I sat and watch as Pulaski got out of the Sabre, the car that my Momma's killers had driven, and Smoke and Ryder got in, the Ballas hopping in the back. Tenpenny leaned in through the window and said something to Smoke, who nodded, and then did something that made it hit home for me, that everything I was seeing was real.
He shook Tenpenny's hand.
They drove away and Tenpenny and Pulaski closed up the garage, then stood talking to each other for a minute or two. A police car pulled up, they bitch Hernandez driving, and they hopped in and drove off, leaving me and Cesar sitting in the alleyway.
"There been rumors going around for awhile that Grove Street was going down for good," Cesar told me,"That the Ballas were gonna take complete control of Santos' black gangs. Most of us thought it was just big talk, a lot of hot air, because Grove Street might have fallen by the wayside but Sweet Johnson was still in charge, and Sweet Johnson wouldn't let Grove Street fall without a fight. But then the driveby happened, and your Momma got killed, and everyone knew whoever was driving was gunning for Sweet. I started thinking about things more seriously then, that maybe something was up. If the Ballas did take control, that was bad news for Santos and bad news for the Aztecas, we still trying to find a leader ourselves, and the Vagos will deal with anyone who will make them money, even if it does come from drugs. A Santos without Grove Street is a Santos with drugs flooding the streets, kids strung out and turning to violent crime to get their next fix, and women of all ages turned out on the street. And besides, me and Kendl had already fallen for each other hard by that point, and I didn't want to see her family and her people brought down."
I just sat staring out the windscreen, staring at the lockup garage that the car that had killed my Moms had been sitting in all this time, put there by a man I thought was my best friend.
"But the only way Ballas be able to get into Grove Street without a warning coming through was if there was someone on the inside," Cesar continued,"So I figured maybe Ryder was turning on Sweet, he already smokes that "wet" shit, it wasn't too much of a stretch to figure he might get into harder shit, sell his homies out for a fix... it's happened before. I looked into it deeper and started seeing that someone smarter than Ryder was involved, and the only person that could be was Smoke. Then you came back to Santos, and everyone knew there was bad blood between you and Sweet, so I thought maybe you were in on it, going to take Sweet's place as a figurehead leader with Smoke running things behind the scene."
"Killing my own Moms?" I said, turning an angry face to him, wanting to lash out at someone.
"I didn't know anything about you, apart from what your sister told me," Cesar replied, leaning back, hands up,"I didn't know what type of man you were, but when we met at the Lowrider Meet, I got the feeling you were stand up. But I had to be sure, so I had a guy follow you, and I didn't know what to make of it, holmes, because on the one hand you doing all kinds of crazy shit taking out Ballas and tagging all over Santos, but then you go and meet with Tenpenny and do his work for him, I couldn't figure out what side you were on. Finally, I went with my gut, that you were a good guy caught up in shit over your head, but when the chips came down you'd stand up alongside your brother. I've been putting feelers out all over the city, and I got a call back today telling me that Tenpenny would be here, so that's why I called you man, said you needed to be here to see it for yourself... I'm sorry, ese."
"No, no," I said, taking my head out of my hands,"You did the right thing, Cesar, you've been more standup than Sm... than those two motherfuckers I've known my whole life who I thought were my best friends. Shit, I gotta go tell Sweet abou- OH FUCK! SWEET!"
I turned to Cesar, close to panic, forgetting all about Smoke and Ryder and my Moms for the moment.
Cesar nodded, hearing that Kendl might be in danger getting him into action. He had no idea that Sweet was planning a big raid on Ballas territory, but it hadn't even occurred to me until now that Smoke and Ryder both knew about the raid and were hanging with Ballas now.... shit, the Ballas knew we were coming, and if Smoke had sold us out as much as it looked like he had, then they knew where we'd all be gathering before heading out.
I had to get to the Mulholland Intersection, I had to save Sweet!
I screeched out of the alley as Cesar ran back towards where he'd parked his car, pulling my phone out of my pocket, desperately dialing Sweet's number while trying to keep an eye on the road. The phone rang and rang, and then picked up, and I shouted,"Sweet! It's a trap! Smoke and Ryder sol-"
"Hey, what's up?" said Sweet's voice, calm,"You called me but I ain't pickin' up, so leave a message after the..."
"SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!" I screamed, jamming the phone into my pocket, thoughts in my head of Sweet and the homies lying dead in a pile of bodies, Ballas laughing standing over them, high-fiving Smoke and Ryder, Tenpenny and Pulaski sitting watching from they patrol car like fucking vultures waiting to pick over the dead bodies.
The Bravura screamed as I took corners hard, almost taking out cars too slow to get out of my way, not caring, not giving a shit about anything but getting to Sweet in time. I flew through Downtown, pushing the Bravura to its absolute limits but feeling like I was moving through glue, tears streaming down my face unnoticed, feeling everything falling away from me, my whole life only so recently regained here in Los Santos, my friendship with my brother... all of it in danger of being lost forever.
The car left the ground as I hit the top of the hill leading to the big parking lot under Mulholland Intersection, and in the second I was airborne before the car hit the ground with a bang and a shake, I saw cars ringed around a group of men in green surrounded by assholes in purple. I was too late, the Ballas had ambushed my homies, I was too fucking late, too fucking late.....
LIKE FUCK I WAS!
I pulled up amongst the homies that were left standing, too few of them, stopping next to a face I recognized, Tyrell, a homie I COULD actually trust.
"THEY WAS WAITING FOR US, CJ!" shouted Tyrell, ducking for cover,"THEY WAS FUCKING WAITING FOR US!"
"CARL!" shouted Sweet, turning to see me,"WHE-"
And then he was stumbling backwards, everyone's eyes wide, clutching at his stomach. I'd arrived in time to help, but too late to prevent what I'd feared most.
Sweet was hit.
"CJ," moaned Sweet, clutching his stomach, blood coming out between his fingers,"...where you been?"
"Cesar called," I said, placing my hand on his shoulder to try and steady him,"Showed me some shit.... it's Smoke.... and he in deep with Tenpenny and some Ballas...."
He just stared at me, ignoring the pain in his gut, the shooting going on all around me, just stared at me, and then I saw him close his eyes and his whole face seemed to... flicker... and suddenly he looked old to me, older than his years, broken down. It lasted a second, just a second, and then he was Sweet again, indestructible, unstoppable top dog of Grove Street, belly wound or not.
"It doesn't matter, man," he told me,"You gotta get out of here. All this shooting? After that shit yesterday, the cops gonna arrive any second, Tenpenny involved or not."
"Nah man, I ain't runnin' out on my brother!" I shouted back at him.
"I'm done for, CJ," he told me,"You gotta get clear so Grove Street can continue, the way it's meant to be."
"I know that," I told him, looking him right in the eye,"So you know this, I ain't runnin' out on my brother!"
I stood up, my brother on his knees in a pool of blood, three homies only left standing, the others dead, Ballas surrounding us and shooting, my two best friends lying motherfuckers who had turned on us..... but all the worry, all the fear and confusion and disbelief was gone now, everything replaced by one feeling.
I grabbed my AK and ran in a crouch up between two of the cars acting as a blockade, rolling between them and coming up on one knee, gun already braced, the two Ballas firing from behind an intersection support caught by surprise, then twisting to blast on the asshole shooting from behind the parking ticket box, mouth hanging open, surprised to see two of his own brought down.
"Not so much fun when it ain't fish in a barrel, huh!" I screamed.
"CJ! MORE BALLAS COMING!" shouted Tyrell, and I turned to see a van bumping up over the curb into the parking lot. A Balla stepped out from behind a car to motion to the van and I dropped him with the AK, then turned back and opened fire on the Ballas coming out the back of the van.
"FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK ALL Y'ALL!" I screamed, feeling a bullet graze my arm and not caring, fired up, enraged, ready to fucking kill everyone who came. I emptied round after round at the Ballas, setting they cars alight, blowing up vans, filling the Ballas themselves with holes if they showed themselves, and the homies still standing seemed to pick up on it, screaming they own curses at the Ballas, fired up themselves, blasting and blasting. Let the Ballas keep fucking coming, we'd kill them all, we'd kill any cops who came after us, and then we'd track down Smoke and Ryder and kill those treacherous bastards too.
