It was too early in the morning for this shit.
Venturas is glamorous at night, with the neon all lit up and so much energy everywhere. But it's a night city, that's when the action is, even if Venturas never stops. During the daytime, the neon seems silly and doesn't stand out against the sun. The desert heat makes you want to crawl back into bed and sleep, and if you've been out all night and you find yourself on the streets, you just want to slide on some shades, get to a diner and drink enough coffee to sail a ship on.
Venturas at night is high rollers, showgirls, racing, gambling, sex and yeah, drugs. But because everything is so over the top, everything seems normal, and you don't see the scummy underside of things. In the daytime, you walk into a casino and the only people there are the hardcore hangers-on who sink coin after coin into the slot machines. Blackjack and poker tables are deserted, pathetic alcoholics sit in the bars and 80 year old women in cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts hold Big Gulp size cups filled with coins, feeding the machine.
So what the fuck was I doing in Caligula's at 7 in the morning when I could have been in bed sleeping?
Taking the next step in setting up the heist - getting management in my debt.
Kent Paul had called me a couple of hours after I left him and Maccer with Rosenberg and told me he needed my help to help Rosie out. At least, I think that's what he wanted, since what he actually said was,"Listen, Rosie's in a tangle and I think you're the geezer to sort it out for us, OK, sunshine?"
Well I wasn't sure how me being an old man would help out, but I told him I appreciated the opportunity, and we see up a time to meet. And now here I was, at Caligula's at a time when I should have been heading home after a night AT the Casino, to find out about this "tangle" that Rosie got himself into.
Rosie looked like he wanted to go home and sleep too... unless he lived here in the Casino, then I guess he just wanted to sleep on that comfortable looking couch of his. He sat up with a groan, looked up at me without much hope, and moaned,"Hello."
"What's happening?" I asked, but before I got a chance for an answer, Maccer was at it again.
"EH! There's some top fanny down at that pool, Pabsy!"
"Leave it out, dimlo! What's wrong with you?" shouted Paul, then turned and looked at Rosie, looking a little pissed off,"Well are you going to tell him, or shall I?"
Rosie sighed, looked up at me, then back down between his feet, and managed to get out a whiny,"I'm really screwed."
"Crack on, Rosie," Paul encouraged him,"Spit it out."
Behind Rosie, I could see Maccer hunched over looking out the window at the girls by poolside, and his arm was rocking back and for.... oh tell me he wasn't doing what I think he was doing.
"I threw it all away," moaned Rosie, unaware of what Maccer was doing behind him,"OK, I had the power, the money, the ladies... but I couldn't lay off the blow, so I went into rehab."
Shit, he must have had ALOT of money and power to get ladies, looking like that.
"SO when I came out I started representing the Liberty City mob... again," he continued, getting it all off of his chest,"And that's how I ended up here."
I looked around the giant office, plush furniture, view out over a poolside where fine honeys was letting it all hang out while a pasty British pervert musician jacked off watching them.... gee Rosie, stop it, you're making me cry.
"BUT!" he insisted, as if he'd read my mind,"No one family would trust another family to run the casino, so I was put forth as a neutral party."
"So NOW I spend my days waiting for one family to cap me and blame the other one. My only friend is a bird named Tony!"
"Tony" spoke up, hearing his name, dropping some bird wisdom on us.
OK, now I could see the problem.
"Shit, let me think about this," I said,"You're gonna have to break it down for me real quick."
He sighed; just by talking to me he was opening himself up to a world of shit. Rule of the streets was not to snitch. Rule of the mob was that you never talked to anyone EVER and you never admitted the mob even existed. But this cowardly, whiney motherfucker was at his wit's end, he knew he had to level.
"OK, OK," he said at last as Paul spotted Maccer at last and headed over to give him a slap around the ear,"The Sindaccos are on the warpath, OK? I mean, something terrible has happened to Johnny. I mean, he's in a shock-induced coma at the hospital across town."
Oh shit.... it couldn't be the same Mafia fuck, could it? No fucking way.
