anything can be expected. He glanced down at the radio and turned up the volume slightly.

 

“Hey kid, pull yourself together. You haven’t said two words since we left Alderney.”

 

Russell cleared his throat, yanking at the seatbelt to loosen it from his collar. “I know,” he finally said. “Just been thinkin’”

 

“About?”

 

“My mom and dad.” He paused. “Jimmy.”

 

The light turned green and Timmy tapped the accelerator, guiding the Compact through the intersection and past the Westminster police precinct. Pointing to the multi-story building, Timmy did not hesitate to share with Russell just how he felt about the Deputy Police Commissioner.

 

“That corrupt copper Francis McReary is sure to get his and get his sooner rather than later,” said Timmy with a distasteful snarl on his face. “He was born for a day just like last night. There was no way he was going to avoid it.”

 

“I wonder whose money backed that deal.”

 

“Ain’t for us to worry about kid. But I can almost guarantee it was the Gambettis.”

 

Russell farrowed his brow. “Gambetti? They’re one of the…”

 

“You got it. One of the five Italian Mafia Families who basically control the city.”

 

“If that’s true, McReary is in some deep sh*t. Me and Jimmy never wanted to get involved with the Italians or the Russians. We kinda stayed out on the fringes. Small time was good enough for us.”

 

“Yeah, I hear you,” responded Timmy in agreement. “I tell you who else to keep your distance from are those Triads. They are ruthless as sh*t. Makes all the traditions that the Five Families have look like pre-school.”

 

Russell listened to his friend speak of a world that he had never really spoke of before. The time that Russell spent in Vice City with somewhat of a clear mind, Timmy only mentioned his former life once or twice. It was something he did not talk about and Russell had no inclination to ask him about his past dealings in Liberty or even the reason why he had left after so many years. He had mentioned James Pegorino as being the last Boss that he worked for before deciding to leave for the sunny beaches of Vice City. Russell had grown more curious hearing Timmy speak about the criminal underbelly of this city. He straightened in the seat hoping that Timmy would be the one to finally bring closure to Jimmy D.’s death.

 

Russell looked straight ahead to see a long procession of stop-and-go traffic. The lights of the Algonquin Bridge in the distance shone brightly against a gray dreary morning sky, making his mind drift back to the day his parents were tragically killed in an automobile accident on their way home to Steinway. Russell remembered it being cold that day. Final exams at the prestigious Vespucci University, where he was a freshman, had already begun. Russell breezed through Biology and Political Science the day before and had a couple of days to prepare for the other two. His mom had taken the train into the city to have lunch at Fanny Crab’s with his dad. That was something they did occasionally to add a little variety to their daily routine. After lunch, she spent the rest of the day shopping for Christmas gift as the Holiday was just a few weeks away. Russell had gotten to see his mother that fateful evening. She took a cab to the University before meeting his dad at Rotterdam Tower, where he worked as an Advertising Executive. Little did he know that it would be the last time he would ever see her alive again.

 

Noticing that the conversation had dropped off, Timmy glanced over at Russell. The blank gaze had returned. His eyes were set ahead but seeing absolutely nothing. Timmy knew his friend had wondered off into the land of yester-year. The most important people from his past were his parents and Jimmy D. Timmy hated to disturb such sacred thoughts but time was nearing and Russell needed to be at his best. He reached down and lowered the radio volume and gently nudged Russell back to the world.

 

“Russi,” he said in the most sobering of tones. “You still with me?”

 

“I’m with you Timmy,” said Russell. “I’m with you all the way.”

 

“Good kid. We’re gonna find out the reason why Jimmy was killed. Don’t you worry about that. And Freddy is a good place to start.”

Russell remained quiet as they crossed the Algonquin Bridge. Steinway was home. Steinway could hold all the answers.

 

* * *

Marlon Bridges settled behind a yellow Infernus, waiting to enter the underground parking lot in Lancaster. The vehicles ahead inched forward, only two at a time being able to make it through the traffic light before it turned red once again. The drive from Playboy’s penthouse apartment took longer than it should have. Battling early morning traffic as well as the continuous rain showers, torrential at times, caused Marlon to be extra careful this morning. A fender-bender was the last thing he wanted to deal with as he was leaving Liberty and heading to Alderney for what he hoped would be a fresh start.

 

Marlon had severed ties with his one-time mentor and confidant, Playboy X. He had decided to leave the North Holland Hustlers weeks ago once he realized the rift between he and Playboy would never be mended no matter how hard he tried to make things right. The more Marlon attempted to get back on solid ground with Playboy, the more he resented the very thought of having to prove his loyalty. The childish tactics that Playboy used to punish Marlon were more of an insult than an admonishment for being overly ambitious. Taking his Patriot and making him ride around town in a brown Bobcat was punishment enough from Marlon’s perspective. Encroaching on the territory of more seasoned drug dealers was a mistake that he readily admitted to and agreed to cease all business dealings in those areas. Playboy saw it a little differently. He needed to assert himself. He was the boss and he wanted everyone to know he was in charge with a tight grip on his empire. Deactivating Marlon’s V.I.P. pass at Club Liberty was the final move that drove the wedge even deeper between the two. Marlon had been cut off from the inner circle; cut off from all things important to building up the crew. He had been demoted to basically an errand boy. That’s when Marlon knew it would never be the same and the time had come to set his sights on fresh new ground.

 

The traffic light turned green and Marlon signaled to turn into the entrance of the parking area. The narrow passage trailed to a steep decline on the left that led to the underground parking. Marlon gently descended into a sparsely filled open parking area. His eyes adjusted to the dim lighting as he scanned the area for his Silver Patriot. He spotted it quickly. Playboy wasn’t lying, leading him on one final errant just to toy with his ego. The boxy hulk of a vehicle sat at the far left corner near a couple of Sprunk machines. Marlon eased the Bobcat over two speed bumps and around a turn, parking next to it. He cut the engine and stayed perched behind the wheel for a moment, just realizing the impact of what he had done.

 

The guilt sudden and sharp, swept over him like the rain showers he left outside. He had dedicated four years to the Hustlers and now he was going to cut and rum like everybody else. Playboy was his friend before he became his boss and he’s leaving when perhaps Playboy needed him the most. Marlon questioned his reasons for leaving. Thoughts bounced around his mind like loose marbles. Maybe I’m wrong. Should I leave like this? Did I give X a chance to make things right? Should I go back? It’s not too late.

 

Marlon shook the judgments from his mind. He had never been rattled like this before. The decision had been made. He was moving on. Rummaging through his jacket pocket, he pulled out the keys to his Patriot. He held them up in front of his face, starring at the Hustler insignia dangling from the keyring. He pushed all questions to the back of his mind. A decision had been made and he had to believe the future in Alderney was going to be brighter than anything left for him in Liberty. Marlon pushed open the door to the hideous brown Bobcat and got out, leaving the keys in the ignition. He closed the door with more force than needed, making it echo loudly throughout the parking area. He trailed around to the back of the truck to remove the tarp that covered the very few belongings that were most dear to him. Relieved that everything remained dry and intact, Marlon unlocked the Patriot and began loading his things. The last item was a box filled with pictures of Playboy and himself during better times. Marlon quickly shuffled through a few photos, stopping at his induction ceremony held at Club Liberty four years earlier. He was happy then, filled to the brim with high hopes. Times were good. He pulled the photo from the stack and looked at it remembering the promises, the plans, and the possibilities for a good life. He never would have guessed that it would end so abruptly and on such bad terms. Marlon gently place the picture back with the others and laid the box safely inside with his other possessions. He took a deep satisfying breath and closed the back door before climbing behind the wheel.

 

The latest V.I.P. ringtone jarred Marlon back to the present. He quickly plucked his phone from his jacket pocket and answered.

 

“This Marlon.”

 

“Hey Marlon, Carter here. You still comin’ over today?"

 

“That’s the plan. Just got held up,” said Marlon, still hearing the uncertainty in his voice. “I’m gonna grab somethin’ to eat and head out.”

 

“Good. I got some people I want to introduce you to so don’t worry about droppin’ your stuff at the crib. Come straight here and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Alderney is poppin right now.”

 

“Alright Carter. I hear ya. I’ll call as soon as I hit the city limits.”

 

“Sounds good man. See you when you get here.”

 

The line disconnected and Marlon slid the phone in the dashboard compartment. He had spoken to Carter just yesterday at the S&D Diner in Northwood. Things had really moved quickly this past week. Who could have guessed that Clarence Little and his entire crew would have been taken out, giving Dwayne Forge control of the East Holland Projects. No one saw M.O.B. throwing their support behind Dwayne. And with the Trunchez brothers murdered, control of the Triangle Club is back in Dwayne’s hands, providing him a steady flow of cash. The table had abruptly turned, leaving Playboy desperate and alone and quickly running out of options to save his collapsing empire.

 

Marlon jammed the key into the ignition. One turn and the engine roared to life. He peaked at the odometer, surprised that the number had barely changed. Marlon looked closer at the inside of his Patriot and noticed that it had been kept crisply detailed. No dust, no dirt on the floor mats, no Cluckin’ Bell food wrappers tossed carelessly on the seats. He reached over and dropped down the door to the glove compartment, finding inside a black velvet bag with a drawstring pulled tight to safe-keep its contents. Marlon loosened the string and turned the bag up, allowing a heavy gold chain to slide into the palm of his hand. He sank low in the seat, realizing that Playboy had a plan to return to him his truck and former status in the crew.

 

For weeks he sulked like a child when Playboy was trying to make moves to build the crew into something greater than it already was. He hadn’t tried to help quash the fractures in the line of command or quell the factions that had cropped up in the crew, making it almost impossible for Playboy to control what the members were doing. Now it is almost too late to do anything. Marlon said goodbye and walked away from the man that gave him a chance to be more than just a corner kid. Because of Playboy, he has a real opportunity to make it big in Alderney. Marlon knew there was no going back. He was more the problem than the solution.

 

International Funk was Marlon’s favorite radio station. He reached down to tune the radio to IF99 and circled around the lot towards the exit. There was nothing left for him in Liberty. Only memories; most were good. But promises from Carter were waiting in Alderney; a new partnership to forge a new beginning. The heavy boxy Patriot easily pulled up the steep incline to the narrow passage that took him back out to the rain-soaked street where the torrential rain had diminished to a light shower. The Star Café was a block down from the lot. They sold a tasty variety of coffee and donuts; something that Marlon needed to carry him the rest of the way to Alderney. The traffic light turned green and he pulled through the intersection, parking close to the curb near the restaurant.

 

Across the street, he noticed two men standing outside the 341 Bismarck Avenue apartment complex. One being tall and built like a semi-truck. The other was the splitting image of Dwayne Forge. Marlon had never met Dwayne but he had seen enough pictures scattered about in Playboy’s apartment to be confident that the man standing across the street was the living legend himself. There was an aura around Dwayne that seemed to make the space surrounding him shimmer and glow. Marlon blinked but could not take his eyes off Dwayne. He remembered the pictures depicting a young, strong, vibrant man full of confidence. No matter what was happening in the picture, Dwayne had a bold steely gaze in his eyes that could shake the nerves of the strongest men. Even now at thirty-five, that look of resolution was ever present. The two men talked a while longer before the hulking man broke away and headed around the corner in the direction of the subway entrance. Marlon watched as Dwayne pulled open the door and disappeared inside the building.

A wave of anxiousness swept over Marlon as he fumbled for his phone inside the dashboard compartment. One last tribute to Playboy was the least he could do after walking away from the best thing that had ever happened to him. He quickly dialed the number and waited for an answer.

 

“Marlon. You can’t stay away playa?”

 

Still sounding antagonistic, Marlon hoped that this bit of news would calm Playboy enough to help him think more clearly.

 

“I didn’t call to argue with you X,” said Marlon trying to keep his voice steady.

 

“Well get to it then. You know I got a whole lot to do.”

 

Marlon ignored the sarcasm and spiteful tone. “I think I know where Dwayne moved to.”

 

“Oh, you think you know? What, you got a clear mind now that you got your freedom. Leather seats feel good to your *ss? You feel sorry for Playboy so you want to throw him a bone?”

 

Tired of hearing the self-pity; Marlon cut in front of Playboy’s stream of consciousness with one last attempt to help the man that used to be on top of the world. “I saw him go inside the 341 Bismarck Avenue apartment complex just a few minutes ago. You can take it or leave it.”

 

Silence fell on the line. Marlon almost hung up the phone but was stopped by a more subdued Playboy.

 

“I’ll take it playa.”

 

“Fine X. I’ll be seein’ you.”

 

Playboy heard the line click off just as his intercom buzzed. He laid the phone on the coffee table next to his pistol and walked over to answer the call.

 

“Who is it?”

 

“It’s me, Niko.”

 

“Right on time. Come on up,” said Playboy as he tapped the button to allow Niko access to the express elevator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

A Playa’s Choice

 

Niko massaged the pain from his right elbow as he stood in the lobby of Playboy’s apartment building. Too many car windows busted over the years had weakened the tendons and caused the bone to spur, sending burning hot pain shooting through his elbow and down his arm at times when the weather was bad. He could hear the security guard seated behind a plain marble-topped desk, tapping on the computer keyboard trying to fill the hours of mundane staleness that he called employment. He was the same chubby guard that had greeted Niko the day he and Playboy fled Schottler after a drug deal quickly went bad. Two undercover detectives, posing as buyers, were instantly sniffed out. Their cover was blown and a fierce gun battle ensued. Niko and Playboy found themselves surrounded by law enforcement agents with few options. Relying on their survival skills, the two fought their way past the heavily armed agents to make it out of the abandoned apartment building and down to street level where a barricade of officers were waiting, blocking nearly every exit out of Broker. With a lot of street smarts and a little bit of luck, Niko managed to out maneuver the officers and make it across the Algonquin Bridge. He and Playboy were determined not to stop until they reached Playboy’s residence in North Holland.

 

Finally the elevator doors slid open and Niko stepped inside the sterile lift. He pushed the button next to the word PENTHOUSE, scribed in gold embossed lettering and waited for the doors to slide shut. The gears turned smoothly, easily thrusting the elevator upwards. The familiar swirl that played around in Niko’s stomach whenever he rode on an elevator made him inhale deeply to counter the slight motion sickness that he felt. The lift soon stopped with a minor shudder. There was a short pause, giving Niko’s stomach just enough time to settle back into place before the doors slid open. Playboy was standing near the sofa sipping on a can of eCola when Niko stepped off the elevator. Republican Space Rangers was showing on his large flat-screen television with the sound muted.

 

“Playa,” said Playboy, trying, but failing to conceal the obvious guilt-laden tone in his voice. “Glad you showed.”

 

Niko stepped forward, half laughing at Playboy’s feeble attempt to make things good. He could see the haggard look that hung on Playboy like an anvil around his neck; a look that only a life fraught with despair and desperation could create. The ever present glint in his eyes was dulled by a watery bloodshot sheen much like a stagnated puddle of Liberty rain water. His face seemed to have contorted in a way, giving him an appearance of a man that had aged seemingly overnight. Gone was the wide grin that mocked the world around him; replaced with a mournful grimace as if he had lost everything in life that mattered.

 

“I was on my way to your neighborhood anyway Playboy,” replied Niko as he slid his hands inside his jacket pockets.

 

Playboy brushed an open hand across the prickly stubble that had popped out on his face apparently contemplating his next statement. Niko eyed him closely. He knew never to trust a desperate man caged in an almost impenetrable fortress; be it the safety of his faltering mind or the last vestiges of a safehouse. Playboy raked his fingers through his disheveled hair, making it curl and stand at odd angles. He hated the fact that he had to ask of this man something that he could not do himself. He could not call on any of his most trusted allies because the few that remained, he did not trust. Marlon was the one he trusted the most and he walked away, leaving Playboy empty inside. He had no power or influence to prop up what was left of the Hustlers. Everyone had scattered to the wind, abandoning their conquered leader. Playboy became exposed to a truth he could not accept. He was less than his mentor Dwayne Forge. Even after all the years that had passed, Dwayne still had an undeniable drive for greatness; something that Playboy is only now realizing. He severely underestimated his old friend, one-time mentor, and trusted father-figure. Now Dwayne stands to regain all that was kept from him by the only one he trusted during his years of incarceration: his protégé and the one who betrayed him the most, Playboy X.

 

“I need you to do one more thing for me playa and then we can call it even.”

 

Niko shifted his weight to the other foot. “Call it even Playboy? I did not know we were uneven.”

 

“Yeah. I forgive you for that Trunchez brothers sh*t. It never should have happened. But, hey, it did.”

 

“You told me to help Dwayne. So I helped him. I’m sorry if it hurt you Playboy.”

 

“What the f*ck did you think money. Cuttin’ off a money-maker like The Triangle Club. That changed everything.”

 

Niko put up his hands to shield himself from the abrasive tone that had suddenly cropped up in Playboy’s voice. Niko had no inclination to rehash the past. What was done was finished. One should not walk in their own footsteps. Niko had turned a page in his life and he hoped for a better future, more so than the past decade of his own life.

 

“Hold on Playboy,” said Niko, trying to keep his tone moderated. “If this is what you called me here for, I don’t want to deal with it. I have something else I need to do. And, I accept your forgiveness.”

 

Playboy took a step back to give Niko a little breathing room; to show him that he had no animosity for what he had done. The two remained quiet, trying to let the tension settle. Niko let his hands fall back to his side, feeling less threatened. Playboy had pulled himself back to the present, understanding that Niko was there at his request.

 

“I respect you want to get straight to business so this is the one last thing that I want you to do for me.”

 

Niko stoically stood in front of this half broken man waiting for his world to finally end. One more thing? What could it be? Take him to Francis International so he can catch the first flight to San Andreas. His life in Liberty had ended. Maybe he was feeling the heat of death breathing down his neck. After all, so many around him had already fallen. He was alone, held-up in his apartment, naked and exposed to the crush of reality; a reality that is tangled with the hard cold fact of being defeated and abandoned. At any moment Niko knew the weight of it all could cause this shell of a man to implode. An unstable man is a dangerous man; and that’s the kind of man Niko has always tried to avoid but failing so many times along the way.

 

“Spit it out Playboy. I don’t have time for this.”

 

Niko saw the young man’s eyes deaden and the expression on his face harden. In one exasperated breath, Playboy laid his final cards on the table.

 

“Kill that mutha f*cka. Dwayne Forge.”

 

The words stunned Niko for a moment. His lips parted but the words were somehow trapped in his parched throat. He almost stopped breathing. Hearing the absolute resolution in Playboy’s voice sent Niko reeling back to a time where his very essence was enthralled in revenge, hatred, and disillusionment for the man that had betrayed his military unit so many years ago, causing young boys to fall prey to a well-planned ambush. Now Niko sees in Playboy those same trappings that had an unbreakable hold on his life for nearly two decades. Niko finally jarred the words loose from the depths of his existence to question the harshness of the request.

 

“Why do you want me to kill Dwayne?”

 

“Because I said so playa. You got a problem with it?”

 

“You lost Playboy. Why don’t you just deal with it.”

 

Those words struck a chord in Playboy. “Deal with it! H*ll no. I run uptown. Nothing gets through here without me knowing about it. And that old fool gets out of prison and thinks he can come back to my house, push my *ss to the side, and pick up where he left off. It don’t work like that. Especially when he starts taking what’s mine. And I think I told you he betta not take nothin’ else that belongs to me.”

 

“Payback’s a b*tch ain’t it? Dwayne told me how you shoved him to the sideline when he was released from prison. Treated him more like a charity case than a friend.”

 

“What, yall lovers now. The old man went soft on the inside. Need comfort from another man,” said Playboy as he moved closer to the coffee table where he had carelessly placed his pistol.

 

Niko ignored Playboy’s improper speculations. “No I don’t have a problem with killing. I’ve done it once I can do it again,” said Niko, loosening the zipper on his jacket for easier access to his own pistol.

 

“Good man. Because I want you to send that bastard to an early grave. And I want you to use my gun to do it,” said Playboy as he retrieved the handgun and handed the .357 Magnum to Niko.

 

Niko reached out and took the silver-plated Desert Eagle from Playboy, tracing the contours of the perfectly weighted sidearm with his other hand. He relished the beauty and power of the weapon. He owned two and was carrying his most trusted one today. Niko flipped the pistol in his hands, noticing the letters PBX perfectly etched along the barrel; an obvious gaudy display of arrogance. He ejected the magazine, seeing that it was full he was sure Playboy was serious in his request.

 

“You don’t have too many friends, do you Playboy?”

 

“What the f*ck I need with friends? I got enemies. That’s what a real playa has. Not some bullsh*t best buddies,” spat Playboy, before taking another sip of his eCola. “I got sh*t that other pretenders want. And that puts a target on my back. So h*ll no, I don’t have no friends and don’t want none.”

 

Niko half laughed at the thought of not wanting friends. “Well the whole thing of it Playboy is, I have friends. And I don’t kill my friends so easily.”

 

“You just met the b*tch,” raved Playboy. “How much friendship can really be there?”

 

Niko locked eyes with a man that was deteriorating right before him. “More than you think.”

 

“Alright. I see this is a whole lot of wasted time. You got a soft spot for that washed-up fraud. I know where he’s livin’ and I’ll do it my d*mn self.”

 

“I don’t think you’ve got the time for that Playboy.”

 

“And why not?”

 

“Well, you see, that so called washed-up fraud had a funny feeling that you may betray him once again just to claim some kind of victory. So he sent me here to kill his number one enemy.”

 

Playboy swallowed hard. He had miscalculated the extent to which his former mentor would go to reclaim his empire. It never entered his mind that Dwayne would ever have him killed. He believed the old man would have rolled over, not having the heart or the fight to claw his way back to the top. This past week has proven otherwise. Playboy has been shown to be weak and ineffective; unable to stabilize loyalties as his empire buckled around him. He did not strike back after the massacre at The Triangle Club because he had no power to do so. His influence had been waning months before Dwayne Forge was released from prison. Playboy had been too rapt with status and expansion to realize that loyalties in the crew had been severely fractured which has culminated in the calamity of complete and utter collapse of what he had spent the last ten years building. Now he stands facing his mortality.

“So this is how it’s gonna end. You’re gonna kill me with my own gun. I gave you…”

 

“You gave me nothing Playboy,” barked Niko, cutting of his exaggerate sense of reality. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s already over.”

 

Niko slowly raised the pistol up to cup the barrel with his left hand. He released the safety, readying the pistol to fire the massive .357 caliber round waiting in the chamber. Playboy, like a statue, stood weighted down with the inevitability of certain death. Playboy witnessed the inferno blazing in Niko’s eyes; burrowing a chasm straight through his soul, revealing the H*ll that Niko was bent on sending him. Playboy drew in a deep breath, sucking in what seemed like his last hope to survive. The walls of the apartment appeared to push in around him, squeezing the life form his body. The room began to darken, twist and turn. Playboy wanted to fade away, somehow disappear. His mind raced with jumbled distorted thoughts and images. Remembering a life full of chaotic and at times unrecognizable events, Playboy nearly lost his grip on reality. Through it all he realized that he was a fighter, a survivor and there was no way he was going to give his life away without a fight. Playboy’s eyes went wide as Niko swung the heavy broad pistol in his direction. With one graceful move, Playboy flung the contents of his can of eCola at Niko and bolted for the door leading to the rooftop patio.

 

The foaming liquid found its intended target, temporarily blinding Niko. Full of rage and determination, Niko slapped at his eyes and face to clear the sticky brown liquid just in time to see Playboy scarpering through the patio door. He let off one thunderous round from the Deseret Eagle that sent shockwaves sailing through Playboy as the bullet whizzed past his head, barely missing its mark. Playboy staggered as he coward low, reacting to the powerful blast that erupted from his pistol. He quickly regained his footing on the rain-soaked roof and bounded forward. The fire escape was just feet away and with it a welcomed sanctuary for escaping the relentless assassin that had so easily slipped inside Playboy’s last bastion of safety. His heart pounded. His breath came in desperate spasms. The fire escape and its broken railing serving as a gateway to the rooftop of the adjacent building were just a gasp away now. Like an Olympic long-jumper in full stride, Playboy planted one foot on the landing of the fire escape and propelled himself across the narrow alleyway, landing safely on the rooftop of the neighboring building. He tumbled forward, elated by the sheer will to survive.

 

As quickly as Playboy scrambled to his feet to continue his miraculous evasion, his leg was torn from under him; ripped to shreds by an angry bullet shot from a powerful hand gun. The blast reverberated through the air like cannon fire. Playboy shrieked from the nightmarish pain burning down his leg. He struggled to stand, never to give up. Another cannon blast and the bullet tore through his shoulder, spinning him around to finally face his executioner. Across the alleyway, standing on the broken fire escape was Niko Bellic. Even from that distance, Playboy could see the pity in Niko’s eyes. He saw the man that had saved his life that day in Schottler. He saw the man that had killed on his order. Now he knows that man will not stop until the contract has been fulfilled.

 

Taking the last bit of strength that Playboy could muster, he yelled out to his killer. “Finish it already.”

 

Niko needed no prompting. A final squeeze of the trigger sent another bullet sailing through the air, burning a direct path to the young man’s head. Playboy did not flinch when he heard the blast announcing his death. His time had come like so many soldiers before him. Playboy’s head snapped back as it absorbed the tremendous fire-power of the Desert Eagle. A spray of blood and brain matter erupted from the back of his head as the single round tore a huge hole in Playboy’s skull, killing him instantly. His knees buckled, sending his lifeless body collapsing to the rain-soaked rooftop. Niko stared for a while at the motionless body as a pool of crimson blood collected around it.

