The things I did for my business.
I'd used Jethro's contact to introduce myself to the new underground racing circuit forming up in Woozie's absence, and found out that they was running things a little more.... structured.... than Woozie had. Before you just had to show up with a car and race, now they wanted people to prove they was good enough to play with the big boys before the guys up top let you race with them.
So here I was, in the middle of nowhere, racing bikers, farmboys and punks on Sanchez dirtbikes through the woods. I'd have said fuck it, except the guys running Fierro's Underground Racing Circuit now had big money and they loved cars - and that was a combination that could really work out for the Johnson Family Garage.
Lucky for me, these assholes I was racing was pretty much scrubs.
Too fucking easy, maybe we could stop fucking around now and I could get back to Fierro.
"Not bad," said the guy running this area for the San Fierro Circuit, a big biker dude with a leather jacket with a bigass snake on the back,"Not bad at all."
"Not bad?" I grinned,"Good enough to beat all o' yo' asses, you gonna give the word to The Man in Fierro?"
"Up to the city they drive on fo' wheels, boy," chewed a long-haired, Jesus looking redneck motherfucker joining the Biker,"You ain't proved you got what it takes to ride fo' wheels yet."
"Cletus here is right," grinned the Biker.
"Hey, my name ain-" started Cletus, but the Biker just kept on talking, going over the top of him.
"Race us through the woods on four wheels, big man, and we'll see if you've got what it takes."
"Through the woods?" I asked,"What you got in mind?"
"Banditos," he grinned, and I knew he wasn't talking about Mexicans.
These motherfuckers had no idea who the fuck they was dealing with.
I rode over an old rickety bridge, checking my six every so often, but I'd left everyone else for dust, a bunch of guys who knew how to go fast and knew the area like the back of they hand, and so had thought some asshole from "up to the city" wouldn't be able to compare. Maybe back a couple of months ago that would have been enough to beat me, but I could fucking drive now, I could see the layout of the land and choose the quickest path, I could adapt to shit that popped up unexpectedly, I could move at speed AND control whatever I was riding.
I was a fucking professional, and these assholes was a bunch of fucking amateurs.
The rest up rode up in they Banditos not long after, but not soon enough for them not to be embarrassed as fuck by the shitkicking I'd just given them. "Cletus" looked pissed as hell, very un-Jesus, but the Biker was just quiet, eying me up and down.
"Okay, okay," he said,"I'll put in the word; you'll get a call tomorrow with a time and location to meet in Fierro. You're.... you're pretty fucking goo-"
"HE'S A FUCK'N CHEAT IS WHAT HE IS!" shouted Cletus, furious,"MOTHERFUCKER CHEATED!"
"And how if the FUCK DID HE DO THAT, ASSHOLE!?!" shouted the Biker at Cletus, surprising him into taking a backwards step,"Boy done good, caned our asses like it wasn't nothing - least you can do is take defeat with bit of dignity, for fuck's sake."
He turned back to me, then stripped off his leather jacket and handed it to me, catching me by surprise and drawing a "oooh!" from the other drivers.
"Take this, man, I'd be honored if you wore it some day," he said,"To be in The Cobras you gotta prove yourself on wheels, and I ain't been beaten so badly since I was a boy, good luck with those slick assholes up in Fierro."
I took the jacket, ugly ass thing, but I wasn't going to diss him after that little speech. So I just nodded, and when he offered his hand I shook it, and then I got the fuck out of there, eager to get back to Fierro and get into some REAL racing - some proper racing.
I got the call this morning, I'd been accepted into the next stage up in the Race Circuit, but the guy on the other end of the line (who wouldn't give him name) had told me I wouldn't be "playing with the big boys just yet". I figured he'd meant the top guys in the circuit, the rich motherfuckers with fancy cars and too much time on they hands.... but what I'd gotten was a bunch of motherfuckers with rich parents and too much time on they hands, ready to race the streets of Fierro in fucking Go-Karts. I felt like I was sitting at the kid's table for Thanksgiving.
I didn't get off to a good start.
The fucking Go-Karts handled like shit, I didn't know about everyone else but I felt like what I was driving was a fucking hand me down from some local carnival. I knew I was a good driver... scratch that, a GREAT driver, but none of the other drivers except that one dumb bitch at the start seemed to be having any problems.... was I being set up? Given a shitty Go-Kart against a bunch of souped up custom ones to make me look like an idiot?
Well fuck that, now that I was committed to "networking" with the Racing Circuit Organizers, I wasn't going to let some trust fund babies get in my way.
Okay, I was in the lead, and once you got used to the fucked up way these little carts reacted, they wasn't so bad to control. I still felt like a jackass riding one though.
I skidded to a stop in front of Avispa Country Club, turning and raising a hand to wave as the others came around the corner.... and then suddenly swerved off and continued on up the road. My grin faded, what the fuck was the-
"FREEZE MOTHERFUCKER!" screamed a voice from just behind me.
