Early evening at the garage, and we was all hard at work.
Cesar pulled up in the Remington, catching me by surprise. As he'd been loading Kendl into the Remington to drive them home, we'd said we'd catch some z's then meet up at the garage around 3. I'd been here on time, Jethro and Dwaine had already been working most the day on the car we grabbed from the docks, but there'd been no sign of Cesar.
"I tracked one of the cars on our shopping list," he snapped, looking pissed as hell,"But the crazy bitch, she drives like the devil!"
He paced angrily around the garage, throwing his arms in the air.
"I've been following her for hours, but she stops for NOTHING! You'd have to ram her off the road in order to get a chance to get her car and you know a wrecked car is no good to us! I swear she is playing with me!"
"Dude, calm down!" I shouted at him, to get through to him, him all worked up with that Latin blood and shit,"If she IS playing with you, then she probably won't get one-time involved until it turns ugly. We gotta find a way to stop her, or slow her down."
Jethro and Dwaine walked by, yawning and rubbing they eyes, woken up by Cesar's shouting. I slapped them on the shoulders, telling them they did good work today, holding down the fort and doing they work even though I hadn't been there till the afternoon and Cesar and Kendl hadn't been there at all. Cesar just waved an arm as they headed off, still focused on the "crazy bitch".
"Too bad we can't involve the police," he snapped, only half joking.
Shit, she really got under his skin.
"You know what," I said, pulling my cell out my pocket,"I think I've got an idea..."
"Yeah, what's that?" he asked.
"Gonna call Zero," I said,"See if we can't put together some spikes of our own, figure a way to drop them off of the back of a car, she won't see it coming."
"Hey uhh.... CJ, I know he did that shit with the tracker and all...." said Cesar, scratching his head,"But this ain't a cartoon man, he ain't like some mad scientist who can make teleporters and flying cars but helps out the local gang.... what makes you think he can put together something like a spike drop on short notice?"
"Easy," I grinned, dialing the number,"I'll tell him you don't think he can do it."
Turns out he could.
"Idiota!" she shouted,"What do you think you ar-"
I lifted my shirt, showing her my strap, and suddenly the "crazy bitch" realized this wasn't a game - if she'd ever even noticed Cesar tailing her in the first place - and she just held up her hands and backed away, then turned and ran. In her heels, she wasn't going to get anyplace quick, I had plenty of time to change the tires and get back to the garage before one-time showed up.
I pulled out two spares from the back of the piece of shit Zero had rigged up with the spike trap, and detached the rig itself to throw in the backseat of the Stratum, then grabbed the spike I'd thrown down on the road to pop her tires. When the police did show up, they'd just find a shitty car abandoned on the street, no sign of her Stratum or the spikes or even the ability to throw spikes down. She's spend more time trying to convince them that she wasn't bullshitting than they'd spend investigating the case, by which time we would have reworked the car, resprayed it and sold it on through Wang Cars.
My phone rang.
"Hey, CJ," Cesar said,"How's it going with that crazy bitch?"
"Popped her!" I grinned, and I could swear I could hear him grinning on the other end,"Just about to fix the tires, should be back any minute."
"OK, careful with that puncture repair shit, CJ, it's nasty stuff!" Cesar said,"When you get back, I got good news man - I asked around like you said, got us a fresh wishlist, stuff to be exported out to other cities, and they're willing to pay top dollar for it."
"What kind of money we talking here, man?" I asked.
"Depends on how fast we can get it done," he said,"The faster the better, and if we do a good job, I got a feeling we'll be getting alot more demand to fill their needs. Big money in this, CJ, alot of money to go around."
"Okay, we'll talk when I get back," I said, hanging up. Big money, eh? For doing what we used to do just to get around back in Santos and Liberty? I liked the sound of that.
....Friday was busy.
I sat down in the garage, putting my feet out and letting out a long moan.
"Goddamn it feels good to get off of my dogs," I said as Cesar walked into my office, a big grin on his face,"Our "client" pleased?"
"Please, CJ?" he asked, and burst out laughing, hauling a case up from around the corner and dumping it open onto my desk,"We turned around his wishlist in 24 hours man, he was fucking ECSTATIC!"
Money spilled out all over the desk, stacks and stacks of it, 100 dollar bills wrapped up fresh from the bank - CLEAN money, at least $200,000 dollars, maybe closer to quarter of a million.
"HOLY SHIT!" I shouted, sitting up and grabbing it up,"All that for jacking some fucking cars!?!"
