I didn't know what the fuck Jizzy meant, but I didn't mean to ask. T-Bone was pacing back and forth looking pissed, and I held back, not making my presence known, wanting to know what was going on. T-Bone had been pleased to get the product I'd stolen back, Jizzy crowing that "his boy" had talent and with talent like that working for him he should get his 33%. T-Bone just told him to shut up, told me I wasn't a bad "errand boy" and told me to lose the stupid pimp suit, turning to look at Jizzy when he said it.
Today I'd come back dressed down a little, but I still had this stupid hair, and I couldn't wait to get rid of it. I had to get rid of some other things first though, and keeping quiet might show me the way to do it.
"Hey, holmes, open your eyes, dog," T-Bone growled at Jizzy in that low voice of his, almost a whisper,"Can't you see we're getting messed with here, holmes?"
"Hey, partner!" Jizzy shouted suddenly, standing up and grabbing T-Bone by the shoulder, talking loud to warn him to shut up, he'd seen me and even he knew enough not to talk shop in front of the new guy,"T-Bone, look, it's Carl!"
I slapped hands with him and he looked my outfit up and down - just regular pants and a shirt, not cheap, they had style, but they didn't announce it up and down the street like his pimp suit - and tutted, then turned on T-Bone,"See? We still good."
"What?" growled T-Bone, it seemed like everything he said was in a growl,"Are you vatos stupid? Someone's on to us. We need to go back and rethink."
"I think they was just trying they luck..." I started, and T-Bone glared up at me.
We had us one of them uncomfortable silences, T-Bone AND Jizzy not liking hearing me speak up... and then T-Bone's phone rang and the tension broke, T-Bone grabbing out the phone to turn around and talk. I'd spoke with Cesar about T-Bone to try and get the 411 on him, learnt that he'd come up through the Rifa in the 70s and done serious time, getting even deeper into the Prison Gang Scene, dealing drugs, breaking arms and legs, killing people all for money, raising to the top of the Rifa over a pile of corpses.
"They say he's a completely unreasonable man, CJ," Cesar had warned me,"Old school, hardcore. You do things HIS way or he kills you. You do what HE wants or he kills you. He doesn't compromise, doesn't reason or do deals. If you're in his way.... he kills you."
"Mike? Mike!" T-Bone said into his phone, sounding... weird, not as gruff as usual. Part of it was that he sounded respectful, but also he... he sounded excited,"I been trying to contact you.... what? Oh man. Where are you? Okay.... just keep talking!"
"What trouble?" I asked,"And who's Mike?"
He stared at me for a second, no expression, just staring a hole through me, then he turned to Jizzy,"Man, they've taken the yay shipment, and the van... and Mike's still in the back!"
"Well... what we going to do?" asked Jizzy, then turned to me, shrugging his shoulders,"How the fuck we gonna know where he is?"
"He's got his phone," whispered T-Bone, and again I could swear he was excited, like he getting a chance to do something for this Mike, like a fucking dog wanting to please its master,"He's gonna talk to us until his battery runs out."
"Come on, we gotta bounce!" Jizzy shouted, and T-Bone was already heading for the door, and I started after him... and realized that Jizzy was settling back onto his couch.
"You coming?" I asked.
"A General does not fight in the fields with the soldiers, baby," he said, examining his manicure,"I'm sure you'll get along with the man you're taking fashion tips from now."
I shook my head and turned around, leaving him sitting there. Fuck the pathetic little pimp if he got his sad on because I not dressing like him, he was my in, I was in now, and T-Bone was the one to work with now, he'd get me to the man in charge. This.... Mike.
There was a red Sentinel sitting outside and I jumped into the driver's seat by habit, and T-Bone gave me a surprised look, then nodded and hopped into the passenger side.
"Gotta make this quick," he told me,"Mike doesn't got much time on his battery left!"
"Okay, any clues where he is?" I asked.
"He says he can hear seagulls!" T-Bone shouted, and Jesus the difference in him, he was so fucking excited, like a little kid eager to please, like a dog wanting to do a trick,"Mike can hear seagulls!"
"seagulls?" I asked, starting up the Sentinel,"Shit, that could be anywhere in this town."
"He can hear heavy machinery!" T-Bone told me after listening to a voice I could barely hear, talking quietly in the back of a van full of drugs hijacked by who knows.... more bikers? Another gang? People working for Tenpenny?
"Seagulls and heavy machinery?" I said out loud,"What is that? A building site, or a landfill or something?"
"There's a building site in Doherty!" shouted Mike,"You know it?"
I was silent for a second, and his eyes narrowed, but then I nodded.
"Yeah," I said, feeling my balls rising up into my stomach,"Yeah I know it."
"He says he can hear a truck reversing," T-Bone told me as "Mike" gave him new info,"He says it's busy, like a freight depot of something."
"Freight?" I said, feeling my chest getting tight as we drew near my garage, desperate to get out of there as fast as possible,"Aw, they must be down at the docks!"
"He thinks they just shot their way through a security gate!" T-Bone told me, all hopped up, looking all about the docks for a sign of the van and the gunfire. I looked around as well, the docks were deserted in the rain, we were by the security gate and no one had shot they way through there.
