I was having breakfast sitting on the couch when I realized I could hear a noise that hadn't been there since I got back from Liberty, a noise I associated with growing up on Grove Street as a kid.
I got up and put my cereal down, walking to the window and looking out, smiling when I saw a bunch of brothers in Grove colors standing outside shooting the shit. There had been two or three or sometimes four doing that every day since I got back, but now there was more like twelve, some homies I hadn't seen since getting back, others who I'd seen now and then, and a few who had been there through good times and bad. Word was getting around, Grove Street was back in the game and taking back Los Santos from the Ballas, and standing there staring out the window at my homies just having a good time being there made me really feel like I was truly home for the first time since getting back to Grove.
Which is when I saw the dealer.
He stood out like a fucking sore thumb, white guy dressed ghetto, hoodie pulled up over a cap even though it was a hot fucking day, hands in his pockets, looking around for 5.0 or any other heat, looking for customers... looking to sell his shit to my homies.
Not on my street, asshole.
"What the fuck is this!?!" I shouted, walking out the door and straight towards him, no hiding around the issue, no trying to get around anything.
"Hey man... hey brother... I..." the white boy start, trying to put on a smile, but I kept on coming.
"WHAT THE FUCK!?!" I yelled.
"Hey brother it's just bidness, y'know!" he shouted, panicking now, pulling a piece out of his pocket,"Just bidn-"
"YOU. AIN'T. FUCKING. BLACK!" I shouted, homies all watching as he brought the gun up and...
He lay on his back, stunned, I'd hit him with a combo I'd learned from Rocky, quick jab to sting his nose, shock him and take him off guard, then a quick left and hard right to put it down. I picked his piece up off the ground, then his little bags of drugs.
"Hey ban, dats by stuff!" he say, face and mouth all fucked up.
"Not anymore it ain't," I said back, tearing the bags open, spilling coke out to the wind, spilling crack rocks down the drain, even dumping the weed on the off-chance it was laced with stronger shit,"Now get the fuck off my block before I make you stop hurting... forever."
He got up and ran, and I heard the homies yelling out after him, laughing, making fun of him, saying it was about time, damn right, this was Grove Street. I watched him run feeling great, and turned to see Sweet doing a little jogging run down the steps of his house, spotting me and grinning and coming towards me while the homies talked up what THEY would have done to the dealer.... not that any of them had actually done anything when they had the chance. That was the problem, people had gotten too used to the idea of drugs being dealt, but maybe me and Smoke could do something about that.
"Whassup Sweet, you look pretty excited," I said, grinning.
"I just took a phonecall from Tenpenny," he said, and my grin faded straight away, and he shook his head.
"I know, I know," he said,"He called me last night and I was going to hang up on him, but something made me stay on the line. He was calling from Glen Park, where you fucked up those Ballas and killed that turncoat motherfucker, and he sounded... I don't know, Carl, motherfucker sounded beaten, y'know? I ain't never heard him sound like that, it kept me on the line."
I couldn't help but grin to hear it, Tenpenny on the backfoot? Man I could hear that all week long. I could see why Sweet would love it too, I'd had troubles with Tenpenny most of my life but only had him as a weight around my neck for a couple of months.... Sweet had been knocking heads with him for over a decade.
"He spun that bullshit he always spins about keeping a status quo," Sweet told me, as behind me other Grove Street homies finished joking about the dealer and started moving up towards us, wanting to hang with Grove Street OGs,"But he also said it was clear that Grove Street was on the way back up and Ballas were on the way down, and he liked backing the winner. If Grove Street is going to be in charge in Los Santos, and drugs are out, then he wants in on working with us."
"And you said yes?" I said, surprised,"No fucking way we can deal with Tenpenny."
"Nigga I know that," laughed Sweet,"But a motherfucker like Tenpenny think everyone can be bought, and he told me some shit, thinking to get into my good books, to put the last ten years behind us, like I can forget all the Grove Street homies he fucked with, all the shit he let go down, the drugs he put on the streets. He told me he could deliver me Kane, and he just rang back now telling me where that vicious fuck is going to be."
"Kane?" I said,"That nigga is Ballas royalty."
"That's right, he gives us Kane, the Ballas are without a leader, Grove Street is back on top and Tenpenny thinks he's coming with us.... but he's gonna find out we the ones using HIM for a change, he's going to be the one turned into a bitch! We going to take Los Santos back, Carl!"
"Yeah....? YEAH!" I say, letting myself get carried away,"Fuck yes, Sweet, okay! Where he going to be?"
"At a funeral?" I asked, suddenly less excited, that shit wasn't right, going to war in a cemetery during a funeral.
