It had been a couple of days since I saved Toreno's ass and I hadn't heard a thing back, and I was starting to worry I'd have to go back to Jizzy to make contact again. He hadn't looked too pleased with me last time we met, me out of my pimp suit and clearly trying to get into T-Bone's good books.
I stepped out of the garage after a full day working with Jethro, Dwaine and Cesar on touching up some cars. We'd been taking on a little freelance work ahead of when we finally opened, getting word around that the Johnson Family Garage did quality work, Kendl telling me this was "building goodwill in the community" and that we'd make bank because of it.... eventually.
Man, working legit took a lot longer than just taking money.
My phone rang and I pulled it out, figuring it would be either Kendl or Michelle asking me around for dinner. Kendl so she could talk more about all her business ideas for the garage, Michelle so she could fatten me up. But the voice on the other end was anything but pleasant.
"Partner," said Jizzy's voice, and I could hear anger bubbling just below the surface, he was pissed, and I think I knew why. He wasn't calling to summon me to do a job for him, now HE was the bitch, calling me to pass on a message.
"Jizzy," I said,"What's going on?"
"Well, my business associates, they need a little assistance," Jizzy said, voice low and pissed. He was quiet but I was used to him by now, knew he was just waiting before speaking again,"And I thought of you."
He was quiet for a second.
I just stood there, holding the phone to my ear.
"Meet T-Bone at the gas station next to the docks in the Easter Basin," he said at last, being a good bitch and delivering the message, hating every second of it,"He's waiting for you in a 4-door sedan."
I didn't say anything, and neither did he, but he broke first.
"Excuse me, partner," he said at last, still in that low, pissed off, pretending he knew something I didn't know voice,"I got a call coming in. Arrivederci."
"Yeah, whatever you say," I said into the dead air after he hung up,"Bye."
I headed down to Easter Basin, I knew the gas station Jizzy meant, and there it was just like he said, a four door sedan.... but no T-Bone and no Toreno.
I hopped in and settled into the driver's seat, what the hell was they doing anyway? Playing games or just running late? Or was Jizzy fucking with me? Was this a powe-
Oh shit, shit shit shit shit SHIT!
"You think you can mess with me?" T-Bone was hissing into my ear, gun pressed against my skull,"I will blow your head off and rape and kill your family, you snake! You think you can fucking bullshit me, and fuck ME over? I know your fucking game, ese!"
"Who you working for?" he hissed, tugging me back so my feet were kicking, all my bodyweight pulling my neck down against his arm, choking me.
"NOBODY!" I managed to gasp out, kicking wildly, trying to find a grip to push back, break this motherfucker's hold, get the gun off of him, anything.
Suddenly he let me go and I slammed forward, coughing and gasping, but the gun was still against the back of my head.
"Turn around and look at me," he demanded, and I realized... this was it, everything in my life, all my plans, all the shit with Tenpenny and Sweet and Smoke and the Badlands.... all of it, none of it mattered, because I was going to die here in San Fierro outside a shitty gas station.
"Man," I moaned, trying something, ANYTHING, to delay what was coming,"I'm just trying to make some money, and keep my mouth shut. I swear, man!"
"Yeah, we straight, vato," T-Bone said, sitting back and folding his arms across his chest while I hacked and coughed, bent over in the driver's seat. That was a test? Motherfucker was actually LAUGHING when he told me he "almost had me", like it all a big joke.... holy shit I thought I was going to get capped... Jesus, was this what it was like being a drug dealer? Constant paranoia, never trusting no one? "Jokes" involving putting a gun against someone's head and threatening to rape and kill they family?
"Oh good, that's great," muttered Toreno, rolling his eyes, obviously thinking it all a bunch of macho bullshit getting in the way of his business,"Now we gotta go meet this shipment."
"You heard what jefe said," T-Bone said, slapping me in the back of the head as Toreno came around to the passenger side and hopping in next to me,"Drive."
"Get out and grab a bike," Toreno told me, pointing at the bikes sitting next to a brown van with one of T-Bone's Rifa sitting in the driver's seat,"This shipment has to get to the factory."
Shit, so they were transporting they latest shipment straight to where they actually produced the fucking drugs... once I knew where that was... oh shit, I had them, I fucking had them.
"Put this in your ear," Toreno told me, handing me a funny looking ear plug with a wire snaking out the back.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Just fucking put it in your ear!" snapped T-Bone, slapping the back of my head. I did as I was told, and Toreno plugged the other end of the wire into a little black box and shoved it into my pocket.
