Well that was kind of a letdown.
He'd run at me screaming that,"AIEEE" shit they did, and I'd punched him right in the face with the hilt, sending him staggering back, blood gushing from his nose, then slashed the katana across his chest, splitting open his chest, feeling his skin and muscle and bone spreading apart as I hit... and he went down.
"Fuck you, you old bastard," I told him as he lay on the ground staring up at me, eyes wide, breath coming too fast, life fading from him quickly,"Stay the fuck out of my country."
The refugees were all standing on the deck between the two biggest piles of containers, looking out across the harbor away from Fierro, towards the other shore, out where the desert was. Big area out there, easy to get lost, easy to disappear.
"The Snakehead?" asked they leader, the one who spoke for them.
"Stomped him underfoot," I said back,"Come on, help me get the lifeboats out.
Those that were able to walk were able to help us lift the rafts and put them over the side of the ship, and slowly we lowered down old women, kids, then the men one after the other into them. I noticed there weren't any young women or even little girls, just all boys, men and old women.
I didn't want to think about what that meant.
Me and the men moved down the railings, them hopping into one lifeboat and me the other, along with two big cases I'd taken from the Snakehead. Like he'd said, he didn't need the one to pay his men no more, and now he didn't need the other to pay himself.
"Thank you for everything!" the Refugee Leader yelled at me from the raft,"We will never forget this!"
"what you going to do now?" I asked.
"We go to desert, find small town, find local Vietnamese not connected to gangs, work out way to spread out further," he told me,"We become America, make dreams come true!"
"It ain't as easy as the movies make it out to be," I called back, then hesitated for a second,"But it don't have to be as hard as life makes it!"
I pitched one of the cases across the water into they raft, and heard excited babbling coming from the others as they opened it and saw what was inside. Shit, it was originally they money anyway, it wouldn't take them all through life, but it would give them a headstart at least.
"God bless America!" one of the refugees who couldn't speak English yelled, knowing that much at least,"Yankee Doodle Dandy!"
"Yankee Doodle Dandy!" I waved back, smiling, and then they was heading out into the fog that was coming back in, the night taking them as they moved under the Gant Bridge towards the opposite shore while I turned and headed back for Fierro.
God Bless America.
One Week Later
"Welcome to Entertaining America, this is Lazlow...heh, I gotta say it, pardon me, but, uh, don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years, just unemployed. But, I'm back, running the media. God I love the west coast vibe. Everybody here's so laid back and lazy... I'm here with a man who gets paid to talk for a living. It's incredible, what a concept! Um, he's called a... "rapper". Oglock, how are you?"
"Oglock!?! It's OG Loc! OG Loc! Ya' hear me, playa?"
"Yes, of course, I hear you. You're only a few feet away, man! Listen, I'm a big fan, I... I love rap..... I think..... I mean, singing songs about yourself, that's awesome! H...how you living?"
"Really? Are you really straight?"
"What? You gonna question me?"
"Dude! It's cool! If somebody passes it to me, I don't ask questions, it's probably not laced anyway. So, who out there wants to talk to OG Loc? Caller, you're on Entertaining America."
"I love the way you rap about the Louisiana Purchase!"
"You know the French sold us Louisiana so we would have a place to show our tits!"
"My point exactly! Yeah! We need more naked liberty!"
"Exactly. Look, I... I'm no rapper, even though I dress like one, but I think I could really get into, y'know, getting hammered, singing about setting things on fire, shooting up funerals, badda-ba ba ba! You know... striking poses, smoking a lid..."
"Exactly. You see, the Constitution.... was written on reefer, by a dude with wooden teeth. You see, my clothing company - Lowdown, Homie The G says this: I love reefer! It's the rule if you're a rapper."
"Wow, those sound like some great rules. You know, you get a lot of flack in the media these days, at a recent press conference, your manager came to your defense."
"A lot of people say gangster rap is misogynistic posturing by fake-ass idiots who spend more time in drama school then they ever did pimping or hustling dope," Smoke's voice came over the radio, recorded from a press conference,"Well I assure you, OG Loc is the real thing! He's hated women all his life, he sold drugs to school children, he's murdered innocent people just for kicks! But he rhymes like an angel... and I assure you, it's all in a good cause. So either way, you should feel good about yourself listening to this music."
"Well that was very informative.... Big Smoke is doing a lot for the community.... or to it.... he sounds like a great guy. So.... I wanna get in on this rap thing, do I have to breakdance, y'know, do the windmill? Hey! Can you body pop?"
"Come on Lazlow, you know OG ain't no playboy. I ain't down with that shit. It ain't GANGSTA! I walk the walk, you know what I'm saying?"
"Fresh! Yo, I'm down! I'm into walking too. But.... I was thinking maybe we could have a break-off. I could spin on my back..."
"You being funny?"
"I'm trying to be."