"Yeah," say Sweet, obviously not as worried about this as me, thinking only about taking the war to the Ballas after years on the backfoot,"We just catch all those ball-sack-ass-niggas at one time!"
But I still wasn't convinced.
"Just like Momma's," Sweet reminded me as the homies surrounded us, all smiles and grins, slapping hands and surrounding us - royalty ourselves, Sweet our King and me some kind of Prince,"You remember that, CJ? Going to Momma's grave, you just back in town and Ballas come gunning for us? Or how about here on our own street, Ballas rolling deep while we partying, coming to our fucking HOME to try and put us down. These are the motherfuckers who sell base to they own brothers and turn out they fucking sisters... so yeah, CJ, at a funeral, let's go pop these motherfuckers out!"
He stared at me and I stared at him, wondering if Tenpenny was handing him a line, luring him out with bait to finally put paid to a problem he'd had for ten years. Sweet grew up eating shit with Grove Street going downhill, and he manned up and did something about it, pulling off shit that even now people couldn't believe, fucking over the Ballas AND Tenpenny in the process, putting Grove Street on top of Los Santos and him on top of Grove Street. And then he'd watched it all fall apart, watched the Ballas rise back up again and Grove Street fall, watched everything that he'd worked for fall away... and now he had a chance to take it all back again and he wasn't going to miss his chance.
He stared at me, then he turned and looked at all the gathered homies, who had only a slight idea of what was going on, that me and Sweet were planning to fuck with the Ballas.
"Hey, look," he shouted out, a small army in front of him,"We been coming back but we ain't there yet. We gotta do something real big, put Grove Street on the map for good. 4 LIFE!"
I stared at him, my brother, the toughest, most stubborn bastard I'd ever known, my brother but acting more like a Father when I growing up, our Dad dead before I ever got a chance to know him. He was the one who taught me how to be a man, the one who I most wanted to be like, the one I'd do anything for. So I told him the only I COULD tell him.
We moved to Sweet's Greenwood, Sweet saying we couldn't roll deep or we'd tip off Kane before he showed up to the funeral, since he was probably smart enough to have his boys check out the area first. So we'd take a couple of homies with us, go around the back of Los Sepulcros and sneak over the wall.
"Drew," he said, pointing out a homie with dreads who'd stuck around through the tough times,"You good with a heater, you up to represent Grove Street?"
"You know it, Sweet," Drew said, and I liked across the street to where one beefy homie was leaning against a post, staring right at me - Tyrell.
"Tyrell," I said.
"You remember my name, huh?" he say back, still pissed about the night with the ammo train.
"More than remember it," I told him,"You always been there for Grove Street, Tyrell, when a lot of others backed off or changed colors. You were here when I weren't.... and I didn't even know your name when I came back.... I'm sorry, nigga, but we need you now, and I know you down, so want to come?"
"Hell man," he grinned, stepping away from the post and approaching the Greenwood,"I thought you'd never ask."
We pulled up a street over from the cemetery and hopped out, moving down to the wall leading up into the back of the graveyard. Sweet and Drew went over easy, but I had to help Tyrell get his ass over the wall before jumping over myself. We crouched down and moved through the gravestones, and I had to fight a urge to reach out and touch each gravestone and apologize for walking over they final resting place. We heard sobbing and the quiet voice of a preacher and Sweet pointed out the funeral, some poor bitch in black crying over Little Weasel's coffin, a couple of Ballas standing in they colors staring down at it, maybe wondering about all the funerals they been to in they life. A couple of cars came driving up the road towards the funeral, the door opening and.... well, shit, Tenpenny was right, Little Kane had come to pay his respects.
"Looks like that buster's wearing armor," Sweet said, shaking his head,"He's a vicious little bastard, but he's not stupid, might take a round or two to drop his ass.... CJ, you take care of Kane - you guys, take of these other marks."
We all nodded, and then Sweet was up and running, gun out, shooting before saying anything, dropping one Balla before he knew what was happening, Drew and Tyrell only a couple of feet behind him shouting out,"GROVE STREET 4 LIFE!"
"MOTHERFUCKER!" shouted Kane, turning for his car and seeing the window shatter, his driver's head blown to pieces by a shot from Sweet,"Fucking Tenpenny set me up!"
He ran, darting behind headstones and monuments, running behind his own men who had been caught off guard - this was a funeral after all - and were struggling to get straps up as Sweet, Drew and Tyrell blasted on them. I ducked low and rushed to intercept Kane, my AK held at my side, figuring enough shots from it would go through any fucking body armor the motherfucker was wearing. But as I ran, I was thinking, he said Tenpenny set him up.... it had seemed odd to me that Kane would go out in public so soon after the shit went down at Glen Park, even if it was to a funeral... now I knew why, Tenpenny had told him to pay his respects. That motherfucker really had gifted Sweet a prize catch.... all I had to do was catch him.
