I felt like a new man.
The Loco Syndicate was finished, Tenpenny's supply been cut off, Ryder was dead and.... most importantly, I'd gotten rid of that stupid fucking haircut.
I'd just shaved it all off, wanting to be done with the fucking thing. I'd grow it back, style it some new way, or maybe I'd stick with this for awhile, I kinda liked how I looked with it, even if Kendl said I looked more like a "Johnson" than ever.
It was early morning as I drove to Chinatown, invited by Woozie to come receive a "great honor", which wasn't something I was going to turn down. I had the radio on, but all anyone was talking about on every station was Jack Howitzer - big time action movie star - who'd gone postal and killed the host of some shitty celebrity show on WCTR the night before - killed him live right there on the radio. That was pretty fucked up.
I stepped inside the Betting Parlor, doors open for me even though the place didn't officially open for a couple of hours yet. The guy who let me in looked familiar, and once he'd locked the door after me he turned and nodded at me, smiling.
"Before I admit you to see the Dai Dai Lo," he said,"I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you."
"Thank me?" I asked,"For what."
"I lead the assault on the Pier where the Loco Syndicate had their last stand," he explained,"Had you not picked off the Rifa sentries on the roof, me and my men would have been wiped out. You saved our lives as well as ending a scourge on San Fierro, so I thank you."
"Hey man, it ain't nothing, I couldn't have taken out the Syndicate without you and your boys."
"Nevertheless," he said, reaching out and offering his hand, which I shook,"My name would tie your tongue, most likely, but you may call me Guppy."
"Guppy, hey," I grinned,"Just call me CJ, man."
He took me up the stairs, then stopped by the door to Woozie's office.
"The Dai Dai Lo has been graced by the presence of a truly great man this day," he told me,"And you are being given a great honor by being allowed to meet with him. A word of warning, this man is important, and his opinion of the Dai Dai Lo will carry great weight."
"Don't embarrass Woozie, I got it," I grinned, and Guppy opened the door, letting me in and closing the door behind me. Inside I was expecting some old Chinese dude with a long wispy white moustache sitting cross legged in front of a gong while Woozie bowed down to him or some shit like that. What I got was a little different.
Shuk foo ramma-lamma ding dong what?
"He heads the Red Gecko Tong on the West Coast," Woozie explained, standing up from his noodles and placing a friendly arm on my shoulder. So he was a big deal, an OG.... and a fat fuck too, chowing down on his noodles and not paying attention to anything else; jittery, skinny little fuck standing off to the side obviously his bitch.
"How you doing?" I asked, and he looked up from his noodles at me, mouth still of food.
"Ah Ah Kung has sent word from Kowloon," Woozie said after a moment, leaning over the table in Shuk Foo Ramma.... Shuk Foo Ranma..... in Ran Fa Li's direction,"A Vietnamese crime family, the Da Nang Boys, are preparing to move to the United States. This may explain the cowardly attack on the Blood Feather Triad.... there may be some trouble ahead."
So now I knew why Woozie wanted me here. Not just for the "honor" of meeting Ran Fa Li, but so he could give me the 411 on the Vietnamese Gangs we been fucking with recently. So how was Fa Li going to deal with it?
Well that was helpful.
"The Shuk Foo would like a package retrieved," the skinny, nerdy little Chinese dude said, like him and Fa Li just had themselves a conversation,"A courier has left it in a drop at the airport. It is most important to the matter at hand."
"Oh, I can do that," I said, making Fa Li look up in surprise for a second, grunt, then got back to his noodles.
"He is Triad?" asked Fa Li's bitch,"A Mountain Boy?"
"No - a personal friend of mine," replied Woozie, and even I knew enough that him saying that to a guy like Fa Li was putting his neck on the line - he was saying that I wasn't an outsider, I was practically the same as family to him,"And less likely to draw the attention of the Da Nang Boys."
Well okay, I guess that was that.
There was no reason for me to volunteer, but the moment Fa Li's bitch said it needed to be picked up I felt like I had to. Sometimes you meet someone and you just click with them, something about them makes you feel like you've known them your whole life and that not only do they deserve your help, but you want to help them. Woozie was like that, he was fucking stand-up, he'd helped me when he really didn't need to, and together we'd taken down the Loco Syndicate. I didn't feel like I owed him, and I don't think he felt the same despite what he'd told me after I saved him from the Vietnamese in that alley.... but he was my friend, I was his, and friends helped each other - that's what friends did.
Fuck you, Ryder. And fuck you, Smoke.
