Part 16: Behind The Scenes - Hidden Interiors
"GO! GO! GO!" chant the crowd, voices mixing in with the beat, beat running through me, my body moving in time, just letting go and letting it take me..... I was dancing like a motherfucker!
The DJ was watching me, she the only one I paying attention to, eyes traveling up my body, liking what she see, my muscles, my shape, the way I move.... you could tell she was getting into the beat as well, but not in the same way as all the others chilling on the beach... they was chilling, she was heating up. I keep my eyes locked with her, being careful not to get too sexual, turn her off.... I had to get her into that van if I was going to get what I wanted, the thing only she able to give me.
She wound down the song and then flipped on a new album, letting it play as people start cheering me and I let the dance die, turning it into a smart little slide up beside her, best grin on my face, twinkle in my eye.
I could hear wolf whistles and clapping from the fools still dancing or lying around chilling in the sand. It was a late night beach party, people on a different kind of drug to the shit we see on the streets, using uppers like speed or ecstasy or Acid, or just fucking high on life for all I know. But even as fucked up as these surf bums, druggies and slumming office drones be, they know when a brotha and sista about to hook up.
She reach into her pocket and slide out the keys, unlocking the van door and hopping in, letting me in on the driver's side, turning on the air conditioning, it hot even at 4 in the morning on Verona Beach.
"So, Mr. Dancer," she say, trailing a finger up my chest,"Anything you'd like to "chat" about in particular?"
"Close yo eyes, baby," I grin,"I got a surprise for you.
"I like surprises," the DJ say, eyes shut and a big grin on her face,"Is it... big? I like it big?"
"Bigger than anything you ever gonna feel again," I say, and see her try not to laugh, having heard shit like that probably from every homie ever try to get into her pants. She didn't, though, she know a man don't like to hear his women laughing at him.... and besides, what happened next wasn't funny.
Well okay, maybe it a little funny, just not to her.
As I drove away, sliding up over the sand onto the little beachside sidewalks, then out onto the road, I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. I hadn't slept in a couple of days, kept busy running around after my homies, helping Smoke run down those Vagos, smoking weed with Ryder and hitting the fucking National Guard base... and just when I'd thought maybe I could catch a few hours in the sack, Loc call me up asking if I wanted to go to a party.
I'd thought about saying nah and getting that sleep I'd been missing out on, but I'd been pissed at the way everyone using me to do shit for them, and the idea of just going and having a party and chilling out been too much to turn down. Besides which, we make fun of Loc for being, well.... Loc.... but he a homie, and a friend, and I liked the guy, fucked up Mickey Mouse with the flu voice and all.
I shook my head now in the van, thinking about how excited I been heading to Burger Shot to see Loc, thinking I had a homie that just wanted to hang, one who wanted to go to a party, have some drinks, shoot the shit and then try to pick up some fine sistas and bang they brains out. Instead what I get was sent on another errand, hearing another one of my "friends" asking me to do something for THEM and how much they appreciate me going off and doing they dirty work for them.
Is this shit all I was to them?
I drove down to a storage garage in Commerce Loc told me about, tell me that Smoke tell him he could store shit there. I wondered how many garages like this around the city were being used by Grove Street? I knew Ryder had a couple thanks to his homie, LB, and now it seem Smoke have them too.... Sweet probably had shit stored for years everywhere.... maybe I not the only ones holding things close to my vest, only my "storage" at the house I buy and the houses I plan to buy through "Morty". Maybe we all got our little plans up in the air, like me, here I was complaining about how everyone want to use me to get their shit done... but then there I am trying to find a way to help Loc on the one in a million chance he actually make it... and then I be there to act as his manager and agent to rake in the cash. Sure, I represent Grove Street, but everyone looking for a way to make they own way in life as well.
I backed up into the storage garage and step out the van, leaving it there for Loc to deal with himself. Manager or not, he wanna call me up and ask me if I wanna go to a party, then send me off to steal some sound system because he think a god sound system suddenly gonna make him a good rapper? Fuck him, let him do his own heavy lifting, that shit wasn't my job.