"WE DOING IT! WE DOING IT!" screamed one Homie, and then a Ballas car that had been driving around us in circles looking for an opening opened fire, and the homie went down, coughing blood, arms waving about, body jerking.
"LANCE!" screamed Tyrell,"LANCE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS! LAN-"
"TYRELL!" I screamed,"LOOK OUT! THEY GOING T-"
But it was too late, the Ballas had turned they car and gunned it, smashing through the two cars acting as a barricade, smashing right into Tyrell, riding over him and straight for me. Tyrell's eyes met mine, full of surprise, and then he was gone, under the car barreling right towards me, Ballas screaming as I lifted the AK by reflex and unloaded at them, eyes squeezed shut as I waited for impact.... an impact that never came.
I opened my eyes, the car so close to me it was almost touching, engine steaming and making a shuddering noise, bullets from the AK had tore it up, and tore up the Balla driving and the one shooting out the back seat. By pure luck, when the driver had died his foot had jammed down on the brake instead of the accelerator. I moved out from the front in case the driver's weight shifted and moved up beside Sweet, hunched over even tighter now, the pool of his own blood widening.... but he was better off than poor Tyrell at least, crushed underneath a car.
"I'm sorry, Tyrell," I said, checking the inside of the Ballas car to make sure they was dead, then looked all around me. Ballas and Grove Street homies lay dead in and around wrecked up cars, the only sound now sirens getting closer, Sweet's heavy breathing, the blood rushing in my ears and.... praying?
I moved over and around the dead bodies, listening, hearing the weeping praying getting louder, someone asking Jesus to protect him, begging forgiveness, promising they'd be good, just get them out of this and they'd be goo-
"Jesus ain't listening," I said, stepping to the left so the Balla hiding behind the intersection support was visible.
"No NO!" he screamed, but I wasn't listening either.
It was over, the great raid on the Ballas would never happen, but at the same time, the great ambush BY the Ballas had failed too. Sure, homies had died, and Sweet had been hit, but he was still alive, and so was I. The Johnson Brothers were still alive, and as long as we were, we'd never rest till we'd had our revenge on Tenpenny, Pulaski, and those turncoat bastards Ryder and Smoke.
"C.... Carl.... run you idiot," groaned Sweet, staring up at me, sweat running down his face,"This ain't....
....your fight!" yelled the OG into Sweet's face,"So get the fuck out of my face."
"My brothers told me you offered them drugs outside school," Sweet said, not backing down,"Even after they told who they were, that they brother in Grove Street too. So I'm asking you again, is that true."
"Yeah so what if it is, motherfucker!" shout the OG, right up in Sweet's face,"Who the fuck are you that I should give a shit? Yo brothers got money or can get it, or they can go to work for me, it all goes back to Grove Street, so fuck you, if I want to sell base to them I will! Since they little squealing bitches as well, maybe I should turn them out on the street!"
"So that's where we stand, huh?" said Sweet calmly, me and Brian standing miserable behind him, forced to come along with him to point out who had offered us drugs. We'd come home not meaning to say anything, but Moms had forced it out of us then called over Sweet, furious that members of his gang would be trying to sell to schoolkids, let alone us.
"That where we stand, nigga," said the OG, sneer on his face, confident. After all, he an OG, Sweet just a young motherfucker who mostly ran errands and helped out when it came to working on stolen cars, getting them ready to go back on the street,"And you can't do a fucking thing about it, bitch, I'm a fu-"
Sweet delivered a punch right into the nigga's belly, doubling him over in surprise. Instead of keeping up after him, Sweet stepped back and shrugged off his jacket, other homies on the street where the confrontation been taking place all just as shocked as me and Brian.
"Stand up straight you fucking snake," Sweet said to the OG,"Face me like a fucking man, let's see what you got!"
The OG stood up, a big motherfucker built like a fucking truck.
"Oh you just made a baaaad mistake, nigga," he wheezed,"I'm gonn-"
"You gonna talk all day because you a bitch," said Sweet back,"FIGHT ME, MOTHERFUCKER!"