"Watch it, fool! I warn you, I got the streets! I got a rep! Me and my man Smoke, we took over! I've been gangbanging since I was three. Iiiiice-cold killlllaaaa!"
"Excuse me? Gangbanging? I never understood that.... I mean, other guys in the room while you're.... ugh."
"I'M ICE-COLD BITCH! DON'T MAKE ME DUMP ON YOU, G! I'M THE STREETS MAN, I AM GANGSTA! I'm taking rap in a whole new direction. For now, it's about making words rhyme, and I'm going toe to toe with you in a minute."
"Why do you rappers get so worked up? You're rich. You've WON! Stop shooting at each other! You know, and you keep saying,"I'm from the streets!" Well you know what, dude? Everyone has a street in front of their house! That doesn't make you cool."
"Oh, we got a comedian, huh? You got scraps, huh, bitch? You down? You mark ass bitch punk trick busta fool!?!?"
"Look.... I don't know what you said, but I think this ought to calm you down, I brought you some malt liqu-"
"You a busta, fool! Lucky I don't hang you out the window or churn you out, coz I'm also a PIMP! Including dudes! I'll pimp anything! You hear me!?!"
"Oh dude! I hear you loud and clear, you will pimp anything! Listen.... how many hot women need a man? because, I mean, it's kinda been a dream of mine to sleep with housewives....."
"ARE YOU DISSING MY HOS, BITCH!?!"
"UGH! No no no, dude! Your hos are bitches! Your hos are bitches!"
"You a busta! What are you!?!"
"I... I'm a buster! I'm a buster! whatever that is...... Dude! put the gun away!"
"Don't diss my strap!"
"I love your strap! You're a great guy! Look, I'm just coming down off the 80s, please don't shoot me.... HOMIE!"
"Relax, fool! No one's getting dumped on..... I'm a Warrior Poet! I tell a cautionary tale about life on the streets, you know?"
"Only too well..... that was OG Loc.... hey man, it's been a real pleasure."
The closing music was playing over them as I reached out to switch off the radio, but I could hear Lazlow and Loc talking low under the music, Lazlow telling Loc he did great, wishing him luck with the music, that whole thing just a stunt to get Loc attention, threatening to kill Lazlow on the air after that Howitzer motherfucker capped the last host live.
"Carl, you're a fucking hero down in LS!" Cesar laughed, walking into the garage, not picking up that I wasn't in the mood,"I just spoke to my.... "cousin".... he said the dealers started upping the price on their product, selling less of it, I think Tenpenny's running out of drugs man! The junkies don't know that's down to you, and they'd hate you if they found out, but you're saving them man, you're a hero!"
"Not wi' my people I ain't," I snapped back, still in a bad funk after hearing that interview, hearing about Loc making it big with music, Smoke being seen as a big-time hero in Los Santos.... the motherfucker who covered up my mother's death, who sold out his own people, who sent my brother into the lion's fucking den,"Shit's still fucked up."
"Yeah, well...." started Cesar, not really sure what to say,"What are you going to do, huh?"
"Fucking Ryder man!" I shouted, jumping up out of my seat and pacing around the garage - empty today, just me and Cesar here,"That was my homie."
"Fucking midget deserved it, eh," Cesar said, eyes hardening, and I turned on him, if he thought I was going to let him talk about one of my homies like that.... even if he had pulled the shit he did, we'd still been close once, an-
"...no...for real...?" I asked, shocked out of being pissed,"....Shit."
I stepped away, realizing I'd been a second away from decking my sister's boyfriend and a damn good friend to me for saying something bad about a sherm-head asshole who turned on me and betrayed me and lied right to my fucking face,"Maybe you're right, then, man. But...."
"Cheer the fuck up!" laughed Cesar,"You're going soft on me, man! You did something good, eh?"
"Yes you did," said another voice, catching us both by surprise,"But this isn't over yet.
"Woozie?" I asked, surprised,"I thought you'd left town, that bidness "out there"?"
"Indeed," nodded Woozie,"I returned to collect Guppy's remains from the city morgue, and see to it that his remains are returned to his family."
I lowered my head, embarrassed, sad, both at once... shit, Guppy. But if he came to collect Guppy, why he here? This isn't over yet?
"What you mean?" I asked.
"The Loco Syndicate," Woozie said, surprising me,"Your former friends have a factory. And the way I see it, if you take that out, you will have put them out of business for good."
"The Loco Syndicate?" I said, surprised,"But we took them out - Jizzy, T-Bone, Toreno, they all dead."
"The snake's body still wriggles after the head is removed," Suzie said from behind Woozie,"I understand you have experience dealing with snakes."
Woozie walked up and placed his hand on my shoulder.
"Carl, my friend," he said,"Do not trouble yourself over Guppy's death - he knew the risks of the life we choose, and his sacrifice allowed the destruction of the Da Nang Boys. San Fierro is securely in the grip of the Mountain Cloud Boys thanks to you, and all that remains is to destroy the last bastion the San Fierro Rifa have - their drugs factory."