 

Niko turned his face upwards to the darkening sky. Another rain shower had begun; small droplets falling on his exposed skin. He gazed back at the dead body laid at rest now for all eternity. Niko hated that he was the one to end the young man’s life. Only moments earlier he had confessed to Ray Boccino that he was moving on from a life filled only with death and revenge. He wanted peace. He needed to forgive the past and move to a happier space meant only for him. It was hard for Niko to reconcile taking a life in order to save one. In some ways, he felt responsible for bring Dwayne back into a life that he himself, so desperately needed to flee. The bright redness that had collected around the corpse had been diminished to a small pink watery river that trickled away from the body in a narrow stream of dirt and rainwater. Niko harkened back to the day that he fled the horrible scene of the ambush that massacred twelve young boys. They were left there to rot and to be defiled by the local wildlife. For all Playboys’ faults, even he deserved a proper burial; not to be left on a rooftop until someone discovers his bloated mutilated body.

 

Niko pulled his phone and dialed a number from memory. Dwayne was expecting a call from him but took nearly four full rings to answer the line.

 

“Is it done?” asked Dwayne.

 

“It’s done Dwayne.”

 

Niko heard his friend exhale like he had been holding his breath his entire life. He heard the hurt in the solemn moan that hovered just below the deep long suffering sigh. Niko stayed quiet, waiting for Dwayne to work through the finality of someone that had at one time meant the world to him. Dwayne cleared the pain from his throat before responding to Niko.

 

“That wasn’t an easy order for me to give Niko. I just want you to know that.”

 

“I understand Dwayne.”

 

“Playboy lost his way years ago. He forgot how loyalty cuts both ways. You have to give up something to get something. Playboy thought about himself too much and forgot about the crew. That’s how things got so far past him. No one was loyal to him and he was only loyal to himself.”

 

“That’s so true Dwayne.”

 

“You a real good friend Niko. The deed to the apartment is still in my name and you can have it. I have no need for it now that I have a new place. Besides, I don’t think I can handle living there anymore. Playboy was like a son to me but he got lost.”

 

“Thanks Dwayne. I’ll always have your back.”

 

“That’s good to know. Come by and see me sometimes. I’ll text you the address.”

 

“Sounds good. I’ll be seein’ you.”

 

Niko clicked the line off and tucked the phone away. His mind half drifted back to the senseless death of another young man. Was I in this life forever with no way but death to escape? Roman was right when he said it was time to find love and to honor his fallen comrades. Niko spun on his heal, surprised to hear a voice crackle over the intercom.

 

“Yo X, it’s me Marlon. Buzz me up.”

 

Niko knew that the young man waiting down in the lobby was not going to be buzzed up. Playboy had buzzed up his last visitor. Niko turned and took one last look at the lifeless body before tucking the Desert Eagle inside his jacket and carefully traversing the fire escape down to street level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

One-Way Street

 

Marlon anxiously waited for a response from Playboy, but silence fell on the intercom, leaving him to wonder if Playboy had already left to pursue Dwayne on his own. His yellow Patriot was still park at the front of the building just as it was when Marlon left nearly an hour ago, determined to start a new life in Alderney. That determination soon weakened and morphed into a perilous guilt that sent Marlon backtracking to a crew that had been unofficially disbanded and to a leader almost drained to the point of an incoherent existence. Marlon knew he was better than all the others who had stepped away from Playboy months ago. He had been loyal to a fault when it came to Playboy and he should never have turned his back so quickly. After all, Playboy was the one who believed in him when no one else did.

Marlon tapped the intercom button once again to call for Playboy and yet again no answer. He pulled his phone, thinking he could stop Playboy from venturing into a situation alone and not being able to handle a certain suicide mission. Four rings and then to voicemail. Marlon clicked off the line not bothering to leave a message. Worried that he had arrived too late he quickly trotted over to the security desk to speak with the guard on duty.

 

“Hey Teddy, have you seen X this morning since I left?”

 

“Haven’t seen him. But a guy showed up maybe fifteen, twenty minutes ago. He went up and hasn’t come down yet.”

 

“Did you know him?”

 

“Just know he calls himself Niko and he’s been here maybe four or five times.”

 

“What did he look like?”

 

“Nothing special. Just some white guy with an accent. Sounded Russian to me.”

 

Marlon repeated the name to himself trying to remember why it seemed familiar but came up empty. His mind was too jumbled, filled with every bad scenario that could be playing out on the street this very moment. He was beginning to worry, unable to shake the thoughts of how Clarence had been assassinated on his balcony by an unseen shooter and how the Trunchez were massacred with military precision. He had left Playboy alone and exposed to the same kind of treachery that had befallen their closest associates. He knew Dwayne Forge was the one who had given the orders. He was the only one who stood to gain the most. Now Playboy could be out there, blinded by pure unadulterated revenge and walking straight to his death.

 

“Teddy, I got to get up there. X could be in real danger. Unlock the lift for me.”

 

Teddy hesitated. “I can’t do that Marlon. I could lose my job.”

 

“And X could lose his life,” shrieked Marlon, on the verge of a full blown panic attack.

 

Teddy stood behind the marble-topped desk clutching the keyring hanging from his utility belt. This wasn’t much of a job but it did help to keep the lights on and food on the table for his wife and two small children. For seven years he had seen more than his share of criminals waltz through the front door and head straight for the Penthouse elevator. After considering that the safety of his family far outweighed a dead-end job, Teddy snatched the ring of keys from his belt and marched over to call for the Penthouse lift. Four anxious breaths later the doors slid open and Marlon scooted inside.

 

“Thanks Teddy. You won’t regret this I promise.”

 

The elevator doors slid shut, sealing Marlon inside with disastrous thoughts tumbling around inside his mind. He had left Playboy in an untenable state, desperate for some kind of resolution to his current predicament. He wanted Dwayne Forge dead. Marlon could feel the noose tightening around the viability of the crew for weeks, even before Dwayne had been released from prison. That feeling of extinction only grew once Dwayne started laying his fingerprints all over the city. Marlon used his growing tension with Playboy as an excuse to save himself by prematurely walking away from his friend. Now the notion at the pit of his stomach screamed death for Playboy. And Marlon knew that death would come by way of an order from Dwayne Forge.

 

The swiftness of the lift was not fast enough. Marlon wanted to teleport to the seventh floor apartment; right at the nick of time to save his friend from a would-be assassin. The lift seemed to move in slow motion, slowly drifting past the floors it was not programed to stop on. Marlon’s heart pounded, causing beads of sweat to stand out on his forehead as he reached for his pistol. For the past four years he had carried the weapon, keeping it concealed at the small of his back. He needed to be sure and steady more than ever before. Finally the elevator shuddered and came to rest. Not knowing what to expect, Marlon quickly took cover at the front of the lift, pressing his slender body close to the control panel. The doors slid open and Marlon was greeted by silence; the kind of stillness that always made him feel uncomfortable. No music, no muted voices. Only his own breathing, grinding deep inside his air passage. His eyes went wide as he dared to steal a peak around the corner. A can of eCola lay spilled on the hardwood floor near the wide-scream television that showed a silent documentary based on the history of Liberty City. The patio door was carelessly swung open; some of the window panes cracked or shattered completely.

 

Marlon gripped his pistol tighter as he tilted his head to discern even the slightest noise. Nothing. Someone had to be there. Teddy never saw anyone leave. He cautiously stepped from the elevator, quickly surveying the open space. Empty. The bedroom, partitioned from the rest of the apartment, was deserted as well. Marlon moved quickly to the patio door, careful not to step in the spilled can of soda. The tension eased once he found that he was alone but with questions of exactly where Playboy and this other man had gone. Maybe Teddy had missed them somehow? He walked out onto the patio, shards of glass crunching under his heavy boots. They had disappeared. Marlon exhaled, letting his hand drop to his side as he moved over to the west side of the building, gazing at the skyline of Alderney, remembering the hope and promise of a better future with Carter. All of which would have to wait until he properly settled things with Playboy. Tiny rain droplets spit incessantly at his face, forcing Marlon to turn away to go back inside but was stopped when a bright yellow cloth lying on the rooftop of the adjacent building caught his attention. A closer look and his heart sank.

 

“X!”

 

The agony in his voice sailed across the city like the wind. He saw the broken fire escape railing and realized that Playboy had run for his life; trying to flee from that assassin Marlon could not save him from. He stared at the motionless body hoping beyond hope to see some sign of life but saw none. The blood had drained from his body, mixing with the filth of a Liberty City rain shower and settling in a pool surrounding his body. Marlon finally tore himself away from the carnage and bolted towards the fire escape; no doubt the same path that the killer had taken only moments earlier. He barreled down the rain-slick steps, pounding each metal tread determined to reach Playboy as fast as humanly possible. He vaulted over the final railing, landing heavily on the wet concrete below. The entrance to the apartment building was just around the corner. Out of breath, Marlon pressed on, taking two steps at a time as he climbed the five flights to the rooftop exit. He burst through the door at full sprint, skidding to a sudden stop feet from where his friend lay shot to death. Marlon could see the horrific damage done to the back of Playboy’s head and quickly turned away, unable to stomach the terrible sight.

 

He bent over as his stomach tensed, forcing the doughnuts and coffee from his system. Unable to stand any longer, Marlon turned back to his friend and went down on his knees to somehow be closer to Playboy. The city seemed to wrap around Marlon, making him curl over as the crushing heartbreak made him sink into despair. He felt insignificant, yet the fires of revenge were soon kindled to his core. Tears welled, slipping down his face as he vowed to avenge his friend’s death.

 

 

* * *

Timmy Carrillo pulled the Blista Compact alongside the curb in front of Elm Leaf Funeral Home in Stienway. He and Russell had made good time traveling from Alderney once the rain slacked and the congestion of Algonquin had been left behind. He put the gear in park and cut the engine. Russell had gone silent once again, falling asleep before they crossed over the Algonquin Bridge. Timmy glanced over at him and could see that the weight of what happened last night had taken hold of his young friend. Another time and place, Russell could have been his son. But Timmy knew he was not worthy of having such a good thing in his life. He reached over and nudged Russell on the shoulder to ease him from his slumber. He stirred slightly then rubbed at his shoulder to coax the numbness away. Russell wriggled in his seat, desperately needing to stretch his long legs.

 

“Hey kid, we’re here.”

 

He blinked, trying to find his bearings. Peering through the windshield he knew where he was instantly. The memories of his childhood with Jimmy D. raced back in a brilliant flash, nearly taking his breath away. He reached to open the door but was quickly stopped by a heavy hand on his forearm.

 

“No Russi. You don’t wanna do that. We don’t know where McReary is or his goons. Some cover is better than none. So stay put for a while. Drop down the window if you need some air.”

 

Russell settled back in his seat and cranked the window halfway down. “You always did know how to rein me back in. I got a little anxious being back in the neighborhood after all this time.”

 

“Yeah, you’re a good kid. I knew it even when I saw you mixin’ it up with that brute down in Vice.”

 

A smile graced Russell’s face, accepting the kind word from a man who had filled in as a father-figure for nearly two years. “So, this is where we’re gonna meet Freddy?”

 

“According to my contact, he’s already inside the restaurant,” said Timmy, gesturing to a huge yellow and red sign hanging over the entrance to Delicious Chinese Food. We just need to wait for him to come out.”

 

“Chinese food this early in the morning?”

 

“Yeah. They eat breakfast too you know.”

 

Russell scoffed at his own short mindedness. The blast of cool wet morning air jolted his senses back to normal long enough to feel queasy from a whiff of the heavily seasoned aroma drifting through the open window. He was never too fond of the Asian cuisine but Jimmy D. loved it. Across the street stood the apartment building where Jimmy had lived as a child. There was a basketball court out back that served as an all-star arena for almost every kid in the neighborhood. Most Saturday afternoons, Jimmy and Russell would meet there to witness the best of the best go head-to-head. The tournaments during the summers almost guaranteed the winning team would be from Bohan. Rarely did Dukes ever place to compete for the grand prize of tickets and vouchers to Funland at Firefly Island in Broker. The queasiness finally lifted once the wind shifted direction so Russell unbuckled his seatbelt and found a more comfortable position inside the tiny car.

 

“What’s on your mind kid?”

 

Russell cleared his throat. “Jimmy D. lived over there on the third floor. I lived a couple blocks away. He was the first friend I had when we moved here from Broker.”

 

Timmy looked across the street at the unassuming building. It could have been any building in the city. Nothing was special about it. No garish adornments or self-important names branded to the front. It was a humble patch of the city, like so many patches in the world. What made it special for Russell was who lived inside that unpretentious brick building; his best friend. Someone whose life had gotten out in front of him too quickly which led to him being taken from this world and from Russell far too soon. Timmy glanced back at Russell now slumped in the seat with his head hanging low. He banged a fist on the steering wheel. He hated seeing Russell collapsing in front of his eyes once again. It brought back the memories of the anguish he suffered through down in Vice City. The constant nightmares, endless hours of drinking to numb the pain, the crushing guilt of believing he was the cause of his friend being murdered.

 

“D*mnit Russell. You’ve got to stop beating yourself up like this.”

 

“I just need answers Timmy. That’s all. I just need answers.”

 

“And we’re gonna get them. You got to believe that Russi. We already know a whole h*ll of a lot more than we did. Jimmy definitely had some kind of prior dealings with Olive f*ckin Reckord that he never shared with you. For some reason he was scared sh*tless to go with you over to Cerveza Heights that night. And some hooded stranger warned you to stay away from Beechwood City. Now tell me, who has a stronghold in that area?”

 

Russell straightened and answered unequivocally. “The Jamaicans.”

 

“That’s right kid. Somehow Jimmy may have gotten wrapped up too deep with them *ssholes and something went horribly wrong. Freddy is the best person I know to get us closer to the answers we need.”

 

Russell inhaled deeply. “Don’t forget McReary reminded me yesterday morning that there are witnesses to me murdering Jimmy D. And of course Olive Reckord is at the top of the list.”

 

“Well we know that’s a d*mn lie.”

 

“Damn right it is. Sh*t Timmy, this is getting’ real twisted now. You think Reckord is mixed up with McReary somehow?”

 

Anything’s possible kid. You see what he’s doin’ to you.”

 

Russell nodded in agreement. “Because I never could figure how Samuel found me in Hove Beach almost the moment I got back in the city. He didn’t just stumble on my path, he was told where I was gonna be.”

 

“By our favorite Deputy Police Commissioner no doubt,” responded Timmy as he slipped off his seatbelt.

Russell went silent, thinking of the conversations he had had with McReary. Had he missed something? McReary talked about Jimmy D. as though he knew him somehow. Russell had met McReary at Ali Moe’s, the same restaurant that Russell and Jimmy D. frequented. He kept telling Russell that he didn’t want to end up like his friend. But what did it all mean? Russell was jolted from his thoughts when his phone rang. He pulled it from his jacket pocket and quickly checked the caller ID.

 

“Who is it?” questioned Timmy.

 

“It’s Jermaine. I should get this.”

 

“Go ahead but be careful.”

 

Russell pressed the call button an answered, keeping his voice steady. “Hey Jermaine. What you know good?”

 

“I know the cops was here lookin’ for your *ss Russ.”

 

Russell squirmed in his seat. “When?”

 

“About 7 o’clock I guess. I didn’t know if I should call or what. I’m out here on the d*mn street. They could have left somethin’ inside the garage. I can’t have no troubles man. Remember I told you I thought the cops was following my *ss.”

 

Russell looked down at his watch. It was almost 8:30am. “Yeah, yeah Jermaine. What did they want?” asked Russell, urging his friend to the point.

 

“Wanted to know if I knew where you were. I told’em I didn’t. They tried to put the squeeze on, but h*ll, I don’t know sh*t.”

 

“Alright Jermaine, thanks for callin’ and you didn’t talk to me.”

 

“I hear you Russ. Be careful out there.”

 

The line went dead and Russell put his phone back inside his jacket pocket. He inhaled deeply, forgetting the unpleasant smell drifting in the air from the restaurant. Timmy turned, waiting for Russell to give him the details of the call.

 

“Do I have to ask Russi?”

 

Russell shook the concern away and finally answered Timmy. “The cops showed up at Natives Engines looking for me. McReary sent his goons there. I know he did. That just proves my point about Samuel.”

 

“What did he tell them?”

 

“Just that he didn’t know where I was. Sh*t Timmy, we gotta ditch this car. Jermaine said he thought the cops were on his *ss. And if that’s the case, they could be lookin’ for this car right now.”

 

Timmy focused his attention back down the street at a couple leaving the restaurant. “Good idea. We don’t want to screw up now,” he said, hoping Freddy would be the next person to push through the door.

Knowing Freddy’s habits, he figured his old acquaintance should be leaving the restaurant any minute now. Like clockwork, he ate breakfast the same place at the same time every Tuesday. Timmy had known Freddy for about eight years; long before he got involved with the Jamaicans. Timmy had been an associate, working for the Pegorino Crime Family out of Alderney for nearly fifteen years when the offer was made to bring him into the Family as a Made Man. For a fleeting moment Timmy allowed himself to feel special. Up until that point he had been alone, no real family to speak of and no true friends. His life was meaningless. But that special feeling wore off quickly once he realized that this so-called Family was no more than just another front to cover the true intentions of deception, manipulation, and control. Timmy didn’t need a family to do any of that so he declined the offer. He would rather do freelance than to join something that would bring him down rather than elevate. Sure there were perks to being Made but nothing beat being free and your own boss.

 

He and Freddy met the same night that Timmy had declined the prestigious offer of joining the Pegorino Crime Family. Word had gotten around that a prostitution ring operating out of Schottler needed help rounding up willing girls who wanted to be a star. A new millennium had just begun and the year 2000 was going to be the year that made everybody a star. The two men had an instant connection and for the next six years they had their hands in just about every racket in the city. Wherever money was to be made, they were there. This was the routine until Timmy pulled up and moved to Vice City, leaving Freddy without his main partner in crime. The void in Freddy’s life was filled by a quick induction into the Jamaican street gang.

 

Timmy tapped the stirring wheel, growing more impatient. Time was pressing and he and Russell needed to get off the street soon before their short bit of luck ended. Another couple exited the restaurant, following close behind was a tall man wearing a white suit and white fedora with a black band.

 

“That’s him,” said Timmy. “Stay here, I’ll get his attention.”

 

Timmy pushed open the car door and stepped out into a light mist. The sky had begun to clear as the rain moved on across the river into Bohan. Freddy Paparo had not looked his way and he was making fast tracks towards a black Emperor parked a short distance from the restaurant. Timmy hastened his pace, splashing in a puddle of dirty rainwater that had collected near the curb. He needed to get close enough so that he would not draw attention to himself by yelling out. He could hear the click-clack of Freddy’s dress shoes on wet concrete as he continued to the parked vehicle. Timmy jogged the last few feet before calling out to his friend.

 

“Hey Freddy P. You still dress up to go to breakfast I see.”

 

Recognizing the voice immediately, Freddy spun around to properly greet his longtime friend. “TC my breda, how ya be?”

 

Timmy walked over and gave Freddy a sturdy slap on the back. “I’m just fine. But I see you still can’t shake that thick Jamaican accent.”

 

“It’s wit me for life my friend.”

 

“Don’t mean to be so blunt but I need a big favor. Is there somewhere we can talk?”

 

“Yes at my place. Any ting for you TC.”

 

“Sounds good. My partner is waiting in the car. Let me go get him and we can get gone.”

 

Timmy quickly made his way back to Russell, approaching the passenger side of the car. “Grab anything you have in the car and let’s go. Leave the window down and the keys in the ignition.”

 

Russell did as he was told. He reached back and retrieved the black duffle bag that had been safely tucked down on the floor and covered by yesterday’s newspaper. He just realized that he had not been home in two days. Timmy was already halfway down the street when Russell finally hustled out of the tiny car, slinging the bag across his shoulder as he hurried to catch up. Freddy was sitting behind the wheel with the engine running and Timmy in the passenger seat when he slid inside to the much more spacious backseat. Freddy wasted no time as he quickly pulled away from the curb and head north towards the high-rise project buildings. Russell glanced back at Jimmy D’s childhood apartment building one last time before settling in for the ride to an unknown destination.

 

Timmy slipped on his seatbelt before a quick introduction. “Freddy, Russell. Russell, Freddy. I told Russi about our lucrative past and how we first met. I kind of stumbled across him down in Vice City. I had to break up a bar-fight and we’ve been lookin’ out for each other since.”

 

“Yes yes Russell. A friend of TC is a friend of Freddy P.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” responded Russell, keeping it simple.

 

“So that’s where TC disappeared to, said Freddy as he guided the old Emperor around the corner.

 

“Yeah. I had two options. Figured San Andreas was a bust, so Vice City won. You still livin at the high-rise low-rent Hilton?” asked Timmy as Freddy cruised past the project buildings.

 

The two men shared an obvious long-running joke as audacious laughter filled the car nearly drowning out any worries that Russell had conjured along the way. He preferred to stay quiet to let Timmy and Freddy get reacquainted.

 

“No no, TC. Freddy P. has moved on up.”

 

“You mean moved on out,” quipped Timmy as the laughter threatened to begin anew. “You know that woman told you to get the h*ll out.”

 

“Freddy P. has a brand new woman now. She’s a doctor or nurse or some sh*t. All I know is she takes real good care of Freddy.”

 

The City zipped past in a dizzying blur as Freddy seemed to back-track, crossing previous traveled streets and passing familiar store fronts. He and Timmy continued to carry on like delinquent school boys, telling off color jokes and boasting of their own conquests. Russell could barely decipher Freddy’s dialect spoken with the thickest Jamaican accent he had ever heard. But he figured the gist of the raunchy conversation and knew he was in the company of men that had gone through H*ll and back.

 

Russell was glad to be in the comfort of an Emperor and free from the cramped confines of the Blista. He peered through the window at a city that had given him so much and then snatched it all away like a breath being stolen by a punch to the gut. He eventually allowed himself to drift back to more pleasant times as Freddy and Timmy continued to reacquaint themselves. Neither man had noticed the gray Sentinel that had settled behind their Emperor at the stoplight in East Island City. Timmy and Freddy were far too busy enjoying their vulgar critique of each other to notice the tail a couple cars behind them. Russell had let his mind drift to memories of his mother laughing and his father giving him a life lesson wrapped up in one of his many stories. And of course Jimmy D. who was always searching for something better than what he already had; never being satisfied with just the dream, he had to make it come true in a city with no limits.

 

Russell understood now what his father meant when he said that life was a one-way street; you could never go back. He realized that he could live in the world or die in its shadows. For every bright moment there is an elusive shadow of doubt, guilt, shame, and every other vice that has a potential to plague anyone at the most inopportune of times. Russell had been dying in the shadows since his parent’s death and now was the time to step back into the brightness of living. He needed to do it for himself and for Jimmy who died before his dream could come true.

 

Seeing his apartment building up ahead, Freddy slowed the Emperor and guided it over to the curb in front of a small shaggy tenement on Dillon Street. Russell wrestled with his thoughts, trying to shake free of the heavy burden that he had been carrying for six years. Timmy trusted that Freddy would be the one that could help answer the one question that has plagued Russell for nearly two years. Why was Jimmy D. murdered? Russell grabbed the duffle bag and exited the car, joining Timmy as Freddy led the way to the entrance. The gray Sentinel drifted quietly over to the curb in front of the Liquor store on Cayuga Avenue and cut the engine. The man behind the stirring wheel watched as the three men disappeared inside.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

A Long Way from Home

 

“Frankie!”

 

The vile tone cut through the early morning like bitter , jolting young Francis McReary from a light sleep. He had just settled down and drifted back asleep after being awakened by his father finally making it back home from a night of criminal shenanigans played out on the streets of Dukes. As usual he would come in no matter the time and want something to eat. Francis eased from bed, tiptoeing to his bedroom door so that he could hear the malicious insults flung at his mother. He stood there with the door partially open listening to the two of them arguing until finally his mother relented under the fear of his father’s obscene threats to end her life. Francis prayed that his younger brothers were still asleep and had not heard the evil-speak from their father. The house finally went quiet and Francis could hear the soft sobs of his mother as she went about preparing a meal for a man she had to loath because he hated him with a passion.

 

“Frankie. I said get up!”

 

Francis laid there in bed wiping the sleep and hatred from his eyes as his father’s heavy boots pounded on the stairs, growing louder with each step as he grew closer to his bedroom. Without provocation, the door burst open. Francis bolted straight up and scooted back against the headboard, shielding his eyes from the intrusive light. Silhouetted against the bright hall light, nearly filling the frame of the door stood his father, hunched like a crazed animal.

 

“Didn’t you hear me calling you boy?”

 

Francis cleared his throat. “I was sleep pop. I didn’t hear you.”

 

“Well you hear me now. Get up. Get dressed. Go to the airport and pick up your brother.”

 

“Darrick?” snapped Francis. “Why can’t he take the train?”

 

“Because I need you two to go to Lucky’s for me.”

 

Francis threw the covers back and darted from bed. More than hating his father he hated what he did. The Irish Mob, one of the preeminent criminal gangs in Liberty City might as well be extended family, being that Francis’ father is the leader of the gang. Criminality coursed through his veins like a healing power. The man believes he is invincible and untouchable; free to do as he pleases, even to the point of introducing his progeny to a desperately hopeless way of life. Francis wanted nothing to do with it or his father.

 

“I’m not gonna do that pop. I’m 19 years old. I can’t go to a bar.”

 

“Yes you can. You’re my kid, a McReary. I say you’re goin’ and you’re gonna go. Besides, Darrick will do all the talkin’.”

 

“No pop, I’m not going. Darrick can do this by himself.”

