"Hold on," I laughed, sitting across from Woozie in his nice heated place above the Betting Parlor, rain coming down hard outside, storm rolling in over the harbor,"You tryin' to tell me you can't swim?"
"Seriously," he said back,"When I'm in the deep water, it panics me.... plus, I'm terrified of eels, and squid, and seaweed, and..."
"Okay dude," I interrupted, grin on my face. Woozie was cool, he wasn't the type of guy to "panic" or be terrified of shit,"See, I know you just trying to make excuses now!"
"Look, CJ," he said after a moment,"I need someone from outside the Triad who I can trust."
We sat staring at each other - blind? - and I thought over what he'd asked me when I first arrived, Guppy taking my wet top to dry off. Woozie'd told me they'd tracked the Da Nang Boys back to the docks, and discovered where they was based out of - a fucking container ship out on the water, perfect fucking hiding place.... only Woozie didn't want to send just anyone out there to do what had to be done next, and he said he couldn't go himself, so that just left me.
"A'ight, so let me get this straight," I said, getting up off of the couch,"You want me to swim around in dirty dock water, dodging little brown jelly beans and Vietnamese gangsters, to put a bug on a boat in the harbor?"
"You're so negative," grinned Woozie, and I looked around, making sure we was alone, stepping up close to him, about to tell him some shit of my own.
"Horror like that stays with you for life," I told him as he stood there chuckling,"Believe dat!"
I walked around the couch, Woozie standing chuckling, then calming and looking off thoughtful into the distance before breathing out through his nose.
"I have a confession to make..." he said,"I... I'm blind."
So there it was, the truth was out - I guess he really WAS blind, but holy shit... you wouldn't fucking know it, not that I wanted him to think I'd been fooled.
"Although I've trained my other senses to a point where you wouldn't notice my handicap," Woozie told me,"In the water they'd be quite useless."
He stood quietly looking... well, not looking... staring at.... well not staring, he was... fuck, I don't know WHAT the fuck he was doing, but he was doing it at the wall, like he was embarrassed.
"Alright, Woozie, relax," I said, stepping up behind him and slapping him on the shoulder,"Don't beat yourself up about it. I'll do it."
A little smile crossed his lips, and I turned to head away, then stopped, realizing something perhaps for the first time.
"Uh, one last thing," I said,"You do know that I'm black, right? And not Chinese?"
"I'm blind, Carl," he grinned,"Not stupid."
Guppy drove me down to the docks, explaining to me how to work the bug, and exactly where to put it.
"The problem is there are Da Nang Boys patrolling the way," he told me,"Even on a stormy night like this, they patrol about and if the Harbor Patrol comes by they hide their guns and pretend to be having a party, and then the guns come back out."
"Why security so tight?" I asked him.
"The Da Nang Boys have been around for awhile, but strictly small time," Guppy explained,"But recently they've started getting ideas above their station, trying to muscle in on the Loco Syndicate, trying to take out the Dai Dai Lo. The Container Ship only arrived recently, and we believe one of the Da Nang Boys top men is onboard, directing them. That is why we need to plant the bug, to find out who he is and cut the head off of the snake."
We pulled up to the docks, the rain slowing down but a thick fog spreading in - just the right weather to get up close to the boat.
"I will be waiting with a fresh change of clothes for you," Guppy told me as I wrapped the bug in an oilskin layer and tucked it into my pockets,"Good luck, CJ, be careful."
"If I was being careful I'd be wrapped up in bed right now," I grinned, then jumped over the railing and into the water.
The Da Nang Boys in the patrol boats was jumpy as hell, which ended up being a good thing for me. The fog and them wanting to impress they Boss meant they was jumping at every splash, wave or bird flying by out the corner of they eye. I was able to swim under the water, surface every so often and silently tread water while the boats patrolled back and forward, around and around, chasing shadows and ghosts and they own imagination.
I climbed onboard the Tanker and up the stairs to the top deck, creeping past containers, careful not to be seen or heard by the Da Nang Boys patrolling on deck.
Shit, that was.... easy.
All the time I was sneaking in, and all the time I was sneaking back, I kept waiting for someone to yell or come after me or something, but.... nothing.
I swam back to the pier and climbed up to where Guppy was waiting for me with a towel.
"Any problems?" he asked.
"Nah," I said,"These boys in way over they head, ain't they?"
"Oh you have no idea," grinned Guppy,"But they're about to find out."
The fog hadn't lifted by the next day, but I'd been in Fierro long enough now to get a feel for the weather, and I had a feeling the sun would be blazing down before too long. After returning home in the morning and getting changed, then spending the day in the garage where we all got in each other's way, pissed off by the shitty weather and taking it out on ourselves... I went home and crashed. Waking up and seeing the fog again I'd decided to just head to Woozie's and shoot the shit with him, maybe find out what was going on with the Da Nang Boys.
