Smoke had panicked in the same way that the helicopter pilot had panicked, and our car had gone head to head in a game of chicken against the Ghetto Bird. My whole world went red for a second as the cop turned just in time to see the rotors coming for him, and then the helicopter was passing just overhead, shaking the whole Greenwood as Smoke jumped it forward down the alley towards the dead end, Sweet screaming at him to slow down, Smoke screaming back that the brakes were out, the brakes were ou-
Cars skidded across the freeway, flaming pieces of the Greenwood raining down on the road as the tanker that had come loose from the truck rolled on, flaming burning and heating the metal, the fuel inside the tanker getting hotter and hotter until it exploded with a sold WHUMP. The Ghetto Bird had run into the ground and tore up the rotor, spinning off out of control until the pilot was able to control it enough to bring it down for a crash landing. Burnt and wrecked police cars were spread across Los Santos, leaving a trail from the freeway all the way back to the Jefferson Motel. Sirens filled the air, people were running out of they homes to see the damage for themselves, and the leaders of Seville Boulevard and Temple Drive Families were dead, dying, fucked up and on they way to hospital or under arrest in the back of police S.W.A.T van.
And Grove Street OGs?
We were still standing.
"Man, that was some serious shit," said Sweet, getting to his feet after having rolled out the Greenwood just before it hit the billboard. He looked at all of us, dusting the gravel and dirt off our bodies, and he grinned wide,"Woo!"
"Fuck this!" said Ryder, looking down at the burning remains of the Greenwood, the police heading that way now, thinking we be in it when it went through the billboard, giving us time to get the hell back to Grove Street and alibi up,"We gotta get outta here!"
"Ryder's right," nodded Sweet,"Everybody split up, and we'll meet up later."
We all nodded, and then Sweet grinned again, whether cause he high on adrenalin or just love for us all.
"CJ, you came in for me when it looked like I was done for," he said,"And Smoke, Ryder, you came back into the lion's den when you were free and clear.... Grove Street 4 Life, homies."
"Hells yeah! Grove Street 4 Life!" shouted Ryder, puffing his chest out.
"Grove Street 4 Life," I said, the same grin as was on Sweet's face on mine.
"....yeah, Grove Street," nodded Smoke, looking sad, like he still not over the fact he ran earlier,"4 Life, homies, 4 Life."
We turned and went out separate ways, but even though we apart, I felt like we all still together. It was what kept Grove Street going through tough times, what would see us on top again - a fact that Tenpenny would never understand. Grove Street 4 Life, and nothing could tear us apart now that I was back from Liberty City and we were all together again.
"Any answer?" Tenpenny asked Pulaski.
"Nothing, fucking asshole ain't picking up," replied Pulaski angrily,"You think he's trying to fuck with us?"
"He's too smart for that," Tenpenny said, leaning back in his seat. C.R.A.S.H had their own offices, and Tenpenny his own section separate from that for what was called,"C.R.A.S.H Strategic Planning", which actually meant a place that Tenpenny could operate without supervision. He was given a great deal of leeway to deal with the gang problem in Los Santos, and much of his legitimate police operations outside of his "extra curricular activities" existed in a gray area between stretching the law and outright breaking it. As long as he got results, however, his superiors were happy to let him be, which was just the way he liked it,"He'll be back to us soon eno.... well shit, maybe that's him now."
The phone on his desk was ringing, one that very few people knew the number of. Tenpenny picked up and said his name, and instantly winced when the Chief's voice came shouting down the line.
"What the FUCK, Frank!?!" the Chief of Police snapped down the phone,"You know what the headlines in the papers are today? Police Bungle Gang Operation! Police, Gangsters Dead In Slaughter At Jefferson Motel! Keystone Kop Kapers! KEYSTONE KOP KAPERS, FRANK! KKK! They're trying to make this out to be a fucking race thing!"
Of course it's a race thing, you idiot, Tenpenny thought, but what he said in a cool, calm and collected voice was,"47 Gangsters taken off the street. Dangerous criminal gang masterminds killed in violent resistance of police. Gangleaders arrested, streets safer, police break back of gang culture in Los Santos."
"You have PR people for this, Willie," Tenpenny continued calmly,"Last night's operation was a bloodbath, I didn't get any sleep over those dead officers.... but it was an overreaction on S.W.A.T's part to open fire on those idiots, but idiots they were, lifting weapons up on training police special forces like that. The fact is, Willie, we got results last night. The leader of Temple Drive Families is in a coma and isn't likely to come out of it. The leaders of Seville Boulevard Families are all dead. Top ranking gang associates were killed, injured or placed under arrest at the scene, those assholes are running around out there without leaders now, Willie, and they're going to be dropping like flies, easy picks for the LSPD. Makes you look good, Willie, makes me look good too... we all come out of this looking good. Who gets the credit for taking out the gangbangers? The police. Who gets the blame for all the deaths? The gangbangers."