I let out a big yawn and shook my head, sun was coming up and it been nearly three days now without sleep. Fuck Grove Street, fuck my homies, fuck running errands, fuck everything, I was gonna go get some fucking sleep.
There was knocking at the door, coming from a million miles away, muffled, the stairs seeming to stretch on forever in front of me, weaving in and out of my vision. I moved like I was stuffed in cotton, walls were fucking breathing, my body feel numb, my vision gray. I get to the door and open it, and Tenpenny standing there, but not the Tenpenny I know today, the Tenpenny who come to the door all those years ago and face off with Sweet.... and lost.
But Sweet wasn't here, this wasn't Sweet's house no more, Sweet live across the way, and I standing there staring at Tenpenny as a young man, staring at me, not saying anything.
"This ain't your house," I say.
"Your ride waiting, Carl," he say.
"You can't come in," I say.
"Your ride waiting, Carl," he say again, and then step aside, letting me see out onto the road where my ride was waiting.
The Green Sabre.
"No, no, no," I say, even as I walking forward, past Tenpenny - the same age he is now, suddenly - who grinning, falling into step behind me, I could feel his breath on my neck, but I couldn't turn to look or turn away, all I could do was move up the alley that WASN'T outside my house but WAS outside my house towards the car used to kill my Moms.
"That's your ride, Carl," say Tenpenny, and I could hear the grin in his voice, enjoying himself,"Got you a special driver."
I didn't want to see, didn't want to walk, but couldn't help myself, moving up the alley, past the headlights, eyes adjusting to the dark to see the two people sitting in the front of the Sabre. One was my brother, Brian.
The other was my Moms.
"AHHHH!" I shout, sitting up in my bed, sweat running down my body, freaking out, throwing off the blankets and trying to... shit, shit, shit... just a dream, just a fucking dream, shit.
I looked over at the clock and a little groan escape me, it couldn't be... but I only been asleep 45 minutes? Not even a fucking hour!?! I groan and roll out the bed, knowing I'd never get back to sleep, no matter how badly I needed it. I stomp down the stairs and found myself having to look out the window in case the alley was out there and the Green Sabre as well. But nothing there but a sunny day and some homies drinking forties and shooting the shit. I shook my head, feeling stupid, feeling tired, eyes grainy.... I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep, not with dreams like that waiting for me, but I was too tired to just sit around the house.
I got dressed and stepped outside, heading over to Sweet's and knocking on his door when I find it locked, but no answer, meaning he probably out somewhere. I looked over at Ryder's and shook my head, I really didn't want to see him while I was this tired, if he fucked with me I'd probably end up popping him one in the face. I shook my head feeling the thump of the bass coming from Loc's place across the street, trying out his new sound system already... did that nigga sleep? Working a night shift at Burger Shot and then trying out his rhymes all day? Shit, at least he committed, maybe that make up for how shit he is at what he loves. I couldn't handle Ryder either, so fuck it, I'd head over to Smoke's, hit him up for advice on his best to manage Loc's career. Fat Man was smart at this business shit, and he'd appreciate a nigga trying to better himself and make some scratch at the same time.
I moved to the garage and opened the door, and for just a second in the darkness I saw the Green Sabre again, forcing me to squeeze my eyes shut. When I opened them, it was just the open top Blade I'd jacked a couple of days earlier.... shit, I needed to get a proper night's sleep. I hopped in and started driving, dropping by Cluckin Bell on the way and grabbing some coffee, trying to perk me up some. As I stepped outside, I blinked, sure I saw someone ducking into an alleyway across the street the moment I stepped outside, as if they didn't want to be seen. Well shit, so what if they had, plenty of people in this city, just because someone was acting weird, didn't mean it had anything to do with me... lack of sleep was just making me paranoid.
I drove around to Smoke's drinking the coffee in big gulps, feeling the caffeine starting to work through my system, giving me an artificial boost that would just see me crash harder later... but I'd deal with that when I came to it. I pulled up to the curb up the road from Smoke's and stepped into his driveway just as his garage door opened, and for a second I thought I was seeing things again, another hallucination.... till I realize what I seeing was very much real, a fucking waking nightmare.