The Betting Parlor was closed, which wasn't unusual for this time of the morning, but there was a sign saying it was going to be closed all day, which was. One of the Mountain Cloud Boys behind the doors saw me though and let me in, locking the door behind me.
"Welcome, Mr. Johnson," he said,"Today is an auspicious day, good news from the East."
"Yeah, that a Chinese saying?" I asked.
"No," he replied, looking confused,"We received good news from the East."
"Oh... OK," I said, shrugging.
I headed up the stairs towards Woozie's Office, and he was coming out at the same time, Suzie right behind him.
"Woozie, my man!" I laughed.
"CJ, you caught me on my way out," smiled Woozie, and I could see he had a little spring in his step, he must have gotten that "good news from the East" shit too.
"Business?" I asked, and he gave me an excited nod.
"Something's come up out there," he said, more to himself than me,"I've got to sort things out there myself and the.... damn it."
His phone had started bleeping and he pulled it out of his pocket, pressing it to his ear looking like he was about to chew out whoever was on the other line.... until he heard who it was.
"Little Lion," he said,"What's the news? Damn.... why today of all days?"
"Trouble?" I asked.
"The leader of the Da Nang Boys is arriving today on their container ship," he told me,"Our bugs picked it up, everything else they have done before now was simply in preparation for his arrival, which does not bode well. Little Lion's gone to check it out, I should really go too...."
I could tell he was disappointed, whatever his business was "out there", he had been pretty damn excited about it, but duty came first, and he started heading down the stairs... till I stopped him.
"Thanks, my friend," he told me, smiling up at me,"Your help and friendship has been invaluable to me."
"Thanks man," I grinned back,"Where the other guys?"
"They're getting a helicopter," he told me, looking up at the roof,"They'll do a couple of flybys of the ship, see the lay of the land and then make their move.... look, if everything goes well for me, I'll call you in a week or so and invite you to my new spot."
He headed off, a spring in his step, Suzie right behind him. I wasn't sure what his "good news from the East" had been, but it looked like Woozie was on his way up in the world.
A half hour from now, I'd be going down hard.
"Just bumped into Woozie on his way out," I told Guppy as he set the rotors spinning on the chopper,"He filled me in, I thought I'd roll with you."
"Well we ain't rollin', we're whirling!" laughed Guppy, and pulled the helicopter up into the air, my stomach rolling over.... damn it I wasn't good in these things. I didn't mind flying, but put me in something huge with big ass chairs, a hundred fucking engines and six trained pilots all flying it any day of the week,"Strap in and strap up!"
A mini-gun like the one Zero had up on his roof was bolted to the floor, and Guppy yelled over the noise of the rotors to take control of it, we was going to do a drive-by in the air... on a boat!
I loved my life sometimes.
Cold ocean water on my balls woke me up, jerking in my seat and sucking in huge lungfuls of air. I wasn't sure what had happened for a second, not understanding where I was or how I got there, and then it all came back to me. The helicopter, the Da Nang Boys, the RPG, an explosion and Guppy screaming we was going in, we was going in.
Water was flooding into the cockpit of the chopper, and I hit the release button on my seatbelt but it didn't do nothing. I tugged and hauled on it but the fucking thing was stuck, supposed to be saving my life but trapping me as the water poured in.
"Guppy!" I shouted, turning to his side and... shit... fuck.... Guppy.
I pulled my knife out of the little sheath I kept strapped to my ankles, cutting through the belt as I looked around, realizing that the chopper was already under the water, the only thing keeping it half out of the surface the air that was being replaced as water poured in. If I didn't get out soon, we'd sink too deep for me to get to the surface even if I did get free.
I tore the belt clear, pushing the minigun off of my lap and realizing for the first time that it had been digging into my side, leaving a massive purple bruise in my side. I shoved at the door but it wouldn't open, so I kicked and booted it, fighting the whole pressure of the ocean against me as the water rose and rose, my clothes soaked, panic setting in.... the door opened and the ocean flooded in, removing the last of the air, dragging me out of the chopper. I kicked wildly trying to get clear, but I could feel the weight of my own clothes pulling me down, my body too sore to fight it. Desperate, I pulled off my hoody, my sunglasses broken and back inside the chopper somewhere along with my hat. I pulled my strap from my waistband and let it fall into the blackness beneath me, then slammed one foot against my ankle and tore the boot off, then did the same to the other, getting rid of everything I could and kicking for the surface, feeling my lungs burning, knowing I wasn't going to make it, I wasn't going to.....
I sucked in air in huge gulps, treading water, feeling my legs and arms burning with pain, my lungs aching.... and the Container Ship was right there, Da Nang Boys onboard, thinking we was down and out.... and they was half right.
