"I'm Mary-Beth Maybell, going to the phone!" Mary-Beth told me as I rode the truck through the countryside. All my Exes Live in Texas had just been on, and I'd been thinking about Denise when Mary-Beth's voice interrupted my thinking.
"Mary-Beth you are a wicked, evil wealthy woman," some redneck sounding old bastard said through the radio,"This is Brother Albert Cunningham and you are destroying our very moral fabric with this music!"
"Ahh shit, redneck holy rollers," I said, shaking my head.
"Just because you don't like gravy, don't take away my mashed potata!" Mary-Beth hit him back, fast. He probably called and wrote all the time, or people like him.
"You should be eating grits and turnip greens and pigs feet!" Brother Albert warned her,"So what if you wear a potato sack for clothes? You're supposed to suffer and you WILL suffer for all those poor husbands of yours. The book says you are going to the fiery pit!"
"Look," sighed Mary-Beth, sounding bored,"I have read Dante, and I love Roman Numerals. The Roman's invaded Britain, who, if you noticed, make no country music, let's get back to it! On K-Rose!"
"You tell him, Mary-Beth," I grinned, and bumped along to the beat as "Love a Rainy Night" came on. I'd really been getting into K-Rose recently, mostly because it was the only station you could actually get out here. Some of the songs were pretty good, but it was Mary-Beth that kept me coming back, something about that gir-
"Woooo what a song!" she shouted over the end,"Reminds me of a truck stop off 70 and Colombia, Missouri! "
That would be it, right there.
"You know one of the things about country music fans is we don't like people telling us what to do. First they take away my cigarettes, my gun's next, then my radio, and then...." Mary-Beth cut off, then lowered her voice to a whisper,"....my battery operated love-machine."
"Ahhh hell Mary-Beth," I laughed, and then she was back to her normal voice.
"It takes quarters!" she laughed, then suddenly she sounded more serious,"I hope yer having a fun and reproductive night out there.... I am literally loooonging for a man."
"Damn girl...." I chuckled, shaking my head as I shifted gear and moved the truck up a steep incline and found myself looking over Angel Pine.... back again, sooner than I'd expected to be, which had been never.
I'd returned to RS Haul and Mr. Whittaker and found out he finally had a job out to Whetstone, which would give me a legit reason to be in and around Angel Pine if the Federales were still investigating the shootout at the cabin and picked me up for questioning. I drove past the little town, which seemed as dead and rotting as it had the whole six horrible weeks I'd spent living there in a funk, focusing everything on killing that informer so I wouldn't have to think about Smoke and Ryder being hooked up with Tenpenny and involved in fucking over Sweet and my Moms. I moved up onto the coast, where a last chance gas station sat with a million dollar fucking view, parking the truck to the side and stepping out, my business relationship with Mr. Whittaker done for now.
We'd both gotten what we wanted out of the deal, and now it was time for me to get back into personal business, family business. Tenpenny had whored me out to some fuck called "The Truth", and while I didn't want to do what Tenpenny wanted, I also had no choice if I wanted to find an angle to get Sweet free.
An hour later I was back in Angel Pine, riding in a stolen bike back to the town I'd been exiled to when my whole world had fallen apart. I dumped the bike in the construction yard/half finished trailer park (just what the world needed, another trailer park) and walked to the "Civil Defense Force Safehouse", letting myself in and thanking the darkness and the early nights the people took for letting me do this all unseen. Nobody had been inside the place as far as I could tell, which meant the feds hadn't tracked back the killings this far at least.... maybe they never would.... maybe they'd show up in the morning with shotguns in my face while I was trying to sleep? Who knew? No point losing sleep worrying about it.
And that's what I intended to do now, strip down and get some sleep, be up fresh and early tomorrow to meet with this "Truth" motherfucker and find out how Tenpenny was trying to use me now. Trouble was, it was while I was turning out my pockets that I remembered switching off my phone earlier in the day when ringing had gotten me spotted by the Ballas. I stared at it for a moment, wondering who had called me, and then decided that if it HAD been important, it would be worth getting woken up by them calling back. So I switched the phone back on.... and it started ringing straight away.
Knowing it could only be bad news, I answered the phone, and what I got was an angry Mexican shouting into my ear.
"CARL!?! IT'S CESAR! WHERE THE FUCK YOU BEEN MAN?"
"Long story man," I said back, worried over how pissed off and scared he sounded,"What's the matter? Wassup?"
"Bad stinking shit, that's wassup, holmes!" he shouted, and I instantly thought of the worst.
"What's wrong? Where's Kendl? Is she OK!?!" I yelled, standing up off of the bed, sweat breaking out.