"You know me, Officer Tenpenny," I say, trying to keep my cool, but his reply wasn't exactly designed to make me feel comfortable.
"D... don't touch me," I say, shaking my head and pulling clear as he took my wrist by the hand,"Get your pig hands off me..."
"Boy, you ain't got the stones of your brother," grin Tenpenny, stepping back,"That's right, Carl, I got my eye on you."
"Yeah, like I give a fuck!" I shout back, trying my hardest to stand up to him, hating that he was ignoring me now, walking away not giving a shit. I started thinking, had I been paranoid before? Had the guy I thought I saw hiding in the alley been watching me after all? Working for Tenpenny?
Then Pulaski put all thoughts of that out my mind, the racist pig making it clear that HE wasn't ignoring me like Tenpenny.
"What was that all about, baby?" ask Big Smoke, walking out the back of the garage where he been doing who knows what with Tenpenny and Pulaski.
"You tell me!" I say, squeezing the sleep out of my eyes and slapping across the front of my face, trying to fight off a wave of dizziness. I was getting sick of this shit, lack of sleep making me paranoid, tired of not knowing what other people were up to, of playing games.
"Aw hell, man, they got their nose in everything," he say, shaking his head,"Can't shit without Tenpenny taking an interest.... the hell with him."
"Yeah, I guess," I say, having trouble keeping focus, so fucking TIRED!"What's really up?"
"Hey...." say Smoke, looking thoughtful for a second,"Thinking of taking a little ride, Three deep mentioned a little something that might put us deeper in the game."
So using me again, huh? Shit, that wasn't fair, Smoke was talking about improving Grove Street, not his own personal shit.... maybe it was time I gave my homies the benefit of the doubt... and shit, who was I to talk, I'd go along with it, because it would give me the chance for ask him for advice on managing Loc's career.
"Okay, okay," I say, nodding and getting into his ride,"Where to, Smoke?"
"Unity Station," he say, and I start driving, blinking to keep from dozing off at the wheel, Smoke noticing right away,"You okay, baby? No offence, homie, but you look like shit."
"Been having trouble sleeping," I tell him,"Bad dreams about my Moms.... and I worn out, Smoke."
"Great men burn the candle at both ends, my friend," nod Smoke,"Sleep will come to you when you are ready for sleep, and not before."
"Yeah.... I guess..... Smoke, what you think about Loc? Think he can make it as a Gangsta Rap Star?"
"Hahahahaha," laugh Smoke, throwing back his head,"Oh shit CJ, that's a good one..... what I think? I think Loc is a good damn friend and a homie and a smart kid with some fucked up priorities. I think he's got exactly zero musical talent."
"So he'll never make it?" I ask, sighing, stopped at the lights for the moment.
"Hell CJ, I didn't say he wouldn't make it, just that he has no talent," laugh Smoke as the lights changed and we turned the corner,"That don't matter, not with the right promotion and management... and a fucking good sound system to cover up his deficiencies."
"Shit, Smoke," I say with a grin,"There anything you don't know?"
"I know all and see all, my brother," say Smoke, leaning back in his seat and lifting his chins in pride,"I follow all my homies, that my bidness, I know what they're doing even before they know. So you Loc's Manager now, huh? Grabbed him up a nice sound system, electronic voice distortion and sound mixing and all that good shit?"
"Yeah yeah, he practicing when I head out of Grove Street this morning."
"Yeah, I got some ideas about that, CJ," he say,"But hey, we're here."
We pulled into Unity Station and stepped out the car, all business now.
"San Fierro?" I ask,"I thought Northern Mexicans don't mix with Los Santos eses?"
"Shit, you got me," shrug Smoke as we move dup onto the train platform, spotting a group of Latinos talking on the tunnel overpass, a train sitting idle just out the tunnel, the Vagos and Rifa using it as a combination transport/meeting location.
"The bike, CJ!" shout Smoke, spotting a motorcycle sitting on the platform, probably belong to one of the Vagos,"WE GOT TO GET THOSE FOOLS!"