"Guppy.... I'm sorry, man," I managed to get out, closing my eyes for a second, then took in a gulp of air and dived into the water, moving past the chopper as it sunk below the waves, taking Guppy down to the bottom of the ocean as I swam for the tanker... ready to send these Da Nang Boy motherfuckers down to join him.
I dropped down into the cargo-holds, on auto-pilot and fueled by rage, my only though finding more Da Nang Boys to kill.... and no matter how many I did, it wouldn't be enough. I'd seen enough of my friends dead, been fucked over too much to just let the death of a new one go unpunished. I'd only known Guppy a couple of days, I'd saved him from the Rifa and he'd helped me take down The Loco Syndicate, and now he was dead. I crept along the top of massive containers filled with who knew what - not drugs or they wouldn't have bothered with the Loco Syndicate, but probably cars and other stolen shit... and then I found out what at least one of them held.
I heard muffled cries coming from one of the massive containers, and then the voice of one of the Da Nang Boys, telling them to keep it down, threatening them with the idea of something called "the snakehead" coming down there. The Snakehead had to be their Boss, their big badass leader who'd they'd been making all this fuss in Fierro over... and the people in containers? Illegal aliens, immigrants paying everything they had to be smuggled into America in hope of a better life... and usually ended up either dead or as good as, put to work for the guys they paid to bring them there in the first place, nothing more than slaves.
Now I wanted to kill the Da Nang Boys even more.
"Not long until we're drinking cola in the free West, eh?" laughed one of the Da Nang Boys as he walked around a corner made by the containers,"I can't wait to fuck me a whi... hey, who the fuck are you?"
Holy shit the looked fucking horrible, they clothes stunk and was plastering they bodies with sweat and grime and I didn't want to think what else. There was more huddled in the back of the container, and they looked like they hadn't eaten properly in days, I wasn't even sure if the ones still in the container could even fucking stand, let alone walk.
"The Snakehead?" I asked.
"The Big Boss," the one who looked like they leader told me, probably because he had the best English,"Please, he take our money, but he lie to us... please, please, you help us. Help us escape?"
"There others like you onboard?" I asked, and he nodded, so I handed him one of the SMGs from a dead Da Nang Boy,"Go get them out, they guards will be dead, then get up onto the deck and wait ten minutes. If I ain't back by then, get the fuck out of there, because the Snakehead will have killed me and be coming for you next."
He nodded again and together he and the men that could still stand helped the others out of the container, while I climbed back up onto the deck and headed for the Bridge, where the Snakehead was waiting for me - by now he had to know I was onboard.
"A negro," he said, sneering.
"An old man," I said back, returning the look. He was old, but he looked like the kind of old that is still around because it's unstoppable, and the way he was holding that sword told me he knew how to use it.
"Here," he said, kicking a big thick black case over to me,"Take it and go."
"What's this?" I asked, noticing there was another one sitting on the floor behind him.
"Money," he said,"It was to pay the men, but you have solved that problem for me. I thank you for your service, you may leave."
"My friend Guppy got shot down by a RPG from your boys," I said,"If you thin-"
"And whoever fired the RPG now lies dead by your hand," he interrupted, looking bored,"You have taken your revenge, you have set back the Da Nang Boys by years - now take the money and consider it a blessing, at any other time on any other day I would not have hesitated to kill you."
"And what about the people you brought here in those containers?" I asked.
"They belong to me," he said, waving his hand like it was nothing,"They made only a deposit on their trip here, and I require the rest of my payment - they shall go to work as laborers, dishwashers, cooks, their pay shall go to me, and they will act as my agents. It has nothing to do with you."
"You bringing people into America from another country to be yo slaves," I said,"I'd say that got EVERYTHING to do with me."
"Of course," he barked, and I realized he laughing,"The negro slaves, ungrateful for being taken from savagery, arrogantly presuming to understand things their simple minds were not meant to comprehend."
"Oh it's fucking on now," I said back.
"So you have made your decision?"
"I made my decision when you assholes fucking with me while I was taking down the Loco Syndicate," I told him,"I made my decision when you tried to kill my friend Woozie. I made my decision when you shot me out of the sky and killed my friend Guppy. I made my decision when I found those poor bastards crammed like sardines in that container downstairs..... yeah, I made my decision."
"Enough!" he shouted, tossing my another sword, the twin of his,"We settle this here!"
I grabbed the sword out of the air and shifted into what I thought felt like the right stance. The Sensei at the Gym had shown me how to move, but he'd never given me a sword to fight with before, and this guy was a pro.
"You have the look of a fighter, and you bested my men," The Snakehead said, lifting his own sword up,"But you have bitten off more than you can chew, negro, prepare to meet your savage native Gods."
I should have been freaking out, I should have been thinking that I was fucked, that there was no way I could beat this motherfucker. I should have been scared out my fucking mind, but instead I could only think one thing....
This was so COOL!