"YOU'LL DIE TOO!" Scipio screamed as the whore burst into horrified tears,"YOU IDIOT! YOU'LL DIE TOO!"
I smiled, feeling the weight lift off of my shoulders fully at last.
I broke the surface gasping for air, sucking it in, clutching the whore close against me, her arms locked in mine in a full nelson, she struggling and fighting not to get away from me but the water, not thinking, just reacting, trying to get away.
For just a few beautiful seconds I'd felt completely at peace, completely at ease sitting in the car as Scipio and the whore beat on the divider and the car sunk into the ocean with us in it. It only lasted a second, but it felt like an eternity, my need for sleep gone, my stress, all the shit that been piling up on my shoulders..... gone.
Then the water come spilling up into the floor of the car, Scipio going apeshit, the whore just screaming, and I unlocked the doors and let the water flood in. Lack of sleep had driven me crazy, but not all the way, feeling that cold water around my feet bought me back to myself, and suddenly the thought of drowning here in this car with that crazy midget and some whore I didn't know the name of.... shit no, I wasn't going out like that. I'd swum out into the ocean, pulling open the backdoor, grabbing the whore by the wrist and pulling her to me, slamming Scipio in the face as he grab at me, eyes wide under the water, panic in his face until my fist hit it. The water meant I didn't lay him out like I should, but he got dazed enough for me to close the door and lock the whore into the full nelson, swimming in what I figured was the upward direction.
"Hey," I told her,"Hey, hey.... SHUT UP!"
She went still all of a sudden, just flopping against me and the two of us floating there as I treaded water, holding us both up, forgetting how tired I was from the adrenalin of the plunge.
"Can you swim?" I asked.
"Sw... yeah, I can swim," she said at last. Definite hooker, her panic was gone, survival instincts had kicked in, she knew the score.
"I'm gonna swim closer to the shore," I told her,"Then I'm gonna let you go and you're going to swim the rest of the way. You ain't gonna look back, you ain't gonna try to see me or know me, you understand?"
"I understand," she said,"....Scip-"
"You don't think about him, y'hear?" I shout,"Not your problem, and neither am I. You'll be interviewed by the police; you might even get interviewed by the radio, worry about yourself, not him or me."
"You think I might get on the radio!" she say, suddenly all excited.... yeah, definite whore,"I could meet Julio G!"
"Yeah whatever," I say, wrapping one arm around her neck and chest and using the other to swim close enough to the shore where I felt I could let her go, with a final warning she didn't need to hear,"Remember, no looking, you just swim."
The moment I let her go, she took off strong, heading right to the shore.
She didn't look back once.
I swam to shore and stepped up onto the beach, shivering with the cold but otherwise feeling okay, less tired than I had been. I shook my head and turned to look back at where I figured the car had sunk, then looked up as police cars, ambulances and Scipio's security come roaring down the pier. I grinned, I guess I'd gotten away with it prett-
I doubled over and my mouth filled with vomit, spurting out between my lips till I opened them and just let it all out, puking till I had nothing left in me, dropping to my knees and feeling something inside of me pulling up as I dry-heaved over the steamy pile of my own vomit in the sand, being washed away bit by bit by the incoming tide. I felt lightheaded and had to brace myself with my arms, feeling them shaking as they tried to hold me up, my entire body lit up, hairs raised all over my body.
"Get a light on him!" yelled a voice and I looked up to see two 5.0 holding torches running towards me. I crouched over more so they wouldn't see I was strapping, but otherwise just looked helplessly up at me as they approached, hands on nightsticks.
"This the one?" one of the cops asked, and one of Scipio's security guys stepped up from behind them, looking at me - a fucked up nigga with bags under his eyes on his knees on the beach next to a puddle of his own puke.
"No, for fuck's sake, this is just some fucking junkie, look at his eyes," shout the Security Man,"Come on, he can't have gotten far!"