The OG jumped at Sweet, and Sweet stepped aside, driving his foot into the back of the motherfucker's knee, dropping him to the ground. Sweet kicked him in the belly and he went over, Sweet's boot on his throat before he knew it, pressing down.
"You got two choices," Sweet told him coldly,"Resist and I'll snap your fucking neck, or say sorry to my brothers."
"FUCK YOU I AGJJJJJKKK!" squealed the OG, cut off as Sweet pressed down harder on his neck,"OK OK! I'M SORRY! I'M FUCKING SORRY!"
"Good," said Sweet,"Carl, Brian, turn around and go back home, don't look back no matter what."
Neither of us were going to argue with him, we just turned and ran, and none of us saw or heard Sweet snap the OG's neck anyway, or tell the gathered homies that Grove Street was better than drugs, that we didn't need to sell our souls to be successful, and that the Grove Street Family he wanted to be a part off had no need for anyone who did or would..... and that if he had his way, every motherfucker who did would end up like the dead OG at his feet.
We didn't hear it or see it, not firsthand anyway, but we didn't need to. Sweet had made his message clear - family was more important than anything.
"I left you once, Sweet," I told him as the sirens got louder and louder,"I didn't learn the lesson you taught me and Brian as kids, but I've learnt it now. I ain't fucking leaving your side, I told you Grove Street 4 Life, and you Grove Street man.... my nigga, my fucking brother!"
He looked up at me, blood pooling underneath him, sweat running down his face, breathing heavily. His entire world had been torn apart, his closest friends had betrayed him, he'd been gutshot, and the gang he'd spent his life building up was looking like it was all about to be ripped apart.... but he smiled at me.
"Grove Street, brother," he said.
"4 Life," I told him back, and together we waited for the police to arrive.
It was dark, black, but my eyes was open. I shifted my head and could feel something against my face, and I started tossing my head about, panicking, not able to breath. I'd had my hands up when the police arrived at Mulholland Intersection, but a 5.0 had smashed me in the face with the butt of they gun and knocked me out, police fucking brutality. I'd woken up just, confused at first because it stayed dark when I opened my eyes and there was no noise, all the background noise of a city you get so used to when you live in one that you only notice it when it wasn't there. That's what got me panicking, it was black, I couldn't see, there was no noise, whatever was on my face was making it hard for me to breath, I was started to hyperventilate, what was this? Where was I? Was this hell? Had I died? What the fuck was going on!?!
"You got a bag over your head, boy, how you feel about that?" asked a voice, one I recognized immediately, and felt immediate hatred for, actually making me wish for a moment that I had died, hell would be preferable to this.
"Man, take it off!" I moaned, and then hating myself for saying it, begged them,"Please, man, I can't breathe! Please!"
"Oh, alright," laughed Tenpenny, and I hated him, hated him so much,"But only because you said please."
The bag came off my head, and..... what the fuck? Now I was even more confused than when it had been on.
"Intimidate those who intimidate others, Carl," said Tenpenny back, lecturing as I leaned forward and sucked in deep breaths, struggling to keep my balance with my hands cuffed behind my back,"It's my job."
I sat back up and looked around, confused by the surroundings. There were trees all around us, a BIG fucking mountain off to the side, a little town off to the other side with a road running through it, and a clear sky with almost no fucking smog at all in it.... wherever the fuck we were, it wasn't Los Santos.
"Hey, man, where we at?" I asked.
"The middle of fucking nowhere," smiled Tenpenny, then looked around at outside the car, saying quietly,"Nice, clean air."
"Fucking Smoke!" I yelled, then lowered my head, realizing for the first time I was alone in the back seat,"Oh.... Sweet...."
"Sweet is alive," said Tenpenny, turning to grin at me, and I looked back up at him, wondering if it was another cruel joke. If Sweet was alive, where was he?
"Yeah," laughed Pulaski, a cruel, small-minded fucking laugh as he told me sarcastically,"Somehow, nobody's "caught" you yet."
"Oh yeah, you should be glad, Carl," smiled Tenpenny, enjoying poking and prodding at me, mocking me, cruel for cruelty's sake,"Your moron brother's alive; your street trash, soon to be turned out sister's alive.... AND! she's only sucking one greaseball's dick."