I kicked the bike into life and started moving, Smoke sitting behind me holding a piece, screaming at me to catch up to the lead carriage so he could take out the Vagos, that we couldn't let anyone know that Grove Street was onto them.
Sure, I figured, how hard could it be?
The last of them went down, dead bodies laying on a hot train roof, a nasty surprise for San Fierro Train Department when they arrive at they destination.
"Hey, let's get outta here before the cops show, man," say Smoke, but for a moment I just sat on the bike, engine idling, staring out over the ocean,"CJ?"
"Was it always like this?" I ask.
"Was what always like this?" ask Smoke, confused for once.
"Always.... always fucked up around here," I said at last,"Or is it because of the drugs?"
"What you think, man?" Smoke ask straight back at me.
"I don't know," I say quietly, turning the bike around and heading back through the grass towards the road, frustrated, just wanting someone to come and sort all this difficult shit out for me so I could just go and get some fucking sleep,"That's why I'm asking you."
"That's what I was doing," I say with a grin, and Smoke laugh and slap my shoulder.
"Well, if you're going to make this thing personal, I ain't speaking on it no more."
I grin and shook my head, the adrenalin of the chase and the fresh air in my face from riding the bike was doing more than any coffee ever could to wake me up. I drove back through the city to Smoke's, dropping him off. He hopped off the bike and turned to look at me, scratching his head.
"You serious about this manager shit, CJ?" he ask,"It a bright move, having a legitimate source of income... but I don't know if Loc is the right star to hitch yo' wagon to."
"I'm serious, yeah," I nod,"I'm back representing Grove Street, and I know I ain't no leader in the gang or anything, but I still want more from my life than just being another homie with a gun."
"Hmmm, okay then," say Smoke quietly, nodding,"You know Madd Dogg?"
"Hey Sweet, you hear about Madd Dogg?" Brian ask as our big bro walk into the house.
"What about him?" ask Sweet,"Nigga didn't get killed, did he?"
"Nah, man," I say with a grin,"We just heard on Radio Los Santos, he bought a mansion up in Vinewood! Great big fucking place, got his own private security soldier and everything!"
"Man Madd Dogg got PAID!" laugh Brian, throwing up his hand for a high five from Sweet.... but Sweet just stand staring at us.
"He move out the hood?" he ask,"Out the house his momma raise him in, out from the streets where he grew up, the streets he sing about that make him famous, make him all that money?"
"Yeah..." say Brian, confused, lowering his arm,"Said he was worried about people breaking into his place, guys trying to steal shit from him."
Sweet just stood staring at us, then moved over to the stereo and cabinet holding out records, reaching in and pulling out "Rhyme Pays", the album Madd Dogg released only a couple of months earlier, the one that made him famous and rich. He turn and look at us, then snapped the album over his knee.
"NO!" shout Brian.
"NO!" I shout.
"I don't want to hear Madd Dogg in this house again," he say, then walk up the stairs leaving us confused and angry.
"Yeah... I know Madd Dogg," I say.
"Yeah, well he's not the biggest music star in Hip Hop because he's talented, which he is, or because he got great production values, which he does, or because he can rhyme like a motherfucker, which he can," say Smoke,"What makes him the star he is, is Scipio."
"Yeah, he getting an award in a couple of days, he so good at it," say Smoke,"He gets people talking about Madd Dogg, keep Madd Dogg in the public eye, so that when that talent and production and rhyme come into play, there people there to listen. Your problem, CJ, is that you be managing someone who no one is going to want to listen to if you convince them to. All the most expensive sound systems in the world aren't going to change that, if the motherfucker can't rhyme. Loc smart enough to get himself a criminal record so he look "legit" now, and he smart enough to get you on his side grabbing his the stuff he needs, but at the end of the day.... the man CANNOT rhyme!"
"Oh come on, man, he ain't that bad," I say,"......is he?"
"CJ," say Smoke, putting his hand on my shoulder,"You want to make it as a manager and promoter? Believe me nigga, you HAVE to find someone else to write Loc's songs."