"This will let the driver communicate with you, and we'll be communicating with him," Toreno told me, explaining it like not only was I stupid for not understanding this, but that I was wasting his time asking for an explanation,"There's a new gang of Vietnamese looking to get their claws into our territory, they were the ones behind the last two hijack attempts, and this is their last chance for at least a month to take our product from us. Your job, Caaarl, is to stop them from doing that. You make sure that it does, we make it worth your while."
"Now get out of the fucking car and get a fucking bike!" shouted T-Bone, and I did as I was told.
"We're watching you, kid," Toreno said.
"Si mon, ese," Said T-Bone as he got out of the back seat and moved up to the driver's seat, hopping in as I got out,"We're watching you.
Shit, so they was sending me in to take on a fucking Vietnamese gang looking to take over they business... a gang who'd already lost soldiers at my hands. Moment they saw me, they'd be gunning for me, and T-Bone and Toreno knew it, I guess they was hoping I'd be a decoy that would let they drugs get through... whether I made it or not.
"Get us to the copter," Toreno said,"We need a birdseye view if we're going to spot any ambushes."
"The kid's okay," T-Bone said, then chuckled,"Nearly shit himself when I had the gun to his head, but he was just scared of dying, he ain't working for no one, ain't ratting us out."
"Don't get attached, Mendez," Toreno replied as they drove through the streets,"Johnson is a tool, we use him till he breaks, we throw him away and we get a new one."
T-Bone nodded and went back to watching the road, while Toreno leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, thinking.
Thinking about Carl Johnson.
I sat next to the van waiting for the word we were heading out, and finally the Rifa Driver leaned out the window to let me know.
"Time for us to go, ese," he said,"Jefe just called in to give the word, they've spotted a roadblock on the edge of King's and Downtown, they want you to ride ahead and deal with it."
"Okay," I said,"They want me to end world hunger while I'm at it."
"Just fucking drive, puto," grunted the Rifa.
So that's what I did.
They saw me coming, Vietnamese motherfuckers all by themselves now, no bikers, not trying to cover up what they was trying to pull anymore. They saw me coming towards them, they cars blocking the street, police obviously paid off to keep clear of the area, and they pulled they pieces, ready for me to stop driving and come at them before taking me out.
I didn't stop driving.
The driver's voice crackled in my ear.
"Just got word from Jefe that you cleared the roadblock," he said, and I looked around, wondering where Toreno and T-Bone were,"But there's another one up ahead near the abandoned construction site by Doherty."
"Shit, stay the fuck away from my garage," I said with a sigh, then hopped back on the bike and started heading that way and the next ambush, motherfuckers not knowing that they was the ones being set up.
"....st...ound....rner...." the driver's voice crackled in my ear, too far away for me to pick up clearly. Just around corner? Is that what he said? Did he mean HE was just around the corner or there was another roadblock? Shit, I guess there was only one way to find out.
Well... guess that answered that.
So far I'd been lucky, I don't what they'd been expecting but it hadn't been me - they was loaded for bear but along I came, just me on my bike blasting with my SMG, taking them down before they knew what hit them. My luck couldn't last though, and the first sign that it was running out came when I blew the cars blocking the road and then saw the flames drawing too close to my bike.
"Ahhh shit...." I started, running towards it but knowing I was too late,"Noooo!"
"Hey ese," said the driver's voice and I put my finger to my ear to block out any other sounds... then realized his voice was coming from directly behind me. I turned and there he was sitting in the van, engine idling,"Looks like a fucking warzone here, eh?"
"Something like that, yeah," I said.
"Jefe says there's at least one more roadblock, just up ahead," the driver told me,"I ain't moving till you deal with it."
"I lost my bike," I said back,"And they know I'm coming, no more advantage of surprise."
"You want a surprise?" laughed the driver,"Look in the back of the van!"
"What the fuck?" I said, walking to the back and pulling the back door open, another Rifa sitting inside with an AK, giving me the eye but not saying anything as I looked at the piles and piles of products he was sitting on.... and one more thing.
"Oh yes," I said, grinning,"Oh hell yes."
The van pulled up beside me, the driver looking out over the corpses of the Vietnamese.
"Fucking putos," he spat,"This city belongs to the Rifa, for life."
"For life," I said, looking around, hearing sirens deep in the distance. Whatever quiet the Vietnamese had brought to try and hijack the shipment hadn't been enough to cover all the noise we'd been making, we had to move quick.