Pulaski made a quiet little chuckle.
"Things are going pretty well for you, Carl," grinned Tenpenny, then his eyes went hard and his voice got louder,"So behave, nigga."
"We want you to do a little favor for us, Carl," Pulaski said, turning his head but not actually looking at me. Tenpenny stepped out of the patrol car, then Pulaski, both of them coming around to my side of the car before opening the door and hauling me out into the sunshine.
"I can't believe that nigga Smoke turned on me," I said, shaking my head as I struggled to keep my bearings. I must have been out all of the night and most of the day from that smack to the head, which meant we could be anywhere.
"Smoke?" laughed Pulaski, cruel, enjoying rubbing my nose in it,"Smoke does exactly what he's told, he learned that lesson a long time ago."
He shoved me over the back of the patrol car, causing me to shout out in surprise and pain as he began uncuffing me, not making any effort to be gentle, burning my wrists.
"Homies for life? Street loyalty?" asked Tenpenny, shaking his head as if he couldn't believe it,"That's all bullshit, Carl, didn't you learn that when they ran you out of town, just cause you let Brian die? Huh?"
I promised myself - not for the last time - that I would fucking kill Tenpenny when I got the chance.
"Eddie, I can't deal with this guy," sighed Tenpenny, spreading his arms,"He's an idiot!"
Tenpenny placed his hand on my shoulder while Pulaski glared at me, still holding his piece, and I could tell that he was itching to shoot me, even though it was plain that whole display had been setup beforehand by Tenpenny and Pulaski, a kind of fucked up version of Bad Cop, Worse Cop.
"Carl here is gonna help us with the fight against crime," Tenpenny said, turning to look at me,"Right, Carl?"
"Yeah, by any means necessary," Pulaski grinned.
"Now," Tenpenny said, face hard again,"Now you stay the fuck away from Smoke, and stay the fuck away from us... in fact, just stay the fuck away from Los Santos in general.... otherwise Sweet is going to find himself on a Ballas block getting in touch with his feminine side."
I stood staring angrily at them, all of us knowing that I couldn't do anything. Pulaski turned back to the patrol car and Tenpenny turned to stare over at where Hernandez had been pretending to take a piss so he wouldn't have to overhear all of this.
"Hey Hernandez, you going to piss all day?" shouted Tenpenny, while Pulaski walked back holding a camera in one hand, then grabbed me by the neck with the other, pulling me in his direction.
"Get your hands off me, man!" I yelled at him, but he just ignored me, walking me towards the road.
"Naah, who could do that," I grunted, rolling my eyes.
"Yeah, you'll never find anybody as fork-tongued as this snake ass bastard," added Tenpenny, walking over to join us as Hernandez zipped up,"Soon as he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he'll whistle any tune Internal Affairs wants him to."
"See, they've got him hiding up Mount Chiliad someplace," Pulaski said, pointing up at the big ass mountain taking up all that side of the sky,"So they can manipulate his testimony any way they want to."
"I want you to pay him a little visit, Carl," Tenpenny told me,"And destroy all evidence before he testifies."
"Sort this out, Carl," Pulaski ordered, shoving the camera into my hands,"So Officer Tenpenny can sleep easy at night."
Tenpenny gave Pulaski a little bow and headed back towards the patrol car where Hernandez was hopping into the back seat. Pulaski got up close to me, and I thought for a second he was going to gloat about Sweet or Smoke or Ryder, but instead he simply said,"We want evidence he ain't gonna talk," and then turned and walked away, hopping into the patrol car. They started the engine and drove slowly by, Hernandez turning to stare as we drove away, looking almost sad. The car stopped, and Tenpenny poked his head out the window, a grin on his face.
"Carl, gang colors don't go down too well here in Angel Pine. Grove Street's in your past now, let it go, man, let it go."
They drove away, leaving me standing in some place called Angel Pine I'd never heard off, exiled from Los Santos for the second time in my life; my brother in hospital awaiting jailtime; my best friends both treacherous bastards working for a corrupt cop who had let me think I was pulling clear off his influence only to drag me back in by the neck.
How the fuck had things gone so wrong so fast..... and could they possibly get any worse?