He sat forward in his seat and raised his voice deliberately,"For fuck's sake, Willie, you're going to let the fucking MEDIA set the tone of the story? Get your people on this, spin this story OUR way, not their way. Don't come complaining to me when I do my job, you wanted results and you got results, and a few dead police officers may be a bloody price to pay, but maybe it'll remind those assholes out there that gangs aren't some romantic hip-hop storytelling bullshit, they're dangerous gun-wielding criminals."
The Chief was silent for a few moments, and Tenpenny shot a smirk Pulaski's way, Pulaski grinning and going back to reading his porno - Ebony. Pulaski didn't like black people, but he loved black women.
"Okay, okay Frank, point taken," The Chief said at last,"But what about Grove Street Family? Aren't they the ones causing all these problems in the first place? I don't see either of those Johnson boys on the arrest reports, and they're not listed among the dead."
"You let me worry about the Johnson boys," smiled Tenpenny,"Those motherfuckers are riding high as a cloud right now, thinking they got away clean and are homefree. I guarantee this shit will be finished with by the weekend, Willie, I give you my guarantee."
"The weekend, Frank," the Chief said after a moment conferring away from the phone with someone else,"I want this all resolved with a nice feelgood story for the weekend papers, let people sit down to breakfast on Sunday morning with their families and read about how the LSPD has put an end to gang problems in Los Santos."
He hung up, and Tenpenny put down the receiver, shaking his head.
"Put that shit down and ring him again, Pulaski," he growled,"Fuck the weekend, I want this settled tonight."
Cesar Vialpando sat on the phone, nodding his head.
"Okay, I understand," he said,"I'll take care of it."
He hung up and opened his wallet, looking at the picture of him and Kendl laughing at the pier. He stared at it for several moments, then shook his head angrily.
"Fuck you, Tenpenny," he whispered under his breath,"I hate you for making me do this."
I walked down the stairs pulling off my hoodie and tossed it onto the couch, turning to stare into the kitchen where dirty dishes from breakfast the day before were waiting. I'd gotten home and crawled into bed, exhausted after the shit that had gone down the night before, barely taking off my shoes before falling asleep. I'd slept a good seven hours, and it was getting near to 3pm when I got out of bed and brushed my teeth. I looked at the dishes in the sink and thought about whether I should wash them first and then go and have a shower, or shower first and then do the breakfast dishes with the dinner dishes tonight... and then the phone rang.
"Carl, it's Sweet," said Sweet when I answered,"Come on over man, shit's going down.
"Okay, man," I said, hanging up and grinning over at the dishes,"Catch you niggas on the flipside."
I stepped outside and closed the door behind me, walking over to Sweet's and heading through the front door, surprised to see a lot of homies inside, and Sweet holding forth like a General addressing his troops.
THIS was the Sweet I remembered from growing up, a fired up General, leader of his men, never fronting, always keepin' it real. Sean "Sweet" Johnson, Grove Street's Leader taking us forward to bigger and better things.
"Hey sorry, bro, I got caught up," I said walking up, Sweet grabbing my hand tight in greeting then turning to grin at the homies.
Everyone was laughing - me too - but then Sweet suddenly became serious again, looking everyone over.
"Listen up - y'all down with CJ, right?" Sweet asked the homies, and they stopped laughing, nodding and agreeing, saying fo'shure and yeah.
"He's been through a lot," Sweet told them,"I mean we all been through a lot! But CJ's helping us clean up the 'hood. He's taken the fight to the enemy, showing all of us how we USED to bang, what it used to mean to be a Grove Street Family!"
I stared at him, surprised. He'd said kind things to me before, shown his love.... but he'd just said I was what Grove Street used to be, making me remember him at the top of his game, dragging Grove Street out of the gutter to the top of Los Santos.... that he thought that much of me, I felt like a tear was forming in my eye and I had to look down and act like I was just embarrassed, not like I was going to cry.
"CJ, you're my brother, my running dog," he said, looking me right in the eye,"I should have never doubted you."
"Listen up!" Sweet shouted, turning to the homies,"I want all y'all to go get heated and meet me Downtown under the Mulholland Intersection... we're gonna roll on these Balla motherfuckers!"
"Oh hell yes!" I said, and the homies reacted the same, jumping up and cheering, fists raised in the air.
