"Damn girl," I asked,"Don't you got anything smaller?"
Michelle had thrown my clothes into her laundry while I was in the shower, and told me she had an old set of racing gear I could wear. I'd slid them on while she was putting together breakfast, but they was way too big, sagging around the gut, hanging around the drawers.
"Hey you'll grow into them, CJ!" she called out from the bathroom, and even now her weird accent was driving me wild. It kinda sounded like her nose was full of water and she was having a hell of a good time with it, best way I had of describing it.
"Grow into them?" I asked, stepping into her kitchen, and.... shit, looking at what she'd laid out for breakfast I forgot all about everything else,"Girl, what the hell?"
She'd made pancakes with butter and maple syrup.... and toast.... and cereal.... and sausages.... and eggs.... and bacon.... and coffee.... with lots of sugar.
"I made breakfast," she said, looking really fucking pleased with herself, walking around the table in her tracksuit pants that only a fine girl could make look sexy, thin little white shirt making those spectacular tits I'd gotten to know last night stand out even more,"Sit down, eat."
"Girl, I can't eat all this," I said,"I'd be fit to explode."
"You gotta eat, CJ," she told me, like she wouldn't hear an argument about it,"You need to put some weight on, all that muscle can't be good for you."
"Yeah? Well..... all this? I mean..."
Luckily my phone rang just then, and I picked it up off of the counter and answered, grateful for the interruption.
"CJ!" came Cesar's voice over the line, sounding excited.
"You got it," I said back while Michelle sat down and pointed at the seat across from her, look on her face telling me to sit down and eat.
"Hey, remember that package? At the Hippy Shopper" he asked,"Well I picked it up man, had a phone in it and a number for my "cousin"..."
I nodded, I knew what he meant, his "cousin" was the source he'd gotten a lot of his information about Tenpenny, Smoke and Ryder from, someone in the know who didn't want anyone to know who he was.
"So what he say?" I asked.
"He gave me a tip about a Balla car going San Fierro to score yay," Cesar told me, and whatever was in my face when I heard that was enough to tell Michelle not to keep pushing me to get off of the phone and eat breakfast.
"Shit," I said, thinking to myself - if they was sending representatives to score yay, it had to mean that the supply Tenpenny had gotten from Gray Imports was almost used up and he was looking to reestablish larger trade, if I could stop that...."We gotta find out who's supplyin' those cats."
"Read your mind, homes," laughed Cesar,"I picked them up at the Mulholland Intersection and I'm trailing them now."
"Okay," I said,"I'm coming to meet you."
"Better make it fast, holmes," Cesar said as Michelle made a,"Carl, noooo!" face at me,"These boys aren't hanging around!"
"Carl baby, your breakfa-" she started.
"Not now, baby," I told her, giving her a quick kiss and heading for the door,"This is important business, I have to deal with it."
".....call me!" she shouted as I moved out the door and down the stairs into her garage, grabbing my clothes - still wet - out of the laundry and tossing them into the passenger door of the Hot Knife.
"I will," I told her, hopping into the car... then I paused and looked back up at her,"Really, I will, I promise."
Her worried look changed to a smile, but that was all the time I could give her, and a few seconds later I was pulling out onto the street and heading for home.
Not long after - thanks to ignoring every speed limit, stop sign and rule of the road there was - I was hopping into the driver's seat of Cesar's Savanna, just off Mulholland Intersection.
"Angel Pine, man it always comes back to Angel Pine," I said, shaking my head as I started driving,"How long ago did they leave?"
"Not too far ahead of us, maybe 15 minutes," Cesar said,"They stopped to pick up food and were making a bunch of phone calls... you think that Tenpenny and Smoke are out of drugs?"
"Yeah, I think they underestimated the demand they was going to create," I said,"And with me fucking up they courier deliveries of money and drugs back and forth, they desperate now. Tenpenny made the same mistake every idiot who wants to be a dealer makes, he thought he could control drugs."
We drove along quietly for awhile, listening to the radio, but as I made my way at speed down the streets, ducking in and out of lanes, past cars, around corners, taking every shortcut I knew on my way to Angel Pine, Cesar started giving me weird looks.
"Hey, that driving school.... shit man, that worked?" he asked.
"Guess so," I said,"I drive just as fast as ever, but I can control the car now.... and it got me laid."
"Damn," he laughed,"Hey shit, that's it? We almost at Angel Pine already? We musta beat them here."
"If they even coming here," I reminded him,"We just taking a guess. Come on, we'll head to the centre of town, get onto a rooftop and keep an eye out for them."