 

So many times Francis had wanted to stand up to his father but never had the guts to do so. The abuse his mother endured year after year with promises that it would never happen again. In the beginning she believed him but eventually she came to realize that the man she had married was not going to change. Many times she turned away from what was so painfully obvious. He ran his household like a bully on the playground; he got what he wanted even if it meant taking it by force. Francis surprised himself; not knowing that bravery was just one defiant breath away. He stood in front of his father with his feet planted firmly in his disobedience. The beast of a man seemed to be struck dumb for a moment; bewilderment playing in his eyes. Soon enough he fell back to his default setting and moved in close to his son, looming over him like the Rotterdam Tower in Algonquin. Francis shrank back as the hot staleness of alcohol on his father’s breath poured insultingly over him. He was brave but not dumb. Francis knew what was coming.

 

“You defying me boy?”

 

Francis said nothing, only emphasizing the defiance more. He girded his young slender body to absorb the powerful back-handed blow that came sailing through the darkness and landing heavily on the side of his face. A flash much like a lightning bolt filled the room and Francis found himself lying face down on his bedroom floor writhing from the agonizing pain that made his entire body quake. He could hardly hear the words his father spat at him as he bent low, hovering over his injured son like a savage beast claiming its kill.

 

“You’re not a man yet boy. Now get up, get dressed and, go pick up your brother.”

 

A sharp glare from the sun peeking out from behind a rain cloud forced the Deputy Police Commissioner to drop down his sun visor. The shield helped some but only reminded him that the rain had stopped and time was pressing. He had spent the last hour visiting with his mother like it was going to be the last time he would ever see her. Most of the visit was spent recounting the good parts of his childhood, purposely keeping quiet about the most painful times. His mother mirrored his sentiment and made no mention of the man that did more harm in his life than good. She dutifully sat at the kitchen table listening to her son speak from the heart which sounded more like a confession than a joyous walk down memory lane.

 

Francis apologized for not being a better son. He fought to hold back the tears that welled when he apologized for not being able to step up when Darrick left home; obvious to his mother that her son was referring to the many times his father had abused her. She dropped her head but allowed him to continue uninterrupted. He knew he had disappointed his mother with the misfortune of failing his final exam that would have advanced him into Priesthood; something she had hoped for. Maybe if he had stayed close to home, Patrick and Gerald would have been better men. Francis desperately tried to make up for his past misdeeds by becoming a Police Officer, something that only magnified his own scar tissue. Wounds too deep to heal were merely scabbed over, threatening to rip open at the slightest provocation. And Francis knew he had a thousand injures, some he’s only just realizing. At the end of a long journey back home, Francis kissed his mother and hugged her tightly before leaving his boyhood home in Meadows Park.

 

The train station was but a short drive down the street from the house. He could be at the airport in a matter of minutes, disappearing in a world even too big for the Gambettis to be concerned about search and kill. But there was no returning to Liberty. Ever. The thought was enticing but doing the right thing was more satisfying for such a tormented soul. Francis climbed inside his Landstalker and did not look back at his mother’s home, no doubt she was watching through the window as he drove away.

 

Francis squinted through the windshield as he tucked the flimsy paper parking ticket inside his jacket pocket. He had given the attendant $20 to cover the full 24 hour parking limit, telling the young man to keep the change. Schottler Medical Center was across from the tiny corner parking lot on Cassidy Street where Francis had been waiting inside his Landstalker. His entire life had been squeezed down to this pivotal moment. He had chosen to face his fears rather than run from them. Francis ran from home twenty-seven years ago trying to prove that he was a better man than his father could ever hope to be. With each passing year, he realized that he was no better than his father, perhaps more like him than he wanted to admit.

 

The sky had clear significantly since earlier this morning when heavy rain clouds had blanketed most of the city. The rain had ended so Francis exited the vehicle and left his slicker behind. He engaged the alarm and headed towards the small wooden ticket booth to leave the lot. Jon Gravelli who had spent the last three years in a private room at Schottler Medical Center, being treated for an unknown illness, was expecting him by 10 o’clock. Roy Zito, his underboss had surely alerted him about the debacle last night in North Holland that left a large sum of the Gambettis money missing or destroyed as well as a boat load of narcotics out of Vice City. The disbelief of it all still coursed through Francis like the stench of the Humboldt River, leaving him exhausted and nearly broken from years of guilt and fear. He knew Jon Gravelli owned him and there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it.

 

Almost a decade earlier, Francis had been filmed and photographed soliciting a prostitute in Bohan on more than one occasion. Somehow the Gambetti Crime Family acquired the images and a treacherous road of blackmail and corruption ensued. Had this information ever been made public, Francis would have suffered a humiliation both personally and professionally that he would not have been able to overcome. His career would have ended in a shameful scandal and the embarrassment would have reached all the way back to his mother in Meadows Park. So when Jon Gravelli approached him one day with an offer of partnership, Francis found it impossible to refuse. In exchange for Gravelli’s silence, Francis was to shield the Gambetti Family from prosecution by making evidence disappear, to convince protected witnesses to change their testimony, and to ensure that their cash flow operations were uninterrupted. In time Francis had gotten used to his new duties and found that he was a natural at bending, twisting, and even breaking the law and doing so became second nature, like he had been doing it his entire life. Through his efforts, the Gambettis continued to strengthen and maintain their position as the strongest crime family in Liberty City.

 

Two ambulances with sirens howling pulled away from the main entrance to the Medical Center. Francis remained on the sidewalk until they had cleared the loop, then he quickly crossed the street ahead of a long procession of cars, making his way to the entrance. The double glass doors slid open and Francis stepped inside greeted by the sterile smell unique to hospitals. The waiting area was typical of an urban medical center, rows of chairs filled a large open reception area and vending machines bumped up against a wall were full of quick snacks for weary visitors. A mono-toned voice of an unseen operator sounded over the PA system, directing staff to a specified location in the hospital. The young lady seated behind the reception desk appeared fresh and wide-eyed. She looked up from her computer monitor as Francis approached.

 

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

 

Francis cleared his throat. “I’m here to see Jon Gravelli.”

 

“Is he a patient?”

 

“Yes he is.”

 

“Okay. Just one moment.”

 

Francis pulled his collar up close around his neck, instinctively thinking that someone was there watching. He quickly surveyed the waiting area again and was relieved that he did not see anyone that could identify him. He was acting guilty because he was guilty. The young woman continued to pluck at the keyboard for what seemed like an eternity. Francis half hoped that the old man had died but with his luck, he probably would live another decade. He was about to ask the woman if there was a problem but a triumphant ‘found it’ cut him short.

 

“Mr. Gravelli has an unusual spelling of his first name but I finally found him,” she said, scribbling something on a small piece of paper. “Place this somewhere visible on your upper body and he’s in room 107, straight back and through those double doors.”

 

Francis took the small adhesive note, noticing the hospital name and logo and the patient name and room number before he placed it on his jacket. “Straight back?” Francis asked.

 

“Yes, just follow the signs to room 107.”

 

Francis inhaled and took the first step to what might very well be the end of his life. He shook the thought from his mind. He was far too valuable to be killed. Francis played up his importance, building a wall around his fragile ego. He knew he had been manipulated, controlled, or blackmailed his entire life. He was weak, detached from any real relationship and that reality frightened him. He gave what he got and that made him the worst kind of person; even worse than his career criminal brothers. He had made a deal with the devil and now payment was due.

 

Room107 stamped in plain text on a neutral colored plaque guided Francis to a private room at the end of the corridor. The door was slight ajar, allowing him to hear the muffled voices emanating from inside. He recognized Roy Zito’s voice immediately and conjectured that the weaker more shallow voice had to be Jon Gravelli. He had not spoken with the Don in several months and noticed the frailty in his voice right away. The goon standing guard at his door unraveled his hulking arms from across his equally massive chest and demanded to know what business Francis had there.

 

“Stop where you are. Identify yourself and state your business.”

 

Francis did as he was told, trying to keep his voice steady. He was in Jon Gravelli’s world now and the slight quiver of his right hand let him know just how powerless he was. His heart pounded as the brute disappeared inside the room. Moments later Roy showed his face at the door and invited Francis inside. Away from curious eyes, Roy closed the door and patted Francis, checking for any concealed weapons or other paraphernalia.

 

“He’s clean,” said Roy. “I can handle it from here Michael.”

 

The brute nodded and left the room to take up his post outside the door.

 

The room was cool and the curtains were pulled, keeping the intrusive sunlight at bay. A single light burned behind the bed, giving the room an eerie feeling of imminent death. Francis stood stoically at the foot of the bed, daring not to speak or move before he was told do so. The old man lying in front of Francis was but a shadow of his former self. His onetime youthful burly physique had diminished to a sad feebleness. The bit of hair that remained atop his head had gone gray and thinned years ago. No matter how much his physical abilities had faded, Jon Gravelli was still the leader of the most powerful crime family in Liberty City and Francis was startled by his own fear.

 

“Officer Frankie McReary,” Gravelli finally said.

 

“Yes sir.”

 

“I never told you this, but I knew your father and was saddened when he passed away. What has it been? Almost a decade now?”

 

“Eight years sir.”

 

“Eight years, yes that’s about right. I remember I was in Alderney when word came down that old ‘Micky’ McReary had suddenly died.”

 

You mean suddenly killed himself.

 

“We met in the late ‘50s early ‘60s. Can’t remember which now. But he could raise H*ll like no one I’ve ever known before or since. He would dispatch his Irish Mob throughout Dukes and Algonquin, taking big chunks of territory as easy as the wind blows. I admired that man. My uncle Sonny was running the Family back then and we never had any problems with your father. He would have been proud of you Frankie. The things you were able to accomplish even as a Police Officer, would have made McReary real proud.”

 

Francis wanted to retch. To think that he would have made that man proud sickened him to his core. He still hated his father and despised his brothers for boasting of their criminal behavior. He wanted so much to be away from them but ended up being worse than the three of them combined. His father abused his mother, molested his younger brothers and committed countless other crimes and Francis somehow would have made that monster proud.

 

“Roy, water. I need water. This d*mn cough.”

 

Jon Gravelli took a few sips of the cold water to help quell a cough that had started several weeks ago. The cold liquid helped but another spasm would eventually begin. He took a moment to regain his composure before turning his attention back to Francis.

 

“Now Frankie, about last night, Roy has filled me in with all the pertinent details and I have to say that I am quite concerned. The lost cash won’t destroy the Family but it will interrupt cash flow. The lost narcotics could pose difficulties if the suppliers are not somehow compensated. And I don’t like difficulties in my Family.”

 

Francis held his breath. He could not speak even if he wanted to. His hands trembled at his side. He swallowed hard. The uncertainty was killing him. The inevitable had arrived. They couldn’t kill me right here and now. Could they? He swallowed again and still his mouth remained parched.

 

“Come closer Frankie.”

 

Francis did as he was told without hesitation. He moved to the right side of the old man’s bedside; standing close but not too close. He could better see the deep sunken areas of his checks and the darkened circles beneath his eyes. The Don looked as if he were knocking on H*ll’s gate. Francis could almost see the dark angels swarming above his head. A day of reckoning was coming and Francis felt his pressing down on him like never before. He faced his arbiter prepared to accept whatever sanction he was about to hand down. Jon Gravelli placed a frail hand on Francis’ arm, feeling the tremor that betrayed the Deputy Police Commissioner’s stoic façade.

 

“You look like your father Frankie. It’s all in the chin and the cheeks.”

 

The old man meant it as a compliment but the insult raced through Francis like hot steel, melting away the last bit of dignity he was keeping for himself. He fought desperately to resist the urge to turn away from the Don. That would be disrespectful and yet another strike against him.

 

“You’ve been an incredible asset to the Family over the years and for that I thank you. Because I knew you father is the only reason I have decided to do this. You are more valuable to me at the department than anywhere else. However, this infraction is far too egregious to just overlook as a simple mistake. You’ve got to make this right. D*amnit! Water Roy!”

 

Make it right. Francis wondered what he could do to make it right. He watched as Gravelli struggled for a moment to catch his breath; valiantly fighting through the episode. His breathing finally stabilized, giving him another window of calmness. Gravelli quickly handed down his requests and expectations, as his energy was beginning to wane.

 

“One of my men is awaiting arraignment. It’s not looking good for him. Make sure it never happens. And it would be nice if you would find what happened to my money and the supply. The sooner the better. Do you think you can do that for me Frankie and make me proud just like you’ve made your father proud?”

 

Francis swallowed. The task was almost an impossibility. “I can try sir.”

 

“No. Don’t try. Do it.”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

Francis was free to leave, stripped of his self-worth and purpose in life. The only reason he was allowed to walk out of Schottler Medical Center was buried in the McReary family plot. If he ever believed that he was in charge of the chaotic world around him, what just happened convinced him of his true place in Gravelli’s world. He had run away from his father years ago and in many ways he never stopped looking for a way to be his own man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

Hi guys. It has been a while since I thanked everyone for following me on this journey. I have enjoyed this so much and am so glad I got to share it with some really great people.

 

Hope you all have noticed some improvement. Things can only get better the more you practice. Again, thanks and keep coming back.

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave
Posted (edited)

Faustin Knows Best

 

Dimitri signaled and turned onto Shinnecock Avenue, stopping at the security booth to present his photo identification and a coded community card embedded with a digital signature of the Beachgate subdivision. He had done this same routine countless number of times with several different guards. The name plate attached to the guard’s Navy Blue jacket identified him as Christopher Thomas. He weighed too much and was far too sweaty to be good at his job. He couldn’t outrun a bowling pin at Memory Lanes if a doughnut got in his way. The chubby guard took both cards from Dimitri, angling his head sideways for a clear view inside the vehicle. As with most visits to Mikhail, Dimitri was alone. The guard swiped the cards and made a few keystrokes on his computer before handing the cards back.

 

“Have a nice day Mr. Rascalov.”

 

“I will definitely try,” said Dimitri as he took the cards and drove away.

 

Breakfast at the 69th Street Diner was satisfying but the smell of coffee and sausage lingered on Dimitri like cat hair. He left the window cracked to let in a bit of fresh air. The rain had stopped and a cool gentle breeze blowing in from the ocean seemed to give Dimitri just enough confidence to confront Mikhail once again. He meandered through the sleepy gated community, taking in the beautiful homes and neatly manicured lawns. Most were large multi-level homes. But Mikhail owned the largest most elegant home at the end of Shinnecock Avenue. Dimitri had never taken for granted the good fortune that he and Mikhail worked so diligently to acquire; especially when he remembers the filthiness from their past.

 

Dimitri pulled along the curb at the front of the home. He knew the rain would keep Mikhail still; for his boss hated it just as much as he did. The rain was more of a distraction than a cover. It made things messy and fostered too many unforced errors. Now the sun was shining and the birds were singing. Dimitri hoped the pleasantness outside would translate to a more subdued Mikhail. He turned off the engine and got out the car; not bothering this time to engage the alarm.

 

Dimitri has always admired the utter beauty that surrounded such an excessively violent and unpleasant man. At times Dimitri witnessed the outbursts visited upon his lovely wife Ilyena and his rebellious daughter, Anna; neither of which were deserving of such treatment. Mikhail always regressed back to the excesses of American culture as the cause for his wife’s perceived disobedience and his daughter’s objectionable lifestyle. Mikhail ordered the death of a young biker for the mere fact that Anna loved him. He was not always this ruthless; rational violence was his way for a long time. But now with the abuse of alcohol and cocaine, Mikhail has become more and more irrational and distrustful.

 

Dimitri circled behind his car, stepping up onto the sidewalk that ran along the front of the home. The brick walkway and the perfectly trimmed hedges, guided him to an impeccably kept patio. Potted plants and imported flowers from Europe gave the home an air of sophistication beyond its architectural elegance. Dimitri approached the front entrance and rang the bell. He straightened his necktie as he waited for an answer. The door swung open almost immediately, exposing a wild-eyed, red-faced Mikhail. His nostrils flared as his chest heaved up and down, expelling the gruffness of his breathing from somewhere deep inside his psyche. Surprised to see Mikhail at the door, Dimitri quickly pulled his hand away from his collar. He was the only one who could evoke such a response from Dimitri. He had become more unpredictable as of late and he wondered if old wounds had begun to bleed once more.

 

“What is it now Dimitri,” growled Mikhail. “You should have called first.”

 

“Can I come in for a moment Mikhail? We need to talk.”

 

“About?”

 

“About what has been happening right under your nose Mikhail.”

 

“Did you see Ilyena when you drove in?” asked Mikhail, ignoring the urgency in Dimitri’s voice.

 

“Ilyena? No I did not. Must we do this here? Let me come inside.”

 

Mikhail stubbornly blocked the doorway for a moment longer before stepping aside to allow his friend to enter. He peeked out the door, looking up the street for any sign of his wife who had left earlier after suffering through another one of her husband’s outbursts. This time it was different. Not only did he deride her appearance and her religious beliefs as he normally would; but he grabbed her, holding her tightly against the bathroom wall, spewing the vilest comments that she had ever heard. The threats of cutting her off financially or taking the car from her had suddenly morphed into promises of sending her back to Russia, alone and without their daughter’s comfort frightened her; for she knew what was waiting in Moscow. Somehow Ilyena tore free of his grasp and left the house, leaving Mikhail frantically ranting about things she knew nothing about.

 

“Mikhail come back inside and tell me what has happen with Ilyena,” pleaded Dimitri.

 

Turning back inside, “She left me. That is what has happened,” he said as he swatted the door closed. “She walked out on me.”

 

“Why do you think she has left you Mikhail?”

 

“Do you see her here Dimitri? Look around.”

 

Dimitri heard the sarcasm in his voice and kept quiet, knowing that Ilyena and Anna were topics not to be discussed beyond a cordial acknowledgement. He stood there in the foyer, watching Mikhail flail about, venting the same grievances as he had done a thousand times. American culture was the cause of all his agony. The excesses were far too abundant and available at every turn. He spoiled his wife and daughter with too much of everything. They no longer resembled the family that he brought to America years earlier. There was no limit to his daughter’s insolence and his wife was never satisfied. Not once did Mikhail ever blame himself for the problems he created.

 

Soon the rant subsided and Mikhail grew quieter as he brushed past Dimitri on his way to the living room. He collapsed heavily onto the settee, throwing his hands up in utter defeat. Dimitri followed after his friend in silence, respecting his vulnerable state of mind. The look on Mikhail’s face revealed sorrow more so than failure. He grabbed for the open bottle of liquor perched next to a decorative vase on the coffee table but pulled away, refusing to take another sip. Suddenly anger spread across his face as he stood and picked up the half empty bottle, throwing it against the wall. The green-tinted bottle shattered instantly, spraying its contents across the room. Mikhail swayed from side to side, keeping his face covered as a quiet mournful howl escaped from a long forgotten place. Dimitri’s silence allowed him to release the stresses of his life without being judged and for that he was grateful.

 

“Thank you Dimitri for giving me the time and space to work through my torment. I am better now.”

 

“That is good Mikhail. I too have been tormented by our past.”

 

Mikhail turned to face Dimitri who had found comfort on a multi-patterned settee. “The present is always, yet the past is never far away. Tell me, what brings you to my home this morning?”

 

“We need to talk.”

 

“About Frankie Gallo no doubt.”

 

“How did you know?” asked Dimitri, surprised by Mikhail’s sudden clarity.

 

“I am still the Pakhan of this Family Dimitri despite my torments. I know more than you give me credit for.”

 

“My apologies Mikhail. Just as of late you have been…”

 

“What, acting crazy?”

 

Dimitri did not answer. He dropped his head and let the subject rest. “We must discuss Frankie Gallo and why he was sent to snoop around our business. A better recon man might have succeeded in gaining favor from one of our men.”

 

“I trust you have dealt with him properly?"

 

“I have.”

 

“Good,” responded Mikhail as he relaxed more comfortably on the settee directly across from Dimitri.

 

“But that does not explain the reason why he was sent. Sasha gave it his best and still the fool could not give us the answers we needed.”

 

“Only because he did not know. He was simply a low level gofer. Expendable. He won’t be missed.”

 

“We probably did Ray Boccino a favor by catching this screw up.”

 

“Ray Boccino?” questioned Mikhail as he rubbed at the stubble on his face. “Tell me more.”

 

“Yes. Sasha did manage to get two names out him. Ray Boccino and Phil Bell. It appears that Phil Bell is Frankie’s uncle. Both men are high ranking members of the Pegorino Family out of Alderney.”

 

“All the way over here to Hove Beach from Alderney?”

 

"I said the same thing. He said his uncle manages a night club called Honkers over in Tudor. So I put two of our men out there to see what they could find out.”

 

“And?”

 

Dimitri smoothed a crease in his necktie and continued with what he had learned. “Sure enough, there was someone at the club by the name of Phil Bell. Andrei managed to get a picture of him. He sent it to me from his phone.”

 

Mikhail leaned forward. “Let me see who we are dealing with.”

 

Dimitri had already started thumbing through his recent messages to locate the image. “Ah. Here he is. The lighting is bad but he looks rather cowardly with that silly smirk on his face.”

 

Mikhail reached for the phone, urging Dimitri to hand it to him. His Underboss quickly relinquished the mobile device, letting Mikhail discern the image for himself. He angled the phone to get a better view of the man in the picture.

 

“I’ve never seen him before but I agree he does appear to be rather anxiously animated. What else did you learn?”

 

Andrei followed Phil Bell early this morning across the river to a destination in Little Italy.”

 

“Algonquin?” questioned Mikhail.

 

“Yes. He pulled up outside a little Italian bistro called Drusilla’s and went inside.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“A quick search and I found that the restaurant is owned and operated by Ray Boccino. Probably the same person that little Frankie Gallo mentioned. And that’s not the best part.”

 

Mikhail laid the phone on the coffee table, giving his full attention to Dimitri. “We have two names and two locations. What could be better than that?”

 

Dimitri rubbed an open hand across his hair, done more out of habit than for a real purpose. “Not five minutes after Phil Bell arrived at the restaurant did our friend Niko Bellic show up.”

 

“Niko Bellic?”

 

Mikhail lay back on the settee, remembering the first time the two had met and how he had sent Bellic on a mission to assassinate Lenny Petrovic, the son of his greatest rival in Liberty City. Springing from a cocaine induced state of paranoia; Mikhail had accused the boy of betrayal by working closely with the LCPD. Armed with no evidence of the transgression, Mikhail ordered Niko Bellic to execute the young man. Niko had proven himself to be a reliable hitman by following through with several hits that Mikhail had entrusted him to fulfill. So when Lenny Petrovic’s life was not ended, Mikhail lost confidence in the Serbian hitman, not believing the story that young Petrovic had eluded a bullet marked especially for him. Soon thereafter Bellic fell out of favor with the Faustin Family and was chased out of Broker by Ray Bulgarin, who had been recruited by Mikhail for the sole purpose of sending Niko a message to leave Broker as fast as he could.

 

“So Bellic is in close with the Pegorinos now?” Mikhail said as he stood.

 

“It would appear so unless this is a very deep coincidence.”

 

“There are no coincidences Dimitri. Only deliberate intent. And we must ask ourselves what is Bellic’s intent.”

 

“Well I believe his intent was to come looking for Frankie Gallo. He showed up outside Comrades last night for no apparent reason. We had not seen or heard from him in weeks and suddenly he makes an appearance back in Hove Beach.”

 

“Like I said, there are no coincidences Dimitri.”

 

“So what are we going to do about this Mikhail?”

 

“I think you’ve already done it. Frankie Gallo will be back in Alderney before the sun sets tonight. The right ones will get the message. But should they be as dimwitted as little Frankie, perhaps a phone call will be just enough to nudge them in the right direction.”

 

“Which one will you call?”

 

 

“That is an easy one. Ray Boccino. I do not believe Phil Bell would have sent his nephew on such a dangerous mission. He knows better than anyone that the boy can be struck dumb at the slightest bit of pressure.”

 

“And Bellic?”

 

“Forget him. He is of no consequence. I have more important things on my mind. Call me before Frankie is transported back to Alderney. That is when I will contact Mr. Boccino.”

 

Mikhail stretched his arms above his head and walked over to his living room window, saying nothing more on the subject. He had been living in a bastion of wealth for the better part of a decade. He had worked hard to provide a comfortable life for his family. As a younger man, Mikhail journeyed to America with a beautiful wife, a very young daughter, and a dream. With the help of his friend Dimitri, that dream quickly came true; building an empire that has rivaled his own imagination. The Faustin Family soon took its place as the second most influential Russian crime family in the city; with lucrative operations in Broker as well as Dukes. He and Kenny Petrovic; the only Russian Pakhan to challenge his own empire, had been able to coexist in relative peace given the absolute strife cutting through the city. Mikhail regretted ordering the hit on Kenny’s son and was secretly thankful that Niko Bellic did not follow through with his order. Doing so would have definitely resulted in an all-out war between the two Families; something Mikhail knew he would have come out on the losing end of a bad situation.

 

Beachgate, the gated community that he called home, unfortunately could not hold his daughter or his wife; for they both have gone away from him. Anna was driven out by her father’s suffocating rules and Ilyena had pulled away from her husband years ago. Mikhail knew he had failed his family in many ways and needed to make things right again before it is too late. He needed to set things right with Kenny Petrovic. Even though he never retaliated for the threat made on his son’s life, Mikhail was sure Kenny was aware that he wanted the boy dead. He could hardly imagine the death of his own child and knew that Kenny must have been devastated to hear the life of his son fell into the hands of his greatest foe.

 

“Look out this window Dimitri.”

 

Dimitri padded over and stood next to Mikhail and took a long discerning gaze through the living room window. “I see other houses. Not as grand as yours but quite nice.”