"He can sell what we got him for 500K easy, maybe more," grinned Cesar,"Normally he'd pay less but 24 hours man, we got him what he wanted in 24 hours, ain't no one done that before, normally he's gotta wait a month, sometimes a week if the guys he uses are reckless. He said next time he needs cars, he's gonna come to us, and he's agreed to sell his imports into Fierro through Wang Cars... we fucking did it, CJ! We're THE guys in Fierro, it worked!
I just sat and stared at the money.... holy shit.... holy fucking shit.
"So uhh.... I'm gonna take Kendl out to celebrate tomorrow," Cesar grinned,"What you going to do, homie? You could come with....."
"Haha, yeah that'll be a real celebration for you two," I laughed,"Nah, I got something in mind to do.... you two have a good time."
Cesar grinned, and I grinned back, and then we both looked at the pile of money.
And we grinned some more.
"So.... it's really all over?" Michelle asked me as I drove us over Gant Bridge - reopened just this week after earthquake repairs finally finished.... too late for Jizzy to enjoy the peace though.
"Done and done, baby," I told her, grinning,"All that shit behind me now, the Loco Syndicate, the Rifa, the Da Nang Boys, they all done for, I'm just concentrating on making money for my family now."
"Well you seem to be doing okay for yourself," she laughed, running her hand along the door of the Super GT,"Now we just have to fatten you up, get some meat on your bones."
I grinned, then turned my attention back to the road as we crossed the bridge.
I'd called her up last night, knowing she liked to work late, and she'd been stand-offish at first till I explained I'd finished up with the Loco Syndicate and she didn't have to worry about drug dealers or police coming knocking on her door no more. She still hadn't been too sure, but when I suggested we spend the day together, head over to Bayside Marina and have a picnic, she'd warmed up pretty quickly. When we'd first been dating, about the only time she didn't talk about cars was when she was talking about boats, especially the ones with big powerful engines. She'd told me all about the Marina and the boat school there, and it sounded like a nice pretty place to go with a pretty lady, have a picnic and just... enjoy life.
That was something I felt like I was finally in a position to do.
"Damn... this place is pretty," I said, getting out of the GT and staring out from the Marina across the bay, Fierro on the other side.
"Yeah, I love coming out here," smiled Michelle, sliding her hand through my arm,"This was a great idea."
"Hey, there's that school," I said, pointing over at the building on our left,"They open? Maybe I should take some lessons?"
"Oh CJ! That's a wonderful idea!" laughed Michelle, bouncing up and down which did amazing things to her chest, making me lose my train of thought,"Then we could go out on the bay on weekends!"
"Yeah... uh.... tits..." I started, then shook my head,"Yeah, okay, it's a deal!"
We stepped in to talk to the guy behind the desk there, thinking that piloting a boat looked pretty easy which probably meant it was pretty fucking difficult.
Turns out I was wrong.
I took her out for a ride on a boat once I'd been given my pilot's license from the instructor, who seemed to be struggling to stop staring at me - for getting the hang of boats so quickly - and Michelle's tits. We rode the hired out boat out into the bay, then dropped anchor and sat down to eat the picnic she'd brought - the sea air making me hungry, and she more than happy to oblige with way too much food. I popped the radio on to find some background music, but it was set to WCTR and the news was on, and I found myself listening to it for a moment, surprised by what I heard - me taking out the crack factory had made the news.... only 5-0 was taking all the credit.
"...ridges have been reopened," Lianne Forget was saying,"Bone County, Tierra Robada, and Las Venturas County are now linked up with the rest of the state. Locals celebrated by mass outbreaks of xenophobia and inbreeding."
"That bitch is always editorializing," Michelle sniffed, laying food out on a blanket on the deck,"Stuck up whore, her boyfriend hit on me once when he was doing a story on the Blood Bowl."
"Also, police are celebrating the removal of a major crack-cocaine ring by undercover police that has virtually stopped the flow of drugs into Los Santos. Richard spoke to a man on the scene."
"That's right Lianne," said Richard, and Michelle rolled her eyes - I guess he was Lianne's boyfriend then,"It's another victory for prohibition. Police are really celebrating after this one. One officer told me of his amazing true-life story of how he infiltrated a drug ring, and how cool it was to get paid to get high."
"Yeah, I was undercover smoking crack every day!" a sniffing, fucked up sounding cop said,"You know, just to be one of them.... I even took my wife undercover and made her a crack whore! Say hello to the news man, bitch!"
"Hey, don't I know you? The Rusty Trombone, right?"
"I doubt it, tramp," said Richard, and Michelle laughed,"You're crazy. Back to you, Lianne."