"Come on, let's get to the factory," I told the driver, and moved for the passenger seat... but the door was locked.
"We move slow enough as it is with all the shit in the back," the driver said.
"You expect me to protect you ON FOOT!?!" I shouted at him.
"Better keep up, ese," laughed the Rifa,"Good exercise, eh?"
Shit, so this was the factory.... it was only five minutes from my fucking garage! All this time I'd been trying to think of a way to stop the flow of drugs from Fierro to Santos, and the fucking factory been right under my nose!
"OK, we made it," I said to the Rifa driver as he got out of the truck and more came out from the factory itself to grab the product from the back and get it inside,"But the cops gonna be all over the spot real soon, looking for the motherfuckers shot up they city. Get the van out of sight, I'm gonna get out of here!"
"Okay ese," nodded the driver, and then as I was walking away,"Hey man... thanks, you did good out there."
I grinned and gave him a thumbs up, then walked away. Truth be told I was feeling pretty good - I finally knew where The Loco Syndicate produced they drugs - now I could start planning for bringing it down. Things were finally going my way.
"911, what is the nature of your emergency?" asked the operator.
"Oh my goodness it's terrible!" shouted the man on the other end,"All of that horrible shooting and carry-on.... I saw the man responsible just now!"
"Sir, please hold while I connect you to the polic-"
"Oh he's a horrible looking thug!" the man on the line cried out, voice cracking,"He a ni... he's a black man, wearing a blue shirt and jeans with sunglasses, he has blond hair and he's walking up the street near the Turning Tricks Driving Academy RIGHT NOW!"
"Sir, please hold the li-"
"Please send the police!" the man cried, and hung up.
"I don't get the point of this, man," T-Bone said, looking at the man who'd just hung up the payphone half a city-block away from "the horrible looking thug's" location.
"You don't need to," grinned Toreno,"Now let's see what kind of stuff our new friend is made of."
I was moving pretty freely down the street, relaxing, letting the adrenaline clear my system when I heard the sirens getting louder. I turned to look, not wanting to stand out by NOT turning to look, which would just look strange.... and saw the patrol car coming right for me, cops pointing right at me.
"Put your han-" started a voice over the cop's mic, but I was already moving, shifting straight into a sprint. My only chance was to lose them before they got a chance to close in on me, if they caught me then it was all fucked, all my plans, everything. The Loco Syndicate wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole.
I turned the corner and... another fucking cop was walking up the street talking into the radio pinned to his collar, and the moment he saw me he was drawing, screaming at me to stop.
"AHHHH SHIT!" I shouted, and pushed myself to run harder.
I turned the corner leading to my garage, but cop cars were pulling across the entrance to the road, more on foot coming up the side. Shit, I had to just keep going, I couldn't let them associate me with the garage, had to keep going. I leapt over the edge of the construction wastelands and between the storage garages and the garage itself, but didn't stop, didn't look, just kept going as cops screamed for me to stop and cars tried to turn on a dime to get after me. I cross the road at full tilt, car horns blasting as they braked to stop me, moving through the train station past gaping idiots waiting for late night trains to take them away, but I didn't stop, I just kept going.
I moved across grass and downhill, knowing the cop cars couldn't follow me, and that I was fitter and faster than any of the 5-0 chasing me on foot. I came down the side of the hill down into Easter Basin, where my night had started what felt like a million years earlier with T-Bone pressing his gun against my head.
I wasn't sure if the night had gone uphill or downhill.
For a second I thought maybe I'd shaken off pursuit, but only for a second, and then I heard sirens and a cop car came thundering up the road with on foot officers coming as fast as they could.
"Give me a fucking break!" I panted, and started running again, trying to think of a plan to get the fuck away from them.
What I came up with was either brilliant... or really fucking stupid.... I ran the wrong way up a Freeway onramp.
"Come on, come on!" I whispered as I ran, cars whizzing past me coming the other way,"Come on give me a break, give me a... YESS!"
A Landstalker turned onto the Onramp and braked to a stop when they saw me. Perfect.
I grabbed out my phone with one hand, tugging the stupid earpiece out of my ear and jamming it and the receiver into the passenger seat. Turning a corner into the tunnel leading up to Downtown, I hit Michelle's speed dial, praying she was home.
"Yo this is Michelle," her voice said, picking up on the third ring.
"Don't be an answering machine, girl," I said,"That you, Michelle?"