"She's with me," Cesar said, and now he didn't sound pissed, he just sounded tired... and sad,"She's OK for now.... the Varrios Los Aztecas; it's all over... there's a price on my head, maybe Kendl's too."
"What happened!?!" I said, stomping around the room, agitated and wanting to hit something, shit if Kendl was in trouble....
"Trust, respect, honor; they don't mean jack in Los Santos now," Cesar told me, it all went down this afternoon in Santos, I tried to call you but you cut off, I thought maybe they'd gotten to you too.... my OG's, my eses, all dead or in hiding, eh."
Shit.... it looked like that storm I'd felt coming in Los Santos had come all right, and I'd been there when it did, in a different part of town. Varrios Los Aztecas was the only other major gang apart from Grove Street that didn't allow drug running, if they were down and out like Cesar was saying, that meant Tenpenny had made a big move, cut out the only resistance left to him.
Tenpenny owned Santos.
"Get out of town," I told Cesar, business now, my only thought getting my sister to safety,"Head over to Angel Pine, rent you and Kendl a trailer and I'll meet you there."
"OK," Cesar said, but now he was starting to sound pissed again,"I just got some shit to take care of an-"
"NO!" I shouted,"Just get my sister out of town and someplace safe! Don't shit with me on this one, I can't lose her, man!"
For a second he was quiet, taking in what I'd just told him. Shit, what I'd ordered him to do. To step back from being a man and taking revenge for his friends, and I knew the only reason he wasn't telling me to go fuck myself was because of Kendl.... and I also knew that this was why I could trust him - for all our differences, we both had one thing in common - we loved Kendl.
"Sure thing, holmes," he told me at last,"We'll see you in Angel Pine."
I hung up and sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, hating Tenpenny, hating myself for still being hooked up with him, held under his thumb the same way that Smoke must be, taking Ryder along for the ride.
I didn't get much sleep that night after all.
I looked up at Mount Chiliad, remembering all the time I'd spent riding it and crashing on it and casing out the cabin for the feds. Now it was just another big fucking rock, nothing for me to be concerned with, I was there for the motel, and for "The Truth".
I hopped off the bike and walked to the registration desk, raising an eyebrow at the fat white asshole in a fishnet undershirt reading a titty mag. He raised it right back at me and told me the rates by the hour, but I just shook my head.
"Guest of yours is expecting me, The.......," I sighed,"The Truth."
"The Truth," he grinned, showing me a couple of teeth and empty gums,"Upstairs, first on the left."
I walked up and knocked on the door, calling out to see if anyone was in there. I heard a fucked up, croaking voice wheeze,"Iiiin heeeere," and frowned, was I walking into a fucking crack house here? I stepped inside and closed the door behind me, the curtains were shut and the room was dark, but I could see.... ahhhh shit.
Well shit, I'd come looking for The Truth and found a crooked cop stoned out of his fucking mind on weed. I couldn't let an opportunity like this pass, I had to get in my digs and my kicks while I could, you didn't get a chance like this every day.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, hush up man," groaned Tenpenny - holy shit was that nigga FUCKED UP - then rolled one hand slowly over to the chair beside him, rolling his eyes in they sockets so he could look at me, too fucked up on weed to actually move his neck,"Mr. Truth here is going to be supplying you with some of the finest..."
"....weed...... and you are going to deliver it for us."
I looked at him, the bong, the chair, then back to him again.... fucked up asshole with a lazy ass grin on his face all sprawled out in that ugly-ass motel chair, so fucked up on weed he could barely keep his eyes focused on me, could barely keep his own ass in the chair. So this was "The Truth" huh? In that chair Tenpenny was pointing to?
"Tenpenny," I told him,"Hey, man, you losing it, you hallucinating and shit."
"Whuh?" he mumble, sounding like an old man about to fall asleep in his soup, then turn to look at the ugly empty chair,"Oh... yo, Truth, come here, man."
And that's when I finally met "The Truth".
"Wassup," I said, checking out the last thing I expected, some broke down white-haired old hippy looking motherfucker who was apparently dealing with the crookedest cop in Los Santos.
"Carl here is going to be paying you your money," Tenpenny wheezed.
Nigga what now?
"Now, Carl," wheezed Tenpenny, leaning back holding the bong like it was a cock,"I got a real do gooder fucking with me, and I want you totakethisevilgreenpoison, and drop it on him.... hehehehehe."
"It's going to ruin that asshole's career," laugh Tenpenny, leaning forward and almost falling out of his seat.
"Oh man, bullshit," I snapped, but if Tenpenny was paying any attention to me trying to stand up to him, he didn't give a shit. The Truth didn't seem to care either, settling down and crossed his legs funny so they formed a diamond.