The preacher had ducked down when the shots started firing, hiding behind Little Weasel's coffin, and now Kane saw him and saw his chance. If he could get to the preacher and use him as a human shield... well no fucking Grove Street soldier was going to shoot a preacher, even if it was to get at a Balla like Kane. I ducked and rolled to the right, keeping out of Kane's sight as he rushed for the preacher, and as he crossed the one open space inside the cemetery, I stepped up in his path, AK raised to fire.
"NO!" he shouted, seeing me too late.
"Yes," I said.
"Nice one, CJ!" yelled Sweet, the Ballas who had come up with Kane down now.
"Is he dead?" asked Tyrell.
"He is now," I said.
We heard shouting coming from the front of the cemetery, and Sweet, Drew and Tyrell ran to join me.
"I'll get us a getaway car," he said,"You guys take out the rest of those Ballas!"
I lead Tyrell and Drew towards the front of the cemetery, shooting at confused Ballas who had been left to guard the entrance while Kane is inside, not knowing that Kane was dead... and now they'd never know, taken out by us before they knew what was happening. Only a few seconds later, Sweet pulled up in a shitty old car, probably the preacher's, and we all piled in, Sweet moving aside to let me drive.
"Good fucking work, guys," laughed Sweet, turning and slapping hands with Drew and Tyrell,"You motherfuckers stood up today, and we put down motherfucking Kane, man, that asshole been a thorn in Grove Street's side for... what the fuck is that?"
"Sirens," I said, frowning,"5.0 here ALREADY? Sounds like a lot of them coming."
"Fucking Tenpenny," he said, slamming his fist against the door,"Drive Carl, get us the fuck back to Grove Street, that motherfucker set us up, I should have known, STUPID!"
"Shit, these motherfuckers are EVERYWHERE!" shouted Tyrell, looking around at the bike that had just crashed into the side of the bridge over Glen Park,"Tenpenny got this much fucking stroke?"
"We lucky this is ALL he's got," yelled Sweet,"Motherfucker got his bitches, friends and whoever he could bully trying to bring us down, but they're just some fucking cops on bikes and cars.... not organized, and not official either, they're looking to take us down for they own glory, as long as we can get back to Grove Street and into our homes, we safe.
We pulled into Grove Street, the closest cop car had crashed one street over trying to surprise us and hadn't seen us pull into the alley. I brought the car to a stop and Sweet was out immediately, telling Tyrell and Drew to go home, stay low, and if anyone asked, we hadn't seen each other all day.
They nodded and went to leave, but Sweet stopped them, grabbing them and hugging each one then taking them by the shoulders.
"Grove Street 4 Life, nigga, you did Grove Street proud today."
They walked away with big ass grins on they faces, and Sweet turned to me.
"Dump that car, Carl, then come around to the house, I'm calling all of Grove's leaders together, you, me, Smoke, Ryder, all the top homies."
"Fo'sure," I said,"What's going on?"
"I was a fucking idiot today and took Frank Tenpenny at his word," he said, pissed,"After all the shit that man has put Grove through, I let a chance to take down Kane get in the way of my better judgment. Well fuck him, Carl, we don't need him and never have... he underestimated us and fucked up today, and all he's done is fire me up. Tenpenny just made the worst mistake of his life, I'm going to reunite the fucking families."
The Chief of Police stood over Kane's body, shaking his head, knowing that photographers were probably popping shots of him with long range cameras despite the heavy police cordon. He turned and saw the man he'd been looking for, and mindful of those cameras he stomped up and took him by the arm, pulling him to the side in an attempt to shield their conversation.
"For God's sake, Tenpenny," he hissed,"I thought you had these fucking animals under control!"
"I did have everything under control," replied Tenpenny calmly,"Until C.R.A.S.H got its funding cut and my top men taken away from me, replacing them with rookies like Hernandez. Don't blame this shit on me, Willie, your predecessor gave me plenty of rope and I kept the animals under control, you reel me in and suddenly there's a gang explosion."
"I'm not taking the media shitstorm for this, Frank," snapped the Chief under his breath,"Goddammit Frank, give me something!"
"Quid pro quo, Willie," smiled Tenpenny,"I mentioned your predecessor, he gave this city C.R.A.S.H and he gave us something else too, and I want it... just for tonight, give me one night and I'll put paid to this gang problem for you once and for all."
".... okay, okay," sighed the Chief at last,"You got it, Frank, but I want results."
He walked away and Frank hid a smile behind his hand. Things had gone perfectly at the funeral today, just as he'd expected them to, and now the Chief of Police had given him four little letters, and those four little letters meant that everything was going according to plan.