Well, here I was, Mr. Asshole.
Toreno had told me to dress like an asshole, a "real flyboy asshole, Carl, think of some tourist fuck from the Midwest, some middle aged white prick who learnt to fly taking $200 lessons every second weekend."
And here I was. Question was, where the fuck was Toreno?
Ahhh shit, again? Just like with T-Bone.
"I could have killed you in 9 different ways," Toreno laughed quietly into my ear, then slapped the back of my head and pushed me away,"Wake up and smell the coffee."
A slow grin spread over his face, even as he told me, that "we" had a problem.
"I got some guys out in the field need some equipment," he told me, stepping up close, the fading sandstorm meaning he had to get up close to be heard without yelling,"If they don't get it, they'll be dead by nightfall."
"Then take it to them!" I snapped, turned to head towards the tower, sick of standing out here with gritty sand flying in my face just so Toreno could show off.
"Me take it to them?" asked Toreno quietly, grabbing my arm and turning me back around.
"Yeah, why not?" I asked, wondering what the fuck his problem was. Why the fuck had he brought me out here, and why was I wearing these fucking clothes?
"I got five guys watching me ALL the time," he said, pushing his face in towards mine.
"If I go, my guys and I will be dead," he told me, jabbing me in the shoulder,"I don't have a death wish. I'm a man of peace, son."
"Yeah, clearly," I sighed, rolling my eyes. Man of peace my ass.
I turned and looked at the plane - okay, I could fly, I'd learnt how, and now I knew why Toreno had wanted me to learn, and why he'd pushed me so hard. He must have known his guys would need help by tonight, but that still didn't answer why he'd made me dress like an asshole. Maybe it was just because he thought it would be funny?
"Take the plane.... you're not ready yet," he said (ready for what?),"So stay low under the radar. Questions?"
"Yeah, just one thing..."
For fuck's sake, motherfucker didn't give a nigga any kind of break, ever, and I wasn't putting up with it anymore.
"You say you got five guys on you," I yelled at him,"Why won't these guys come after me!?!"
"Oh, they can't," grinned Toreno,"Because they're all posted on me. One DEA. One FBI. A Russian, a Cuban double agent and my paymasters."
How the fuck did he know all this shit?
"Checks and balances," he explained to me,"Nobody is watching anybody watching nobody. You know what I mean? Go."
I hopped into the cockpit of the plane Toreno had replaced the old, clipped wing Rustler with, muttering to myself about the shit I let myself get put through. I pulled the dome down over my head, then hit my head on it when I heard Toreno say,"Hey Carl," in my ear.
"You gotta stay nice and low on your approach or you'll pop up on the radar," his voice said, and looking around I saw it was coming from the radio,"There's a map in a toolbox on the floor showing you where you need to go, use the canyon as cover."
I looked down and saw the toolbox, but as I reached down to pull out the map, I noticed something else.
"You sure this thing's safe?" I asked into the radio mic,"I can see daylight through the floor."
"Hey, in that thing you look like an enthusiast," he explained, and finally I understood why he'd had me dress like this - so if whoever was watching out for someone to bring supplies to Toreno's men, they just see some asshole pilot tourist,"The US Air Force is less likely to shoot you down."
"Cool, what's the problem then?" I asked.
"I said less likely," he told me,"If you did as many amphetamines as these guys do, you'd be lucky not to shoot anything that moves."
"Aw, shit," I said.
"Hey, just stay low and you'll be fine!" laughed Toreno, which was easy for him to do, since he was sitting snug up in my fucking tower on the radio. Here he was, a Government fucking agent but he had other agencies watching him, and the US Air Force looking to shoot him down if they saw him in a plane.... fuck, I didn't understand politics at all.
"Nap of the Earth, Carl, nap of the Earth," Toreno told me, calm now, not shouting, not laughing, not joking. He was all business and I realized for the first time that this was serious, this wasn't some errand for a drug runner or helping out a friend - he had me on a fucking mission, and he wasn't fucking around. I lowered the nose of the Rustler and dipped the plane towards the ground, the radar indicator Toreno had included with the instrument panel stopping it's beeping, letting me know I was below radar detection. I wondered for a second what it was I was going to be dropping off, then decided it didn't matter - Toreno had told me he wasn't a drug dealer no more, and even though he was a lying, evil motherfucker who might or might not have been the Devil, I believed him.
So whatever it was, I was going to deliver it.
I pulled the lever next to my seat, set up by Toreno to drop the package to his boys, and turned to look over my head as I saw the parachute open and slowly drop it to the town below. I grinned, mission fucking accomplished, then turned back to my front and.... OH SHIT!