I drove through the underground parking at the airport, looking for the red Manana Fa Li's bitch had told me to look out for. Whatever the package was, was inside the trunk, but they didn't want me looking at it so I had to drive it out of there. I got off of my Freeway and stepped towards the Manana, then stopped, looking around.... something wasn't right here.
It was too quiet, not just the normal quiet of a parking lot in the morning - and how fucking quiet was a major airport at ANY time of the day anyway? - but quiet like everyone and everything had hunkered down, waiting for something to happen - something bad. I looked around, I couldn't see anyone, but I could still feel the hairs on the back of my neck raising up. I got down and checked under the Manana, looking for something like a tracker or a bomb or something, but everything looked okay. I got up, still feeling something like a rock settling down deep in the pit of my stomach, then hopped into the Manana, putting in the keys Fa Li's bitch had given me and turning the engine over. I breathed a sigh of relief when the car didn't blow up, put it into gear and prepared to drive out of there.... and all hell broke loose.
"Shit shit FUCK!" I shouted, flooring the Manana and heading straight for the other exit as Vietnamese piled out of the truck, guns blasting at me. The fuckers must have followed me from Woozie's betting shop, and I'd lead them straight to Fa Li's package, FUCK! I zoomed through to the next parking section and saw another truck pulling across the exit, but I wasn't going to let them stop me, if they cut off my exits I was a fucking dead man, there was no cover in here.
"HAHA! FUCK YOU!" I shouted as I pushed on through, heading out the exit to the Underground Parking Lot out into the sunlight, I'd done it! I was clear!
As I turned onto the street, I saw a Da Nang Boy dropping to his knee to open fire on me, and I floored the accelerator. He dived to the side as I shot past him, and I heard him screaming that I wouldn't get far, but I had to hope they hadn't planned ahead beyond fencing me in.
"Ain't no fucking stopping me, motherfuckers!" I screamed as I smashed my way through, pushing the Manana up the road, looking up in the rearview mirror to see if they was going to try and follow, figuring I could outrun they trucks.... and saw them coming after me on bikes.
Come on, give a nigga a fucking break!
One pulled in front of me and I swerved to avoid it, running off of the road and onto the grass, only just managing to brake in time and avoid running headfirst into a tree. I instantly slammed forward, burying my face into the steering wheel and dropping my arms to the side, then just lay still. I heard the bike pull up beside me, the guy on the back with the gun asking the driver if I was dead.
"Had it the wrong way around, motherfucker," I said, reversing back towards the road. A cop was standing on the sidewalk staring at me with his mouth gaping.
"Hey.... HEY! FREEZE!" he shouted.
"FUCK YOU!" I shouted back, and he went back to gaping like a fish at me as I took off back down the road. The other Vietnamese bike had been turning around to join they friends when I took them by surprise, and they hit the gas to get after me. I wasn't going to lose them in the Manana, and that cop would be calling it in, so I had to lose my tail right the fuck now, which only gave me one option.
The Manana was a wrecked up piece of shit by this point, but it was still running and that was the important thing. The cops were picking themselves up off the road, the Vietnamese were dead, now I just had to get the car to the drop off point at Pier 69.
The Manana spun but I brought it under control, grabbing my piece and turning to open fire on the Vietnamese, who'd somehow found me and.... and for the first time in my life I was glad to see 5-0. The Vietnamese had sideswiped me right in front of a cruiser, and the cops were out with guns drawn on the Da Nang Boys, who had they own guns out, both of them shouting at each other to put down the guns, this was they last chance.
"Fuck this," I said, pulling away in the Manana, the cops too busy to notice, the Da Nang Boys seeing me going and twisting they guns to fire on me.... and the cops opened fire on them, and as I drove away it sounded like I was leaving a warzone. Didn't bother me though, I'd gotten clear, Pier 69 was just around the corner, and Fa Li's "package" was going to be delivered safely after all. That would make him pleased with Woozie, and that was all I'd set out to do, help my friend.
All in all, a good day's work.
After dumping the Manana, I headed home, clouds forming overhead and rain starting to fall in little spots, getting heavier. It was going to come down hard tonight, looked like I'd be spending the night on the couch watching TV, maybe I'd call Cesar and Kendl and see if they wanted to come around, have some drinks, order in some pizza? Fuck, maybe go all out, get Jethro, Dwaine, even Zero around. I'd call Woozie but he'd probably be busy with Fa Li till the fat man left town.
As I headed up the stairs to my place, the phone rang, and I pulled it out and answered.
"PIG!" screamed a familiar voice into my ear. Oh SHIT!
"JOO LISTEN TO M-" she started to scream, and..... I hung up on her.
Okay, now my day had just gone from good to great, man it felt good doing that to her!
Today was a good day to be Carl Johnson.
