Part 8: Behind The Scenes - Races, Trains, and Planes
"What you saying about me, fool?" I say, giving Ryder the eye. But the Homie recover quick, already covering up that I caught him by surprise, hiding behind his sunglasses.
"I'm saying that the East Coast made you drive like a idiot, fool!" he say, taking his smoke, fronting on me in that fucked up 'maybe I serious, maybe I not' way of his,"Man, you always crashing cars and shit.... and for some reason now you back, all it is, is 'CJ drive here, CJ drive there.' Bullshit!"
Sweet tell him to take it easy, but Ryder don't back down when he caught out like this, it like the nigga got to prove what a badass he is. He walking away smoking, but then turn to me to keep fronting, like a fucking cat trying to look bigger than it be.
"Thanks man," I say, sarcastic,"No, no, no, say what you really mean."
Sweet was grinning though, enjoying Ryder getting all huffy like a bitch, then stepping forward to tell him, man he such a good gunman, he needed him riding shotgun, hell, maybe he could teach ME a thing or two. That shit suit Ryder's ego just fine, Ryder nodding and acting all meganiminous and shit - Smoke taught me that word, it mean showing kindness to fools or something. Ryder tell me yeah, I can drive, like it his decision, like I ain't driving because Sweet say I driving, and in Grove Street, what Sweet say, is.
Smoke was already sitting in the passenger seat of Sweet's Greenwood, waiting for us. I slid into the seat and Sweet tell me to head for Rollin' Heights Balla country, we was going to do us a little drive by. Well shit, looked like Grove Street was getting back into the game after all. A month ago, I wouldn't have wanted any part of that shit, but now? Shit, I'm Grove Street OG again, and Ballas just a bunch of wannabes slanging base, nothing suit me finer than icing some of those fools.
I started up the car and Ryder reach over to the radio from the back seat, turning it to K-Jah West, some fucked up shit coming squawking through the box, DJs sounding high as fucking kites, sounding almost incoherent, like they weren't so much a radio station as a couple of high motherfuckers got mics hooked up to them by accident.
"Man turn that shit off," Sweet say,"Put on Playback."
"No one wants to hear that shit," say Ryder,"Master Ace can suck my dick, microphone check one two my black ass."
"They don't just play Master Ace, fool," yell Sweet,"And it better than this fucked up toking ass bullshit!"
"Man we should just listen to Bounce FM," say Smoke, calm as fuck beside me,"Kool and the Gang, Rick James, Fatback, Zapp... that's the good shit."
Ryder and Sweet both turn to look at Smoke, what the fuck? Bounce FM!?!
"Shit you fools," I say, flicking the radio over,"I got the answer to all our problems."
"Motherfucking 2Pac, YEAAAAH!" grin Ryder as I flick to Radio Los Santos and 2Pac on, telling us all he just don't give a fuck,"That's what I'm talking about!"
"Yeah, this some good shit," smile Sweet.
"Yeah, yeeeah," grin Smoke,"Fuck yeah, CJ, good choice."
We drove on, tapping along, singing every so often along, usually when 2Pac say he just don't give a fuck, and then it finish and Julio G on, DJ telling us all to be good to each other and quit with the drive-bys.
"Sorry, Julio," I say with a grin, pulling up on the curb,"I just don't give a fuck."
"You just concentrate on driving," Sweet say,"We'll take care of the shooting."
I nodded my head, then fired up the Greenwood and twisted the corner where some Balla fools be standing about enjoying the sun, and suddenly I had an idea. Yeah, let them handle the shooting and me handle the driving, I could handle that.... just not the way Sweet meant.
"Shit CJ, you ran that fool down!" shout Ryder as I spun the wheel and turned the car around, almost tipping us over, Smoke's weight helping hold us down,"That was ice-cold, nigga!"
I stared through the windshield at the Ballas down the road, staring at what was left of their homie, smeared into the road. Fools were too busy staring, too much in shock, not paying attention to saving their own asses.... they didn't deserve any mercy if they were this stupid, and Sweet wasn't going to give them any.
"CJ," Sweet say,"Run those fools down."
And that's what I did.
"Yeah that's what I'm talking about!" say Ryder, staring out the window at the dead Ballas.
"Nice driving, CJ," say Sweet,"You getting better, nigga."
"Ballas be pissed when they find out about this," Smoke say,"You ready for that, CJ?"
"Maybe they need to be a little more pissed, eh?" I say, and everyone grin.
"That's my brother," laugh Sweet,"Drive on, nigga."
And that's what we did.
"YEAH! GROVE IS BACK, MAN, GROVE IS BACK!" shouted Sweet as we blasted on the last fool.
"Man, I'm shocked you didn't get us killed, CJ," Ryder say, leaning back in his seat and pretending to be laid back,"Let me check myself. Am I dead?"
"Hey Carl, ignore that motherfucker, you did good today," snap Sweet, looking holes in the back of Ryder's head.
"Everyone shut the fuck up!" shout Smoke, grabbing up the radio scanner he had sitting in the door shelf, turning up the volume,"Listen, they talking about us man! 5.0!"
"Shots fired, shots fired! Multiple fatalities, four suspects seen in vicinity of Glen Park in a blue Greenwood. Suspects are four black males wearing Grove Street Family gang paraphernalia."
"Shit, get us to Idlewood," say Sweet,"They looking for a blue Greenwood, I know the nigga runs the respray shop there."
I nod and start driving, Sweet looking pissed, Smoke sitting back and holding his fingers together like he got it all together.... and Ryder shouting at me to get my ass into gear and drive faster.