"Shit shit, Toreno!" I yelled into the radio,"We got a problem man!"
"What?" he asked, sounding concerned,"Something went wrong with the release mechanism?"
"Nah man, I got the package off,"I yelled as I struggled to keep the Rustler level,"But I clipped the wing.... having trouble keeping this under control, man!"
"...........OK," he said after a moment,"Too bad."
"TOO BAD!?!" I shouted,"TOO BAD!?! WHAT I GOING TO DO MAN?"
"Try to get back to the strip," he said,"Investigators can't find the wreck, Carl. If you can't, dump it in the sea."
"In the sea? I got no parachute!" I yelled.
"Then you better get it back to the strip," he said, calm,"Nice working with you, Carl."
"TORENO!" I yelled,"YOU AIN... TORENO! TORENO?"
But he was gone, cut off radio contact. I wasn't going to get no help from him, I had to get the fucking plane back to the air strip with a damaged wing and a fire burning. Shit.
Holy shit.... holy shit I fucking made it! I MADE IT!
I got out of the plane and ran around to check out the wing, but the flames were out now, put out by the strength of the wind I guessed, and the Rustler just needed repairs to the wing to fly again. Let Toreno deal with that though, I could care... wait a second, shit! Toreno!
"TORENO YOU MOTHERFUCK!" I yelled, turning and sprinting for the tower, meaning to smack him around, no matter how fast he was or what he was holding over my head with Sweet. I came up the stairs, then skidded to a stop and ducked down, figuring he'd be ready for me, and rolled into the office and... it was empty.
I stood up feeling like an idiot, brushing down my ugly ass shirt, then looked down at the desk where a thick envelope and a note were waiting for me. I picked up the envelope first and looked inside.... money, a big wad of Benjamins, shit, had to be close to 15k... shit. I picked up the note.
Nice going Carl, really, you did good kid. Have a beer on me.
P.S - I bet you looked in the envelope first, didn't you!
"Fucking right I did," I said to myself, stuffing the envelope into my pocket. My phone rang and I pulled it out of my other pocket, figuring it was Toreno calling from safety now, probably to tell me he had some other fucked up mission to throw down with the US Army or some shit,"This better be good, assho-"
"TINY BALLED IDIOTA!" screamed a voice that I was sadly very familiar with.
"Catalina!" I snapped, then sighed and scratched the back of my head,"Eh, I know it's you. What's eating you, baby?"
"I DON'T LOVE JOO NO MORE!" she shouted. Well no shit, you fucking crazy bitch. But I wasn't in the mood to argue with her, especially since I wasn't getting to fuck her any more.
"Well hey, let's just..." I started, but she was gone.
"Crazy ass bitch," I sighed,"Claude, you a fucking moron."
I looked at my phone, then felt the envelope of cash in my pocket, then looked out at the Rustler sitting on the strip. Finally I shook my head, enough was enough.
I was going to go out and get shitfaced.
Shit, this was turning out to be a bad idea.
I'd figured I'd go to a bar out in the desert somewhere, where nobody knew me, sit down and disappear into the crowd, have a drink or 10 and then walk it off to a hotel and crash somewhere. The closest bar to the airstrip was usually a biker joint, and a black man dressed up like an asshole flyboy from the Midwest probably wouldn't have gone down so well, so I'd thrown on some leather, including the jacket the biker dude had given me when I was trying to get into the San Fierro Underground Racing Circuit. Leather wasn't so bad in the desert at night when it was fucking cold and you wanted to retain heat, but I'd fucked up, the place was pretty much empty tonight and apart from a middle aged brother I'd been playing some pool with, I'd had the place to myself.
And then HE showed up.
Walked in shirtless, wearing bling, cocky and strutting like he King Shit, a nigga who obviously wasn't from around here, passing through on his way to Venturas or back to Los Santos maybe. I hadn't paid him much attention, I was winning my game, but then I heard the shit he was talking mention Grove Street.
"Oh yeah I had my troubles," he was saying, trying to impress the barmaid,"Just got out the joint, motherfuckers railroaded me in there but my lawyer got the case thrown out - good thing to, my boys fucking RUN the streets in Santos now - Ballas baby, ain't got no competition since we took out those Grove Street faggots, that shit was beautiful man - Santos is gonna be renamed Balla City."
"You gonna take your shot?" the brother asked me, only name he'd given me was "Stick","Or listen to that idiot tell lies?"