 

“No Dimitri. You have to look beyond the houses. Beyond the gate. Beyond this community.”

 

“I don’t know what you mean Mikhail.”

 

“There, standing like a reminder of the true nature of this city looms Firefly Projects. Something is going on there Dimitri. Something new and enticing. It could be my way back in good graces with Petrovic.”

 

Dimitri stepped away from the window. “Petrovic?” he questioned. “Why do we need to fan the flames?”

 

Mikhail turned to face his friend. “You sound a little annoyed. I thought you would be grateful that I am attempting to make things right.”

 

“Yes yes, Mikhail. I am only saying let’s not rock the boat. Kenny is not one to be prodded too much. We have already dodged a bullet once. Do you really think he is interested in a deal from us?”

 

“I am the Pakhan of this Family Dimitri and I know best. It would be nice if you could be my Sovietnik and trust me.”

 

Annoyed by the slight of being his Underboss and not the Boss, Dimitri spit an insulting truth at Mikhail. “And remember Kenny Petrovic is the Avtoritet. Don’t forget he is the most powerful Russian in this city, possibly the country.”

 

Mikhail narrowed his eyes, feeling the bite in Dimitri’s words. “I have not forgotten it and that is why I am going to honor him with a most spectacular gala to be held at Perestroika.”

 

“What if he refuses?”

 

“Then he refuses. But what is happening at Firefly Projects is too alluring to just ignore. There is talk of some kind of narcotic unlike anything known in this city. I have to be a part of that Dimitri. It could set us on more even ground with Petrovic, bring more territory under our control.”

 

“I agree. We have not expanded in years.”

 

“So this is our opportunity and I’m going to take it,” said Mikhail as he turned away from Dimitri, bring his attention back to the city beyond his living room window. “Is there anything else Dimitri?”

 

“No Mikhail. I will see myself out.”

 

Dimitri retrieved his phone from the coffee table, tucking it securely inside his jacket pocket. He had not seen Mikhail this sober in months. He was actually coherent and able to grasp what had been happening regarding Frankie Gallo without fly into a complete rage, vowing revenge. Dimitri glanced back at his friend before leaving the house. He wondered what else Mikhail had hidden away. There was a time that Dimitri knew what Mikhail knew. Now he is not so sure what is playing around in Mikhail’s head. Dimitri pulled the door closed as a stiff breeze tugged at his hair. He caught the fly-away strands with a hand to hold them in place. The salty air suddenly sting his eyes as he quickly made his way back to his car.

Edited by albanyave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

A Friend of My Friend

 

A single lamp; sitting on a plain wooden table near the kitchenette, put out just enough light to reveal how poorly the tiny one-bedroom apartment was furnished. The shades were pulled, blocking any natural light that would help liven up the small dull area. Russell sat comfortably on a mashed sofa that reeked of marijuana while Timmy showered in the equally tiny bathroom down the hall. He and Timmy had spent the last hour talking with Freddy Paparo, a close friend of Timmy’s and the best lead they had gotten regarding the murder of Jimmy D. The last few days had drawn Russell deeper into a world that he and Jimmy D. had only just begun to sample before he was tragically murdered. He and Timmy were getting close to finding out the true reason why Jimmy was killed and finally laying to rest the guilt and anxiety he had been feeling since that horrible day in Schottler.

 

The bathroom door pulled open and a wet-haired Timmy Carrillo stepped out buttoning a barrowed black shirt from Freddy’s closet. He joined Russell on the sofa as he fixed his hair in place the best he could without having a comb.

 

“Where’d Freddy disappear to?”

 

“Went in the bedroom,” said Russell, gesturing to a closed door next to the kitchen. “Said he had a few calls to make.”

 

Timmy replaced his wrist watch, checking the time as he snapped the clasp in place. “Time to cut out. I think Freddy has given us all he knows.”

 

“Sounds like real solid leads. At least we know the general area to look for Olive Reckord. And this Jamal guy might be able to answer a whole lot of questions.”

 

“I was thinking the same thing,” responded Timmy as he bent forward to tie his boot laces. “You sound better Russi. Look better too.”

 

“Yeah. I feel better. That shower really helped shake some of the cobwebs away. After listening to Freddy and all he had to say, I feel more optimistic about the future than I have in a long time. Been sittin’ here thinking about the day my name gets cleared so I can start a life with Carlie. Maybe even head back down to Vice. You’ve been with me almost from the start Timmy and I know you’re not gonna cut out on me now.”

 

Even in the dimly lit room, Timmy could see the optimism in his friend’s eyes. He could definitely hear the hopefulness in his voice. “No kid. I’m not going anywhere. I’m in it all the way. I think Jamal is our key to everything.”

 

The bedroom door pulled open, old hinges crying out. Freddy appeared, wrapped in cloud of smoke, smiling and holding a piece of paper. Obvious to both Russell and Timmy that the phone calls must have been fruitful. He sat down across from the two men and handed the paper to Timmy.

 

“Jamal is at the café now. And this is the exact location of that bloodclaaat Olive Reckord. The baldheaded bastard doesn’t stay anywhere long. Rastclaaat.”

 

Timmy took the paper and deciphered Freddy’s handwriting that was almost as bad as his own. “He’s over in Willis?”

 

“He's renting a room overtop Madam Palm right next to After Dark. Top floor.”

 

Timmy folded the paper and tucked it inside his shirt pocket. “Thanks Freddy P. You don’t know how much this helps. Me and Russi, we’re gonna get goin’ now. Thanks for the shower, the shirt and the sh*t on Olive Reckord,” he said, standing to shake his friend’s hand.

 

“Don’t mention it TC. Anytig for you. Anytime you need me, you know how to find me.”

 

“That I do. One more thing before we cut out.”

 

“Anytig my Bredda.”

 

“Think we could barrow the Emperor for a little while?”

 

A wide grin spread across Freddy’s face. “Already ahead of you,” he said, dangling a set of keys in front of Timmy. “If it gets back it gets back. If not, well Freddy P. can get another.”

 

Timmy chuckled and took the keys. “I hear you. Come on Russi we can roll now.”

 

Freddy walked his guests to the door, reminding them not to trust Olive Reckord or anybody in his crew. Russell was the first to leave the tiny apartment, giving Timmy and his friend a moment to wrap up their unexpected meeting.

 

“Hey Russi, said Timmy, jingling the keys. Wait for me downstairs. Go ahead and start her up.”

 

Russell took the keys and traipsed the flight of stairs to street level, leaving Timmy standing in the doorway to Freddy’s apartment. The morning had pushed to almost afternoon, replacing the rain and clouds with heat and humidity. Russell pulled at his shirt that had immediately begun to cling to his chest. The black Emperor gleamed in the brilliant sunshine but Russell took no time to admire the paint job. He quickly unlocked the door and slid inside. He reached over and pushed the key into the ignition, turning it to start the engine. The older model Emperor roared to life but soon idled down to a quiet purr. Russell adjusted the settings, allowing the air conditioner to blow cold before closing the door to keep the heat and humidity at bay.

 

The Homebrew Café was only a short drive from Freddy’s apartment. He placed the duffle bag on the floor behind the driver’s seat, trying to conceal it but had nothing to cover the leather bag. He searched for a newspaper or an old discarded rag but found nothing. Getting a little anxious, he finally decided the trunk would be a better place so he found the lever beneath the dash and pulled it to release the latch. He pushed the door open and stepped out into the midday heat which seemed more stifling than he first noticed. He tossed the bag inside the trunk and slammed it shut just as Timmy stepped from the building.

“Alright kid let’s get goin’, he said before noticing a gray Sentinel parked across the street down an alley flashing its high beams.

 

“Who’s that?” Russell asked, as he continued back to the passenger side of the car.

 

“Don’t know,” said Timmy, running a hand across the back of his neck.

 

A sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach let Timmy know that someone had eyes on them. In an instant Timmy retraced their steps from Alderney to Algonquin, then Steinway and ending here in Schottler but had not remembered seeing that car at all. He reached for the door to slide in behind the wheel but was stopped by another flash of high beams obviously meant for him.

 

Timmy turned to face Russell. “Okay kid, whoever this is, they want to talk to me. If anything goes down, take the train to Hove Beach and wait for me at Firefly Island. Got it?”

 

“Yeah yeah I got it. Just be careful.”

 

Timmy waited for Dillion Street to clear before crossing. The car was parked way back down the alley a distance from the street. He surveyed the area for his nearest and clearest path to escape if it came to that. The weight on his right ankle gave Timmy comfort but not a false sense of security. He could see that the driver was the only person in the car so the odds were even but walking into an unknown was never good. The sun visor shielded the man’s identity, but a hand gestured for Timmy to come around to the passenger side of the car. Timmy did so and heard the door lock disengage as he approached. Bending to look through the window before getting inside, all the anxiety and uncertainty drifted away when he saw who was sitting behind the wheel. Timmy pulled open the door and scooted inside.

 

“Still got your touch I see,” said Timmy, placing a hand to the vent to feel the coolness wash away the nerves. “You had me for a moment.”

 

“Yes, old man. No one will ever accuse Wade Johnson of losing his edge.”

 

“Old man? You’re the one graying at the temples. Besides, weren’t you here before the dinosaurs?” quipped Timmy.

 

“Very funny. Let’s just agree that we are both old compared to that young buck sitting in the black Emperor across the street. Is he the one causing all your consternation?”

 

“Yes he is. He’s a good kid that has gotten wrapped up in some deep sh*t.”

 

“You should know all about deep sh*t. You and Freddy Paparo stayed knee-deep in it for years. What has it been, two years since you left?”

 

“Two years exactly today.”

 

“Well you know time has a way of catching up with you. Remember sh*t stinks and leaves stains that won’t go away no matter how hard you scrub.” This city ain’t no good. It will eat you up and…sh*t you out.”

 

Timmy stayed quiet for a moment, hearing his own demons echoing in his ears. He had precious few good things in his life and Russell was one of them. He was going to do whatever it took to get that kid’s life back, even if it meant risking his own by coming back to Liberty. When Timmy pulled himself back from a place he had not gone in years, Wade was puffing delightfully on a Redwood.

“You went somewhere you can’t afford to go Timmy. You got to keep things in front of you.”

 

“You’re right,” said Timmy, adjusting the vent so that the cool air could blow on his face. “So, I may need your services soon if you’re still taking on clients.”

 

“Like I said, this city is no good. I have an extensive and varied clientele and a consummate professional who will complete a contract expeditiously and rarely complains about payment. A little leg work is needed sometimes, depending on if any special requests are made. But most of my clients simply want the job done.”

 

“Sounds like he can’t miss.”

 

“He doesn’t miss.”

 

“Well that’s exactly what I’m gonna need. This one can’t get a second chance.”

 

“You know how to contact me when or if you should require my services,” said Wade, extinguishing the cigarette in the tray under the dash.

 

Timmy reached for the door handle to leave. “Tell me something. When did you start the tail?”

 

“When do you think?”

 

Timmy tilted his head in thought. “Most likely in Steinway,” he finally said.

 

“Right you are. You know the cost of funerals today is outrageous. It almost makes me want to pull up and move to San Andreas. Buy myself a little sh*tty piece of dirt out in Blaine County and blend in.”

 

Timmy smiled and pushed open the car door, remembering he had parked in front of Elm Leaf Funeral Home while waiting for Freddy to finish his breakfast at Delicious Chinese Food. He stepped out into the shaded alleyway, heat and humidity wrapping around him like a winter coat.

 

“I’ll be talkin’ with you old man.”

 

“Good to see you again my friend. Stay safe out there.”

 

Timmy closed the door and quickly made his way back to the Emperor where Russell had been waiting. It felt good to know he still had friends in this city. He trusted Freddy like a brother and Wade was like an uncle who would be there just in case. Timmy pulled open the car door and slid behind the wheel; the coolness a welcomed relief from the heat. He looked across the street towards the alleyway as he slipped on the seatbelt. The gray Sentinel was still pushed back down the alley, watching over him like an Eagle from the sky. Timmy put the old Emperor in gear and pulled away from the curb after checking to make sure Dillon Street was clear.

 

“Who was that?” asked Russell, curiously waiting for an answer.

 

“That’s one of the few true guardians of the city,” responded Timmy as he rounded the corner. “In his own creative way, he helps to resolve problems that the cops can’t. He puts a speedy end to a story gone wrong.”

 

Russell let the peculiar use of words float around before answering. “So he’s a fixer?” he said, unsure of his own conclusion.

 

“That he is and he could come in real handy, being that Olive Reckord is a problem that the cops can’t fix. Freddy just told me that he’s in good and tight with the LCPD something that we both suspected.”

 

“Sh*t Timmy. If that’s the case, then the LCPD must have wanted Jimmy D. dead. No matter what Olive Reckord says, he was the one who pulled the trigger and somehow I get blamed.”

 

“Let’s not get in front of ourselves Russi. There are still a lot of gaps to fill in before we get to that point. It seems that Jimmy knew Reckord. We just don’t know how that relationship started or why it ended. But maybe Jamal is the key to everything.”

 

The Homebrew Café was the perfect hideaway for the Jamaicans, swallowed up by abandoned apartment buildings on either side. It could have easily been missed by unfamiliar eyes in the Beechwood City neighborhood. However, being native to Liberty City, Timmy was all too familiar with most little nooks and crannies that accommodated only a certain type of city dweller. Being deeply immersed in the criminal underworld of Liberty for decades, gave Timmy an edge that he and Russell needed as they pushed forward through this twisting journey of secrets, betrayal, and corruption. Freddy had pointed them to the Café, but still he and Russell were considered outsiders. Timmy pulled the Emperor over close to the curb and cut the engine. Three men with their hair dreaded and wearing green army fatigues stood just outside the entrance into the café.

 

“Okay kid, let’s go. Follow my lead and everything should be just fine. The tricky part is gettin’ inside.”

 

Russell cleared his throat and pushed open the car door. A wave of heat and the sounds of Reggae music quickly filtered inside the car. He stepped out, and closed the door, squinting at the brilliant sunshine. Timmy felt the heat pressing down on him as he pushed the button to lock the doors. The area smelled of gasoline fumes seeping from the bottleneck forming on the Broker-Dukes Expressway feet from the café. Timmy skirted the back of the Emperor, catching a few comments from the men standing near the entrance. He had heard worst and there was no way he was going to engage in a battle of words with these men. Russell followed Timmy to the door but one of the men blocked their way.

 

“What’s your business?” he said in a menacing Jamaican accent.

 

To show good faith, Timmy backed away, palms out to reveal a friendly visit. “Just here to see someone.”

 

“Who?” inquired the man, stepping forward.

 

Timmy stayed his ground and turned his palms down. “Jamal.”

 

“Don’t know no Jamal,” he said, looking at Russell and back at Timmy again.

 

The other two men gathered closer to their companion, sensing that trouble may be near.

 

“The bloodclaaat said he is here to see Jamal.”

 

“That’s right,” said Timmy, a little bitterness in his voice. “I just left Freddy. He said Jamal would be here.”

 

“Freddy P.?”

 

“Over on Dillon. You can call him if you like.”

 

“I might just do that.”

 

The three men looked at each other as if in silent conference. Timmy and Russell stayed still so not to provoke an unwanted altercation. Soon one of the men pulled his mobile phone and dialed a number from memory. He moved to the end of the short block, leaving his two friends locked on Timmy and Russell. Timmy hoped Freddy would answer, otherwise he and Russell were almost guaranteed a quick and decisive exodus from the area. The call ended quickly and the man came back with a blank look on his face.

 

“Okay, you can go in, for now. But don’t tink dis is an all the time ting. You gotta talk to Badman next time.”

 

The two men stepped aside, allowing Timmy and Russell to enter the Café. The stifling heat outside was only moderately relieved by an ill-performing air conditioner mounted high on a wall. Tinted light bulbs emitted a reddish hue, giving the room a friendly feel. Curls of cigarette smoke floated above the pool table where the game was about to end; stripes on the verge of winning. The bar was at the back of the room and standing near a tall fan was a man fitting the description of Jamal. Timmy wasted no time heading for the bar. Both he and Russell were careful not to disturb the possible winning shot as they edged past the pool table.

 

“You Jamal?”

 

“The skinny man with tiny dreads turned the bottle up to drain the remaining Dusche Gold before answering. “Who wants to know?” he asked.

 

“Freddy P. sent me here. I’m Timmy and this is Russell. Said you could help us with something.”

 

“Yeah, Freddy P. is cool. He called, said two light-skinned cats was comin’ over. Wanted to talk about Jimmy D.”

 

Russell’s heart fluttered, making him take a deep breath. This was the first time he had been in proximity of someone who knew Jimmy since his murder. His entire body flooded with the anxiety of hoping he would get the answers he so desperately needed. Jamal was a name he never heard Jimmy mention and he was more than curious of how they knew each other.

 

“Anything you can tell us,” said Russell, too wound up tight to remain silent.

 

“Let’s grab a table. Yall want somethin’ to drink? It’s hot as h*ll today.”

 

“eCola is fine,” replied Timmy.

 

Jamal turned to the bartender. “Hey Beanie Bean, two Colas on the rocks.”

The stout bartender quickly prepared the two drinks, sitting them on the bar without saying a word. Timmy and Russell each grabbed a glass and followed Jamal to a card table in the corner of the smoky room near the pool table that was now abandoned.

“Best seat in the house,” said Jamal as they sat down on wobbly wooden chairs, old dry-rotten linoleum cracking under their feet. “Where you wanna start?”

 

Russell was the first to speak. How did you know Jimmy D.?”

 

“High School in Steinway. Mr. Capart’s Shop class. We had good times, great times. Until we decided to call it quits on that bullsh*t. We could do a whole h*ll of a lot better out on the streets. D*mn shame what happened to him. I was doin’ a two year stint in Alderney Correctional for grand theft auto. When I got out my buddy was dead, dead, dead,” said Jamal, shaking his head as though he had not completely accepted his friend’s death. “Shot down by his partner because the motha f*cka wanted the sh*t for himself.”

 

“Really?” asked Russell, his heart pounding like a jack hammer. Hearing the lie struck a bitter chord and he hated Olive Reckord all the more.

 

“That’s what I heard.”

 

Seeing that Russell was bothered by the remark, Timmy chimed in with his own comments. “Well, that’s the problem Jamal. You see Jimmy wasn’t murdered by his partner because he’s sitting right here beside me,” explained Timmy, placing a hand on Russell’s shoulder. “Someone else pulled the trigger and we were hoping you could shed a little light on why Jimmy was murdered.”

 

Jamal sat up straight in his chair, surprised to hear a different story after so much time had passed. “Oh snap. D*mn. Had no idea,” he said, looking at Russell with new eyes. “I don’t mean no harm dude, but you don’t look like you could kill anyone.”

 

Russell remembered Samuel Barkley and shrugged off the comment. “Jimmy was the first friend I made when my family moved to Steinway. We got separated by the time we reach high school. I tried to stay in touch but it was hard.”

 

“I take it you weren’t in Shop classes.”

 

Russell simply shook his head no. The memories were almost unbearable, making his throat tighten as the sadness grew. He picked up the glass of eCola and nearly finished the drink before placing it back on the table. Timmy brought the conversation back to the reason they had come there.

 

“Alright Jamal, let me understand this. You guys met in shop class. Decided at some point to drop out. You thought it would be more lucrative out on the streets.”

 

“That’s right.”

 

“What kind of stuff were you guys into? I know just about any kind of slight can get you killed on these streets. But what stuck out? What was different?”

 

“Wasn’t nothin’ really different. We had three regular suppliers and would sling the sh*t in Broker and Schottler. Did some work for a chop shop in Bohan and in Broker. Just real straight forward sh*t. Nothin’ too deep. It paid good and we were kids havin’ fun doin’ it.”

 

Timmy took in a deep breath. He gazed over at Russell and saw the hope fading in his eyes. The frustration was beginning to grow. He needed more from Jamal. Not just a few vague stories of drug dealing and jacking cars.

 

“We need more than that Jamal. Who were your suppliers? What’s the name of the garage you delivered the cars to? Who were your new customers? Come on man this is a matter of life or death. Give me something.”

 

“Feeling interrogated, Jamal shook his head and pushed away from the table. “How I know you ain’t Five-0?”

 

Timmy exhaled a frustrating sigh. “Come on man. Do you really think we would have gotten past the three guys outside if we weren’t legit?”

 

“I mean you comin’ at me mighty hard. Give a brother a break. I don’t know those guys. We met once maybe twice. Exchanged contact information and that was it. Packages got dropped off at different locations and me and Jimmy were supposed pick them up and get the stuff on the street. It was a real hands off setup.”

 

“Alright Jamal, come back and have a seat. I apologize for getting wound up like that. It’s just this man’s life in on the line and we need answers.”

 

“I feel you,” said Jamal as he eased back down on the chair. “Let’s try to keep this civil. I know Freddy and he wouldn’t fall for some bullsh*t and send the cops straight here. You talked to him and that’s good enough for me.”

 

Timmy swallowed a mouthful of eCola before continuing, giving everyone a chance to settle down. “You guys never had no trouble? Something that could spring back on you?”

 

“Nothin’ we couldn’t handle. It was usually other dealers that had heard about the drop and tried to take the stash from us. Nothing big. As far as the chop shop goes, we either got the car or we didn’t. No retaliation.”

 

The old wooden chair creaked as Timmy leaned heavily on the high back, contemplating what Jamal had told him. He was quickly losing hope that this would be the lead that both he and Russell were waiting for. But something was not fitting right. Jimmy was afraid that night and neither Russell nor the one that Jimmy had been running with since high school knew what could have made someone blow a hole through his chest, killing him almost instantly. Russell had been quiet through most of the discussion but now the desperation was getting next to him. He had followed Timmy’s lead to get inside the café and now Russell wanted to try to get the answers that he believed lay stored up in Jimmy D.’s longtime partner in crime.

 

Clearing his throat, Russell stared at Jamal, almost attempting to compel an answer from him. “Why did you spend two years in prison?”

 

“I told you, grand theft auto.”

 

“Seems a bit much just for a joyride.”

 

“Well I had a little somethin’ somethin’ in my bag and I guess that’s the real reason I got sent up. Huang was lucky as h*ll. I had just dropped his *ss off in East Island City. Two blocks later, flashin’ lights were in my rearview.”

 

“Who’s Huang?” asked Russell, eager to learn more.

 

“A spoiled rich kid from Hong Kong.” Jamal paused, remembering the first time the two had met. “Yeah, Huang Lee from Hong Kong. I almost forgot about Huang. Jimmy was the one who introduced us,” he said, slowly recalling the encounter. “Said they had met at an illegal street race in Meadow Hills. Let’s see, that was back in 2002.”

 

The year sent shivers through Russell like an Arctic blast. That was the same year that his parents were killed while crossing the Algonquin Bridge weeks before Christmas. That was the same year that his life fell apart and he has been unable to put it back together again.

 

“Huang Lee?” questioned Timmy, feeling a shift in momentum in their favor.

 

“Yeah…he only comes over here to the states every two or three years. The last time he was here was 2005, the year I got sent up.”

 

“And a year before Jimmy D. was murdered,” said Russell, now leaning forward, intent on getting more from Jamal.

 

“Come on Jamal, think. I see your wheels turnin’. What else are you remembering,” pleaded Timmy. “The smallest thing could be the break we’re lookin’ for.”

 

Jamal rubbed the back of his neck. The two faces staring back at him from the opposite side of the table told a story of anguish, desperation, and sorrow. Jimmy was his friend also and if he could help shed some light on what happened down a dark alleyway in Schottler, nearly two years ago then he had no qualms about doing so.

 

“Back in ’02 Jimmy and Huang started hittin’ the party circuit hard. I mean every night hard. I went sometimes but I didn’t want to get too close to Huang’s world.”

 

“Why not?” interrupted Russell.

 

“You do know who Huang Lee is don’t you?”

 

“Spoiled rich kid from Hong Kong.”

 

“That’s right. And his daddy is the leader of the Lee Family. Part of the Triads here in Liberty. I don’t mess with that sh*t.”

 

Russell glanced over at Timmy. The two locked eye contact, knowing the Triads were known for their fierce loyalty and brutal retaliation. “So you think Jimmy got caught up in it?”

 

Jamal shook his head. “Don’t know. Like I said I didn’t hang with them a lot. Don’t get me wrong, Huang was a cool cat and all but still…the Triads, I ain’t tryin’ it.”

 

“Jimmy never confided in you about Huang and if he had been pulled into the Lee Family?” asked Timmy.

 

“Never. I tried to get him to bring Huang into our little ring and warned Jimmy to be careful. He never complained. But he did have a gripe with the cop that arrested him and Huang back in 2002. Huang’s uncle got him off but Jimmy spent ten days in lockup. Still remember exactly what he said.” Mimicking his friend, Jamal twisted his face into a tight scowl and thrusted a stiff finger in the air “That f*ckin’ McReary is gonna get it up his *ss if he keeps on pushin’ me.”

 

“Pushing him to do what?” Asked Russell. “And why were they arrested?”

 

“He never told me. He only said he wished he had never gone to Algonquin that day.”

 

“Ten days in city lockup and Jimmy never mentions why he was arrested?” said Timmy skeptically.

 

“He didn’t tell and I didn’t ask. Sounded like that cop was hasslin’ him and he just wasn’t the same for a long time.”

 

Timmy and Russell sat there stunned by what had just been revealed to them. Francis McReary had been the cop to make the collar that night, meeting Jimmy for the first time. All the comments that McReary had made to Russell about Jimmy seemed to fit perfectly. McReary hinted at knowing more about Jimmy than even Russell would know. The veiled threats of ending up just like Jimmy had a basis in reality now.