"All we need to do is find it," said Suzie,"Toreno took that secret with him to his grave, it is a location that has eluded us in all our previous efforts to infiltrate the Syndicate."
"Find..... find it?" I said, surprised, feeling like an idiot for not realizing before that just because the top dogs were dead, the Rifa wouldn't continue producing drugs,"Oh shit.... Woozie, we don't need to find it - I know where it is!"
I'd explained to Woozie about the time I escorted the van to the factory, when the Da Nang Boys had been laying in ambush along the route. The factory was just up the road from my garage, right next to the Driving School, and like an idiot I'd just assumed the Rifa would disappear once the heads of the Syndicate were dead. But of course they were still alive, still making drugs, and it would only be a matter of time before someone took control of the Rifa and they started selling again - into Fierro, then to Santos.
Not on my fucking watch.
Woozie had organized a freelancer to prepare a carbomb for me, the plan was for me to drive it to the factory, figure out a way inside, get it into the crack lab and then blow the fucking thing up. Simple plan, only a couple of little complications.
A fucking gang of armed Rifa and a big ass gate that they wasn't going to open.
I'd parked near the chemical containers that mixed the solution that got turned into the drugs these pieces of shit peddled to men, women and children. The Rifa guards and the men and women stripped down to they drawers to package the finished product had all seen me come barreling in, seen what was strapped to the car, knew what I was doing.... but they didn't run, they stood and fought, trying to take me out, trying to get to the car to get the bomb off or move the car, because they couldn't live without they drugs. Whether they snorting it, smoking it, injecting it or just selling it, everything they did revolved around it, it was they entire lives.
Fuck them, then, let them die for it.
The Rifa I'd gunned down had been shocked and confused by the factory blowing up, and I'd been able to take them out easy. But now they was recovering, getting organized.... and they was pissed! I could hear them coming, yelling and psyching themselves up to rush around the shipping containers and kill me. I didn't know where the gate controls were, and even if I did I'd still have to kill them all to get to it, and by the time I'd done that, 5-0 would be here for sure. I only had three options.
1. Die fighting
2. Hide and survive till 5-0 arrived and I got busted with the Rifa, and died in the holding cell that night.
I liked Option 3 best.
I sat in the Voodoo, engine idling, wondering what the hell I was thinking, there was no fucking way this was going to work. But I could hear sirens in the far distance and the shouts of the surviving Rifa even closer, and I knew it was now or never. I hit the accelerator, and hoped that 1000 action movies hadn't been wrong.
Holy shit.... it worked!
I drove by, and even now from the outside you wouldn't be able to tell this was a drug factory, except for the dead bodies laying on the other side of the sealed gate, and the smoke raising from what used to be the factory itself. Anyone not dead was going to be picked up by the police, but that didn't matter, because whether they had survived me or not..... I'd won.
The Da Nang Boys were finished, the Loco Syndicate was finally, absolutely, 100% finished. Woozie's Mountain Cloud Boys ran Fierro now, and I had my own garage, a business that now I could throw everything into. Tenpenny was going to be too busy trying to hold his shitty empire together to fuck with me, and Sweet by extension. We were all but free, I'd won.
I'D FUCKING WON!
He walked into the dark ranch house and hit a switch that turned on lights, revealing dusty sheets draped over furniture not used in at least a year. He frowned at this, it wasn't policy to leave an asset unmaintained, but this was the price you sometimes paid for living in the shadows.
He hauled sheets off of couches and chairs, kicking up dust that made him cough and sneeze - he hated sneezing - and dumped them out on the balcony. Walking back inside, he opened windows and let the air in, moving around trailing his finger along dusty railings and surfaces, tutting at the rank smell that would take at least a week to chase out of the house.
Finally getting the ranch into a satisfactory state, he sighed and moved to the kitchen phone, running a small black box over it first before lifting the receiver and dialing a number from memory. It was picked up on the second ring, but nothing was said.
"Codename: Monster," he said,"Tierra Robada. Requesting Information Status - Jizzy B."
"Status: Deceased," came back the reply, and he frowned.
"Requesting Information Status - T-Bone Mendez."
"Status: Deceased," came back the reply, and his frown deepened.
"Requesting Information Status - Michael Toreno," he said at last.
"Status.... oh," said the voice on the other end, unusually expressing surprise,"Status: Deceased."
He hung up the phone and placed both hands on either side of the bench, gripping down tightly till his knuckles turned white. Finally he relaxed his grip, and lifted the briefcase he'd carried into the ranch with him to the freshly dusted couch. He settled in, opening the briefcase and taking out a file, casting a critical eye on the first page and the photo identifying the subject.
"Carl Johnson," he said, a cruel sneer lifting one side of his mouth,"I'm going to have fun with you."