"Neither," I said, placing a hundred on the table and starting to walk away,"You win."
"Don't cause no tro... ahh fuck it," he said, scooping up the money and stepping back to enjoy the show.
"...ah I would have been in on the action when we took down the Grove Street OGs," he was telling the barmaid, who could clearly not give a shit,"But I had this real bad fucking cold. Good thing too, because the Ballas who didn't die got away and the police arrested me, thinking I'd been there, but then my lawyer found a witness what cah-robber-ated my alibi, so I walked clear. Yessir, once I get back I'm going t- help you, brother?"
"Big man, huh?" I asked,"You in the Ballas?"
"What the fuck bidness is it of yours!?!" he yelled, fronting, looking me up and down,"You in a fucking Bike Gang? Think that impress me? In Santos we hardcore gangstas motherfucker and we don-"
"OH FUG! BY DOSE! BY DOSE!" he squealed, sliding down to the floor as his blood spread over the counter,"MUDDAFUGGA BY DOSE!"
"Shut the fuck up!" I yelled, hauling him up and backhanding him so he stumbled down the length of the bar and against one of the walls,"SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
Hauling him up in my arms, I dropped him onto my knee and heard a sick crunching noise. His back hadn't broken, but I'd fucked over a couple of ribs, I was sure. He huddled up, moaning and crying, blood still flowing from his nose.
"GROVE STREET, MOTHERFUCKER!" I shouted at him, furious for reasons I didn't understand,"GROVE STREET!"
"Son, I think it would be best if you left now," Stick said, the bartender and the only other customer staring at the crippled Balla fool, not looking too closely at me... yet,"Right now."
"Yeah, yeah," I said, panting roughly and looking down at the fool,"Maybe that would be for the best.
Stupid stupid stupid!
What the fuck was wrong with me, why'd I gone off on that fool? Sure he'd been dissing Grove Street, but I'd fucked him up HARD! Way harder than he deserved, and anyway, he was right, Ballas DID run Santos now, or at least they thought they did, even if they just muscle for Tenpenny. Grove Street was dead while I was in exile and Sweet was in jail, and even if we wasn't, I'd made a new life for the family now, a life in San Fierro. It was a good life, Fierro was a good city, and if the price I paid for my family's happiness and security was having to work with an evil son of a bitch like Toreno, then so be it.
But hearing him talk shit, I'd just seen red and.... Jesus, I'd fucked him over HARD.
I pulled up at the air strip and parked the bike in the garage by the tower, noticing a red PCJ-600 sitting outside the garage that hadn't been there when I arrived, and the Rustler was gone from the hangar I'd left it in.
"Toreno?" I called out, looking in the tower and the office, then in the shack, but seeing no sign of him, and no letter either. Maybe he'd left it and gone somewhere else, taken the Rustler or something else.... maybe he wanted me to have it for some reason, I didn't know... but at the moment I didn't care, I was tired, it had been a long day, and I just wanted to crash and sleep. I lowered myself down on the little bed in one corner of the shack, pulled off my boots, pants and jacket and crashed in my shirt and drawers, and slept for six hours, six wonderful, dreamless hours that was interrupted by the sun shining in on my face as the sun rose, and a distant rumbling coming closer and closer..... and closer.
"Ah, what's Toreno up to now?" I moaned as the cars came blasting up the airstrip, that huge ass plane coming in closer and closer to the ground. I didn't know who they were or what they had to do with Toreno, but I didn't like that they were using MY airstrip to do it.... shit, they was getting close, I was feeling a little too exposed, and turned and headed for some crates to duck behind before they could get a chance to spot me.
The plane landed, guys in suits holding M4s looking around careful as other guys in suits began unloading crates from they cars onto the huge fucking plane, which had landed and lowered a ramp to allow loading. What the fuck was they up to?
Watching them, there was something.... strange.... about this whole thing. They didn't say a word, none of them, the whole time they was unloading and loading. And they moved funny too, stiffly, like they had trouble bending they arms and legs, it was fucking strange, I didn-
Jesus Christ, how the fuck did he do that?
"Damn!" I whispered, looking over at him then back at the strange dudes in suits,"I thought they was your people?"
He frowned, looking them over again, crouched down with me behind the crate.
"Listen Carl," he said at last, keeping his voice low,"We've got a problem. Some traitors from another department think they can help the 'overseas situation' by financing militaristic dictators in exchange for arms contracts."
"Hey," I said, turning to look at him,"Ain't that exactly what you do?"
"Well... kind of," he admitted, then turned to face me,"But we get to pick our dictators. Degenerates that WE can control."