Today was a bad day to be Ran Fa Li.
"As honored as I am to share my home with you," Woozie was telling Fa Li, who was sitting on the couch playing video games of all fucking things,"We should lure these lizards out into the baking sun!"
"Unngh guhh," grunted Fa Li, his bitch standing anxiously between him and Woozie, turning to Woozie to "translate"
"We were followed here," he told Woozie,"The Da Nang Boys are watching this apartment. As soon as we leave, they will attempt an assassination."
They all sat around brooding about this... well, Woozie sat brooding, the bitch stood brooding, and Fa Li just sat playing his computer game. I'd gotten there a few minutes ago and just stood back to let them talk, but now I felt like I had to speak up.
"None taken," Woozie smiled as I stood there thanking God I hadn't said "gooks" or something just as insulting.
"Urnnh hmm huhnn," grunted Fa Li, and the bitch raised an eyebrow, then actually smiled up at me.
"We find you funny," he translated.
"Look," I said back, wanting to be more than comedian to a fat man,"As long as they think Mr. Farlie here is in the back, they'll follow me wherever. After awhile, you can come out safely - simple."
"Heh-heh, hahaha, amazing," chuckled Woozie, standing up, and Fa Li turned and made long drawn out grunt to his bitch that either meant he was saying something or taking a shit.
"Your success will be rewarded, Mr. Johnson," he told me.
"I'll have Guppy prepare a decoy car," Woozie nodded, then stepped around the coffee table - blind? - and put a hand on my shoulder,"Carl, you are more than a valuable contributor to the Tong, you are my dear, personal friend. Be careful."
"Hey," I grinned,"I'll see you on the flipside."
After I got into the Rancher, the Mountain Cloud Boys made a big deal of crowding around the back passenger door closest to the Betting Parlor, looking around with hands on they pieces. One opened the back door and then closed it, and they all stepped back as I pulled away. If the Da Nang Boys were watching, they'd think Mr. Fa Li had just gotten into the back seat and I was driving him to safety, probably picked to drive because I wasn't Chinese.
I didn't see anyone following me, but I hadn't seen anyone at the airport yesterday either until they sprung they trap. The windows were tinted so they couldn't be seen through, all I had to do was stay clear of any attempted ambushes and lead them on they merry way, while Fa Li and his bitch got moved to the airport in the meantime and headed out of Fierro.
I switched on the radio, expecting them to still all be talking about the poor asshole who got shot on the radio yesterday, but I guess 24 hours is a long time in the entertainment industry, because they'd already moved on.
"...ext entertaining America, hear the new host Lazlow, as he conducts a hard-hitting interview with top Vinewood starlet, Jenna Forbes," the lady on WCTR was saying. Lazlow? I knew the name from somewhere, and when he spoke I remembered - he'd hosted some Rock station YEARS ago, back in the fucking eighties. This was the best they could do to replace the dude got capped?
"Hey Jenna, thanks for being on the show," Lazlow was saying,"I've spent a lot of time with your "work", especially the last.... heh, the last magazine you were in. I gotta ask..... are they real?"
"What?" the celebrity bitch asked.
"Oh uhh... nothing, I'm sorry, that was awful of me," he said quickly, then,"Do you... do you wanna sleep with me?"
"Uhhhhh... no," she told him, and I shook my head and grinned.... where the fuck this guy been the last few years? He couldn't host AND he couldn't mack.
"Now you're sure about that?" he asked her, and you could tell he wasn't joking, he really did want to know.
"Yeah," she said.
"Now...." he started, as if sharing a secret,"I'm on the radio."
"Doesn't matter," laughed Jenna, but she was the only one who thought he was joking.
"Wow," said the announcer lady - something Forjay? I couldn't remember,"That sounds entertaining. Don't miss the next Entertaining America, with Lazlow."
"I think I just might," I told her as she babbled on about some show about conspiracy nutcase show called Area 53. The host came on, going on and on about goldfish spies and mobile homes in the desert, and then had more nutcases come on talking weird shit about dudes fucking robots and Kiflon and the Epsilon Tract and crop circles and weird shit like that. I was about to switch the station when suddenly a familiar voice came out the speakers.
"It's me again," said The Truth, and for a second I looked around thinking he was in the fucking car with me, only then the host replied back.
"Come on man, tell the people about the Desert," Truth was saying,"How come there's something missing? A map with things missing AIN'T A REAL MAP! And That's what they feed us... well, that and female hormones in the water supply."
"Damn Truth, what the fuck?" I asked, and then Truth was telling the host he'd call back... but he better not be tracing the call.
"Jesus," I said,"Is everyone I know a fucking headcase?"