They moved on up the beach, and I pulled myself up to my feet using one of the supports of the pier for balance, feeling another wave of dizziness roll over me. Staggering like I was drunk, I made my way dripping wet up onto the road and flagged down a gypsy cab, throwing a C-Note the driver's way when he saw my wet clothes and the puke on my chin and tried to drive away. He took it and unlocked the doors, and I collapsed into the back seat.
"Grove Street," I told him, but the way I was feeling, I might as well have said Hell.
It was just past noon the next day that I staggered my way down the street, more exhausted than I'd ever thought possible, approaching the doughnut shop feeling like a broken down dog crawling to see its master. No more sleep for me once I got home in the early morning before dawn, just a hollow feeling deep in the pit of me, like I'd thrown up more than my lunch, I'd lost my soul. I'd murdered a man... a scumbag, sure, and linked to the Ballas for "street cred".... but just a man, not a gangbanger, not a cop, not someone firing a gun so it was him or me. I fucking hated Loc this morning for asking me to do that for him, and hated myself for going along.
But the person I hated most of all.... was Tenpenny.
I walked into the place, cop cars in all the parking spots, Los Santos a place full of walking stereotypes - black gangsta and doughnut eating cops. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't in Grove Street colors, you'd be a fucking fool to walk into a cop hangout wearing gangsta colors, plus I figured Tenpenny wouldn't want to be seen associating with gang types, even if he was in C.R.A.S.H. So I stepped in wanting to be incognito, wondering how he'd communicate wit-
I just stood staring at him, and he smile that big fake ass grin of his and wave at me again, everyone else in the place staring at me. Finally, I lower my head and, feeling lower than I ever felt in my life, slinked over to my "Massa."
I stood with my hands in my pockets, head down, hating seeing Pulaski smirking from his seat, and they bitch Hernandez looking at me like I was a piece of shit.
"Move over, let him sit down, asshole!" Tenpenny yell at Hernandez, reminding him who was in charge, and the bitch scoot over, leaving me space to sit, feeling like Tenpenny's eyes were blazing heat down on me.
"So you finally found time to drop by," he say, motherfucker full of false cheer, not even giving me the chance to come in, find out what they wanted and leave.
"Man, I've been busy," I reply with a mumble, looking down at the table, hating myself,"I've been burying my Moms, man."
"Sounds like a fucking excuse to me," say Pulaski, lifting his pig nose up at me.
"Officer Pulaski thinks you're trying to screw with us, Carl," Tenpenny laugh, smiling his cruel fucking smile at me, leaning forward in his seat,"Take your glasses off, boy."
I did what I was told, and Tenpenny's grin get wider while Pulaski drink his coffee and Hernandez look disgusted.
"Oh man," say Hernandez,"He's on speed or something.... look at his eyes."
"Jesus Christ, Chico," say Pulaski, putting his coffee down,"Were you born stupid or did your Father screw your brains out as a kid?"
"Carl here doesn't do drugs," smile Tenpenny,"His momma raise him too good, and his brother would beat the shit out of him if he did.... burning the candle at both ends, Carl?"
Something tickle at the back of my head when he say that, but I ignored it. I'd been getting a lot of that the last couple of days, thinking I was being watched, seeing things out the corner of my eye, hearing whispers and noises from things that weren't there.
Tenpenny smiled wider than ever, and then just like that it was gone, and his face became serious, looking right into my eyes, fixing me with his look.
Just like that, there it was, what I already knew, what I hated the most. When I first got back to Los Santos, Tenpenny put me in his pocket by saying he'd blame me for shooting that poor bastard, Pendelbury. Since then he been sniffing around, trying to get his hand in Smoke's business and Ryder's business, always looking for the same thing.... a way to get back at Sweet.
"Move the fuck out of the way, boy," Tenpenny say, my eyes wide as I watch, everybody know that Officer Tenpenny go where he want, when he want. Even a little kid like me knew tha-
"This ain't your house, and you don't have a warrant," say Sweet, and I hear Moms give out a little moan from behind me, holding me and Brian close against her,"You ain't coming in."