I lifted myself up slightly to get a better view over the crate, Toreno turning back to watch the strangers, but still talking.
"We try to stay the hell away from these guys with principles," he said,"Because that just.... muddies the waters."
"OK, so, of course these idiots have stolen a consignment of landmines," Toreno explained, as we both lowered back down behind the crates and turned to face each other,"And they plan to offload them in the Middle East, and cause a little ruckus... and everybody goescrazyandhasalotofproblems... Carl, do you like maiming people?"
"Maiming?" I asked, surprised at the question coming out of nowhere, and my thoughts immediately flashed to the Balla in the bar last night,"Some people, shit..."
"Just curious," he grunted,"Anyway, the point is - you and me, Carl, we're the same. Now yeah, it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. But if you screw this up, it causes a tinder box situation all over Latin America and the Middle East."
Huh? I had to do the dirty job? And if he didn't know who the fuck these guys was, how'd he know they was gonna sell landmines to the Middle East? Or that these was landmines?
"Now look," Toreno whispered, looking around him like he was scared someone was standing there we hadn't noticed, filming up and writing down what we said,"I spoke to the big man, you've got clearance to eliminate these fuckers. How's that?"
He pulled me back and I raised my eyebrows at him.
"Kill Government Agents?" I asked.
"Kill schmill, come on," he said, rolling his eyes,"Don't look at it that way, will you? Think of it as pest control. It works for me."
I just stared at him, but he could see I was done arguing with him, and he grinned.
"All right, come on," he said, giving me a little pat on the cheek,"I can't stay here now I'm too hip, I gotta go. OK? I'm outta here."
He crept backwards from the crates and then slid behind the tower, and I sighed and turned back to look at the "pests". He wanted me to deal with them, deal with what was on the plane, fuck... deal with the plane itself, but how the fuck was I gonna do it? If I went after the.... pests.... then the plane would get the fuck out of there. If I went after the plane, the pests would take me out. The plane was the major thing, but how to get to it past the pests without giving them war.... the PCJ.
I turned back to look at it, just sitting there, and suddenly I had an idea how to do it... only it was fucking crazy, no way I could pull it off.... but I had to, how the fuck was I going to... I couldn't.... but I had to, but it was suicide, but if I wanted to keep Toreno on my side I had to it was impossible but I had t-
Something clicked - I literally heard a snapping sound inside my head - all of a sudden, and suddenly my brain just.... shut up. My hands tightened on the edge of the crate, then relaxed entirely, and suddenly all the stress was gone, all the pressure, all the tension. Because I wasn't thinking anymore.
I was doing.
Holy shit.... did I really just do that?
I got back to the airstrip a little before eight that evening. I'd hitched a ride into the nearest town, found a Bincos to buy a fresh change of clothes, then crashed out at a hotel, exhausted not just by what I'd done, but the fact that I'd done it at all. It had been strange, just... letting go, turning off my brain and just letting my body take over, but I'd fucking done it, and saved the Middle East in the process... unless Toreno was lying, which he probably had been.
My phone rang.
"Catalina this better not be you," I said.
"Missing the Ex, Carl?" chuckled Toreno,"Great job today kid, I mean that.... of course I had to clean up the pests you left on the groundbutheynobody'sperfect.... but look, that little escapade put the heat on, so we're going to be incommunicado for a little while, okay?"
"Oh you mean I'm gonna miss our sparkling conversation?" I said,"I gotta clear out of Verdant Meadows?"
"You'll be fine there," he laughed,"And you ARE going to miss our conversations, Carl, because I'm the only one who gives it to you straight."
"Bullshit, you couldn't tell the truth if yo ass depended on it," I said back, but I was grinning,"But hey man... listen, how'd you know what those guys were up to today? I didn't fuck over some good guys, did I? Because that's-"
"Oh will you pull your panties out of your ass, Carlina," Toreno mocked me,"I knew because I know everything, Carl, and that's something you should never forget. I am God/The Devil/Buddha all rolled into one, I am the man with all the information and all the answers, and don't ever forget that, because that IS the truth. Take care Carl, you WILL be hearing from me again."
He hung up and I closed up my phone, thinking about what he'd said. I still didn't know what I was involved with when it came to Toreno, but after the shit I pulled today, I WAS starting to think that maybe - whatever it was - I wasn't as far in over my head as I thought. As for that last thing he said, about knowing everything, and that being the Truth. Well that wasn't quite right. He didn't know EVERYTHING, and what he said wasn't the Truth.
THAT was The Truth.