"WCTR is such a FUCKED up station," she laughed,"Come get your lunch, CJ."
"Police are struggling to solve the mystery of a container ship found deserted and full of bodies," Lianne said, and I froze with my hand on the dial to tune into CSR,"The FBI is investigating. And Government officials denied the existence of an area of Bone County that isn't on the map. Someone - who was unprepared to be named - said,"The so-called placed that isn't called anything doesn't exist, and if it did, we'd name it something."
"Wow, think it was a ghost ship?" Michelle asked,"That's kind of spooky."
"Yeah... yeah," I muttered, a little weirded out. Of course I knew the bodies had been there, I'd fucking put them there, but somehow I kind of thought that Woozie would dump the bodies or something, not just leave them to rot on the ship.
"And where is Mad Dogg, wonder record execs? The rapper has battled alcoholism and egomania for many years and recently missed a concert in Las Venturas. Staying in Venturas, it used to b-"
I switched to CSR, putting on a little mood music, putting the news out of my head, and sat down with Michelle to enjoy a nice picnic lunch.
After the meal and after.... "dessert".... we lay on the deck, enjoying the sun on our bodies, just relaxing on a Saturday afternoon.
"I like this," she said, rubbing her hand over my bald head,"It looks good on you, not many men can pull it off."
"I like this," I said, cupping one of her titties and grinning, and she rolled her eyes but she was grinning too.
"Things are going good, huh Carl?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said, rolling onto my back and looking up at the sky, tucking my hands beneath my head,"I feel like I finally got a monkey off of my back and suddenly nothing's holding me back no more... you know? Like the shit is clear and I'm free to just go my own way?"
"Yeah I know," she said,"When I finally made it to Fierro and opened my own garage, I felt the same way."
"Must be something about garages then," I grinned.
"Yeah," she said,"....wait, what?"
"Garages," I said, propping myself up on an elbow,"You opened a garage and your life started up fresh, I opened a garage and started my life up fresh."
"You... you opened a garage?" she asked,"CJ, tell me you're not the asshole who re-opened the garage in Doherty, the one that fuckhead Claude used to run?"
"Well... yeah?" I said,"What's the big deal?"
"WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL!?!" she shouted, getting up onto her knees, pulling her top up to cover her tits, slapping my shoulder and surprising me into falling onto my back,"YOU ASSHOLE! I SPENT YEARS BUILDING UP MY BUSINESS AND NOW HALF MY CLIENTS ARE BEING RECOMMENDED TO YOUR FUCKING GARAGE BY THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER IN FIERRO! AND I FIND OUT IT'S YOU!?!"
"Hey hey... what the fuck, no," I said, surprised,"We just looking to make some mone-"
"By taking money from me!" she shouted, pulling her top back on,"Fuck you, Carl Johnson, fuck you! Take me home!"
"Girl, we can tal-"
"TAKE. ME. HOME!"
The phone was ringing, waking me up, lying half out my bed after a night without much sleep. I'd driven Michelle home, trying the whole ride to get her to open up but she just sat with her arms folded over her tits staring straight ahead. I tried everything to convince her there was no reason to be angry just because I was running a bigger garage in a better location than her, but she wouldn't listen. The only reaction I got was when I offered to buy her garage so she could work for me, and for some reason that seemed to make her angrier!
Women, who could figure 'em?
But now the phone was ringing, maybe it was Michelle calling to apologize after cooling off. I sat up in the bed and picked up my cell, answering it.
"Yes?" I asked.
"This is a friend of yours," a voice said, rushed and hard, the voice all fucked up, some kind of weird.... electronic shit.... masking the voice. Was it Zero, fucking around? Getting his computer to talk to me or some shit? Something about the voice was familiar.
"I've got some information relating to your brother," the voice said, and suddenly I was wide awake,"Come to the ranch and I'll explain, it's in Tierra Robada. Cross the Garver Bridge, head south."
"Who the fuck is this?" I yelled into the phone. Who the fuck was this motherfucker calling up before 9am on a Sunday morning telling me what to do?
"I can't talk right now," the voice, low and urgent,"Get your ass over here."
"Moms always told me not to talk to strangers," I said with a grin, figuring fuck this asshole, I'd just hang up and he could go fuc-
"AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BITCH!" shouted the voice, and my grin disappeared, a chill running down my spine,"Now if you want your brother to sleep tonight with his tongue intact, get your ass over here! Goodbye."
He hung up, and I sat in my bed staring at the phone, feeling my gut rolling over and my lungs tightening.... but whether it was with rage or fear, I couldn't tell.