"Now the Forellis," Rosie kept explaining,"They will take this opportunity to rub him out.... now if any hit between the families succeeds on my turf, I will get the axe, buLLET, MACHET-"
"OK, OK! Relax!" I shouted, and he went quiet at least, even if his pose meant he wasn't anything near relaxed. I sat and thought, trying to figure out what to do.
OK, so if I had this straight there were two Mafia families trying to control Venturas, forced to work together to keep the corporations away from taking they last Casino holdout. Johnny had to be the fucking goon who shit his pants riding tied to my windshield, I'd scared him enough to wreck his shit, and who knew what Suzie and the others had done to him after I left... whatever it was, they hadn't killed him, Woozie didn't want anyone to die on Four Dragons Land, and he wanted the goon alive as a warning. But now the Forelli's was going to take advantage of my work to cap him, and the big Bosses would blame Rosie for not keeping the peace and cap him, and then I'd have no in to Caligula's, and the mob would be on they toes.
"I'm gonna shoot over to the hospital, and move the body or something," I said, standing up.
"There you go, my love," grinned Paul as I left the office,"Things ain't so bad, are they?"
My love? Was they fags?
I headed out the Casino, getting onto my PCJ-600 and thinking about the weird way things worked out. So here I was, about to try and rescue some guy I've scared half to death. If he wake up through all of this, I'm screwed...
I pulled up outside the hospital and walked inside, the nurse at the desk smiling up at me sweetly, even a little flirting going on... shame she was in her fifties.
"Hello, Sir," she said,"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, I'm here to pick up Mr. Sindacco," I told her, wondering how likely it was they just gonna let anyone in to pick Johnny up.
"Mr. Sindacco?" she frowned,"There must be some mistake. An ambulance just picked him up."
"Oh, OK," I said, putting on what I hoped wasn't too fake a smile,"Thank you for your help."
I walked outside whistling happily, hopped onto my PCJ-600 and drove out of the carpark, then shouted and punched the handlebars. Shit, it must have been the Mafia that took him.... I pulled out my phone and put a call through to Suzie.
"Yo, man," I told him,"CJ here, listen, I need you to check in on the Emergency Services scanner and tell me what ambulances are near Las Venturas Airport."
"No problem," Suzie told me, not asking what I needed it for,"Give me five minutes."
I drove around aimlessly, looking out for an ambulance, hoping to spot them before they got Johnny someplace private and blew his brains out or gave him cement shoes or whatever the fuck it was these assholes did. My phone rang, and I snapped it out.
"Speak to me," I said.
"Picked up two ambulances on the scanner," Suzie told me,"Reporting they were heading to... hey shit, speak of the devil; just saw another sitting at the lights outside Four Dragons, right in front of me."
"That might be them!" I shouted,"I'm on my way, keep on the scanner!"
I rammed into the back of the Ambulance, just fast enough to give them a jolt but not enough to fuck myself over. I heard a surprised squawk from the drivers, and one poked his head out to stare at me.
"WHAT THE FUCK!?!" he shouted, a skinny young white dude that looked as whitebread as they come - this wasn't no Mafia goon. Shit, wrong ambulance.
"MY BAD!" I yelled, turning the bike around and grabbing my phone, dialing Suzie.
"Hey man I-" I started, but he cut me off.
"I know, I saw," he said,"And the driver just got on the scanner to report it to the other drivers, but the only one reported the back."
"What about the other one?" I asked.
"Last reported near Come-A-Lot," he told me.
Right, I had them.
"Who the fuck is this motherfucker?" shouted one of the big fat stupid looking goons driving the ambulance. Oh yes, this was the Ambulance alright.
"Get the fuck out the ambulance!" I shouted, lifting my piece.
"FUCK YOU!" shouted the driver, with an accent I remembered from my days in Liberty City,"DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK WE ARE?"
"DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I'M HOLDING!" I shouted back.
"OOOOH HE'S GOT A GUN!" laughed the guy next to the driver,"I'M SHAKING! GETDAFUKOUTTAHERE!"