 

“This is exactly what we needed Jamal,” said Timmy, now more settled down than only moments ago. “I apologize for pressing so hard but we needed answers and thanks to you, we got them.”

 

“That’s alright. Anything for Jimmy D,” said Jamal, crossing his arms over his chest. “So you sayin’ the cops killed him.”

 

“”No. We know exactly who killed Jimmy and I think it’s time we paid him a visit. But before we go Jamal, you said Jimmy wasn’t the same. How had he changed?”

 

“He wasn’t himself. He seemed anxious an unsure. Then one day he just got up and said he was movin’ over to Outlook. Needed some time to sort things out. I gave him space until he got ready. Last time I saw him was a couple of weeks before trouble found me. He seemed happy.”

 

Timmy glanced down at his watch. It was almost one o’clock. “We got to get goin’ Jamal. Like I said, you were a huge help.”

 

“You know how to reach me. Anything for Jimmy D.”

 

Timmy and Russell stood, Russell taking in the last of the eCola before leaving the café. A thick burst of heat and humidity crawled up their nostrils causing both to shrink back from the intrusiveness of such fickle Liberty City weather. The Emperor had been left unscathed and both men slid inside, Timmy taking the driver’s seat once again.

 

“What do you make of that?” asked Russell as he slipped the seatbelt across his shoulder and let down the window so that the trapped heat could escape.

 

Timmy turned the ignition; bring the old car back to life. “My gut is tellin’ me that Jimmy was an informant, being used by that f*ck up McReary to do who knows what.” It’s not a stretch for that to be true kid. It sure as h*ll answers a whole lot of questions.”

 

“That was my first thought exactly. But why? Couldn’t have been for a d*mn joyride.”

 

“No. But he could have gotten too close to Huang’s world. And we’re positive that he had good times with Olive Reckord. It could have been any number of things that McReary was blackmailing him with. So it’s time to pay Olive Reckord a little visit.”

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave
Posted (edited)

Behind Closed Doors

 

“Hey Arnie, we did good. We did real good. Didn’t we Arnie?

 

“Will you shut the f*ck up Donny and let me finish over here.”

 

Lester Arnold, chapter leader of the Liberty City Angels of Death Motorcycle Club, had been hunched over a pile of cash counting and recounting for the last few hours. The heat in the secluded room on the upper floor of the clubhouse did not make it any easier. Donny and Simon kept their distance from Lester, standing near the closed door and trying their level best to keep quiet. The tips of Lester’s fingers, stained with ink and grime, smelled of the uniquely familiar musky odor of money that had been stashed for a long period of time. At the far end of the table, were sixty-eight packages of the purest cocaine that Lester had ever seen. Each kilogram was sealed in cellophane and wrapped neatly with brown paper.

 

Simon and Donny had presented their treasure trove late this morning to their slightly inebriated leader. The induction ceremony over in Alderney last night had carried on into the early hours of the morning, lending to a leader saturated in his favorite brand of alcohol. Neither Donny nor Simon could wait any longer for Lester to sober-up. They both hoped that their incredible find would help convince him to lift the probation, restoring them to their former status as active members of the club. That hope had been stifled for hours as they watched Lester stumble through simple arithmetic, losing track of his last calculation several times and having to restart the arduous task of recounting the huge mound of money. Finally the massive heap of cash was dwindling. The end was near and with it a renewed hope for reward. Lester scooped up the last few bills, slipping a rubber band around the stack and placing it with the rest of the cash. Donny and Simon stayed quiet, waiting for Lester to speak.

 

“So where did you two numbnuts find this?” he asked.

 

Simon looked at Donny, urging him to answer. “Right out in the lot,” Donny said, nervous laughter spilling from an awkward looking grin.

Lester stood, wiping a handful of sweat from the back of his neck and then cleaning his hand on the back of his stained jeans. “Just sittin’ out there on the ground as a gift to anyone who happen to come along?” questioned Lester, a bit of sarcasm in his tone.

 

Simon quickly spoke up and recounted last night’s events as Lester began placing the cash back inside the bags.

 

“Sounds like you guys busted up something big. Glad you got out with your lives and your *sses intact,” he said, sounding more sober now. “I already got big plans for this sh*t.”

 

Simon and Donny swelled with the pride of accomplishment. Hearing Lester praise their heroic feat, gave them just enough confidence to ask for the probationary period to be lifted. Besides the cops never found out who perpetrated the prostitution ring over in Broker, the Russians got paid, and no one died. Donny looked at Simon, the more skeptical of the two. Simon narrowed his eyes and turned his head slightly, to let Donny that now might not be the best time to talk about their probation. Lester finished placing the cash back inside the duffle bags when he caught a glimpse of the two men acting strangely.

 

“What the h*ll are you two up to? You holdin’ out on me?” he asked, zipping the last bag closed.

 

“No Arnie. We ain’t holdin’out nothin’,” said Donny stumbling over his words. “We was just thinkin’…”

 

A loud frantic knock at the door grabbed Lester’s attention. He turned and walked away from Donny, yanking open the door. Rick was standing on the other side rubbing desperately at the back of his shaven head.

 

“I thought I told you guys not to disturb me,” barked Lester.

 

“Yeah, I know Arnie,” said Rick, eyes wide and unsettled. “But two cops are down at the door. Said for you to come out or they’s comin’ in.”

 

Lester rubbed at the stubble on his face, sweat rolling down his back. He turned and looked at Simon and Donny and then to the pile of cocaine and cash bags at the end of the table. Something told him that this visit from the LCPD was no coincidence. He ran through his options. He had no place to hide such a large quantity. And even if he did, the cops would just come in a tear up the place. Maybe he could talk his way out of the situation. Or maybe they were here on completely unrelated matters.

 

“Okay Rick, calm down. Do you know who they are?”

 

“Naw. Never seen’em before. But the short fat one shoved his badge in my face like he was a real hotshot.”

 

“D*mnit,” barked Lester through gritted teeth. “Tell them I’ll be down. But don’t let them in.”

 

“Got it.”

 

Lester closed the door and pulled off his sweat-stained t-shirt and tossed it in the corner. He quickly moved over to the metal sink in the corner of the room and caught a glimpse of himself in the cracked mirror hanging on the wall above the large metal sink. His long drawn face and dark circles beneath his bloodshot eyes made him look like a junkie and last night’s lingering alcohol binge made him smell like a distillery. He quickly splashed cold water on his face to appear cleaner and more alert than he actually was. Simon and Donny stayed bunched up against the wall, away from Lester’s anxious floundering at the wash basin. They instinctively knew that the cops could be knocking at their door because of what happened last night. Their heroic dead had suddenly turned them into nervous cowards.  Being on probation could be the least of their worries.

 

“Go ahead and finish packing that up. Put it in the closet and throw a blanket over it,” said Lester, as he slipped on a fresh shirt. “Then come downstairs and sit and keep your mouth shut.”

 

“Right Arnie,” said Donny. “We can do that.”

 

Lester left the room, leaving 2.5 million dollars in cash and nearly three or four times that amount in cocaine with two of the biggest fools he ever knew. He closed the door behind him and smoothed his wet oily hair back with one hand as he made his way downstairs to answer the door. The rec room was quiet and littered with crumpled beer cans and empty pizza boxes. Most of the guys were still sleeping off the last tendrils of drunkenness in the downstairs bunker unaware of what was happening. Lester took a quick survey of the room; trying to make a better impression he pushed the pizza boxes and beer cans onto the floor behind the counter. Seeing that the mess was far too much to get rid of, he gave up trying to be the housekeeper and answered the door. He recognized the two plain-clothes officers instantly. Putting on his best Vienwood performance, Lester greeted the men.

 

“Good afternoon gentlemen. Glad to see Liberty’s finest out protecting and serving the masses,” he said with out-stretched arms to the sky. “What brings you to my neck of the woods on this fine day?”

 

“Cut the bullsh*t Arnold,” spat Detective Shannon, his short thick arms folded across his chest.

 

Lester chuckled. “Why so hostile detective?”

 

“You see that over there?” he asked jamming a thumb in the direction of the burnt out van.

 

Lester looked towards the jetty, craning his neck to see past Detective Coleman. “Yeah, I see it. And what?”

 

“We have reason to believe that some of your guys interfered with police business last night. A large amount of cash and narcotics have gone missing and this was the last known location,” replied Detective Coleman.

 

Lester stood up straight to assert his innocence. “So you think I had something to do with that? I wasn’t even here last night.”

 

“We know,” said Detective Shannon, unraveling his thick forearms from across his chest. “You were gettin’ sh*t faced over in Alderney last night. But that doesn’t mean that some of your guys didn’t ambush our undercover agents.”

 

“Well how would I know that?” asked Lester, jamming his hands deep inside his pants pockets.

 

Detective Coleman stepped forward. “You don’t have to know because we know. So we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice, Arnie.”

 

The contempt in Detective Coleman’s voice sent a wave of rage racing through Lester. “My choice,” barked Lester, face flushed from anger. “I didn’t do a d*mn thing.”

 

“Not true. Maybe you were on your best behavior last night. But I count a whole lot of other nights where you fell short of being a choir boy. Remember that prostitution ring over in Broker a little while back? I think there were about three dozen underage girls and boys kept against their will in an abandoned warehouse…Is it all comin’ back to you now Arnie?”

 

Lester knew his Vienwood performance was not going to get him anywhere with these two cops. He was out of options and backed into a corner. He rubbed at the stubble on his face knowing he only had one option.

 

“Just give us the stuff Arnold and avoid a long stint at Alderney Correctional. Because I promise, you will go there. This is much bigger than assault or possession. You could be gone for a very long time. Just something to think about.”

 

Hearing the certainty in Shannon’s voice, Lester abandoned his act and all but surrendered. “I don’t know nothin’ about this but I can go take a look around.”

 

Detective Shannon leaned on the building and pulled out a pack of Redwood cigarettes. “We’ll be waiting. Don’t slip away from us now.”

Lester stepped back inside the clubhouse and closed the door. Donny and Simon were sitting at the bar gnawing on left over pizza, washing the staleness down with half empty cans of eCola when Lester tore around the corner with a terrifying scowl emblazoned on his gaunt red face. Donny was the first to see Lester making fast tracks in their direction; their afternoon chow suddenly turning into a flight or fight situation. Both men decided to flee. Stumbling over their own feet, they only managed to get as far as the hallway before Lester pounced. Simon was caught by a heavy fist to the back of his head, sending him smashing into the memorabilia wall.  Framed pictures of the club’s exploits throughout the city were swept from their station, as Simon tumbled to the clubhouse floor. He scrambled, trying to regain his footing but was met by a viscous boot to the gut. Donny was equally dealt with as he attempted to save his friend from an all-out assault. Lester stood seething over both men splayed on the concrete floor moaning and coughing.

 

“I want you two out of here,” he growled. “Not later. But right now. I’ll be d*mned if I’m goin’ to prison for either one of you screw-ups. Leave the bikes and get the h*ll out.”

 

Without question, they struggled to their feet, daring not to look at Lester, and made their way to the side exit. The heavy door banged against the brick wall as the two men stumbled out into the afternoon heat, and then slammed shut, sealing Simon and Donny out of the club forever. Lester wiped the sweat from his face and looked at his busted knuckles. Much like his life, his knuckles hurt. But he pushed the pain away so he could live to fight another day. He gazed up the flight of stairs where only moments ago he had let his guard down to praise the two men that had given him the most guff over the past year. Gone now were the two opportunist and the chance of a lifetime.

Lester piled the cash bags and the bags stuffed full of narcotics at the front door to the clubhouse. It had taken a good fifteen minutes to deal with Simon and Donny and to tote the duffle bags downstairs and over to the door. He had separated the cash bags from the drug bags so that they could see he had not kept anything. Being satisfied that everything was in good order, Lester opened the door.

 

“There he is,” said Detective Shannon. “We thought you had run off back to San Fierro.”

 

Desperately trying to conceal the indignation of being threatened by the cops, Lester swallowed hard. “No. Just making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.”

 

“Including those two idiots stumbling out the back?”

 

Lester raised his brow in bewilderment.

 

“Yeah, we know you don’t know nothin’ about that either,” said Detective Coleman. “So let’s just get to it,” he said, moving closer to the entrance.

 

“If you don’t mind detectives, I’d like to set the bags out myself.”

 

“No problem,” said Shannon. “Didn’t want to come in anyway. Toss them out and we’ll load them up. No tricky sh*t Arnold. The sooner we can resolve this, the better.”

 

Each bag Lester tossed out onto the sidewalk was like off-loading misery in his life. He had dodged more than his fair share of bullets and had somehow avoided long jail time. Surely he knew that he deserved more punishment than he had received over the years. The two miserable idiots that went stumbling out of the clubhouse this afternoon represented how Lester had stumbled into a life of crime as a kid growing up in San Fierro in the late 1970s. An abusive father and an absent-tee mother pushed Lester from his home and into the arms of petty crimes to support his marijuana habit. Soon his criminal activities forced him across the country to a new city to carry on his ambitions as a member and then as the leader of the Angels of Death outlaw motorcycle club in Liberty City. The final bag landed at the feet of Detective Shannon. He bent and unzipped it, finding the bag stuffed with cash. He picked up one of the wads, flapping it back and forth in his hand.

 

“I would offer you a finder’s fee,” he said, looking up at the haggard face of Lester Arnold. “But let’s just agree that staying out of prison is reward enough.”

 

Lester shrugged the comment away, turning to look at the traffic whizzing by on Ivy Drive.

 

“Is this it?” asked Detective Coleman as his partner stood and handed the duffle bag to him.

 

“Better ask Arnie,” replied Detective Shannon, suspiciously eyeing Lester.

 

“That’s it,” he said, a pinch of brashness in his tone.

 

“It better be. But we know where to come to find the rest.”

 

“Ain’t nothin’ else to find Detective. So if you don’t mind…”

 

“Okay Arnie, we’re leaving. But we’ll be seeing you.”

 

Detective Shannon scooted behind the wheel of the SUV and waited for his partner to finish loading the last bag in the back. He watched as Lester stepped back inside the clubhouse, never taking his eyes off him until the door was securely closed.

 

“That was easier than I thought it would be,” said Coleman as he shut the door.

 

“Like I said, most of them would be too drunk to put up any real fight. And Arnold has always tried to avoid jail time.”

 

“Frankie guessed right. I’ll give him a call once we put a little distance between us and the city’s toughest outlaw motorcycle club.”

 

Shannon chuckled at the irony as he started the engine. He pulled out onto Ivy Drive and headed back downtown to the precinct.

 

***

 

Timmy turned onto Ellery Street in Willis, the last known address for the Jamaican crime lord, known as Olive Reckord. Willis is a densely populated area of Dukes with a strong middle-class residential area that coexists with an equally strong Jamaican presence concentrated in the urban center. Pride for the Jamaican culture, spilling over from Beechwood City, is most notable here in the commercial district of Willis where banners representing the colors of the Jamaican flag crisscross high above the street and the familiar Jamaican accent can be heard conversationally on almost every street corner. Timmy noticed a visible Jamaican gang presence lurking near where Olive Reckord is supposedly finding refuge.

 

Traffic crawled. It was early afternoon and even in a small town, people had places to go and things to do. The driver ahead of Timmy lost patience and honked his horn like a bulldog barking at an unknown intruder. The effort was futile, as the traffic light remained red and the cars stood still. Timmy eyed an available parking space up ahead and signaled to alert the drivers behind. Finally the light turned green and he easily maneuvered the Emperor into the space along the curb. A leafy tree planted near the parking meter served as a make-shift shield from the blazing afternoon sun. Freddy Paparo was sure that the man that Timmy and Russell were looking for lived on the top floor in the building that housed Madam Palm.

 

“Think he’s home?” asked Russell, wolfing down the last of a double burger from Burger Shot.

 

“We’re about to find out,” replied Timmy as he turned off the engine. “Feed the meter and let’s get movin’.”

 

“Could this be it Timmy?” asked Russell, brushing the crumbs from the corners of his mouth. “I mean, after all that I’ve been through: the guilt, the nightmares, the time spent away from Carlie. Could it all be ending right now?”

 

Timmy sighed, pulling the key from the ignition. “Don’t know kid,” he said, shaking his head. “Olive Reckord killed Jimmy and that alone gives him a reason to tell his side of the story. We just need to get up there and hope he’s home.”

 

The two men sat there for a moment, giving Russell time to pull his thoughts together. He was on the verge of possibly getting the answers that he so desperately needed. Russell exhaled, releasing the anguish that had been haunting him for nearly two years. They exited the car and Timmy engaged the locks before closing the door. Russell fumbled for exact change to cover an hour of parking, dropping each coin into the slot until the bell rang indicating the set time was covered. Timmy allowed his gaze to casually drift upwards to the top floor of the building across the street. The blinds were closed as he had expected them to be. He and Russell crossed to the other side, Timmy leading the way. The door adjacent to Madam Palm’s shop pulled open, unencumbered by a call bell or lock. Timmy slipped inside followed closely by Russell who quietly pushed the door closed plunging them into near darkness.

 

A single wall sconce hanging midway up the first flight of stairs barely illuminated the narrow path ahead. Timmy stepped forward, his heavy boot echoing on the wooden floor planks.

 

“Smells like a piss factory in here,” he whispered, stepping gently on the first step.

 

The aged boards creaked and moaned under his weight but Timmy moved on, cautiously gauging every sound and movement on the floors above. Eyes constantly focusing upwards, a sudden thud and then a series of bangs followed by a female crying out in what seemed to be excruciating pain and a shrill plea for mercy caused Timmy to reach instinctively for his pistol, concealed on his right ankle. He and Russell stayed still, waiting for the moment to pass. An angry male voice shot back a rebuke of her recent behavior, denying her plea for forgiveness. The tirade continued behind closed doors and Timmy moved the rest of the distance to the second floor landing.

 

Light filtering through the closed blinds showed the number 2 painted black on the door from which the outburst emanated. Timmy turned to beckon for Russell to continue. He circled around the banister to the final flight of stairs that would lead them directly to what they hoped would be Olive Reckord’s rented room and to the reason why Jimmy was killed. The wall sconce was not working making it seem like Timmy was peering into a black hole. Not even the light seeping through the closed blinds was enough to brighten the way forward. Timmy tried to quiet his footfalls as he did not want to reveal his presence. The void above was as silent as it was dark. No muted conversations. No Rastafarian music. Not even the hum from a distorted television set could be detected. Timmy kept his body pressed close to the wall as he approached the third floor landing. His eyes widened, trying to bring in the preciously little light that existed. The tirade in room 2 diminished the farther up the flight of stairs Timmy progressed. Stepping on the final tread, it cried out like an alarm. He instantly froze in place and bent low to avoid any bullets that may come tearing through the darkness. Like a statue he did not move. Russell was only a couple feet away, still as stagnant water. Moments passed and no retaliation.

 

Timmy raised his head above the railing and could see that cardboard had been placed over the window, allowing only the thinnest amount of light to seep around the edges. Nonetheless, he saw that the door to the room was half open. A pang of anxiousness swept through Timmy causing him to reach for and retrieve his 9Mm pistol strapped to his ankle. Russell had his Glock 22 at the ready since the outburst from the room below.  Timmy bent back down and turned to Russell.

 

“Something ain’t right,” he whispered. “The door is open. Stay here while I check it out first.”  

  

Russell nodded in the darkness, not sure if Timmy had seen his acknowledgement or not. He eased to where Timmy had been; avoiding the squeak of the top step so that he would not send a second alert. Anxiousness and doubt pounded hard deep inside Russell. All that he was, all that he hoped to be began to crumble like the dry rot of this city. To be denied the truth at this moment was more than he could tolerate. Olive Reckord was the only one that would be able to tell him why Jimmy D. was murdered and to have him slip away at the last minute was torturous.

 

Timmy gazed back. He could barely see that Russell was hunkered down at the top of the stairs now. He continued to slip gently around the perimeter of the hallway, making his way closer to the open door. His pistol held up and slightly out in front of his face, ready to greet whatever unknown lurked in the darkness. Timmy drew closer to the door, no hint of anyone being present. The room beyond emptied blackness and silence into the hallway. Timmy felt his heart quicken and his face flush as he drew nearer. The afternoon heat had grown nearly unbearable inside the claustrophobic hallway. He wiped the beads of sweat trickling down his forehead before they landed in his eyes. Suddenly, he grew rigid, pressing hard against the wall. He held his breath. His heart thumped. He heard something. There it was again. Timmy turned his head sideways, leaning forward. Again. This time he got a better read and it was definitely coming from inside the room.

He stayed still for a moment. The hushed sound came at even intervals. Nothing else stirred. Timmy guessed the light switch was on the wall next to the door so he reached around and flipped it on. The vivid incandescent bulb flooded the room and the hallway with a light so intense that it made Timmy shield his eyes when he peered around the corner of the door. He had heard that same sound more times than he wanted and it proved true this time also. A man lay on the floor near the bathroom shot multiple times in the back. Timmy was sure he was taking his last breaths. He turned and waved for Russell to join him.

 

Russell was at his side in an instant. “What is it?” he asked.

 

“Not good. But you’re gonna have to take a look. I don’t know the guy.

 

Both Russell and Timmy stood and entered the room. Russell immediately spotted the man lying face down on the floor near the bathroom and knew instantly that it was Olive Reckord. The exasperation welled to a point of desperation; a complete feeling of defeat. Although, anyone could have a bald head and wear bright yellow suits. But when Russell bent to roll the man over onto his back, the image that he saw brought back the horror in Schottler like a slingshot. The rage boiled deep inside Russell. He wanted to know why his best friend was murdered and the only one who could tell him lay riddled with bullet holes, dying on a filthy floor; a fitting end for a horrible person. The essence of that pent up rage and guilt finally spilled forth, sending Russell peeling off layers of frustration at the expense of Olive Reckord’s comfort during his last moments on Earth.

 

An open handed slap across the man’s face sent blood and spittle sailing across the floor. “Why did you murder Jimmy D,” he growled, teeth clenched.

 

Olive Reckord yelped in pain. The grimace soon turned to a wide open-mouthed laugh; gurgling coming from a place of pure evil. “You should have known,” said Olive, struggling to form the words.

 

“Known what?” shouted Russell, planting a hand around the man’s neck determined to squeeze away the little life he had left. “Tell me!” he demanded.

 

Olive Reckord began coughing and gasping for air. Bloody saliva splattered on Russell’s hand and arm. He could feel the life draining from Olive’s body. His rigid muscles weakened and his bloodshot eyes rolled back, showing only the blood-red whites.

 

“Ease up Russi,” pleaded Timmy, pulling his friends hand away from Olive’s throat. ”We need to try to get an answer.”

 

Russell pulled away; too distraught to continue. Timmy knelt over the dying man.

 

“Look friend, you’re gonna die. So why don’t you just tell us the reason why you pulled the trigger that night.”

 

Olive Reckord laid there speechless, his breathing more labored. He was fading fast.  Timmy grabbed his face and jerked it around so that he could look into his dying eyes.

 

“Why?” he whispered, demanding Olive Reckord to speak.

 

The dying man trembled; he was not so bold now. His breath came in jerky spasms, causing the words to catch in his throat. “Huang… was right. Jimmy D… was in… with the cops. Wu… gave order.”

 

A final exhale and the life drifted from Olive Reckord’s body. Timmy released his grip and let the man’s head fall limply to the side. The room went quiet, dead silent. Hearing what he and Russell had suspected fell heavily on both men. Timmy stood, reaching out a hand to help Russell to his feet.

 

“This makes no sense Timmy. Who the f*ck is Wu? Why didn’t Jimmy D. ever tell me? D*mnit,” he spat. “I’ll never know the whole story now.”

 

Seeing the anguish and confusion displayed on Russell’s face, Timmy chose to remain quiet. He allowed Russell to soak up the information and work through it in his own way. Timmy was sure that he was feeling betrayed, misled, and angry.

 

“Why didn’t he trust me Timmy?” asked Russell, sounding dejected and heart broken.

 

“Maybe he was protecting you.”

 

“From what?” he snapped.

 

Timmy gestured to the bloody corpse on the floor. “From this. From what happened to Jimmy.”

 

Russell looked down at the man who had created a pivot in his life. First his parents and then his best friend, both were taken away in an instant. He shook his head in disbelief, stunned by the revelation and by his brutal death, even though he wanted Olive Reckord dead with every fiber of being.

 

“What do you make of this Timmy?” he asked, waving his hand in a sweeping gesture over the body.

 

“Somebody got to him. My guess would be one of the Jamaicans. The way that Freddy P. talked, nobody liked this guy,” said Timmy, moving the blind to peer out the window. Check his pockets. Take whatever you find. It’s time for us to go.”

 

“Where to?”

 

“McReary. Forget Wu. We don’t know who he is and we don’t want to open another can of worms. Especially if it has anything to do with the Triads. We now know McReary holds the key; the reason why he forced Jimmy into being an informant. ”

 

“Impossible to get to him.”

 

“Nothing’s impossible Russi,” said Timmy as he waited by the door.

 

Russell quickly grabbed Olive Reckord’s wallet that was stuffed tight with hundred dollar bills and his cellphone. He rolled the body face down like he had found it and left the tiny room. Timmy clicked the light off, plunging them back into darkness and closed the door.