"After that shit at the Jefferson Motel," Sweet told us,"Seville Boulevard and Temple Drives are without leaders, and its time to show them why they should never have shook on us. Everyone thinks things are going to be quiet, that we gonna keep our heads down after throwing down with S.W.A.T. Well I say hell no! I say the Ballas lost Kane and they're regrouping, and we don't give them a chance! We blast on the Ballas, take them out the game for good, and then we tell Seville Boulevard and Temple Drive it ain't a matter of if no more, they ARE gonna rejoin Grove Street Families!"
"Fuck yes!" shouted one homie, everyone slapping hands and excited, Sweet getting them fired up, getting me fired up, getting himself fired up.
"I'll see you in traffic," Sweet told each of the homies, one by one as they walk by, hugging each one till it was just the two of us left.
"You in?" he asked me.
"Hell yeah I'm in!" I said back,"I'm your running dog, Sweet!"
"Yeah, my nigga..." grinned Sweet, and we shook hands and hugged again,"Alright, you go get heated up, and I'll meet you at the crossroads. I sent Smoke and Ryder to pick up whatever is left from the Armory job you and Ryder pulled, we gonna need the extra straps, we rolling deep on those Ballas, CJ, we putting an end to this shit TONIGHT!"
We stepped outside the house and Sweet moved to the waiting car, turning to me and shaking his head.
"I'll miss that Greenwood," he said,"That old piece of junk gave me years of service."
"I'll see you soon, bro," I said, and he nodded and hopped in, he and the homies inside driving away as I moved towards my house to pick up my AK and whatever else I figured I'd need... and that's when my phone rang.
"Hey, CJ, it's Cesar, man," said Cesar when I picked up, sounding weird, kind of sad.
"Hey Cesar," I said,"Look man, I'm kind of busy now, something big going down."
"Ese, I got to see you, holmes," he said in a rush,"Tell you something."
"Look, if it's about Kendl, don't worry," I laughed,"We cool, a'right?"
"No," he said, sounding desperate now,"CJ, you gotta come and see something."
I frowned, feeling the first drops of rain coming down on me even though the sky had been pure blue only a few seconds ago, it looked like it was going to rain,"Something important, eh? Well it's gonna have to wait..."
"This can't wait, holmes," he said, and now I could tell he really was desperate,"If I tell you, you won't believe it, ese, I swear."
The rain was coming down harder now and I was starting to get wet, and I didn't feel like arguing about it.
"Ahhh, ok," I told him,"I got about five, so it better be good, where you at?"
"I'm under the freeway northside of Verdant Bluffs," he told me, sounding relieved but still worried,"Come quick, CJ, it's important, man."
I hung up and shook my head, why now? Cesar was becoming a good friend, but calling on me when I had such important shit to do... still, he was a friend, and Kendl's man as well, so I couldn't just blow him off. I'd just have to hoof it to join Sweet and the others in time at the rendezvous point before they set out to take the war to the Ballas.
I loaded up my guns and drove out to Verdant bluffs, streets quiet out here, the rain keeping people indoors, spotting Cesar standing in the alley across from a lock-up storage garage, waiting for me. I parked the car I was using - a Bravura - in the alley and he hopped inside, staring at me with wide eyes, like he was scared.... what the fuck was going on?
"So you dragged me way across town to see... what?" I asked, a little irritated now as the rain stopped and I thought about Sweet probably already at the Mulholland Intersection.
"You're just in time, ese," he said back, pointing across the road to the lock-up storage garage and the empty lot in front of it,"Take a good hard look over there."
"So, some Ballas hanging around a dope spot," I said, getting pissed now. THIS was what he'd brought me out here for,"So what?"
"Just watch, homie," Cesar said as the two Ballas leaned against the door of the garage and looked about them, probably acting as lookouts in case 5.0 came by during a deal,"I.... I don't know how to tell you, CJ, only show you. There's things you don't know, things about Grove Street, about Sweet, your Momma, the drive-by that killed her...."
"Moms? What the fuck, Cesar?" I asked, getting angrier,"Just get it out, man!"
"Those flashes of green you been seeing," he said,"Someone following you, just out the corner of your eye? That was one of my boys, an Azteca, keeping an eye on you for me."
"You been the one following me?" I said, too surprised to be angry,"Or one of your boys, at least? What the fuck? Why?"
"The Green Sabre," he said, turning those sad eyes on me, and I felt a chill run down my spine,"I heard a rumor and followed it up, and I found out things about how your Momma died, and then you show up and I don't know where you fit in, so I been tracking you, finding out what your part in all this is."
"My part in what? What the fuck you talking about, Cesar?" I demanded, anger rising back up,"What you know about my Mo-"
"Look, CJ, look," he said, and pointed.
I looked, and what I saw.... I couldn't.... Cesar was saying words, but it might as well have been just me in the car.... it couldn't, he couldn't.... they couldn't... no, no no no..... no
No no no no no!
No no nononononononononono!