"They don't have heavy security at the docks," I said, thinking,"But they do at the airport's freight depot!"
"To the airport, RAPIDO!" T-Bone shouted.
I turned the Sentinel around and started driving, holding control of the car at speed even with the slick roads from the rain. I wondered if T-Bone was noticing, approving, thinking I was a good guy, a stand-up guy, someone to put to work for his Syndicate. Probably not, too busy freaking out over helping this Mike motherfucker. It had to be the dude with the shark eyes, and if he had an affect like that on fucking T-Bone Mendez, I was kind of hoping the hijackers would off him before we got there.
"Mike can hear aircraft taking off and landing," T-Bone told me, then turned back to his phone,"Hey don't worry, Mike, we're nearly there!"
He frowned and squinted his eyes, then lowered the cellphone and turned to look at me, looking worried, and again all I could think was he like a dog trying to get to its master,"Mike's cellphone battery's running low!"
"There's the gate!" shouted T-Bone, pointing straight ahead of me like I couldn't fucking see for myself.
"And some dead security guards," I nodded, stopping to look down at the dead bodies.
"Ey, this is the place," grunted T-Bone,"Keep your eyes peeled for that van!"
He reached down into a bag at his feet, rummaging about until he pulled out a little black box with a dead red light on it, then lifted the phone back up to his ear, saying,"Ok, the tags should work now, holmes."
"Tag? What the hell is a tag?" I asked, then blinked when I saw the light suddenly flash red, go dead, then after a few seconds flash again.
"After that last bit of trouble, Mike hid the transponder in the white," T-Bone told me, sounding proud, sounding like he showing off how cool his Dad is,"We was going to follow it to the gang, but something must have fucked up, and now we gotta use it to find that van and rescue Mike!"
We passed them at speed, what the fuck they were doing so far up the runway I don't know, and I turned and floored the accelerator after them. T-Bone was grabbing his piece out the bag at his feet, but I knew a better way to even the odds against the van and the two outrider bikers on either side of it... I just drove straight into them.
One went down, the other went spinning off at an angle trying to keep control of his bike, only to swerve off in front of the van and get run over.
The van didn't even slow down, it just kept going.
"Get after them, ese," growled T-Bone, low in his throat, a fucking guard dog ready to sink his teeth into the throats of the assholes fucking with his master,"I want those putos dead."
"Shit, T-Bone," I said, looking down at the dead hijackers,"These ain't just bikers, some well dressed Asian motherfuckers here too.... they might have been more organized tha-"
But he wasn't listening, didn't care, he was rushing to the van, not caring about the drugs in the back but Mike, his precious Mike. I shook my head, following him and keeping my eye out, they'd come to the airport for a reason, maybe to meet people, a pilot maybe or maybe the rest of they gang, get the drugs out of Fierro or just transfer it to a different vehicle. If T-Bone wasn't going to keep his eyes open, I would, and he could thank me later by bringing me into the Syndicate.
"Apurate, apurate!" T-Bone was saying, opening the doors to the van, and out he stepped, "Mike" himself, stepping out as I looked about for anyone coming, then turned and had my first face to face with Mike Toreno.
Later on, when my asshole had unclenched and I'd gotten my stomach back, I'd be impressed. Dude had just been hijacked, driven to a place he had no idea where he was, heard a gun battle go down and had the door to the van opened.... and he hadn't hesitated, hadn't paused for even a moment when he saw me. He went from talking to T-Bone to having his piece in my face without even fucking blinking, those dead eyes locked on mine, just looking for an excuse to pull the trigger.
Later I'd have time to be impressed, but for the moment I was just terrified for my fucking life.
The gun stayed in my face, his eyes stayed locked with mine, those horrible dead fucking eyes, but then his head cocked to the side.
"You hear that?" he said, and I heard in the distance sirens,"We gotta torch this van with the coke in it."
The gun came down and he turned away from me, suddenly I wasn't worth his time, I was a bug, nothing to be bothered with... which came as a relief. It helped that T-Bone was freaking out, hearing that he wanted to destroy the van.
"Hey, charlie, guero, we ain't torching nada!"
"This is a set back," Mike said, poking T-Bone in the chest, this motherfucker had stones, treating T-Bone like that but he just stood there taking it, like he taking in a lesson,"But doing twenty to life is a little more than that, comprende amigo?"
T-Bone folded his arms over his chest while Mike rolled his eyes right in front of him, and I tried to make Mendez feel a little better by trying to explain Mike's reasoning without being an asshole about it.
"Hey he's right, man, let's do it and get the hell out of here," I said... but I didn't get the reaction I was hoping for.
"This ain't a committee!" T-Bone growled at me, stepping up into my face... ahh shit had I blown it just when I looked set to-
"Exactly," grunted Mike, rolling his eyes and shoving his hand between the two of us,"I call the shots here. Now shut up and let's go."
He turned and walked away, not giving us another look, forcing us to follow him, heading towards a hangar off to the side, the sirens in the distance getting louder and louder, closer and closer.