"Boy, if you know what's good for you, you'll get the fuck out of my way."
Sweet stood staring back at him, both of them refusing to drop eyes, and then Sweet leaned forward right into Tenpenny's face.
"Boy, I don't care if you know what's good for you or not, you have no business here, you have no right to be here, and Grove Street is done doing your bidding. You understand me, boy? I hope you do, because this ain't no empty threat. Grove Street is mine now, not yours.... now back the fuck off and get the hell off of my street."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing, neither could Brian, both of us in awe of Sweet and terrified of Tenpenny, the two scariest guys we knew shooting lasers at each other with they eyes and..... Tenpenny backed off.
"You ain't heard the la-"
"Shut the fuck up," interrupt Sweet, and close the door in Tenpenny's face.
"Carl!" shout Tenpenny, snapping his fingers in my face, breaking me out of my daydream. I put my sunglasses back on so I could lift my head and look straight ahead without meeting their eyes and instantly looking straight down,"You fucking listen when your betters are talking, boy. I said we can shit on you from such a height you'll think God himself has crapped on you... you understand?"
"He better fucking understand," yell Pulaski, and Tenpenny's grin came back.
"Yeah," he said,"He better had."
"Time to go to work, CJ, and earn your freedom," say Tenpenny, finally getting around to what he'd called me here for, after taking his time to break me down even further,"There's a guy holed up across town.... you got that address, Pulaski?"
Pulaski reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper as I stood up, hearing my knees pops and my legs feeling weak and rubbery. The fucking racist pig didn't hand the paper to me, putting it on the table instead so I'd have to take it myself, like he couldn't bear even to touch me.
"We don't like him and he don't like us. Now you make sure he never leaves the neighborhood - not even in a box," Tenpenny tell me, then wave his hand, not even looking at me, done with issueing his orders,"Now get the fuck outta here."
I hated him so fucking much.
I walked out, leaving the three of them behind, the King, the Dog, and the bitch.
"I don't trust him, I don't like him," Pulaski said after I was gone.
"Relax, Officer," laughed Tenpenny,"You saw his eyes.... that boy is broken. He belongs to us, body and soul."
I drove across the city into East Los Santos, not feeling tired, just feeling worn down. Colors seemed brighter, the whole world vibrant.... everything but me, I felt like I was falling apart. I'd heard about this shit in the past, usually from junkies that used to be homies... they called it hyper-reality, when everything seemed more real, but they felt completely removed from it all. I also knew that this kind of shit usually came before one big motherfucking crash, and I knew it was coming for me.... I just didn't care anymore. For a minute in the water last night I'd thought about just giving in, but I'd kept going.... now I was wondering if that had been a mistake. What was the point of my life if all it was, was doing shit for other people, even people I liked, but especially for people I hated. Here I was going across town to kill someone who had the stones to stand up to Tenpenny.... even if they were a drug dealer, they still were more of a man than me. Why did I even bother? What was the point.... if I wasn't so worn down, I'd just fucking ram the car into the house and set off the molotovs I was bringing along to burn the place down..... but even that seemed like more effort than I could manage. I'd just do what I was told, go through the motions, and eventually maybe I'd just stop caring altogether at last and stop being a person, just be a robot doing what I told, when I told, and not have to think or worry, or dream.
There it was, job done, Tenpenny's dirty work done for him. I stood there, feeling the heat from the flames, and for a second I felt like I was getting a preview of what hell was going to be like, remembering the dream I had driving the Green Sabre. I could even hear the screaming of the damned, like it was coming from.... from the second story window of the burning house!
Sometimes, your life feels like it's gone off the rails, like you made all the wrong choices, like you're going nowhere and have nothing. Sometimes you feel like you done fucked up everything, and that nothing can make it better.
But then, sometimes.....
One little thing you do can throw everything else in your life in a whole new light.
That night, I slept like a baby.