I switched the tuner, picking up Playback FM and sticking with that for the moment, just enjoying the music as I left Fierro and headed back out into the countryside.
Fucking Angel Pine, why the fuck did I always end up back here? I pulled over by an old factory on the outskirts of town and pulled out my phone to ring Woozie, tell him it was a bust. I'd been driving for hours and hadn't seen one fucking Vietnamese motherfucker following me. I started to dial the number and..... ahhhhh shit.
How did those motherfuckers follow me without me seeing them? Fucking hell they were good, but now that I'd seen them, they were mine, time to lead them on a chase.
"HOLD ON MR. FA LI!" I shouted out for drama, then floored the accelerator.
Fuckers were all over me, they bikes better designed for handling the dirt road. They couldn't see through the windows, but if they got up close they'd be able to unload on the Rancher. Woozie said the glass was bulletproof, but put enough bullets into something and it don't stay bulletproof. If they took out the windows and saw Fa Li wasn't there, they'd get back to they gang in Fierro and be back on the Betting Parlor before Woozie could get Fa Li out.
"PULL OVER!" one of the Da Nang Boys was screaming at me as he pulled up along side, then started to pull ahead thinking to block me off. Now that was a fucking stupid idea, his bike might be better suited to the roads, but my Rancher was better suited to a game of chicken.
I crossed the bridge over into Flint County with the other bike still behind me, but not close enough to do any damage to the windows, the car... or me. Trouble was climbing these fucking hills, the Rancher really groaned its way up them but the bikes zipped like it was a flat surface.
We turned onto the road and the Rancher settled onto the firm surface, and I knew I'd be able to maintain a good hard pace.... so I swerved hard and returned to the next dirt road on my right as soon as I saw it. The Vietnamese guys zipped by on the road, turning surprised looks in my direction, not expecting me to take the chase back to where THEY had the advantage, which meant I'd gained valuable time.
I thundered across the dirt road and came out the other end back on the road again, while the Vietnamese were only just getting on at the other end. A tunnel was up ahead, and to my left the road suddenly carved off to a steep drop down to another cliffside road. My only way forward was into the tunnel, that nice, dark tunnel where any number of Vietnamese could be waiting for me. But what other choice did I have? I could hardly drive down the drop to the road and drive AGAINST traffic, could I!
That's just what I was hoping the Vietnamese were thinking.
"HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS!" I laughed, pulling out my phone and dialing Woozie's number as I sped along outside the road, traffic speeding past me the other way,"Woozie, this is CJ, I got Vietnamese all over me but we way the fuck out of Fierro, you get what I'm saying?"
"I got you, Carl," Woozie said,"Take care of yourself."
I hung up and pulled to the right, pushing across in front of a truck that blasted its horn at me as I hit the other lane and pulled in with traffic going the right way. I let out a loud laugh, then looked up in my mirror.... oh you have GOT to be fucking kidding me!
These motherfuckers were RELENTLESS! Once I got clear of here, me and Woozie were going to have to sit down and sort out a way to put them down for good. But I'd worry about that AFTER I'd lost them. I rounded the corner and pushed down on the accelerator with everything I had, feeling the car trying to lift up off the surface of the road it was going so fast. The bikes had fallen behind me, but as I passed a sign I was surprised to see I'd gone full circle and was coming back up on Whetstone.
My phone rang and I slapped it against my ear, hoping it was Woozie and not someone else wanting to shoot the shit... or Catalina calling back to bitch me out for hanging up on her.
"Mr Johnson, it's Guppy, are you OK?"
"Yeah, it's nothing, they took the bait like morons!" I laughed,"Mr. Ran Fa Li get out alright?"
"Yes, Woozie has taken him to safety, thank you," Guppy said as I eased off on the accelerator and pulled in to the gas station by the Highway.
"Cool," I said,"But listen, man, we gotta sort out what to do about these Da Nang Boys, they're not going to go away."
"We are already making plans, my friend," Guppy told me,"Once we became aware the Da Nang Boys were watching us, arrangements were made for the Watchers to be Watched. Come meet with Woozie tomorrow night, we'll discuss it further."
"Looking forward to it," I grinned, then hung up. But not as much as I was looking forward to this.
"Sup," I said, lowering the windows, front and back.
"It's decoy!" the Vietnamese shouted at the other bike pulling up,"Back to Chinatown!"
"Welcome to America!" I laughed after them as they drove away. I'd been holding my SMG below the window in case they tried to take out they anger on me, but it was Fa Li they was worried about. Too fucking bad for them, he was gone, and all that was left was me and Woozie.
And we were going to take the Da Nang Boys right the fuck out of the game.