He hadn't exactly given me explicit directions, but when I rode into Tierra Robada and asked about a "ranch" at the local store they were able to tell me exactly which way to go. I pulled up to the ranch, and was surprised to see a bunch of people moving around outside, including a couple of mechanics working on a Monster Truck of all things. I got out of the Super GT and approached, a little wary because everything looked so.... normal.
The mechanics just walked by me without a second glance, and then I heard that fucking voice call my name, coming out of a speaker set up over the garage.
"Some fucking welcome, man!" I yelled at the garage while the mechanics worked on the tires on the truck,"What do you know about my family?"
"Now," said the voice, ignoring my question, which was the whole reason I'd come out here, to find out who this asshole was and what he knew about me and my family - especially Sweet,"First we need to see what you're made of."
"What do I look like I'm made of?" I shouted, feeling stupid for yelling at an empty building,"Pudding?"
"Noooo," said the voice, and even though it was all coming through electronic distortion, I could hear good humor in it, like the motherfucker on the other end was amused,"Anger, and hate. And that's what I like about you."
Anger and hate? Who the fuck was this dude? Darth fucking Vader?
"There's a truck behind you," the Voice said,"Whaddya say we take it for a spin?"
The door to the truck opened and a brother with a gut stepped down to the ground, stopped to chat with the mechanics, then waved them away and walked over to me.
"Here's the deal," he said, like I knew who he was or what the fuck was going on. His voice sounded white, like he didn't spend any time with brothers or in the cities - and he was too well spoken for a farmboy, this motherfucker been in the army or something, even with that gut and his clothes you could tell he could handle himself,"This is all about speed and commitment. You got a GPS in the cab. Get to each set of map coordinates as quick as you can. Make it to all the coordinates then get the truck back here. Lose the truck and you fail."
He finished his little speech and just stared at me, waiting, so I took it all in and then came back with some words of my own.
"Sorry," the hard-ass said,"Need-to-know basis only!"
Oh yeah, he definitely ex-army, which meant whoever was behind that Voice wasn't some gang member or run any Tong, he was probably some rich motherfucker with a personal army. He must have got wind of me from the cars we jacked to export out of the docks, and paid some team of nerds like Zero to find out everything there was to know about me. Okay, fine, knowing was half the battle, now I just needed to get face to face with him so I could make it clear to him that Carl Johnson wasn't nobody's bitch.
"Oh, one more thing," the hard-ass told me,"This baby's got four-wheel steering instead of a handbrake. Good luck, you need to be back here for 1830, or The Man ain't gonna want to know you."
He walked away, and I looked at the truck, then back at the ranch, then at the hardass, then back to the truck. Play it their way for now, jump through they hoops, get that face-to-face.... then give them a little "need-to-know" of my own - they needed to know I wasn't going to put up with they shit.
"So what now?" I asked,"I can see The Man?"
"You see The Man when The Man wants to see you," he told me,"Go into town, have something to eat, wait for a call, it WILL come."
"Go into town, have something to eat, wait for a call, it WILL come," he repeated, and hopped up into the Monster Truck, driving it away from the ranch, down the road and away from the Ranch and the town. What the fuck? I turned and looked at the ranch, but I could tell somehow it was empty, and I wasn't going to find anything inside to lead me to The Man.... I had to jump through they hoops just a little bit longer.
I went into town and did what the hard-ass had suggested, grabbing a meal, then taking a look around the town. Everything was dusty, even though it was close to the bay and had a little green, we were near desert territory here, and you could feel it trying to creep up and take over everything.
The sun went down and the heat of the day went with it, filling the town with a cold that went down to the bone. I hopped into the GT and drove up to a viewpoint where I could look over the bay at Fierro, listening to the radio as I waited for the call from this asshole who thought he could put me to work for him, no idea what the fuck he was getting into.
Finally the phone rang.
"Son," the voice of "The Man" said, still all distorted, but now he actually sounded.... I don't know.... kind of quieter, sadder, like he had bad news for me,"Get back to the ranch and I'll explain everything. And I MEAN everything."
"Can't you just tell me now?" I asked, but he'd already hung up,"I guess not."
I reversed the car and headed for the ranch, ready to play along, find out about this asshole, find out what he knew, then put the fear of God into him and make it clear to him just what I thought about him and his Darth Vader voice and trying to put me to work.
I reached the ranch and hopped out the GT, walking towards the stairs, looking at the ranch and knowing like before that it was empty, so where was The Man?
Which is when a ghost grabbed my shoulder.
Oh no no fuck no that wasn't possible no...... oh shit!