Oh you have GOT to be kidding me.
The door to the holding room opened and the Officer who busted me walked in behind a smooth looking Chinese dude in a suit that looked like it cost more than the entire room. The Officer moved straight to the mesh cage door where I'd been standing for the last hour, not even charged yet so I could at least be put into a proper holding cell with a bench to sit on.
"Mr. Johnson," said the little Chinese dude,"My name is Mr. Bao, I am in the employ of Mr. Wu Zi Mu, and am acting on his behalf to represent you. Officer Grey here would like to tell you something.
"Oh yeah?" I asked, stepping out of the cage and standing facing the Officer, Mr. Bao between us,"What that?"
"Mr. Johnson," Grey said, arms behind his back, feet six inches apart, staring a space to the left of my head and about six feet behind me, talking like he reciting something, his voice monotone,"I wish to apologize on my behalf and on behalf of the San Fierro Police Department. My actions were reckless, impetuous and worked against the San Fierro Police Department's motto To Serve and Protect. I allowed my own zeal to get the best of me, and rather than following Standard Police Procedure, I made the judgment call that you were one of a member of illegal street racers causing reckless endangerment by riding Go-Kart's through the streets of San Fierro. Upon sighting you sitting in a Go-Kart outside of the Avispa Country Club, I made the rash decision to arrest you on suspicion of being one of the persons seen riding Go-Karts through the city streets at speed. I was unaware that you had taken delivery of the Go-Kart at Avispa Country Club to test drive it on the exterior courtyard of said Club with the express permission of the owners and operators, in order to test the effectiveness and response of the vehicles with the express purpose in mind of ordering a shipment to provide to local orphans as part of one of a series of highly regarded and truly appreciated humanitarian gestures undertaken by Mr. Wu Zi Mu in the past. I once again express my heartfelt and sincere apology. End statement."
"My client does not appreciate glibn-" started Mr. Bao, but I cut him off. No need to yank a man's nuts when you already got a deathgrip on his balls.
"Apology accepted, I'm free to go?" I said.
"You are free to go, unless you wish to register a complaint over your poor treatment," Bao said.
"No no, let's just get the fuck out of here," I said, and me and him left, closing the door behind us. As we walked down the corridor, 5-0 all throughout the building not looking at us, staring at the floor or the wall or pretending to be busy on the phone or looking through files - I heard cursing and kicking coming from the Holding Room, Officer Grey probably letting out some bad feelings.
Well.... sorry man, but rather you than me.
Outside the Police Precinct, I turned to Mr. Bao, who was pulling a cigarette out of a silver case and lighting up.
"Thanks man," I said,"You rea-"
"I was simply earning my significant annual retainer," Bao said,"Mr. Johnson, my Client Mr. Wu Zi Mu thinks highly of you, and Little Lion - who acts on his behalf during his absence from San Fierro - instructed me to come to your assistance after you placed a call to him. However, I must tell you, if you are captured again by police indulging in illegal street racing, it will be far more difficult to secure your release. Local Street Racing may currently bypass Chinatown, but the Tong still takes an interest in the security of Fierro streets - do not allow yourself to become part of the problem."
I thanked him, and we went out separate ways, me heading home in the dark, taking a cab, not bothering to look for a car to jack or break into on the street. No need to tempt fate twice in one night, and I'd take Mr. Bao's words to heart.
I wouldn't get caught again.
The next morning the call came through, whoever I was talking to had a reaaaal dignified voice, sounded like that snooty fat motherfucker from MASH. First thing he said was congratulation for my "magnificent" driving, and then said he had to "applaud" me for the way I "disentangled myself from the local constabulary".
I think he was talking about 5-0.
He said I'd proven my worth to ride in the "upper echelon" and told me where to come for a real race, car to be provided - said he and his "brethren" were real interested in meeting me, this Carl Johnson they'd heard so much about, the racer, the exporter, the garage owner - the guy who got things done.
I made all the right sounds and made sure to sound impressed and grateful, and after I hung up I shook my head and laughed. Fucking white people, trying to make it all mysterious and impressive, acting like they part of some kind of big thing, some big SECRET thing and they important and shit. All it was, was fucking racing - racing and making connections, making friends and getting influence with people who could do things for you. They wanted to race me because they wanted to see how they'd do against me, and because I was a guy who got things done - a guy who could get things for them. In return, I wanted to race them so I could make those connections, get them wanting me to get things for them, get things done. I didn't even think about the challenge they could provide me, because the truth was they couldn't. This wasn't going to be a race.... it was going to be a fucking walk in the park.
After I won the first race, they wanted to keep going, wanted a chance to prove it was a fluke or prove they could beat me or at least be as good as me, and I was happy to agree. They had sticks up they asses and they was white as fuck, but they DID love cars, and they sure as hell loved racing them. And here was the thing, unlike Woozie, even though they loved feeling like they in control or big powerful engines and they loved to race....