"Dudes," he asked us, sounding fucked up but in control, like this was his natural state. Again I thought of Ryder, only this guy looked like he didn't get aggressive like Ryder sometimes did, never got up in anyone's face.... this dude was mellow,"You want mushrooms? Ludes? How about some DMT?"
"No, not for me, man," moan Tenpenny, staggering up out of his chair,"I gotta jet."
"Yo, Carl," he manage to grunt, tossing the bong back over his head as he got to the door,"Pay the man."
He walked out, and left me even more confused than ever.... what THE FUCK was going on? What the fuck had I gotten myself into now?
"Whoa man!" laughed The Truth, standing up and shaking his head,"I never thought I'd see that, a fed out-smoking me...... say, what are you, dude? FBI? DEA?"
"I surveyed your handiwork at the Cabin up at Mount Chiliad," The Truth told me, surprising me,"Professional wetwork, very nicely handled, Tenpenny said you were just the man to help me with my problem, which also helps him with HIS problem, since he does owe me a lot of green for the green I've been giving him."
"How you kno-" I started, but he interrupt me, lifting his hands up and kind of waving them in my face.
"Friend, you give off a positive energy.... how about some Vietnamese opium?"
"Nah, I don't get down with that," I told him, confused now. Was this guy a drug dealer or a mercenary or what the fuck was he? Tenpenny owed HIM money? How the fuck did that happen, Tenpenny didn't owe people money, they owed him.... more importantly, now I owed him money, because Tenpenny didn't feel like paying. But that also meant something else, this dude The Truth was someone who wasn't under Tenpenny's thumb, someone that Tenpenny OWED.... and that meant that maybe, just maybe, I had an in to getting Sweet out of prison.
"Don't smoke opium?" asked The Truth, looking surprised,"But how do I know I can trust you then?"
"What, I'm working for you now?" I asked, sounding angry, wanting to test how far I could push this guy and if he would push back.
"I'm a man of peace," Truth said, looking hurt at the suggestion that anyone could WORK for anyone else,"But some squares across that ridge are not respecting my peace... I mean survivalist maniacs. Right wingers. Fascists!"
"Nazis, huh?" I asked.
"Worse," he told me, looking around and whispering,"I think they might be..... Republicans."
"Republi-" I started.
"They have a harvester and I need one," he interrupted, smiling at me as he lifted one bony leg up to the other knee,"Get it... and then you can pay me."
"The fuck that mean?" I asked,"Later, freak."
I stepped outside the hotel, blinking to be out in the sunlight again, looking up to the ridge where the survivalists had they farm. So a Harvester and some money would take Tenpenny out from under Truth's thumb, and leave me still under Tenpenny's? Well if I got this hippy his goddamn combine harvester on top of the money, then he'd be in MY debt. It made sense, work for one motherfucker to get at another one. All I had to do was steal a piece of heavy machinery from some fascist right wing fucks.
I drove out of the place like a fucking King, high in the saddle, riding what was pretty much a fucking tank. I'd left dead bodies piled up, filled with gunshots or torn to shreds under the blades of the harvester. I didn't give a shit if it caused the feds to link the killings at the cabin, in fact I hoped it did, they were fucking survivalists, the FBI would probably blame them for the shootings at the cabin, figure they'd had a falling out and killed each other with the survivors scattering.
Only problem was, the fucked up redneck following us in the back of a pick-up blasting at the back of the harvester with his shotgun.
With the redneck dropped, I turned my attention to the lady driving. She was pretty in a redneck way, and she was also obviously terrified. I'd heard the bald freak in the back screaming at her all the time they'd been chasing me, she obviously didn't want any part of this, had been forced along for the chase, and probably forced to the camp to. She had a beaten look around her eyes, like she'd been forced into submission a long time ago. I looked her in the eyes and she looked in mine, and even though she could have run me down any time, we both knew she wasn't going to floor the accelerator.
I stepped up close and lifted my pistol, aiming carefully as she stared at me with wide eyes.... and I fired.
"Do you understand," I said, stepping up and looking through the shattered window,"I could have killed you, do you understand that?"
"Y.... yessir," she mumbled.
"Leave and don't come back," I told her, and turned back and walked to the Combine Harvester. I hopped in and drove away, and looking up in the rearview mirror I saw her doing the same, going in a different direction. Good. I wished her luck wherever life took her, hopefully far away from people like the survivalists and people like me.
"I'll call you when the whoop-de-doo is ready," Truth told me after I'd parked the Combine Harvester inside his shed. He looked faraway and fucked up just like Ryder always did but, just like Ryder, he wasn't some stoned fool who didn't know what was going on in the real world. He reminded me by telling me as I walked away,"Just make sure you get that cash."