Edited by albanyave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave
Posted (edited)

A Day at the Beach

 

Ken sat on the floor of a filthy hotel room in Hove Beach where he had been since last night after fleeing from an ambush in Algonquin. He had abandoned the Squalo on the Humboldt River at one of the jetties running alongside the harbor wall last night, securing it as best he could but held no hope that it would still be there after being left unattended for so long. His two Liberty contacts jumped ship as soon as the boat stopped and Timmy disappeared down an alleyway, leaving Ken literally holding the bag. Three duffle bags lay close by with the remaining thirty-four kilos of cocaine packed tightly inside. Traffic on Crocket Avenue seemed to congest and combust beneath his second floor rented room. The noise racked Ken’s nerves to no end.

 

He twirled a cheap disposable phone between his hands hoping a call would soon come. It’s been far too long and hope was quickly running out. His suppliers in Vice City would be expecting to hear from him soon and he did not want to explain how he had lost most of their supply. They are a brutal bunch, not accepting any excuse for failure. He and his regular partner had traveled from Vice to Liberty several times a year for the past four years without a single mishap.  The pay was excellent but the risk was great. If he could not get back to Vice City with one hundred kilos or three million dollars, his life would meet a terrifying end.

 

Ken looked down at his watch. He had a couple more hours before he had to make a call to his Vice City contact. He was sure Morris and Kirkland were already back at the boatyard in Viceport. He stood to peer through the dirty window at the cars passing on the street below. His back ached and he was hungry and thirsty. Ken pressed his face to the window pane, feeling the heat from the noon sunshine. The boardwalk and beach were peppered with small crowds seeming not to have a care in the world. Ken pulled away from the depressing scene and sat down on the bed when his phone rang. LCC appeared on the display. He pressed the button to answer his Liberty City contact.

 

“You got Ken here,” he said.

 

“Where are you?” asked Detective Shannon. “We need to finish this.”

 

“I’m at the hotel on Crocket Avenue in Hove Beach?”

 

“I’ll give you a call when I get there.”

 

The line clicked off. Ken desperately wanted this to be over. He glanced at his watch once again. Time was pressing. He got up from the bed and moved back over to the window. Looking past the majesty of Algonquin; he saw that the ocean was calm, something that he was trying to be. Calm.

 

Detective Shannon and his partner pulled out into midday traffic, leaving Francis McReary at the Westminster precinct to settle things with Roy Zito; underboss for the Gambetti Family. Jon Gravelli had given Francis an ultimatum earlier in the day; find the money and drugs or die. That’s how Francis understood it. He only had this opportunity because Gravelli knew his father. Otherwise, he would be dead already. Francis’ luck did not end there. Hs two detectives found the entire stash of drugs and cash still bundled at the Angels of Death clubhouse. Francis had guessed right and for that he gets to live another day.

 

The Algonquin Bridge almost becomes a parking lot during midday rush hour. Traffic into Broker or Dukes snaked all the way back to Burger Shot, tempting Detective Shannon to pull over for a quick bite. Steve would never admit it but he was feeling his life being pinched. The Gambettis took seriously their business and losing three million dollars of their money was no small mistake. He adjusted the rear view mirror, eyeing the rear compartment of the SUV where the money bags were stashed. Had Francis not been right, Steve was almost sure he would have been floating down the Humboldt River right alongside Francis McReary this very instance.

 

The lull in traffic broke allowing for a speedy passage across the bridge. The off-ramp into Broker was uncharacteristically free of congestion, making it easier for Shannon to maneuver the SUV into Downtown traffic. Compared to Algonquin, there was less hustle and bustle here in Broker. That’s why Detective Shannon chose to keep his residence over in Outlook even after the transfer to the Westminster precinct across the river. The number 3 train to Easton roared overhead as Shannon made his way through Downtown. Hove Beach, a neighborhood steeped in Eastern European culture was just a short distance away now. Shannon turned onto Oneida Avenue, passing by his residence across from Outlook Park. A few more traffic lights and the rails of the infamous, now decommissioned, Screamer roller coaster loomed high above the street at the Funland amusement park. Steve signaled and turned onto Crocket Avenue. The hotel was up ahead on the right where Ken had stayed last night and most of today. He pulled over and parked behind a gray Marbelle, pulling his phone to call Ken.

 

“This is Ken.”

 

“We’re parked down the street in a black SUV in front of the Hardware store.”

 

“On my way.”

 

Shannon ended the call and tossed the phone back under the dash. He turned and looked at the cash bags stashed in the rear compartment. A sigh laced with anxiety escaped from his throat. He quickly pretended to cough to cover his nervousness. His partner, Bradley Coleman, had not noticed as he continued to put his full attention on the crowd of people approaching the vehicle. Steve knew that the deal had not been settled and McReary was at Schottler Medical by now awaiting a confirmation call.

 

“What’s taking these guys so long to get down here?” asked Bradley as pedestrians passed by, attempting to peer through the tinted windows. “All they had to do is grab the sh*t and walk out the front door.”

 

“Take it easy Bradley. They want this over just as bad as we do.”

 

Detective Coleman spotted a slimly built man with dark hair swept back away from his face. He was carrying two duffle bags, one in each hand and a third slung across his shoulder. The man seemed to be focused on the SUV as he pushed his way past the slow moving crowd.

 

“There’s Ken right there,” said Coleman, gesturing with a nod.

 

Shannon craned his head over close to Coleman to see past the line of parked cars. “Yeah. But I don’t see Timmy.”

 

Ken approached the vehicle and Shannon pushed the button to unlock the rear passenger door. Using his thumb and fore finger, Ken managed to open the door, tossing the two bags inside before stepping up into the spacious interior of the Huntley Sport. He closed the door and Shannon quickly engaged the lock, sealing them inside.

 

“Where’s your partner?” asked Shannon. “I don’t like waitin’ here with three million dollars at the back of my *ss.”

 

“Dude cut out. Disappeared down an alleyway soon as you and Sallie bailed,” replied Ken, noticing Bradley sitting up front.

 

“You have any problems with Kirkland and Morris?” he asked.

 

“Not a bit. Things were quiet as usual over on Charge Island. Me and Andrea finished up in under fifteen minutes and the guys rolled out.”

 

“We’ll probably never see Timmy again,” said Steve as he pulled away from the curb.

Where we headed? I left the boat tied up…”

 

“Forget the boat,” interrupted Steve. “I know a semi-secluded lot not too far from here. You’re gonna find a car there and take it for a test drive back to Vice City. Sh*t fell apart here and that’s the best I can do.”

 

“Just so long I can get the h*ll out of this city,” said Ken, resting an arm on one of the bags.

 

Detective Shannon followed Crocket Avenue around to Delaware Street where a portion of the road had been closed for repair. Traffic merged right. Detective Shannon signaled and continued on to a narrow alleyway behind a burned out car service garage. A blue Marbelle and a green Blista Compact were parked in a small area a short distance down the alley. Detective Shannon pulled alongside the parked cars and unlocked the doors.

 

“Choose your ride Ken and let’s make this quick,” said Shannon, turning to look out the rear window for anything of concern.

 

Ken cocked his head sideways, discerning the two rides. “I’ll take the Marbelle,” he said.

“Good choice. Less conspicuous.”

 

“I don’t need no attention that’s for sure.”

 

“That’s the rest of the dope?” asked Shannon, eyeing the bags piled on the back seat.

 

“Thirty-four kilos exact.”

 

“Just what we need. Leave it there. We have the money in the back.”

 

The three men exited the vehicle. Bradley and Steve headed for the rear of the SUV, leaving Ken to get the Marbelle up and running. He made quick work of the flimsy lock and slid behind the wheel to hotwire the car. In one expert motion, Ken yanked the wires from beneath the dash, twisting them together sparking the engine to roar to life. He pulled the lever to release the trunk and slipped back out to join Bradley and Steve who were already at the back of the car with bags in hand. They tossed the duffle bags inside, leaving Ken to arrange them while they retrieved the final bags from the SUV. A forceful push and Ken slammed the trunk, securing three million dollars in small bills safely inside.

 

“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s done,” said Shannon as he stepped away from the car. “Next time will be different.”

 

“Pretty ain’t the word for it,” replied Ken, swiping a handful of sweat from his forehead. “This was screwed up from start. Jeff bailing at the last minute. And who knows where the h*ll Timmy went. It can’t get no worse than that.”

 

“Well you don’t have that to worry about now,” said Steve. “Just get back to Vice in one piece.”

 

“That’s the plan,” said Ken as he slid behind the wheel of the sedan.

 

Ken threw up a hand as he guided the Marbelle to the end of the alley. Seeing his way clear, he pulled out onto the street to begin the long journey back to Viceport. Steve and Bradley were back inside the SUV relieved that the deal had been completed. Francis McReary was at Schottler Medical anxiously awaiting a phone call. Steve pressed the phone to his ear expecting Francis to answer. Two rings and he did just that.

 

“Is it finished?” he asked.

 

“Yeah. I’m heading to my place to put it away right now.”

 

“Good. Keep fifteen and bring it to me over here.”

 

“Will do.”

 

Steve ended the call and placed the phone under the dash. He followed the alley to Iroquois Avenue where a street vendor was selling hot dogs. He wanted to tell Bradley to run over and get a couple but changed his mind when he thought of all the possible things that could go wrong. He had had enough of things going wrong. His residence was just over in Outlook, one neighborhood north of Hove Beach. He and Bradley could grab a quick sandwich there. Steve and his wife had been living in the same small apartment for the past four years. It was Tuesday and she would be getting her hair done at the Salon down the street.

 

***

 

Russell leaned against the passenger side of the black Emperor, arm resting on the hot metal roof. Timmy had gone up to Jermaine’s apartment a few minutes ago to return his car keys and no doubt to tell him what they had discovered over in Willis. Olive Reckord, shot in the back several times, lay near death in a third floor rented room in downtown Willis. Russell had not expected to find the man that had caused so much pain in his life to be only a breath away from his own death.  Gone was the opportunity to find out how Jimmy D. had gotten tangled up with the Jamaican Crime Lord and how things went so badly. Russell’s worst suspicions had been proven true by the last words that the dying man managed to spit out. Jimmy was an informant for the LCPD. But why?

 

Timmy pushed opened the door and saw Russell staring off into the distance. The last twenty-four hours had been h*ll and now his last best hope of ever knowing the whole story of why Jimmy D. had been murdered could be lost. Timmy let the heavy metal door slam shut and made his way over to Russell.

 

“Hey kid,” he said, tapping Russell on the shoulder.

 

Startled, Russell jerked around.

 

“It could be dangerous out here to let your mind wonder like that.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” replied Russell, frowning at the thought. “Just been thinkin’.”

 

“About?”

 

“What do you think Reckord meant when he said I should have known?”

 

Timmy released a heavy sigh. “Yeah, I heard that too. Maybe he thought that Jimmy should have told his best friend what was goin’ on in his life instead of you askin’ him why Jimmy was murdered.”

 

“That would make sense if he knew me. But Reckord just met me that night. I set the deal with Samuel Barkley. And that’s who I was expecting to deal with. Not Reckord.”

 

Yeah, something is missin’ here. Let’s get to the station,” said Timmy, looking down at his watch. “We have a while before the train to Hove Beach arrives. We can figure things out then.”

 

***

 

Detective Shannon pulled around to the back lot of his apartment building. He did not see Susan’s car parked in her usual place so felt pretty confident that she was deep into her appointment at the hair salon. Steve squeezed the Huntley Sport between a brown Schafter and a green Esperanto and cut the engine.

 

“Okay Bradley, looks like Susan is getting her hair done. Grab the bags and meet me around front,” he said, half stepping out of the SUV. “We don’t have a lot of time and I’m starving.”

 

“This don’t bother you?” Bradley asked bluntly.

 

Letting loose pint up anxiety, Steve ducked back inside the vehicle. “What is it Bradley?”

 

“You said sh*t got f*cked up at the jetty. All h*ll broke loose and here you are bring this crap back to your home. Susan ain’t here now but she’s gonna be home eventually.”

 

“So what are you sayin’ Brad? You want it at your place?”

 

Feeling the anger building in Steve, Bradley’s stomach clenched. It had been a long twenty-four hours and he just wanted the day to end. “I’m not sayin’ that Steve. We do enough for Frankie and it seems like he could keep this sh*t with the rest. But he wants to implicate us anyway he can.”

 

“I knew what I was signin’ up for Bradley. We had a hiccup. And the sooner I can get this out of my hands the better. He’s waiting over at Schottler Medical, no doubt feeling real good because we saved his *ss once again. If it makes you feel any better, yeah, I felt the pinch. I started thinkin’ about Susan and the fact that we don’t have kids yet. I’m on the Gambettis payroll and that’s a sobering fact I hadn’t fully appreciated before last night.”

 

“How you think Frankie got through it?”

 

“Same way he always gets through. He called us. But who really cares how he got through it? I told Sallie last night that he would have been a good cop, much better than me. I bought into it and signed up for that bullsh*t McReary was puttin’ down. Sallie got cheated though. Kicked off the force because he took a risk and things went bad. Just don’t seem right that Frankie is still around and no one is willin’ to put the squeeze on him.”

 

“Jon Gravelli did.”

 

”All about money and power with him. And get this; Frankie could be dead right now. But so would I. He got everybody tied together like a d*mn slip knot. One pull and everybody’s gone.”

 

“The money is too d*mn good,” replied Bradley. “I could get hit out on the street doing my job, might as well roll the dice and win the lottery a few times.”

 

“Best way to put it friend. Best way to put it. I’ll meet you at the front. Susan usually has a bunch of sandwiches in the fridge. We can grab and go.”

 

The two men exited the vehicle; Bradley gathered the duffle bags on the back seat while Steve made his way to the front of the building. His keen eyes trailed up the set of concrete steps to an open front door, stopping him cold. Susan’s car was not parked out back. She always had a salon appointment on Tuesday afternoons. Something was wrong. Steve released the strap securing his pistol in the holster he wore over his shoulders. The block was deserted except for a red van across the street and the closest area of the park seemed to be abandoned. His eyes drifted back to the open door as he approached the steps. Bradley turned the corner, seeing his partner moving cautiously up to the open door with his sidearm drawn and at the ready. He instinctively doubled up the bags in his left hand and drew his weapon to back his partner.

 

Steve was nearing the top of the steps with his gun out in front of him when a man wearing gray coveralls appeared in the doorway.

 

“Freeze! LCPD,” barked Steve.

 

His hands instantly flew in the air when he saw the barrel of the 9Mm pistol pointing up at his face. The shock of the confrontation caused the man to drop his toolkit, sending its contents tumbling down the steps and landing haphazardly on the sidewalk.

 

“Hold up, I’m the repair guy. Landlord called yesterday. Said the tenants in 2B were complainin’ about a leaky refrigerator. Alls it needed was some coolant and I unclogged one of the tubes.”

 

Detective Shannon kept his gun trained on the man.

 

“How did you get in here?” He asked. “The front door is always locked.”

 

“We got pass keys to all Mr. Petrovic’s properties around the city,” he said, nervously gesturing to the ring of keys hanging from his left hip. “Makes job orders easier to complete. Don’t have to keep runnin’ back and forth to pick up a key you see. There’s my van parked right across the street.”

 

Detective Coleman was at his partner’s side now, peering up at the man standing at the top of the stairs with his hands still raised high.

 

“What we got here?” asked Coleman.

 

“Says he’s the repairman. Check the van across the street.”

 

Coleman turned to take a look at the red Burrito. Broker Repair Services was decaled in plain script along the back panel and on the driver-side door. He walked across to the back of the van to investigate further. He peer through the dirty back door windows, squinting for a better view of the tools and equipment racks inside. Before heading back to his partner, Detective Coleman noted the license plate number.

 

“Looks clean to me. Nothin’ but a bunch of tools and repair kits.”

 

Shannon hesitated for a moment then holstered his weapon. “You can put your hands down now,” he said to the visibly shaken repairman. “Let me see some ID and then you can go.”

 

“Sure. It’s right here.” He pulled a brown leather wallet from an inside pocket and thumbed through the card holders. “Here’s my driving permit and my license to operate in Broker,” he said, handing the cards to Shannon.

 

“Mark Carter,” said Shannon as he read through the information. “Okay Mark, can’t be too careful these days. The front door is supposed to be closed and locked. You can see how I could have thought something was wrong. I apologize for the inconvenience,” he said, handing the cards back to the young man.

 

“No problem officer. I’ll just collect my gear and be on my way.”

 

“Alright,” replied Shannon. “I’ll make sure the door is locked.”

 

Bradley followed Steve into the building and continued upstairs to the apartment. Enough time had been wasted and he wanted to get the bags safely stashed before Susan returned. Steve bolted up to his apartment after securing the front door, keys in hand.

 

“Didn’t you know that the repairman was comin’?” asked Coleman.

 

“Slipped my d*mn mind. Won’t this f*ckin' day ever end?” he spat as he jammed the key into the lock.

He pushed the door open and stepped into the coolness of the living room. “I’ll take care of the bags. You grab the sandwiches.”

 

Bradley gratefully handed the duffle bags to Steve, relieved to be free of the weight. He had only been in his partner’s apartment a handful of times but remembered where the kitchen was located. Steve hauled the bags down the hall to what was supposed to be a second bedroom for when he and Susan decided to begin their family. For now, it served as his home office. Steve dropped the bags near his swivel chair. He would stash the dope in the usual place, a hollowed out area at the back of his desk.

 

Bradley shuffled through the pristine living room, noticing the flawless quality of the space. Susan really had a knack for decorating. Everything was neat and in its place. His eyes drifted to the curio cabinet hanging over the loveseat. Tiny rainbows sparkled on the decorative crystal inside from the afternoon sunlight peeking through the half open venetian blinds. The kitchen was just beyond the French doors. The pure white refrigerator hummed quietly in the corner. He always wondered why Steve chose to live in such a trendy part of the neighborhood. He could have lived on the other side of Outlook Park where things were a bit more busy and interesting. Maybe Susan had chosen the location, anticipating the start of their family.

 

Bradley put the distractions out of his mind and pulled open the refrigerator door.  He would have missed it had it been two more inches to the left. But it was right on top of the mound of cellophane-wrapped turkey and cheese sandwiches. Bradley reached in and pulled out a note address to Steve. Expecting it to be from Susan, expressing sweet-nothings to her hero, Bradley was stunned to see Roy Zito’s name scribbled at the bottom. He quickly read through the short note before Steve entered the kitchen.

 

“You find the sandwiches?” he asked, dropping the duffle bag that McReary wanted in front of the dishwasher.

 

“Yeah,” said Bradley. “And this too,” handing the note to his partner.

 

“What’s this?”

 

“You tell me.”

 

Steve took the note, mumbling the few words that were scribbled on the card. Bradley watched his face for the least little tell. But Steve’s expression remained unchanged. There was no shock or confusion. Not the smallest bit of concern for the cryptic message disguised in ordinary words.

 

“What’s this all about Steve,” questioned Bradley once again. “Seems like our friend Mark Carter had more to do than just unclog a tube.”

 

“Don’t worry about it Brad. Like I said, I’m on the Gambettis payroll. Grab some sandwiches and let’s get this over to McReary.”

 

Steve tucked the note inside his shirt pocket, picked up the bag, and left the kitchen without another word on the subject. Bradley knew it was futile to question Steve further so he let it rest for now. He plucked four hefty sandwiches from the platter before slipping it back inside the refrigerator. Steve was waiting for him at the door with keys in hand.

 

***

 

The breaks hollered as the number three train slowed, stopping at the platform in Hove Beach. Russell and Timmy were the first to step off the graffiti covered train and back out into the late afternoon heat. The two jostled through the crowd of commuters, making their way down to the lower level. Mohawk Avenue was one street over from the train station. Quickening their pace, Russell and Timmy cut through the alley, following the savory aroma of a nearby street vendor. It had been a couple of hours since they had eaten and a juicy hot dog would quell the cravings.

 

“Smells good,” said Timmy as they exited the other end of the alley.

 

“Want to grab a couple?” asked Russell. “I got Olive’s wallet.”

 

“Tempting. But let’s grab a table at the diner and get out of this heat,” he said, tugging at his shirt collar. “We can take a closer look at his phone and decide how to contact McReary.”

 

“God idea,” agreed Russell

 

The 69th Street Diner was tucked under a huge billboard at the corner of Mohawk Avenue and Bart Street. The two men scurried across to the other side of the street, dipping in and out between the onslaughts of rush-hour traffic. Russell noticed the tower of the Broker Bridge in the distance, bringing forth memories of how he had confronted and then killed Samuel Barkley in its shadows a week ago. He turned away, unable to stomach the memory. Timmy dropped a few coins in the paper box on the corner and grabbed a Liberty Tree newspaper before he and Russell enter the diner through its side entrance.

 

Russell recognized the blonde woman behind the counter immediately. She was working the morning that he had met Packie to discuss how to get the product out on the street. It seemed so long ago, but it has only been a week since he started down this long and twisted road.

 

“Grab us a seat,” said Timmy, handing Russell the folded newspaper. “I’ll order.”

 

Russell nodded and quickly scanned the tiny area for an empty booth or space at the counter. The diner was almost to capacity. But Russell spotted a couple stand and leave by the front entrance, freeing up a booth at the back near the restrooms. He slipped past Timmy who was placing the order and took possession of the booth, sitting with his back to the crowd. He laid the newspaper on the table near the window and placed the duffle bag on the seat. Waiting for to Timmy to bring the food, Russell unzipped the bag which had been his constant companion since arriving in Liberty. He reached deep inside, rifling through, careful not to expose the packs of cocaine that he was ordered to use to lure some of Liberty City’s most notorious criminals into a plot to bring them down. Russell traced a hand along the contours of the bag, thinking the phone had slipped into a crevice. He brushed against the barrel of the 9Mm pistol that Jermaine had given him days ago. The same gun he used to murder Samuel Barkley. Finally he pulled the flat rectangular phone from the bag just as Timmy arrived with the food.

 

“Here we go,” said Timmy, sliding the tray full of piping-hot burgers and fries and two tall cups of ice-cold eCola to wash everything down.

 

“Looks good,” said Russell as he set the phone aside

 

Once again Timmy was reminded of just how good the food is in Liberty. He and Russell devoured the meal like they had not eaten in days. By the time they had finished the last bits of crispy fries and the final chunk of spicy burger, most of the crowd had slipped back out into the city, leaving only a scattering of patrons nibbling on the remains of a savory meal.   

 

“Hand me the phone Russi,” said Timmy/ “It’s time we take a look at Reckord’s life.”

 

Russell wiped his hands on a paper napkin before handing the phone to Timmy. “Check his contacts,” he said, swallowing a gulp of eCola.

 

“Just what I was thinkin’.”

 

Timmy tapped a button to wake the phone from its standby mode. The display brightened with the VIP logo as wallpaper. He pressed the options button, finding contacts in the list that appeared. One press to open Olive Reckord’s contacts soon told a story of a man that loved to play on both sides of the street. A short ways down the list Timmy eyed a contact that solidified what he and Russell had been speculating on just this morning during their drive from Alderney. Two other names that stood out like a beacon in the night were Jimmy D. and Jamal.

 

“Guess who’s all mixed up in Olive’s world?” asked Timmy, continuing to thumb through the list of contacts.

 

“That prick McReary,” responded Russell.

 

“Bingo.”

 

Russell leaned forward, thrilled to know that they were on the right track. “What’s the number?”

Timmy tapped the button for more details and read off the telephone number that appeared. He navigated to the most recent calls page and saw that Reckord had last spoken to McReary last night at 11:47pm. The call lasted less than two minutes. Russell had his own phone in hand by now; comparing the phone numbers.

 

“The exact same number Timmy,” he said.

 

Timmy looked up from the phone. The fire was back in Russell’s eyes. All hope didn’t die in Willis this afternoon. There was someone else that could fill in the blanks. Someone else who could definitely tell the rest of the story. Timmy laid the phone on the table and took another sip of the watery eCola.

 

“Same number, same person. Also Russi, you should see who else was listed in his contacts.”

 

Timmy slid the phone over to Russell, turning it so that he would be able to read the list. His eyes followed the names nearly to the bottom of the page. Then he saw it. Focusing intensely on the name to make sure he was not mistaken. Jimmy D. seemed to pulsate, making Russell’s eyes water. Seeing his best friend’s name in a dead man’s phone made it all too real. He was getting close to the h*ll that Jimmy must have been going through before his death. A h*ll he kept secret even from his best friend. The display faded then turned black as the phone reverted back to standby mode. Russell closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Timmy was at his end. Russell had suffered enough. He reached over shoved a stiff hand against his shoulder.

 

“Okay kid,” said Timmy, breaking the silence. “It’s time for this to be over with. We’re gonna meet that piece of sh*t tonight at Dukes Park and get the answers he d*mn well better give.”

 

“Why Dukes…”

 

The rattle of Olive Reckord’s phone cut in front of Russell. Both he and Timmy went stiff when they saw that the incoming call was from McReary. Neither one attempted to answer. The ringtone ended and the phone stayed quiet a full minute before it rang again. McReary seemed desperate to get ahold of him.

 

“He doesn’t know his guy is dead,” said Timmy. “Quick, call him back before he calls you. Use Reckord’s phone. Play it cool Russi. Play it cool.”

 

Russell found McReary in the contacts list and placed the call. He answered immediately.

 

“We’re back in business,” he said. “Now I just have to smoke out Cobb.”

 

“I think that’s gonna be pretty easy,” responded Russell.

 

“Who the…?” The words tangled in McReary’s throat before he could finish forming the question.

 

“Didn’t expect me. Did you?”

 

McReary remained silent for a brief moment, stunned by the voice on the other end. “How the h*ll did you get this phone Cobb?” he asked.

 

For the first time Russell heard the arrogance in this man’s voice fade to a whisper of what it used to be. Too many unknowns for McReary to sustain his confidence. Suddenly things weren’t so clear anymore. Russell could almost feel his shaky hand through the phone.