I hunkered down on the roof of the Loan Shark's next to Cesar, and he handed me over a camera.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Ain't no good spotting the faces of the Fierro dealers if we don't know who they are," he said back,"If we take photos, we can match names to them."
"Good idea, man," I told him,"Keep an eye out an-"
"There," he interrupted me as a Picador turned into the car park of the Cluckin' Bell across the road from us,"There it is, holmes!"
I lifted the camera, ready to take a photo of whoever Tenpenny had sent from the Ballas to represen-
"Ryder, you sherm-head!" I shouted, starting to rise up from my crouch, but Cesar slapped a hand on my shoulder, holding me in place.
"This business is bigger than any gang, ese," he told me, shaking his head.
"Ryder... little bitch," I whispered through gritted teeth. I wasn't even thinking about the gun tucked into my waist, I just wanted to get my hands on him, beat him down with my fists, hurt him, hurt him bad,"Motherfucker stood with me by my Moms fucking grave, man!"
"Remember this same town, me wanting to charge back into Santos guns blazing," was all Cesar said in reply,"Remember how you held me back?"
"...... SHIT!" I snapped, then lifted the camera and snapped a shot of the fool as he headed into the Cluckin' Bell, a brown ZR-350 pulling in behind him. I zoomed in the camera on the driver, a mean looking son of a bitch.
He was a big dude, pushing forty if he wasn't over it already, but he took care of himself, looked like a mean asshole.
"That's T-Bone Mendez," Cesar said quietly, thoughtfully,"San Fierro Rifa.... he's bad news."
I had a flashback, me and Smoke riding into Unity Station looking to crash a drug deal between Vagos and the Rifa.... shit, even back then Smoke was working on maintaining he and Tenpenny's monopoly on drugs, and using me to do it, the fat fuck. But that also mean the Rifa's deal with Tenpenny was just business, nothing more, because they'd been looking for a way into Santos that didn't go through Tenpenny.
"What now? Was that it?" I asked, but as Ryder and Mendez were heading into the Cluckin' Bell, another car pulled up in front of it and..... he.... got out.
He wasn't nothing to look like, he slouched when he walked, he didn't have a good physique and his chin looked weak and pudgy as hell. What he most looked like was some 45 year old white office monkey, someone with a mortgage and a fat wife and a bookworm kid and ugly daughter..... but the moment my camera zoomed in on his face, I felt my balls shrivel up and my stomach turn over in my belly. Everything about him said normal, pathetic, useless, not important... but looking at his eyes told you a different story - this was a dangerous motherfucker, more dangerous than T-Bone, more dangerous than Ryder for sure.
Then he moved up towards the door of the restaurant and the spell was broken, I shook my head and then spotted a Broadway pulling up on our side of the road, and driving it...... well, shit.
"I know a pimp when I see one!" I laughed, snapping his photo
"How many of these clowns are there?" asked Cesar.
"They being clever about this," I said as the Pimp headed inside the Cluckin' Bell, the last to enter,"There ain't no exchange or nothin' incriminating."
I lowered the camera and stood up, stretching before turning to Cesar.
"Look man, we know Ryder didn't come along, even if he showed up here by himself," I told him,"And I figure the others all got boys stationed around town in case things go south, so let's get out of here before WE get spotted."
We pulled into a gas station outside of Whetstone and I stepped out, handing the camera over to Cesar.
"That was some heavy shit," I said.
"We better split up and get outta here," he nodded,"I'll meet you back at the garage."
"Coolio," I said, slapping hands with him,"We got what we came for anyway, I'll see you soon."
He backed out and drove away and I stood alone by the side of the road. I wasn't worried about getting back to Fierro, it'd be easy enough to jack a car or hotwire one left on the side of the road or in a driveway. I'd gotten out because I wanted time to think, think about Ryder, think about Smoke and Tenpenny and Sweet and drugs.
I had a good thing going in Fierro, a garage shaping up to support the family; properties paying me regular income; most importantly a brand new start in a brand new city like I'd once had in Liberty City, but this time with my family with me. The trouble was embracing that new life meant leaving the old one behind, and while I could have done it if it was just Tenpenny and Pulaski running drugs into Santos.... could I really leave Smoke and Ryder to punk me and Sweet out like that, after the shit they pulled on us? That was the other thing as well, as long as Sweet was in jail Tenpenny had me under his thumb, and I'd never be completely free until I'd taken him down, or at least gotten Sweet free. I'd been stinging Smoke's operation with little stings, stealing money from his couriers, destroying they drugs, but now I had faces for the people who would be supplying the drugs from Fierro and I had to decide if I was going to drag my Santos life into Fierro.