The driver floored the accelerator and my PCJ was spun out of the way with me on it, watching as they just blasted away down the road.
"FUCK!" I yelled, and headed after them, hearing sirens. Not from the ambulance though, these were police sirens, responding to that first Ambulance call.
I wasn't getting anywhere like this. I just bounced off the Ambulance every time I tried to force them off the road, they didn't mind taking shots at me, and now the police was involved. I needed something with a bit more weight that wouldn't go down the second a bullet got shot at it.... shit, the answer was right in front of me.
I drove away, leaving behind two groggy and surprised policemen who'd made the mistake of stepping out they cruisers and approaching too close. With any luck I would have dumped the cruiser and taken control of the ambulance by the time they recovered enough to put in an emergency call. Whatever, the weight of this cruiser was perfect.
"OH YOU MUVVA!" screamed the driver as I sent them smashing into the cars in front of them,"KILL THE NIGGER!"
The Sindaccos' main office in Venturas ran out of a meat factory of all places, and I started heading that way now, wondering if the police had called in a description of me yet. If they had, they'd be looking for a black dude in a police cruiser, not an ambulance, but I turned on the ambulance's radio anyway to listen on the Emergency Band.
"....ficers were subdued by a gang of men, African American, aged between 20-25, numbering between 7-9," the operator was saying,"Men were armed with AK47s, body armor and grenades and riding on a fleet of motorcycles, approach with caution!"
"Hahahahahahaha," I laughed, unable to believe it, they was so embarrassed about getting taken out they'd just made up some bullshit and given me a clear ride the fuck out of there. But then I heard a groan from the back of the ambulance, and peeked back.... shit, Johnny was lying back there, shifting about, coming out of his coma?
"Uggh," he moaned, eyes still closed,"Never... never ever gonna talk like that again.... fuck you, fuck you! FUCK FUCK YOU!"
"Oh Johnny, you all kinds of fucked up, huh?" I grinned, and turned my attention back to the road.
"Hey Johnny, how you feelin'?" asked one of the goons, peering in the back of the ambulance. Johnny moaned something involving a few "fucks" and the two goons laughed, then pulled him out and set him into a wheelchair while I sat in the driver's seat, tapping my fingers and hoping they wouldn't want to talk to me. But the fat one did, walking up and giving me a hard look.
"Any problems, mac?" I asked, doing my best to look innocent.
"Ya should have called ahead," he said, then reached into his inner pocket. I tensed my arm to draw up my own piece, but he pulled out a twenty and tucked it up under my sunhat,"Thanks for bringing Johnny home, kid."
"Just doing my job," I smiled,"Thanks for the tip."
"Fageddaboutit!" he said, turning and walking away, and I pulled out of the Meat Factory's parking lot, breathing a sigh of relief.
"So you got an in to Caligula's?" Suzie asked as we headed for the Burger Shot.
"Yeah, the manager there owes me now," I said,"And he ain't got no reason to love the mafia."
"You can trust him?" asked Suzie.
"Yeah, this motherfucker is scared, but if he speaks up he gets his ass capped, and his ass is the only thing he cares about," I nodded,"I don't see no reason to worry about him."
We pulled into the Burger Shot, where Suzie was going to show me exactly how he handled payments for his bookie operation. Gambling in Venturas was legalized, but there was still plenty of illegal gambling going on. Casinos didn't take big bets from known losers with bad credit, and they didn't give out the big odds that these same idiots thought would get them in front of the eight ball. So Woozie had a number of his boys in the triad running illegal books, figuring if they was going to try to corner the market on legal gambling in Venturas, why not illegal gambling too?
"What the fuck is this?" grunted Suzie, looking over where a sad looking Chinese delivery boy (couldn't be a day over 18, if that) was standing on one leg next to his Faggio Scooter. He shouted something out in Chinese, and the guy came back over and they jabbered back and forth while I just sat there listening for my name.
Finally Suzie yelled at the guy to go away, at least that's what I think he said because the guy turned and limped off, and he turned back to me.