They were fucking terrible at it!
In the space of one day and one night, I'd gotten to know the richest, most influential "car enthusiasts" in San Fierro, I'd taken $30,000 from them, and most importantly - I'd shown them a good time by letting them try they best against a talented driver, a potential business partner AND given them street cred by racing against a "brother".
"Magnificent driving, Mister Johnson!" laughed "The Man" - the MASH sounding motherfucker I'd spoken to on the phone who turned out to be a Lawyer called Stanley Cartwright. That was the thing about them, I'd gotten to know them by name - Stanley, Gregory, Carlton, Maxwell.... all they names was so fucking formal, sounding like they wore suit and ties themselves. No Stan, no Greg, no Carl or Max, no you called these assholes by they full name and they made it sound as natural as "CJ". In fact, half the time they called each other "Mr. Whateverthefucktheylastnamewas" the same way we used nicknames,"I think I might have had you if my engine hadn't overheated.... so much for German efficiency!"
They all "haw-hawed" about that even though I'd finished the race ten minutes ahead of the sorry-ass son of a bitch, but I let him have his "glory". We was standing around the carpark up by one the fancy ass round glass buildings in Foster Valley between the hills and the Freeway, carks parked in circles for what they called the "after function" - eating fine foods and drinking mineral water - these motherfuckers were fine upstanding members of the community who would never drink and drive... just run illegal street racing tournaments.
"Mister Johnson here shall be a fine addition to our Racing Club, I think!" Stanley called out to the others gathered around, and they all nodded and shouted out,"I concur"'s and "Rather!", and they made a big show of shaking my hand. I took it all in good spirits, smiling and throwing back they compliments, lying and telling some of them that they had me, complimenting others on they rides.
"Mister Johnson," Stanley said to me after a round of handshaking and slaps on the shoulder,"I understand you own a garage and showroom in Doherty? word is getting around about the quality of your mechanics and the.... speed.... with which you fill orders. Maybe you could have your boys take a look at my car's engine, work on that overheating problem?"
"A fine high-performance vehicle like this?" I said, running my hand over its line,"Too high maintenance for my boys - we work on overhauling, bodywork, that type of thing.... and my showroom can bring in any car you like. But engine tweaking for a machine like this? I got a working relationship with Michelle's Auto-Repair in Downtown, best place for it."
"You're sending me somewhere else because that's the best place for it?" he asked, looking surprised, then he grinned and threw his arm around my shoulder, shouting out to everyone,"My fine fellows! Mister Johnson is a finer fellow than we had any right to expect! Three cheers for Carl Johnson!"
"HUZZAH!" they all shouted together,"HUZZAH! HUZZAH!"
God save me from white people.
Business had been good the last week, suddenly the garage was fully booked with Jethro, Dwaine and Cesar working on cars around the clock. We was getting plenty of orders both legit and shady, and the docks was seeing lots of nighttime activity as we picked up cars and dropped them off. Wang Cars was bringing in new showroom stock and I'd even gotten a call from Michelle frostily telling me she appreciated me sending business her way then hanging up. Shit, that was more than I'd been expecting, I was still hoping to get my hands on those tits again one day.
But then at midnight I'd received a call I didn't want to get - Toreno telling me in his usual friendly way to get my ass to Verdant Meadows. I guess he'd settled on what he wanted to do with the old airstrip, and I was going to find out what the fuck it had to do with me.
I stepped up into the old office, checking out how it had changed since Toreno - or whoever the fuck Toreno had sent - been up here. There wasn't a speck of dust nowhere, which was pretty fucking strange since we was in the fucking desert, everything was ordered, there was a phone on the desk and I wondered if it wo-
My phone rang.
"Come on, Toreno," I said, looking over at the desk phone,"There's a fucking phone RIGHT THERE!"
I picked up.
"It's missing something," I said, cracking wise, feeling a little cocky the way things was going for me at the moment,"Maybe a tennis court and a pool would help motivate me better."
"Very nice Carl, very cute," he came back, then kept going,"Now listen.... ahem...... you're going to have to learn how to fly."
"....yes, actually, you are," he came back, all matter of fact, like the conversation was over,"I've set out a series of tests for you. You can access them on that TV. You're going to have to prove to me you can fly if you're going to continue working towards your brother's freedom."
So that was how he was going to play it. Me, fly? Was he fucking.... shit.
"Shit," I said,"Whatever, man...."
"Very nice," he said, and just like that he was gone, leaving me standing alone in an office in front of a television and VCR in an old dusty airstrip in the middle of the fucking desert, with instructions from a fucking psychopath Government agent to learn how to fly or my brother would stay in jail forever.
No one ever said my life wasn't interesting.