Sitting on the side of the road, I took out my wallet and opened it, looking at a picture of me, Brian, Sweet, Kendl and Moms back in happier times. Brian still alive, Moms still alive, Sweet the King of Grove Street and all of Santos. Our whole lives ahead of us, all the death and betrayals and heartbreak years away.... was I going to bring that all back into my life?
I sat there for an hour, staring at that photo, and then I got up. I'd made my decision.
It was getting dark when I got back to Fierro, walking into the garage and hearing laughter... but wasn't no one else there but Cesar.
For a second I thought maybe Kendl was here late, and slowed down, ready to get the hell out of there in case they was.... having a good time.... but then I heard a familiar voice, a familiar male voice.
"That's crazy, man," said a smooth, cool voice,"What are we looking at exactly?"
Oh shit, that was Woozie!
"Hey Carl," said Woozie, turning to look at me, a serious looking Asian dude hanging out behind him, no fine Asian girls hanging off of his arms today,"I was just explaining to your.... brother in law.... that we were friends."
Cesar grinned, obviously him and Woozie had been getting along pretty well, even though Cesar and me had hustled him out of his sweet ZR back in the county races.
"Hey man, you get those flicks developed?" I asked, then noticed blown up shots of the dudes from the Cluckin' Bell meet slapped up on the wall and saw my chance. Me and Cesar were still new to Fierro, but Woozie an established businessman, probably ran some restaurants or some shit, and knew everyone important in town,"Hey look, Woozie, I need to get some info from you, man."
"What exactly do you boys want to know?" he asked, that same cool, relaxed thing going on. I had to dig Woozie, man, nothing seemed to get to him, he was a cool dude.
"Who are these putas, holmes?" asked Cesar, walking around the workstation and pointing to the photos on the walls.
For a second he just stood there as I walked around to join Cesar, not looking at the wall, then he turned his head in that direction, the expression on his face never changing.... and then he turned to the dude with him.
"Why don't you go take a look?" he asked, and the serious dude nodded and stepped up to the wall to look. Weird, I guess it was some Asian thing, getting yo servant or bodyguard or whatever the fuck he was to do things for you. Anyway, the dude knew what he was talking about, even if he just ran errands for a guy who ran restaurants, he took one look at the photos on the wall and nodded.
"Loco Syndicate," I said quietly,"The Crazy Gang?"
"We don't have any dealings with them," Woozie's dude was saying,"We don't touch blow."
Shit, maybe Woozie ran nightclubs?
"Now this guy runs things," he said, pointing at the picture of the normal looking white dude who still made my stomach flip just looking at a picture of him,"I don't know his name."
He looked over at the picture of T-Bone, and identified him right off the bat,"This guy is T-Bone Mendez, he's the muscle."
"And who's that guy?" asked Cesar, pointing to the pimp.
"That's Jizzy B, he's the biggest pimp in town," Woozie's dude told us,"He helps set up the deals... you know, a concierge of sorts."
"A concierge," I said,"Then he's my way in, how I get to him?"
"Oh Jizzy?" asked Woozie, like he'd only just noticed it was Jizzy in the picture or something,"Jizzy runs the Pleasure Domes Club in that old fortress under then Gant Bridge."
I nodded, already with an idea in my head, turning towards the exit, then stopping to grin over at Woozie,"Hey, good looking out, Woozie."
Heh, don't be a stranger, Woozie was a good guy, if a little odd sometimes in the way he acted. But that just some culture thing or something, it would be cool - once all this shit with Tenpenny was over - to hang out with him.
But first, I had things to do, including something nasty and low and downright offensive.
"Well hellooooo handsome," said the hollow cheeked, hard-haired freak standing by the "barber's" chair,"What can I do for you, today?"
"I want something stylish and expensive," I told him.
"Oh we can do that, love, but you don't need too much style," he laughed,"We can do wonderful things with subtlety, darling, we-"
"No," I said,"Go over the top, stupid over the top - too much style, as much as money can buy."
"Your money," he sighed,"Okay honey, let's work some black magic."
"What you think?" I asked when he was done.
"It looks like Liberace vomited on your head," sighed the stylist.
"Perfect," I grinned.
I left and headed for home, glad I'd picked up those things from the safe house in Santos that time I'd gone back - including the gift Denise had left me, something she'd either brought as a laugh or because she just wasn't that fucking smart.
I headed into the house and moved through my wardrobe, dragging it out, looking it over and shaking my head. This would have been a stupid plan, but I was going to be dealing with a pimp, and if there was one thing pimps knew how to do, it was to go completely over the fucking top when it came to style. It was time for me to go undercover.
It was time for me to become a Pimp.