 

“If you want to know, meet me tonight. I have questions that need to be answered."

 

“When and where?”

 

Russell glanced over at Timmy who was holding up both hands, palms facing out.

 

“Ten o’clock. Dukes Park under the big Sprunk sign.”

 

Russell ended the call before McReary could protest or counter his offer. He laid the phone down and looked to Timmy for approval.

 

“Perfect kid. Perfect.”

 

Edited by albanyave
To fix formatting

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

 

After the Sun Sets

 

Niko Bellic stepped from the shower and grabbed the towel hanging nearby to dry his body before wrapping it around his waist. He turned and caught a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror, seeing his hardened physique naturally formed from years of living a life of crime and all the hardship that accompanied not truly having a home. He ran an open hand across his chest and abdomen, remembering each story behind the scars that crisscrossed his body. He traced the length of one such scar just beneath his ribcage that stretched from his left side to his navel. Niko had gotten this when he could not run fast or far enough from the man whose wife he had treated like a whore one night while in the Balkans.

 

Niko pulled his hand away and left the bathroom; that life was in the past now. He was going to take Roman’s advice to embrace a life with the woman he was falling in love with; a risk he had never taken before. Niko padded around the corner to the bedroom, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind on the hardwood floor. The last bit of daylight struggled to break through tiny square opaque windows that covered nearly an entire wall in the room. Niko flipped on the light switch. Evening had arrived and tonight he wanted everything to be perfect. He gently scooped up the beautifully wrapped gift from the dresser, remembering the promise he had made to Carmen two days ago.

 

Ray Boccino had interrupted Niko’s peaceful morning as he laid next to Carmen with an urgent text requesting that he come down to his restaurant in Little Italy. Once there, he was handed a sure tip on the whereabouts of Florian Cravic; the man he had crossed oceans to find. After two days of tracking him, Niko was disappointed when he learned that Florian was not the one who had betrayed his unit during the war so many years ago. Frustration and failure had gotten the best of Niko. But somehow his cousin Roman had convinced him to stop chasing the past and to embrace the future and those he loved. Niko hoped this evening would be the start of something special.

 

The thoughts of a tragic past that had consumed so much of his life drifted away as Niko placed the gift back on the dresser. He continued to the closet, slid open the doors, and began rummaging through his meager wardrobe. Most of his clothes were pedestrian, purchased from the Russian Shop in Hove Beach. Tonight he needed something a little more sophisticated than a Hinterland coat and a pair of jeans. Pushed to the back of the closet were a couple of outfits he had purchased from Perseus; a high-end men’s ware store just down the street from the apartment. He pulled them to the front for a closer examination. The black suit and red tie he needed for a job he had done for Francis McReary and the charcoal slacks and jacket with a floral shirt had been purchased for a just -in-case moment. After a short debate with himself, Niko settled on the floral shirt; casual not too dressy, just right.

 

He pulled the outfit and laid it across the bed. He found his watch on the bedside stand and slipped it on before using the short-bristled brush to smooth his hair in place. Roman had left a tiny bottle of cologne when he moved in with his girlfriend Mallorie two weeks ago. Niko unscrewed the cap and took a quick discerning whiff. He was not a big fan of being saturated in an over-powering scent of perfume. He was glad that this cologne had a light subtle aroma that he knew Carmen would love. Two sprits on his bare chest were just enough. Then his phone rang. Niko set the bottle aside and checked the caller ID before answering.

 

“Hello Roman. How are you?”

 

“I can tell you are smiling cousin. Did I interrupt?”

 

“No Roman. I just have to get dressed.”

 

“Dressed?” questioned Roman. His tone full of innuendo.

 

“No, no Roman. I didn’t mean...I mean…”

 

“You are tongue tied cousin,” sang Roman.

 

“Roman listen to me,” explained Niko, now better able to get his thoughts into words. “I have a date with Carmen this evening. That is why I am getting dressed.”

 

“Wonderful cousin. I see you are taking my advice so I won’t hold you. We can go bowling some other time. And cousin, try to have fun and do everything that I would do.”

 

“Okay Roman,” chuckled Niko. “I will try to have fun. And we will go bowling soon.”

 

Niko ended the call and checked his watch for the time. He knew traffic would be heavy this time of the day and the last thing he wanted was to be late. He had planned the perfect evening and it started with picking Carmen up at her apartment over in Bohan. They had an 8 o’clock reservation at Vinewood Bar and Grill. Then they would take in a show in Star Junction. Finally the evening would end in blissful romance at the apartment. Niko felt his face tense and knew he was definitely smiling. He breathed a heavy sigh and removed the towel from around his waist, tossing it onto the bed. He quickly dressed and slipped on a pair of black loafers; the most comfortable shoes he owned other than the pair of Hinterland boots at the foot of the bed. Niko took one last look in the mirror to satisfy the slight vanity that everyone owned at one time or another. Content with his appearance, Niko scooped up the tiny gift box and tucked it inside his jacket pocket. He grabbed his car keys and phone and left the bedroom.   

 

A Weazel News report recapping a fire and gun battle at the Angels of Death clubhouse in North Holland last night blared from the television. After nearly twenty-four hours, investigators still have no leads. Niko found the remote control and turned off the annoyance, having little interest in the report. Quietness fell over the room like a veil blocking the light and Niko could hear his heart pounding. For the first time in his life, he was falling in love. He lightly tapped his chest with his fist attempting to slow the onslaught of emotion. It did not work. Finally after a few deep breaths, Niko was able to shrug of the anxiousness and he walked over to call the elevator. He punched the tiny square button on the side panel and that’s when he heard it. The elevator doors slid open and he heard it again. Recognizing the ringtone immediately, Niko reluctantly walked over to the kitchen counter where he kept the laptop hooked up. His disposable mobile phone lay next to it, the screen brightly lit. He did not need to check the caller ID. He knew who was calling. And Niko knew there was a price for the information. He had accepted that Darko Brevic was the one to betray their unit during the war. Florian had somehow forgiven him and moved on with his life and Niko desperately wanted to do the same. He wanted a life with Carmen. He wanted to try to make up for lost time; to be what Roman believed he could be. The ringing stopped but Niko stood peering down at the missed-call icon.

 

* * *

The old Washington sat idle in the alleyway behind Perestroika, the cabaret club in Hove Beach. Pavel leaned against the steering wheel impatiently waiting for the others to exit the double doors a few feet behind the gas guzzler. He checked the rearview mirror once again only to find the ghostly haze of gases sifting up from a sewer grate. Pavel clicked on the radio, tuning it to Vladivastok FM, his favorite to listen to whenever he was feeling stressed. A commotion at the rear of the car pulled his attention away from the tuning knob. He turned to look through the back window and was pleased to see Sergei and Andrei had finally appeared. Sergei banged on the trunk so that Pavel could release the latch. He did so and the two men heaved the bundle wrapped in a dark tarp that they were carrying inside, landing it with a heavy thud. Sergei slammed the trunk closed before joining Pavel inside the aging Washington. Andrei pulled the back door and piled in behind Pavel.

 

“The drop is over in Tudor,” said Sergei as he lit up a Redwood cigarette. “Poor bastard begged for his life right up to the end. Sasha did have a little pity on him when he snapped the slobbering idiot’s neck. All his misery ended instantly.”

 

“They never learn,” responded Pavel as he slipped the gearshift into drive.

 

Carefully winding the boat-of-a-car around a tight corner to exit the alley, Pavel bit down on his lip. The Broker Bridge onramp was only a couple blocks from the club and would be the quickest and easiest route to Algonquin. The drive to Alderney would be arduous and it needed to be flawless. The wrong attention could attract the bulldog cops patrolling the streets of Algonquin, bring more trouble than any of them wanted or needed. Dimitri Rascalov had ordered that Frankie Gallo and his car be deposited back in Alderney without incident. Pavel had won the honor of being the driver and he had chosen Sergei and Andrei to accompany him on the task. Pavel rarely ventured across the Humboldt River and had only been to Alderney twice in his whole life. Once he had gone to attend his uncle’s funeral and the last time he had to collect a debt from an unlucky soul. Now Pavel had the distinguished honor of hauling this poor unlucky bastard back home. He finally relaxed and settled in comfortably behind the wheel as he accelerated up the ramp to merge onto the Broker Bridge. The last rays of the setting sun disappeared below the horizon, bringing to life the expansive city lights of Algonquin bright against the night sky.

 

 * * *

 

Each tick of the clock was like a nail being hammered in Frankie Gallo’s coffin. Ray Boccino had spent all day at his restaurant, hoping beyond hope that Tuna and Luca would turn up something over in Broker. He had sent them over to Hove Beach late this afternoon to tool around the neighborhood, willing himself to believe that they would pick up a trail, something that Niko Bellic had failed to do last night. Now the sun had set and still no word. Ray had no idea whether the boy was dead or alive. But the solemn prediction from Niko this morning seemed to be hauntingly coming true. Phil Bell had warned Ray that his nephew Frankie was not the one to handle sensitive types of work.

 

But being a bullheaded Caporegime, Ray let his ambitions get in front of good common sense. Niko had even warned him about the ruthlessness of Dimitri Rascalov and the unpredictable nature of Mikhail Faustin and still he pressed forward unmoved by the counsel. For all his faults, Ray knew he was a good earner for the Family. He was a risk taker. More often than not his risks paid generously. And all that generosity bestowed upon his boss, Jimmy Pegorino, he hope would one day ease the Don’s animosity towards him and make Ray his Underboss. The only one standing in his way is Phil Bell. As fate would have it, the nails being hammered in Frankie’s coffin could very well be the same ones being hammered in his own sarcophagus; ending any real chance to ever be the next Boss of the Pegorino Crime Syndicate.

 

He had plans to move the Family to a position that would possibly win them a seat on the Commission along with the other five Liberty Families. This would have pleased Jimmy Pegorino to the end of the world. The Don had been trying and failing for many years; even being mocked by the other Families had not stopped him from reaching for something that seemed untouchable. But Ray’s gut told him that his first move may have been detrimental to his own cause. His gut was telling him that he may have lost more than an opportunity to earn for the Family. He may have sent Phil Bell’s nephew straight to an early grave.

 

Ray raked both hands along his face. He knew the business that they were in but he didn’t want the boy to die. He stood abruptly, sending the chair flipping over backwards. Then his phone rang. The name on the caller ID made his heart sink.

 

“Luca. What you got?”

 

“Yeah Ray, we’re followin’ a Washington right now. Spotted it pullin’ out from an alley. The only one we seen all day.”

 

“Okay Luca, where are you?” urged Ray.

 

“Just jumped on the Broker Bridge,” responded Luca. “What’s Frankie’s plate numba?”

 

Ray babbled for a moment, trying to recall the silly personalized slogan. His memory finally kicked in and he blurted out the answer. “LUV 4 FG.”

 

“That’s it.”

 

“Alright Luca don’t lose sight. Can you see who’s in the car?”

 

“At least three. Can’t tell if Frankie is one of them.”

 

Ray knew Frankie had been gone for more than twenty-four hours. He had no idea if he was even in the car. But this was his only lead and his gut screamed dead-end. But he still had hope because it was better than just giving up.

 

“Luca. You and Tuna stick to that car like your life depended on it. Don’t spook them. They’ll get lost in the city and you’ll never find them. Got it?”

 

“We got it Ray. Hey Tuna drop back. Ray don’t want us to spook’em.”

 

“Alright Luca, keep in touch.”

 

Luca clicked off the line and placed the phone in a groove on the center console.

 

The traffic light up ahead turned red and the Washington belched exhaust as it slowed, signaling to merge into the left lane. Pavel had not noticed that the dark green Oracle one car length behind had done the same. Vladivostok FM still pumped out the music that continued to calm Pavel, allowing the nerves to wash away. The traffic light turned green and he turned left onto Albany Avenue.

 

“Why this way?” asked Sergei as he stamped out the half smoked Redwood into the ashtray under the dash.

 

“This way will take us to Union Drive West that goes around the city,” responded Pavel.  “I don’t want to get caught up in all those traffic lights and one-way streets. We’ll be at Kunzite Street in no time.”

 

“Good idea,” said Sergei as he pulled out a fresh Redwood, igniting it with his clear plastic lighter. “You alright back there Andrei? You’re too quiet.”

 

Andrei swipe away a handful of condensation that had built up on his window, glimpsing the bright lights that decorated part of Chinatown. “Just wonder why we couldn’t just dump this guy in the West River and be done with it.”

 

“Because we need to send these grease balls a message,” answered Pavel. “They got to see what will happen if they get too close without being invited.”

 

“And they’re gonna get an eyeful in Tudor tonight,” said Sergei, blowing two streams of smoke through his nostrils.

 

The sign overhead directed Pavel to Union Drive West. He signaled and settled the aging Washington behind a long procession of vehicles. He still had not noticed the dark green Oracle cautiously following a short distance behind.

 

Ray paced, energized by the lead that Luca and Tuna had almost missed. The knot that had tangled his gut most of the day seemed to be loosening. Even though he had little reason to believe that Frankie was one of the three riding in his car, he had to believe. Ray had called for his diner almost an hour ago but his stomach refused to accept the meal. The rich savory aroma of the parmesan chicken and baby red potatoes still lingered in his tiny office, begging to be eaten. The covered plate sat in the center of his desk. Ray finally abandoned the nervous pacing and pulled his chair back, plopping down in front of the meal. He removed the lid and dug in. As usual, the chicken was moist and tender. Ray, who had not been able to eat all day, devoured half the meal uninterrupted. Another forkful and his phone rang. His stomach sank. Ray stood and pulled the phone from his jacket pocket. The number that ticked across the display was one that he did not recognize. His heart leapt to his throat. Another ring and a thousand questions tumbled through his mind. Was this a ransom? Was Frankie being coerced? Was the boy dead?  A third ring and Ray punched the button to answer the call; sweat beading on his forehead.

 

“Yeah. Who’s this?”

 

“Someone you don’t know, but want to know.”

 

Hearing the distinct Russian accent, Ray’s heart pounded in his chest. “Look *sshole, cut the bullsh*t and get to the point.”

 

“Fair enough Mr. Boccino. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mikhail Faustin, Boss of the Faustin Family. You are very familiar with what I do, no?”

 

Ray closed his eyes, imagining the worst. Frankie had been off the radar for more than a day. He hadn’t even sent a text message. There was no coincidence that Tuna and Luca had spotted Frankie’s Washington leaving Hove Beach and now a call from the man that he had sent Frankie to spy on was on the telephone. Ray cleared the nerves from his throat and answered.

 

“I’ve heard a thing or two about you and your Family Mr. Faustin.”

 

“Good,” he said flatly. “So it would not surprise you in the least that I do no not like uninvited guests snooping around in my business.”

 

Ray rolled his eyes, frantically wishing that Mikhail would get to the point. He desperately wanted to know if Frankie was dead or still living and riding around the city as a passenger in his own car. If it was a ransom call, state the terms. If the boy was dead, just say so. Ray wiped a handful of sweat from his face before responding.

 

“Nobody likes a nosey neighbor. But having a drink to wash the dust away ain’t so bad.”

 

“That drink was an awful long way from Alderney don’t you think?”

 

This time Ray did not answer. He all but had the answer he was looking for. Frankie had gotten caught and he paid with his life just as Niko had predicted. Ray felt the blood drain from his face. His pounding heart slowed and he went numb. He should have listened to Phil but that is of no consequence now. Still he had to hear the words from Faustin’s mouth. He had to hear what his gut was telling him all day long.

 

“Where’s the boy now?” asked Ray, more serious than he ever thought he could be.

 

“He’s on his way home now.”

 

“You know what I mean Mr. Faustin. Is Frankie still alive?”

 

“Let’s just say Mr. Boccino, that Frankie won’t be late for work anymore.”

 

Ray pulled the phone from his ear as if the truth was like a dagger to his heart. He struggled in protest to lift his hand back up to his ear. “Why did you have to kill the boy? He was there for a drink and to listen. He didn’t have to die for that.”

 

“I disagree. But that is settled now. On to the real reason I called.”

 

“This was real enough,” barked Ray.

 

“Business is business,” responded Faustin. Now, I would like to invite you to my club in Hove Beach sometime in the very near future. This time we can discuss like business men what it is that interests you here in Broker.”

 

“Really,” growled Ray. “You expect me to come to your club after the sh*t that you did to one of my guys?”

 

“I expect an answer. Yes or no.”

 

“Well expect this. F*ck no.”

 

“I understand that you are quite upset at the moment so I will give you some time to think things over. I’ll call in a day or so with more details.”

 

“Do yourself a favor and don’t call.”

 

Ray pressed the button to end the call and tossed the phone on the desk. His worst nightmare had come true. With the death of Frankie, his own proverbial life had ended. Gone was any hope of ever being more than the arrogant Caporegime that he prided himself for many years. No appointment as Underboss, garnering all the trust and respect from Jimmy Pegorino. And his dream of one day taking Pegorino’s place as Don of the Family was just that, a dream. His friendship with Phil Bell was tenuous at best and now that his nephew had been murdered because of Ray’s inability to heed fair warnings surely has driven a rift between the two forever.

 

Ray raked his fingers through his thick dark hair, cursing himself for causing the boy to die. He knew Frankie was not ready for such a sensitive detail but his selfishness had put confidence in the boy that he desperately needed. In essence Ray knew he had played on Frankie’s inferiority complex and sent him marching straight to his death. A death that was brutally torturous straight to the end. The Russians had a reputation that they strived to live up to. Ray could only imagine the last moments of Frankie’s life. His killer could very well be the one hauling him back to Alderney gagged and hogtied in the trunk of his own car. Ray let loose a tremendous sigh, and then it hit him. He grabbed his phone and dialed a number from memory. Luca and Tuna were following a death car. They needed to fall back, not to engage. Ray stood, pacing the tiny office floor. Sweat glistened on his face. He cursed again. Three rings and no answer. Finally the fourth ring resulted in a prerecorded message. “The number you have dialed is not in service at this time.” Ray ended the call and quickly dialed Tuna’s number. The same automated message occurred once again. He slammed the phone down on the desk, collapsing heavily onto his swivel chair.

 

“Damnit!” barked Ray. “Not in service at this f*ckin’ time.”

 

“Hey Tuna, how the h*ll did we get three cars back,” asked Luca, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the Washington up ahead.

 

“Settle down. I can easily still see them.”

 

I hate comim’ over to Alderney this way. Every time there’s always a jammed up pile of sh*t at the end of this tunnel.”

 

“Tell me about it,” responded Tuna, honking the horn to entice a faster exit.

 

It seemed to have worked as the vehicle ahead started a slow motion towards the end of the tunnel. The light stayed green just long enough to allow the dark green Oracle to squeeze through and continue its covert tail of the Washington that had signaled to make a left onto Roebuck Road. Tuna mimicked the aging car, careful to remain undetected. Luca peered through the window at the prostitutes that frequented this part of Port Tudor, trying their level best to summon some lonely guy to invite her inside his car. She did not care if he was a creep or geek.

 

“Hey Tuna, the girls are out in force early tonight.”

 

“All it takes is for the sun to go down and they punchin’ in.”

 

“You mean I’m punchin’ in,” said Luca. A devilish snicker escaped from a place deep inside.

 

“You filthy pig Luca.”

 

“Takes one to know one.”

 

The two men burst into laughter, revealing their guilt. They were now one car length behind Frankie’s car. They cruised through the light at Tinderbox Avenue and Tuna was the first to notice that the Washington had signaled to turn into Honkers; the strip club in Tudor.

 

“Hey, look alive Luca. They pullin’ into the club.”

 

“Oh sh*t Tuna. Don’t let’em see you.”

 

“It’s alright. We just two guys goin’ to get our freak on. Let’s pull up over here. Looks like they headin’ to the back.”

 

The old Washington slowly drifted to a vacant parking space tucked at the corner of the lot. The brick wall that enclosed the property helped to conceal the identity of those who patronize the gentleman’s club regularly. The dark green Oracle quietly slipped into a vacant slot between two Sentinels that had seen better days. Tuna doused the lights but kept the engine running. He had a perfect view of the men still occupying Frankie’s car. The three men remained inside the vehicle a few minutes like they were waiting for someone. Then the engine stopped and the headlights went off. Luca and Tuna propped themselves up, anticipating an exit that did not happen.

 

“What the f*ck are they doin’?” asked Luca, growing impatient.

 

“The one in the passenger’s seat is on the phone, responded Tuna.

 

“Should we go over?”

 

“No. Wait for them to get out.”

 

“What if they don’t get out?”

 

D*mnit Luca. They killed the engine. They’re gonna get out. Now settle down.”

 

Just as Tuna had predicted, the doors to the Washington swung open and the three men exited the car. The driver tossed something onto the seat and closed the door. The other men also closed their door, hunching their shoulders to ease the stiffness away after such a long drive. A short conversation was had amongst them before they moved off in the direction of the club entrance.

 

“They comin’ this way,” said Tuna, reaching for his seatbelt. “And Frankie ain’t in the bunch.”

 

“Where the f*ck is he?” Luca questioned.

 

Tuna sat stone-faced as the three Russians drew closer. He could hear their conversation but had no idea what they were saying. Their native language sounded like Luca when he’s drunk with a thick heavy tongue. They were almost at the rear of their Oracle and Tuna had to decide if he and Luca were going to confront the men here and now or allow them to enter the club so that he could examine Frankie’s car. The Russians were directly behind their car now and like a reflex, Tuna slipped off his seatbelt and stepped from the car out into the cool brisk night air. Luca bolted from the car leaving his phone in the center console. He had not noticed the display brightening for an incoming call from Ray.

 

“Hey buddy,” said Tuna, directing his comment to the tall lanky man leading the way.

 

Pavel turned in his direction. “Are you speaking to me?” he asked.

 

“So you can speak English.”

 

Pavel shrugged away the comment and turned to walk away.

 

“Hey don’t walk away from me Ruskie,” spat Tuna.

 

The derogatory word sent venom sailing through Andrei’s veins. The short stocky man set his jaw and forced his chest out as a fair warning to cease the insults. Sergi threw an arm out in front of his comrade to halt his advancement towards the two strangers. Pavel had turned back to face Tuna, tucking his hands inside his jacket pockets.

 

“Hey fellas, there are enough girls for all of us. Let me buy you a drink to settle all this confusion,” he said.

“F*ck the girls,” barked Luca, raising a defiant hand to end Pavel’s conciliatory offer. “We want to know where the owner of that car is.”

 

“What car?” asked Pavel, innocently looking around the lot. 

 

“Don’t play dumb *sshole,” said Tuna. “The heap you drove up in.”

 

Pavel was not expecting such an encounter. Remembering the last directive that Dimitri had given him. Frankie Gallo and his car were to be deposited back in Alderney without incident. He had made it through Algonquin past its bulldog cops. The Booth Tunnel proved to be less of a hassle than he had anticipated. Now footsteps from the perfect drop, the entire mission was on the verge of failure; something that Dimitri would not approve off. Pavel shifted his weight. There was no good explanation so a lie would be better than the truth.

 

“He lent it to me for the night. When I left he was with some woman in Hove Beach.”

 

“Not buyin’ it buddy,” said Tuna, stepping forward.

 

Pavel tossed a quick glance at Sergi. Seeing his eyes locked on the two strangers, he knew what was coming. He positioned his hand over the pistol that lay tucked snugly inside his jacket pocket. There was no convincing these two. They were too bullheaded for their own good.

 

“I don’t know what else to tell you except I don’t want trouble.”

 

“Well you’ve found trouble pal,” responded Tuna, lunging forward to grab Pavel in his collar.

 

In an instant Sergi pulled his pistol and fired a single shot, striking Tuna in the shoulder. The impact sent him stumbling sideways, nearly losing his balance. Before Luca could respond, several 9Mm bullets landed squarely in his chest from Andrei, the short stocky Russian who had taken exception to the insult, emptying most of the 9Mm clip. The barrage sent Luca sailing backwards, landing heavily on the trunk of the dark green Oracle. Pavel planted one perfectly placed bullet to the side of Tuna’s head, ending his life immediately.

 

The men quickly left the area, scampering towards the rear of the lot opposite of where they had parked Frankie’s Washington. Pavel spotted a trash dumpster bumped up against the brick wall that enclosed the property. That was their way out. The men bounded on top of the lid, disappearing over the wall and into the moonless night. Silence fell over the parking lot. The heavy thudding beat of music emanating from inside the club almost concealed the faint ringing of Tuna’s mobile phone tucked inside his jacket pocket.

 

* * *

 

A cool stiff breeze blew in from over the Humboldt River, rustling the leaves of nearby trees.  A light wispy fog moved over Dukes Park like the essence of a restless soul. Francis McReary stared down at a deserted commons where the huge Sprunk sign erratically flickered on and off, illuminating the concrete beneath a sickening green. He tugged at his jacket, flipping the collar up to partially conceal his identity. He was a mob cop and even when there was no need to hide; it was a habit he could not readily break. The brim of his apple cap shielded the cowardly countenance indelibly etched on his face. Being alone at the entrance to the tunnel that ran beneath Franklin Street did little to settle his fear of being found out.

 

Somehow Russell Cobb had found out about his connection to Olive Reckord which could be more threatening than the Gambettis ever were. Unlike Jon Gravelli, Russell had a compelling story to tell. He was a good kid; college bound Boy Scout who veered off into the ditch of life after his parents were killed in an automobile accident. He had no need to keep McReary safe. Quite the opposite, he needed to expose Francis McReary for the criminal that he is in order to regain his freedom. That was the truth that frightened McReary more than death; the utter shame of being exposed as a corrupt cop that played both sides of the law for his own selfish gain. Not to speak of the disgrace that would befall his mother and sister. His brothers were beyond reprehensible. He felt little or no remorse for them at all.