"Carl?" she asked, sounding pleased and worried at the same time,"What's going on?"
"No time to explain, girl!" I shouted,"I need to use your garage, I'm sorry to spring th... AHH SHIT!"
"Carl? What was that!?!" cried Michelle through the phone.
"Fucking 5-0 I.... shit, Michelle just have that garage door open for me, and ready to shut the moment I'm inside," I shouted,"PLEASE!"
Hanging up, I pushed the Landstalker forward, tearing loose from the police cruiser and moving on up through the tunnel, cursing under my breath the whole time. Shit, I could NOT be caught, I fucking had to make it to Michelle's and I had to pray that she'd come through for me.
But 5-0 wasn't making it fucking easy.
I turned into Financial and hit the accelerator, putting as much distance between me and 5-0 as I could, thanking the rain for making conditions rough enough to keep them from pushing they cruisers too hand. My only chance was to get over the hill and down into Michelle's and the door shut before they came over the hill. If I could do that, I could ride out the storm.... IF Michelle had the door open.
Ahhh shit, for a second I thought I was fucked, that I'd asked too much.... and then the door began to slide open, lifting up as I lightly tapped the brake in preparation for skidding to a stop the moment I was inside..... bless you Michelle.
You hadn't just saved me, you'd saved my Brother, my family, and probably Los Santos as well.
"...eploy foot units and spread out in sear-"
Toreno turned the police scanner off and stood up to stretch, T-Bone looking up at him surprised. They were in a small two bed room in a fleabag motel, where they'd been sitting for the last hour listening on the scanner to the police failing to capture Carl Johnson.... failing to even identify him more than "black male aged mid-twenties with blonde hair".
"What you turn off for, Jefe?" T-Bone asked.
"They're spinning their wheels," replied Toreno, stepping up to the sliding glass door leading out onto what was laughably called a balcony and staring out into the city,"Caaarl lost them, and they know it, they just don't want to admit it."
"So what was the point of calling it in?" asked T-Bone.
"How many times have I told you to leave the thinking to me, Mendez," Toreno sighed,"I wanted to test the depths of his resources and ability to adapt... he surprised me. He's good, he's very, very good."
Toreno turned suddenly and moved to his bed, straightening the sheets, running a small roller over it to pick up any loose hairs he might have left. Mendez had long since ceased questioning him why - Toreno was his "jefe" and a big man in his eyes, someone of power beyond T-Bone's, which was something he respected. He'd learnt in jail there was a hierarchy, and he knew when to follow and when to lead. Toreno was preparing to leave, so he moved into the bathroom to freshen up and clear out with him.
"So what are we going to do about the kid?" asked T-Bone from the bathroom,"Put him to work for us?"
"Something like that," called back Toreno, pulling a small gun from his ankle holster and moving to the bathroom door, standing in what would be a blindspot when Mendez came out, letting Toreno plant one in the back of his head and leave alone.
"He was a wannabe pimp when I met him," T-Bone said as Toreno waited,"Maybe we could get rid of Jizzy and put him in charge of Paradise Domes? Jizzy's too high profile and he's getting twitc-"
"What did you say?" Toreno demanded, pushing into the bathroom, surprising T-Bone as he was jammed back against the wall, the gun in his hands but forgotten,"He was WHAT!?!"
"A.... a wannabe pimp," T-Bone said, confused,"The whole get-up, the suit, the shoes, that stupid haircut of his, he was hooked into Jizzy like a leech, then when he realized I ran Jizzy he moved to me, he's-"
"He's brilliant," whispered Toreno, stepping backwards and running his hand through his hair... then realized he was still holding the gun and replaced it in its holster.
"What the hell did you have a piece out fo-" started T-Bone, but Toreno interrupted him, staring up at Mendez with a cruel, heartless grin on his face that shook even the merciless Rifa leader.
"Put in a call to that drug-head idiot, Riser... Rydey, whatever the hell his name is," Toreno instructed,"Tell him we're moving up the deal a few days, I want to make the exchange this Friday."
"But we won't have enough product ready to fil-" started T-Bone again, but once again Toreno interrupted him.
"T-Bone, I told you, let ME do the thinking," he said,"Put in the call, it's time to finish the deal with those idiots in Santos."
His grin grew wider without touching his eyes, and Mendez was reminded not for the last time of the glassy dead eyes of a shark.
"Do what I tell you, T-Bone," Toreno said,"And I guarantee you, by the weekend you'll NEVER worry about money again."