"Idiot was racing his dirtbike and sprained his ankle, I can't rely on him to do the rounds, I'll have to do them myself. MORON!"
"I thought we was gonna deliver money to lucky assholes and pick up money from unlucky assholes," I said,"Not deliver burgers to assholes with the munchies."
"Carl, you ever look twice at a delivery boy?" grinned Suzie,"Police crack down hard on illegal gambling in Venturas, but they have to know where to look. Delivery boys spend hours riding all over the city dropping stuff off and picking up money, it's the perfect cover. Who would think someone making minimum wage would be handling thousands of dollars?"
"Hell, that's pretty smart," I had to admit,"OK, so le-"
Suzie's phone rang. He frowned and answered, speaking more jabber before hanging up.
"Bad news, Woozie needs me to deal with a Casino issue," he said,"But I have to do my rounds, Carl I... I hate to ask you thi-"
"Ahh snap, man," I laughed,"I'm gonna lose my scooter cherry?"
"Oh don't be like that," he laughed back,"It'll be fun!"
And the strange thing was....
Once I'd made my "deliveries" and "pick-ups", I put a call through to Suzie to let him know it was done.
"Thanks man, you saved my bacon," he said,"Listen, I really do appreciate it, I'm gonna cut you in for a slice on the run regularly."
"Hey man no, you don't gotta do that," I laughed.
"I want to, man," he said,"A bookie that doesn't make his rounds is dead, you really DID save my bacon. From now on, you're on the books."
"Shit man, well I ain't gonna say no," I laughed,"But you know, anytime you need a helping hand, you just ask."
"Right back at you man," he said.
I hung up and headed for my hotel suite, ready to crash and get a good night's sleep. I fucking loved this city, so much energy, so much money, and everything coming to me. It was all karma, I was sure, what Truth had told me - I had it all, and more coming.
Life was good.
The phone ringing woke me the next morning, and a lady sounding too fucking chirpy for nine in the morning told me that she had a property for me to look at.
I groaned as I remembered that after Kendl told me we was millionaires, I'd decided to actually buy up a proper house in Venturas as part of my high profile legit cover for when it was made public that I was going to be a partner in Four Dragons.
"I'm sorry if this is a bad time," she told me,"But this residence is perfect for you, it fits all the qualities you listed as important to you."
So it cost a lot of money then.
"No no, it's all good," I said,"Give me the address, I'll meet you there."
Afterward I hung up, got up and showered, then dressed up nice but casual and headed out of the hotel. As I left the lobby, the phone rung again.
"Greetings, fellow traveler," Truth said.
"Truth, my man!" I laughed,"How things with you? You know I ended up delivering that Green Goo t-"
"MAN!" he yelled,"Ixnay on the Eengray OO.... gray? What was I say.... nevermind, just called up to thank you again, my friend, helping out my lost travelers the other day. You have mucho karma coming your way."
"Yeah man," I said,"I feel it, seems like everything is going my way at the moment, I think I finally got a hang of this karma thing."
"Woooah man, don't ever say that," he warned,"No man truly understands the Universe, anyone arrogant enough to think he does.... pride goeth before the fall, y'know?"
"Whatever man," I said, getting onto my bike,"Look, I'll speak to you later, OK, I got things to do."
I hung up and headed out to the suburbs on the edge of the desert, where money was doing its best to fight nature and make pretty suburban homes out of desert and concrete. Pride goeth before a fall? Nah, pride comes in work well done, and that's what I had been doing. This call about the house was just another sign of that, like the money I was getting from Suzie's book, like saving Truth's friends had gotten me an in to Caligula's.
Everything was going my way.
I stepped off the bike and went to the front door, but it was locked. Confused, I looked to see if I could find the realtor's car, but there was no sign.... but I wasn't early, where the fuck was she?
"Hello?" I called out,"Hello?"
"Baaaack here!" called a voice that sounded funny, too high, but too muted for me to really make out properly. Whatever it was, it was coming from out back, so I headed around the side of the house wondering what was goin-