 

Francis looked down at his watch, a quarter to ten. He had been tucked inside the entrance to that tunnel since nine o’clock, hiding from his own worst intentions. Cobb had backed him in a corner and that was the last place he wanted to be. If there was a way out, Francis was going to find it even if he had to create a way straight through Russell’s life. He poked his head out into the night, greeted by a stiff breeze that made his eyes water. He squinted away the blurriness and that is when he saw a silhouetted figure descending a set of concrete steps leading down to where the Sprunk sign continued to flicker. The person had a stature of a young tall broad-shouldered man. Francis inhaled sharply. Russell Cobb had arrived. He reached for his Glock 22 holstered at his side.

 

Edited by albanyave
To fix formatting

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

To End is to Begin

 

Russell leaned against the stiff breeze that had suddenly kicked up since leaving Timmy waiting nearby. He turned to peer behind and could just make out the silhouetted Marbelle parked in the distance. The wind tugged at his thick dark hair, whipping it to one side. Dukes Park was never an area for decent people to hang out after the sun sets but Russell noticed an unexpected stillness that made apprehension settle at the pit of his stomach. He almost dreaded meeting Francis McReary at night in such a secluded location but he needed answers and he trusted Timmy.

 

The huge Sprunk sign and its ghostly green haze practically lured Russell down the concrete steps, guiding him over to the harbor wall to where a row of coin operated scopes stood at even intervals along the iron fence barrier. No sign of McReary or anyone else; not even a homeless or drunkard bum which made the uneasiness grow. Remembering how McReary was already waiting for him at Ali Moe’s but showed up late at the Salvage Yard, reminded Russell of just how unpredictable McReary could be.  The heaviness of his pistol strapped at the small of his back gave him a sense of security, be it false or real, he was glad to have it.

 

The eerie quietness heightened the sounds of the Humboldt River gently lapping at the concrete harbor wall. The hum of the Sprunk sign made the hairs at the back of his neck stand on end. Russell gazed across the river at the magical skyline of Algonquin; brilliantly illuminated against the night sky. Tucked deceptively between the shiny skyscrapers and the carnival-like atmosphere of the city on the river, lived an entire world alienated by circumstance and in some instances by choice. Russell understood that he was tucked away in a tiny crevice of that decrepit world by his own choice borne out of a devastating circumstance. Francis McReary had the answers he needed and one way or the other he was going to get them before the night ended. Russell had made a promise to Jimmy D two days ago while visiting his grave and this was the last opportunity to keep his word.

 

Francis stayed hidden in the shadows, studying Russell’s every move. He saw the young man turn to look behind, probably checking for a tail, Francis thought. He pulled his Glock 22 from its holster, pointed it at Russell, letting the barrel track him as he cautiously made his way past the flickering Sprunk sign. From this distance Francis believed he could hit the target but it would not be an immediate kill. Even with all the training at the firing range conveniently located in the basement of the precinct, he would probably need multiple shots to kill the young man. Still, the opportunity was tempting as Francis steadied his hand, aiming at Russell’s head as he stood gazing across the river. Just pull the trigger, he thought. Solve this problem. No one will ever know. He’ll just be another victim of senseless crime here in Liberty. Passing moments chafed his resolve. For all his bluster, he couldn’t pull the trigger. He was more of a schemer, than a killer. All his years as an Officer, he only pulled his weapon a handful of times, firing only twice. Finally Francis jerked his hand down and holstered the weapon.

 

Russell peered down at his watch, tilting his wrist so that the pole light reflected on its face. Nearly ten o’clock. He turned to look for McReary who could be approaching from any direction. No sign of the Deputy Police Commissioner. Had he lost his nerve? Remembering the incident at the cemetery where a bullet had sailed dangerously close to the side of his head, Russell suddenly drew in a breath of paranoia. He scanned the area, the rooftops of nearby buildings but the darkness selfishly concealed any would-be assassins. He quickly shook away the anxiety, trusting that Timmy believed McReary would show. He turned back to the skyline of Algonquin, quieting his anxiousness. He was there for Jimmy D. and that was all that mattered.

 

Russell leaned on the rod-iron fencing running along the top of the harbor wall, listening to the lull of the Humboldt River gentle lapping at the wall. An occasional car passing on the street near the park or a distant siren hollering broke the stillness. Russell was growing impatient. He pushed away from the cold wet bars of iron just as he heard the sound of rustling leaves coming from behind. A short distance away he saw a figure approaching. The Sprunk sign casted enough light so that he could see that it was McReary. Russell straightened to bolster his confidence.  

 

“Cobb, are you alone?” barked McReary, voice strong and sure.

 

Russell threw his arms out to the side. “I guess I should be asking you that.”

 

“You know you’re in a tough spot don’t you?”

 

Russell huffed away the weak attempt to intimidate him. “I don’t see it that way McReary. I’m simply here to get answers. What you do and how you do it is your own business.”

 

“You’ll never prove anything Cobb,” said McReary, now standing arms-length from Russell. “Reckord was working as an informant. Just like you.”

 

“Not how it sounded to me. But that’s for another discussion. I want to know what happened to Jimmy D.”

 

“You were there Cobb. You should know already.”

 

“I know Reckord blew a hole in his chest for no apparent reason. I know you and Reckord were tight as thieves. I have his phone with his call history, contacts, text messages, and voicemails. He never erased anything. And that should send shivers down your spine. Tell me what I need to know McReary and we won’t have a problem.”

 

“Are you threatening me?” asked McReary, stepping closer to Russell.

 

“No threat. It’s a promise. I want my life back, my name cleared. And most of all, I want to know why Jimmy was murdered.”

 

“And you think I know.”

 

“I know you know. The last thing Reckord said before he died was that Jimmy was in with the cops. Asking around, I found out that he was never the same after his arrest for jackin’ a car back in 2002. You were the arresting officer back then.”

 

Francis chuckled, mocking Russell’s petty detective work. “You don’t know the half of it Cobb. Jimmy wasn’t as innocent as you think. Everybody has a secret; even so called best friends never really know what the other has hidden away; tucked deep inside that dark place where no one is allowed.”

 

Russell winced at the thought of Jimmy not feeling comfortable enough to share his troubles. Olive Reckord had hinted at the very same thing just before he died on the floor of his one room rental in Willis. He and Jimmy had been friends since third grade and it was unfathomable to believe that Jimmy had lost trust in their friendship. Something was missing. There was a real reason why Jimmy felt like he had to pull away, why he could not confide in his best friend. Russell knew Francis McReary had the answer.

 

“I’m tired of playin’ your games McReary. Tell me what I want to know or you’re gonna have problems. As simple as that.”

 

Francis turned away, alarmed by the defiant certainty in Russell’s voice. He had no idea where Reckord’s phone was or exactly how much information on it pertained to him. He still had product to move for the Gambettis and Russell had made some real progress in helping Francis realize his dream of being promoted to Police Commissioner.

 

“Yeah Cobb, I’m tired too. So why don’t you forget your little investigation and take this and do what we agreed to,” said McReary, dropping a black duffle bag at his feet.

 

“Not gonna happen.”

 

“It’s better for everybody Cobb. Both of your eye witnesses are dead. Jimmy can’t say who killed him and Reckord will never point to me as his partner in crime. So give it up Cobb. You don’t want to go down that road. Finish what you started so you can high-tale it back to Vice City.”

 

“Tell me why Jimmy hated you!” growled Russell. “What did you do to change him?”

 

“He hated me?” questioned McReary, surprised by the conclusion. “I saved him. But that wasn’t enough. He had to get mixed up with that rich punk Huang Lee and his Triad Family. Jimmy got into some real bad sh*t. Things I couldn’t even save him from. He wanted to play on every team in town and that wasn’t gonna work. He was selfish. He wanted more than he deserved. He didn’t stick to the plan. So yes, Reckord killed him. But I saved him.”

 

Russell moved away from the torrent of revelations; some substantiated while others were so far from who Jimmy was as a person and friend.

 

“What do you mean by ‘saved him’?”

 

“Pick the bag up Cobb.”

 

“Tell me what you mean. He hated you.”

 

“Pick the bag up Cobb and finish what you started. I’ve told you what you wanted to know.”

 

“Tell me,” urged Russell, desperation in his tone.

 

Francis stared at Russell for a moment, seeing his eyes begging for the truth.

 

“Six years ago my partner and I responded to a call. There was a terrible accident on the Algonquin Bridge,” continued McReary, letting his eyes drift down river to it illuminated in the distance. “When we arrived, it seemed like every emergency response personnel in the city was on scene or headed there. Lights flashing. Sirens wailing. Both east-bound lanes were cut off. Traffic couldn’t move even if it wanted to.”

 

Russell turned to admire the beauty intrinsic in the architecture that bridged two different worlds; the reality of working class families living in Dukes and the world’s greatest opportunities waiting in Algonquin. His father had worked long and hard to bring just a small piece of that great opportunity home to his family.

 

“The first thing I noticed was the pile-up and one of those LSD trucks turned on its side at the front of the crash, if you can call it that. It was cold that night. I swear it was cold enough to snow. Christmas was a few weeks away and a tragedy like that is always difficult at that time of the year. Trailing behind that garbage truck was a twisted, mangled mess of broken dreams and lost lives. Many injured, and just as many had died.”

 

Russell turned back to face McReary. The story sound eerily familiar. He tugged at his shirt collar, trying to settle his racing heart. Russell stared deep into McReary’s eyes for any sign of mockery. There was none. His throat tightened. He swallowed hard yet the lump remained. It can’t be true he thought.

 

“How did it happen?”

 

“We all have secrets Cobb. Your friend Jimmy had a secret and I kept him out of prison.”

 

Russell staggered backwards, shaking his head. “No. It can’t be true,” he said, voice strained.

 

“It’s the truth Cobb. For about a month we were running down leads and finally got a match from the paint left on your father’s car. Traced it back to a garage in Steinway. The owner fingered Jimmy as the owner of a midnight blue Sentinel. A little persuasion and he confessed to being on the bridge that night. If it makes you feel better, he had no idea of the devastation that he had left behind until the moment I told him.”

 

“How did it happen?”

 

“Boils down to an illegal street race. He clipped your parent’s bumper, sending them spinning out of control and into the path of the garbage truck. Officially the case is cold. Unofficially, Jimmy became an LCPD informant to stay out of prison.”

 

Russell stood there struck silent. The grief came in waves, sickening him to his stomach. The h*ll that Jimmy must have gone through to keep such a nightmare bottled inside for so long must have been consuming. Russell could only imagine the reasons why Jimmy did not confide in him. Things might have been different had he trusted in their friendship; but that is something that Russell will never know now.

 

“This city hides a lot of secrets Cobb,” said Francis, interrupting Russell’s thoughts. “Sometimes it’s better to keep them hidden.”

 

“The truth is always better,” said Russell as he turned to walk away.

 

“Wait a minute Cobb. Aren’t you forgetting something?”

 

Russell stopped. “No,” he said without turning to face McReary.

 

“Oh I think you are,” responded McReary, bending to pick up the duffle bag.

 

He grabbed Russell by the shoulder, spinning him around. The black bag landed heavily on Russell’s chest, forcing air from his lungs. Russell’s arms reflexively shot up, wrapping around the bag.

 

“Okay Cobb, let’s get back to the real world. I’m sorry for your loss but that changes nothin’. We have an agreement that you d*mn well better honor.”

 

“And if I don’t. What are you gonna do? You used Jimmy D. and look how that turned out.”

“Follow the plan Cobb,” snarled McReary. “And when I get my promotion, you get your life back,” he said, pushing the bag hard into Russell’s chest. You got what you wanted to know about James, so do what you said or run for the rest of your life.”

 

Russell was done. He backed away from McReary, keeping his mouth closed and his eyes open. He knew what was inside the bag. And he knew what he needed to do. The Sprunk sign flickered as he turned to head back to where Timmy had been waiting. He would rather run than to be under McReary’s thumb for one moment longer.

 

Francis McReary turned to gaze across the river at the impressive skyline of Algonquin, breathing a sigh of relief. Jon Gravelli can rest easy tonight as can he. Olive Reckord was an unfortunate loss but Russell Cobb had been persuaded to finish what he started. What was so wrong about cleaning the city of low-life scum and reaping the rewards for doing it?  Police Commissioner would be the crowning jewel in a long fought war on crime. Francis could almost taste the admiration.

 

His gaze lowered to follow a Reefer quietly treading down river; perhaps a shipment of counterfeit notes or illicit drugs was on board. Whichever the case, Francis couldn’t stop it all. He had no desire to stop it all; wanting only to stop just enough to get his promotion. The buzz of a racing engine brought Francis’ attention to a Dinghy speeding upriver. He could discern three silhouetted figures on board but had not seen the red laser dot playing on his chest and then dancing on the side of his face. An instant later, the breath was ripped from his body as a high caliber bullet slammed into the side of his head, tearing away part of his skull. Francis McReary collapsed, ending a lifetime of trying to be the man his father never was. He had failed at so many things: becoming a Priest, getting married and having a family, being the top cop. The only thing that Francis managed to succeed at was living and dying as his father had done, as a crook shot to death on the streets of Liberty.

 

Russell ducked, responding to the unexpected crackle of a high-caliber rifle reverberating through the darkness. The headlights of the Marbelle burst to life as he quickened his pace to exit the deserted park. He could only imagine who that bullet was meant for. The same blast from a sniper rifle sent him cowering for cover at Steinway Cemetery two days ago. This time McReary may have been the target. Timmy flung the door open, beckoning for Russell to quickly get inside. He hustled into the passenger’s seat, jamming the duffle bag onto the floor between his feet.

 

“Let’s get the h*ll out of here,” he said, pulling the door closed.

 

Timmy floored the accelerator, speeding by the Twitchin Sugar plant, where, concealed in the shadows high above the park, stood Niko Bellic peering through the scope of a sniper rifle to confirm the kill. Satisfied that the target had been neutralized, he laid the rifle aside and removed his gloves, tucking them inside his jacket pocket. He pulled the disposable mobile phone and dialed his contact. A raspy male voice answered.

 

“Is the city quiet tonight?” he asked.

 

“Dead quiet,” responded Niko.

 

“Wonderful. Job well done,” said the man. “A friend of mine is at Schottler Medical Center. He has information that you will find most helpful in settling your endeavors that began abroad.”

 

Niko hesitated. “No thank you,” he finally said. “The city is quiet enough for me at the moment. The desire to aggravate old wounds has suddenly changed.”

 

“It’s your choice Bellic. But I am curious as to why you even took this job.”

 

“Some things just need to be gotten rid of,” he answered flatly, peering down at the corpse splayed on the green illuminated concrete.

 

“Agreed. And on that note, shall we end.”

 

Niko clicked off the line, palming the worn device for a moment before winding up like the star pitcher of the Liberty City Swingers and sending it sailing into the Humboldt River. The phone landed in the water, waves rippling as it sank to the river’s bottom. Niko stood quietly watching the ripples dissipate, as he remembered how Francis McReary held the threat of sending him to prison if he did not cooperate or did not remain complicit in McReary’s criminal schemes. Attorney Tom Goldberg was one such complication in the Deputy Police Commissioner’s life that Niko was commissioned to solve. He hadn’t thought twice about ending the man’s life because he had in his possession some incriminating files that would ruin McReary’s career. But that has all changed now. Niko pulled his phone and dialed Carmen; the love of his life. She quickly answered.

 

“Niko,” she said, concern in her voice.

 

“Yes, Carmen, it’s me.”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I am now. Thank you for understanding.”

 

“I love you Niko. Come home. I’ll be waiting.”

 

“I…I’m on my way.”

 

Niko disconnected the line just before it rang back. He looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Dwayne so he answered.

 

“Dwayne.”

 

“Hey Niko. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

 

“No Dwayne. I’m not doing anything.”

 

“Well, I don’t know if this is a good time or not being what has happened over the last twenty-four hours. But the guys are throwin’ me a welcome back slash house warming party. I know it’s last minute but I would appreciate it if you can drop over. You ain’t gotta stay long but I just wanted to thank you for being like a brother when I had no other.”

 

“Sure Dwayne. I’m over in Dukes now so I’ll be there soon.”

 

“Thanks Niko. I knew I could count on you. 341 Bismarck Avenue apartment 7C."

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

Niko ended the call, releasing a sigh as he turned to head back down to where he had parked his car. Dwayne lived just down the street from his Middle Park penthouse apartment where Carmen was waiting for him to return.

 

* * *

 

Yellow police tape snaked around a utility pole then trailed across the lot, ending at another pole near the back corner of Honkers Gentleman’s Club. Blood-stained sheets covered the bodies of Luca Silvestri and Joe DiLeo; both associates of the Pegorino Crime Family operating out of Alderney. An unwitting patron of the club stumbled upon the bodies and notified security immediately. He has since been cleared by the responding detectives and allowed to leave the premises along with the others, leaving the club as dead as Luca and Tuna.

 

Phil Bell had been working late at the port when he received the call from Brian, head of security at the club. Not wanting to involve Jimmy Pegorino, Phil raced from the port where he had been logging late hours all week to the club only to find that the police had beat him to the scene. He pulled his brown Intruder alongside the curb and got out, leaving the door half open. Red and blue strobe lights from police cruisers played over the parking lot. Phil spotted a couple of uniformed officers standing near the entrance so he tucked his paranoia away and headed over to speak with them. Hoping that this had nothing to do with his nephew’s disappearance he remembered the black Rebla that had followed him from the club all the way over to Drusilla’s this morning when he met with Ray.

 

“I’m Phil Bell, manager of this club,” he said as he approached the two officers, offering his identification. “Can somebody tell me who’s in charge here?”

 

“Yes sir,” said one of the officers. “Detective Bradshaw is expecting you. He’s right over there on the other side of the ambulance Mr. Bell.”

 

“Thank you officer,” said Phil as he took his ID and walked away.

 

The ambulance was parked halfway down the lot; its lights flashing and the crew standing at the side of the vehicle. Phil quickened his pace once he saw the white sheets draped over the bodies lying on the ground. A tall man wearing a wrinkled gray suit and disheveled dark hair stood near the bodies surveying the taped off area. Phil inhaled sharply as he drew nearer. One of those men could be Frankie. Phil bent to pass under the yellow tape.

 

“Excuse me, Detective. Detective Bradshaw?” asked Phil.

 

The tall man swung around to face him. “I’m Bradshaw. And you are?”

 

“Phil Bell. One of your officers said you are in charge. I manage this place. Can you tell me what’s goin’ on?”

 

“Yeah, we received a call. Multiple shots heard at this location at about 10pm. Officers were dispatched. They arrived on scene shortly thereafter to find two males shot multiple times. EMS was called out but unfortunately the victims had expired.”

 

The worst thoughts flooded Phil’s mind. Was it Frankie? Why would someone want him dead? What had the dimwit gotten himself into?

 

“Do you know who they are?” asked Phil attempting to keep his nerves at bay.

 

“According to their IDs, we have one Luca Silvestri and Joe DiLeo. Both residing in Liberty City. Your security guy Brian, made a positive identification.”

 

Ray’s goons, thought Phil. Relieved that neither man was Frankie. But where was the kid?

 

“Do you know either man?” asked Detective Bradshaw.

 

“I know they were regulars here at the club,” answered Phil, being cautious not to reveal too much.

 

“We’ll contact the next of kin Mr. Bell. Just stay available if we have any further questions.”

 

“What about the club?”

 

“Crime Scene Investigators should be done here shortly. But we will need the club and grounds to be offline for twenty-four hours.”

 

“Detective Bradshaw,” called an animated officer. “Detective, we have a possible secondary crime scene.”

 

“Secondary crime scene?” questioned Bradshaw. “Where at?”

 

“Back corner of the lot. Dark blue Washington with a Russian Mob calling card found on the front seat.”

 

Phil’s heart sank as Detective Bradshaw tore away, running towards the abandoned car parked in the shadows at the back of the lot. Frankie has a Washington and it and he had been missing since yesterday. Phil did not want to believe it. He stood still as his heart raced from his body, trailing close behind the Detective. He watched from a distance, eyes wide and fixed on the shadowy silhouette of the vehicle that Bradshaw was heading towards. He had not been able to get in contact with his nephew by text or even get him to answer a call. No one had seen him since yesterday afternoon and now his car may have been found with some kind of cryptic Russian calling card found inside. He saw the detective turn on his flashlight to examine the interior of the car then he moved around to the rear of the car and opened the trunk.

 

Phil found the courage to inch closer. He heard the muffled voices of the officers surrounding the vehicle; serious overtones in their voices. Detective Bradshaw continued to lean into the trunk, fumbling with what appeared to be a dark cloth of some sort. Phil had gotten well within earshot of the conversation that Bradshaw was having with the officer closest to him. His stomach tightened as he heard the last of the exchange.

 

“Another male victim. Appears to be deceased.”

 

Phil could stand it no longer. He refused to believe his own intuition. Frankie was dead. But he had to see it for himself.

 

“Detective,” he called out, now close enough to discern the license plate number. “LUV 4 FG,” he mumbled to himself.

 

“Stay back Mr. Bell. You don’t want to see this.”

 

“Yes I do. My nephew has been missing since yesterday and that’s his car.”

 

Detective Bradshaw heard the desperation and sincerity in Phil’s voice and allowed him to approach the vehicle. Phil stiffened his resolve and stepped forward, knowing that he really did not want to see what was stuffed inside the trunk. The bright beam from Detective Bradshaw’s flashlight danced on the dark cloth wrapped snuggly around the form of a human body. Phil drew in a deep breath and peered down onto the area where Bradshaw had placed his hand.

 

“Let me see,” he said.

 

“It’s not a pretty picture Mr. Bell.”

 

“Just let me see,” said Phil, demanding an end to the mystery.

 

Detective Bradshaw flung back the cloth, revealing a bloodied, mangled face that stared blankly into the night sky through one partially open eye. Even with the worst part of mutilation dominating the young man’s features, Phil still recognized the mangled heap as his nephew. He placed a hand over his mouth to help hold back the sick that had risen to his throat. Stepping back away from the car, he turned away not able to accept the reality.  But knowing the nightmare had come true.

 

“Mr. Bell, is this your nephew?”

 

Phil let out the breath that he had been holding since recognizing Frankie’s license plate. “Yes it is,” he said. “That’s my nephew Frankie Gallo.”

 

“Are you sure?” asked Bradshaw as he covered Frankie’s face.

 

“Yes detective, I am sure.”

 

Phil let his gaze trail back to the two dead bodies lying on the cold wet concrete. Tuna and Luca; Rays go to guys show up dead in the same lot as Frankie. The Russian Mafia left their cue, letting everyone know who was responsible for the brutal murder of his nephew. Phil’s despondency soon turned to outrage. Ray had gone too far this time. Phil had warned against sending the boy over to Broker but Ray did not heed the warning. Now Frankie, Luca, and Tuna have paid for his moronic ambitions. Phil seethed with anger as he rushed back to his car, ignoring the covered bodies, determined to confront Ray.

 

* * *

 

Carmen sat alone in front of the television wondering if this was a taste of the future with a man who had so many secrets. She had met Niko on Love-Meet, an internet dating website, not expecting any more than a good time and a few free meals. But somehow she had fallen in love with the mysterious Eastern European. He had accepted her as is and that meant her deeply flawed personality with a selfish streak running relentlessly through her vainglorious life. The only thing worthy of being acknowledged in Carmen’s life was her skills as a nurse.

 

It was almost midnight and Niko had not gotten home so Carmen turned off the television. Tired of waiting for a man that can’t say that he loves her, she decided to go to bed. Carmen stood and tossed the remote onto the sofa just as the elevator door slid open. Niko stepped off, looking grim as though he were carrying a heavy load.

 

“Where have you been Niko?”

 

Hearing the disappointment in her voice, Niko quickly reassured her of his dedication to the relationship. “I love you Carmen,” he said breathlessly.

 

Taken by surprise, she almost did not believe what she had heard. “I don’t believe you. Say it again,” she pleaded.

 

Niko stepped close to Carmen. Smelling the fruity aroma of her hair, he wrapped his arms around her slender waist to bring her next to him. He lowered his head to find her luscious lips, kissing her passionately. She abandoned all her insecurities and fell into his warm embrace. Niko pulled away momentarily to fulfill her request.

 

“I love you Carmen. And this is for you.”

 

Carmen looked down to see Niko holding a small beautifully wrapped gift box. A huge satisfying grin spread across her face.

 

Taking the gift and Niko’s hand, she said, “Let’s open this in the bedroom.”

 

“I was hoping you would say that. And I hope this will be the start of something special.”

 

“It will,” responded Carmen.

 

Edited by albanyave
Fix formatting

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ThatKyloRenGuy

@albanyave Your story looks GREAT so far! As of right now, I’ve only read the first chapter, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! :) I promise I’ll read more of it. Just a curious question, though: When does this fan-fiction take place? Thanks in advance for the answer and keep up the good work! 👍

Edited by ThatKyloRenGuy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
albanyave

@ThatKyloRenGuy

 

Thanks. I try to do the best that I can. I am still learning and crafting and hope to get better with time.

 

As for the time period; Niko has been in Liberty for a while. He and Roman have been run out of Broker and have finally made it to the apartment on Albany Avenue. From that point, this is my story. Even though some characters will be familiar, I have thrown in 'what if' and have written a whole new story. Don't expect same ending as R* because it won't be there.

 

Glad you are reading and hope you enjoy.  :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • 1 User Currently Viewing
    0 Members, 0 Anonymous, 1 Guest

×

Important Information

By using GTAForums.com, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.