"They store private jets here," Mike was saying, and I didn't know if he was talking to me, T-Bone or just himself,"Rich assholes store stretch limos here so when they land in style they can drive out in style.... you, Jizzy's clown, hotwire the fucking limo."
"Oh you just assume I can hotwir-" I started, getting a little uppity, tired of being talked down to by these fucking drug dealers and pimps.
"Oh shut the fuck up and hotwire the car," Mike interrupted, sounding bored,"You can write a letter to the NAACP on your own time."
I walked by muttering under my breath, getting the door to the limo open easily enough and hotwiring it even faster. I drove it out of the hangar - they just left them open with those stupidly expensive private jets sitting in them - and rejoined Mike and T-Bone near the van.
"Those sirens are getting closer," Mike was saying, clearly the Man, in charge from the moment he stepped out of the van,"We have to torch the van and get out NOW!"
As we drove through the streets, sirens falling behind us, I looked up at the rearview mirror every so often, and everytime HE was just staring at me, his head always in the same place, not moving, just staring. T-Bone was talking a mile a minute, all excited, talking about how we'd tracked him down, how we'd taken out the hijackers, but the entire time Mike just kept on staring at me. Didn't mean he wasn't listening though, every so often he'd ask a question, including how there had been Asian dudes mixed in with the bikers, but the entire time he just kept staring at me, until finally he spoke to me.
"How long you been working for Jizzy, I haven't seen you before," he said.
"Just got into town last week," I said, trying not to sound too nervous,"I done a couple jobs here and there."
"Just got into town, huh?" he grunted, sounding like he didn't believe a fucking word I said,"Where were you before that?"
"Hey what is this?" I said, trying to put on a little anger to my voice, cover up how fucking paralyzing it was looking into his eyes, even in a reflection..... the way he looked at me, I was an interesting bug, I wasn't human... or I was, but he wasn't.
"Man, just answer the fucking question," grunted T-Bone, sounding bored.
"Look man, chill," I said, thinking quickly, best to tell the truth, just not the WHOLE truth,"I been in Los Santos with my family, a'ight?"
"Gimme his wallet," muttered Mike to T-Bone, like he asking for a stick of gum.
"What?" I shouted, then flinched back, swerving the car as T-Bone reached over and jammed his hand into my back pocket, pulling my wallet clear,"Hey, get off!"
"Quit struggling and concentrate on the road!" T-Bone said, slapping the back of my head as he tossed my wallet to Mike. What got to me most was how they treated all this like it was nothing but a thing, just everyday shit.
"Carl Johnson, huh?" he said, looking at my ID,"Alright I've seen enough... here."
He tossed the wallet over the seat into my lap, turning to look out the window as I reached down and shoved my wallet into a front pocket, feeling pissed and dirty and fucked over, like they'd stripped me down naked or some shit. All the effort I'd gone to to get in close to them and in one minute they'd found out everything about me.
"Hey," I said, trying to show I didn't care as much as I did,"Was a dub in there. Better still be there when I check it."
"Shut the fuck up," grunted T-Bone, but it sounded like he was laughing, and I grinned, then looked up in the mirror and saw Mike staring out the window, his face blank, and my smile faded.
"OK, Carl Johnson," he said, using my name, reminding me he knew,"You did good today."
"Man, now shake the spot," grunted T-Bone as he and Mike got out of the Stretch,"Toreno and me got shit to talk about."
I saw Mike's lips tighten, just a little, other than that he gave no sign, but I could tell he was pissed as hell, because now I knew his name as well. Mike Toreno.
As I was driving the Stretch through the streets, trying to figure the best place to drop it, figuring a Stretch like this would be handy to have at some point in the future when my phone rang.
"Hey Carl, it's Woozie," he said after I answered,"If you got some time I'd like for you to come over so we can talk about something."
"Yeah for sure," I said, grinning,"Where you at?"
"I own a little betting shop in Chinatown," he told me, and I grinned wider. So THAT was what he did, he a fucking bookie? Or just legit betting?"Just come 'round and introduce yourself. My people will be expecting a visit."
"It's a plan, man," I laughed, and hung up. Woozie was a good dude, maybe he just wanted to shoot the shit or maybe he wanted to do some business. He liked racing and I owned a garage. He ran a betting shop, maybe he'd want in on some of the scamming me and Cesar had pulled? That would be nice, a way to bring some money in for the family. Whatever it was, I just had to deal with the Loco Syndicate first, and I thought maybe now I knew all the players I could do that. Toreno was a scary motherfucker, but at the end of the day, fucked up stare and soulless eyes or not, he was just another scumbag fucking drug dealer.
I could handle drug dealers.
Toreno stepped into the apartment he used in Fierro, closed the curtains and moved quickly around the room with a small handheld device that would have made Zero drool if he'd seen it. After several minutes of this, he picked up the phone and dialed a number from memory - he would never write it down, ever.
"Tierra Robada," he said, and hung up.
He waited a minute, then picked up again and dialed another number.
"I need information," he said,"Expedited. Carl Johnson, black male, aged mid-twenties, from Los Santos."
"Carl Johnson," he said quietly, voice lost in the empty apartment,"You're not what you say you are."
But then, neither was Mike Toreno.