"About that," I said,"Exactly how much cash is it Tenpenny owes you?"
The Truth just smiled, looking like a serene, dope smoking Jesus in flannel.
"You better get busy, my friend," he told me,"It's more than you think."
I headed back down to Angel Pine, if word had hit about the killings at the Survivalist Farm yet, no one seemed to care much one way or the other. The streets were quiet, people walking casually in the heat, taking their time going nowhere.
I drove on down to the trailer park/construction yard and hopped off the bike, looking around and spotting what I was looking for - a nice car parked beside a trailer. I moved up to the door and knocked before entering, hoping I had the right place, eager to be with family again.
"Carl, it's so good to see you again," Kendl told me, wiping a tear from her eye,"I didn't know if I'd ever see you or Sweet again."
"We ain't seen the last of Sweet," I promised her,"And you ain't seen the last of me. I've been thi-"
"This ain't over, man," interrupt Cesar, stepping up between us,"I did this..."
He stopped to wave his arm about at the trailer,"....to take care of my woman. But now I'm gonna head straight back home, and I'm gonna cap me some FUCKING dope dealers!"
"Hey look," I told him, knowing how he felt, I'd felt the same way but had to hold myself back. Being macho would only make things worse in an effort to make him feel better about the way he'd been fucked over,"You go into the barrio with that big willy bullshit, and you gonna get shredded!"
"And I ain't losing you over no macho bullshit!" yelled Kendl, getting up in his face. He stared at her, then me, then turned and stomped through the little trailer, arms clenched into fists at his sides.
"Hey, relax, man!" I told him, wanting to make sure he understood why I was asking him to do this,"It's gonna get handled when it's time."
But that just pissed him off.
"We already know who the fucking bad guys are, man!" he yelled at me,"Your stinking Grove Street brother Smoke, and those chota pigs, Tenpenny and..... Pulaski!"
"Hey now, Smoke i-" I started.
"Smoke, he's a pusher, man!" Cesar yelled at me.
"No, no, not Smoke," I said, trying to make him understand,"He might mess with C.R.A.S.H, but he don't mess with no yay!"
"Come on, CJ!" yelled Kendl, joining in with her man,"How do you think he got that new house, huh?"
I turned to look at her, wanting to explain that his Aunt died, but it sounded lame even to me, and she wasn't done smacking me around with her words,"Just that Grove-for-life bullshit go and take a look around you!"
Now it was me turning around and looking around at the trailer, the shitty little place my sister and her boyfriend - one of the fucking leaders of one of the biggest fucking gangs in Los Santos - had been forced to live in, while Tenpenny owned and ran Los Santos and Smoke... fucking Smoke.... was right there running it alongside him.
"Word on the street," Cesar told me, a little calmer himself now,"Is twice a week, Smoke sends a car out to San Fierro, and the trunk comes back full of white."
Smoke was fucking drug dealer? Smoke was a fucking drug dealer? SMOKE WAS A FUCKING DRUG DEALER!
Somehow, despite everything he'd done to us so far, that was the worst, the straw that broke the nigga's back.
"Shit!" I shouted, twisting about and punching the wall,"I gotta.... fuck... I... I gotta keep my eye on the highway to San Fierro... maybe I'll see something...."
I looked up at them, both of them knowing how lame that sounded.
"Just... just lay low and I'll be back," I told them, and headed outside, feeling winded. I'd always known, of course, but I hadn't WANTED to know. I'd convinced myself Smoke was being used and Ryder was just too stupid not to go along for the ride.... but I couldn't blind myself to the truth any longer.
Smoke was a drug dealer.
I sat outside on the step, trying to catch my bearings, hearing Cesar and Kendl arguing inside. I didn't think I could feel any lower, every little thing I'd built back up since being exiled, every hope I'd allowed myself, had fallen apart. It couldn't get any wors-
My phone rang.
"Hel-" I started, but it was my day to get interrupted.
"WHERE JOO BEEN, ASSHOLE!?!" Catalina screamed in my ear,"WHY DON'T JOO CALL, EH?"
"Well I was just about to call you but-"
"LIAR!" she screamed, and I had to pull my ear away,"Joo've been hanging out with those stinking putas!"
"No! No, if you'd just let me-"
"SILENCE!" she shouted,"I want joo up at my place first thing tomorrow morning, we've got places to rob! Ask Cesar for directions if joo are too stup-"
"Look," I told her, interrupting her for a change. I was pissed off now, how dare she treat me like some fucking house nigga to come when she called,"I'm in the middle of some shit right-"
She'd hung up, I was standing up to a dial tone.