"Chill out, nigga!" I shouted at him,"Everything be co-"
"Fuck fuck fuck fuck, CJ!" shout Ryder,"DRIVE NIGGA! THESE MOTHERFUCKERS GONNA RODNEY KING OUR ASSES!"
"CALM YO ASS DOWN, RYDER!" I shouted, backing the Greenwood up and turning it, seeing the smoke coming out the engine... that not a good sign,"The garage is right around the corner!"
"THE MOTHERFUCKING POLICE BATON BE UP MY ASS YOU DON'T GET YO ASS INTO GEAR!" shout Ryder, and Sweet smack him over the back of the head. I looked in the rearview mirror at the 5.0 turning around, and spotted Smoke, still looking cool, and remembered what he told me back after we chased the Ballas trying to pull a driveby on Grove Street - keep your shit together while everyone else is losing it.
I kept my cool, driving fast but not panicking, going all over the road and ducking and diving trying to beat the police. I turned the corner and there it be, Auto Electric Repair, owned and run by an old friend of Sweet's. 5.0 was still around the corner, and I pulled up inside the garage, automatic door coming down behind us. The owner knew what sirens meant, and soon as he saw our colors he knew what was going down. The door hit closed just as I heard sirens turn the corner and the growl of they engines as they went past, thinking we up the road and round the next corner.
"Sweet, my nigga," the owner say - Clarence - with a big grin as we step out the car, hugging Sweet,"Step on up to my office, let's have a drink while my boys work on your ride."
Man, how's that shit for you? Service with a smile.
Less than 30 minutes later we pulled out of the Garage, Greenwood looking brand new with a nice slick paintjob. Sure it wouldn't stand up to close attention - paint was still drying and there were four Grove Street OGs with guns inside.... but 5.0 be looking for a blue Greenwood they figured was across the other side of Los Santos by now, and far as LSPD concerned, four niggas is four niggas.
"Check that shit, 5.0," say Ryder, spotting two patrol cars sitting in the middle of the road, they drivers looking angry and confused. Smoke had listened in on his police scanner while we in Clarence's office, heard them arguing and complaining that they'd lost us, that the homies they had pulled over were the wrong ones but maybe they should bring them in anyway. Didn't bother us, we were heading home.
We pulled into Grove Street outside of Sweet's place, and he slap me on the shoulder.
"You're down with the Grove and Ballas know it," he tell me,"So watch yourself from now on, CJ."
"Yeah, yeah," I nod, and we all hop out the car, leaving it to sit in the sun and dry properly. Sweet grin and look around, enjoying the sun on his face.
"Shit man, Grove is back," he say, looking pleased, knowing we finally getting our shit back together, taking back what was ours. He reach into his pocket and pull out his mobile, tapping in a number.
"Hey it's me," he say,"You free? Yeah? Good good... I'm in a mood to celebrate, see you in 30 minutes."
He hung up and grin at me,"Go grab yourself a drink or something CJ, I'll see you tonight.... got some business to take care of."
We hugged and he headed inside, and I turn to Ryder and Smoke.
"What you niggas up to?" I ask.
"Gonna head to my crib," say Smoke, heading for his car,"Got my own business to sort out."
"Yeah, like how much fried chicken yo fatass can eat," say Ryder,"I'm gonna go blaze up, you coming, CJ?"
"Nah, not today man," I say,"I'll come see you tonight after I see Sweet, we'll hit the town, find some shit to do."
Smoke wave his goodbye and drive away, Ryder heading back towards his place, and I stepped back up into what wasn't my Momma's home no more and wasn't my house.
It my home now.
Sun was setting when I finished my nap, escaping the heat and preparing for a long night. I stepped out the house and up to Sweet's, stepping inside after using my key. I moved in expecting to find Smoke there with Sweet, doing their strategizing, getting ready to play up on what we gained today against the Ballas.... but no one there.
"The fuck they at?" I ask nobody, and stepped back outside, looking over at Ryder's. Shit, Smoke might go over there, but not Sweet. Sweet never went to Ryder's, said the place too dirty, Ryder just a little too comfortable at his own home. But then where wa-
My phone start ringing, and I take it out and it's Sweet.... and the nigga in trouble.
"Carl!" he shout, using my first name, not a good sign,"No time to chit chat! Been seeing a Saville Families Bia. Word got out on the street and the boys don't like it!"
"Oh for sure man! Hang in there!" I shout, getting the address from him and hanging up to the sound of gunfire. Shit, according to Emmet, Seville Families didn't even use him for they guns no more, got they own source for that shit. That means they be loaded up for war, and all we had was the old shit we got from Emmet. Well.... that all Grove Street had.... I was a different matter, I had to make one quick stop before I headed to Playa del Seville.
It was only five minutes later I was shooting towards Playa del Seville, but it felt like it been an eternity. For all I knew, Sweet dead already, but I couldn't think like that, he wouldn't die like this, shot down by fools because he fucking some choice piece of ass from they block. I turned the corner to the road of the motel he was at, and saw straight of that Sweet musta still been holding his own, because Seville Families Homies were strung out across the street. I grinned, Sweet had taken his Greenwood and left it parked outside, so I'd grabbed an old Broadway I'd jacked a week or so back when I was still trying to go semi-legit. It was big old piece of junk, but it had one thing going for it.
I tried to turn back around and felt the Broadway slipping across the road. Motherfuckers had shot out a tire, smart fucks, car was swerving back and forth across the road as I turned and drove past them, ducking down as they blasted at me. Thing was, I'd distracted them from Sweet to me, and they were chasing after me as I drove down the road, thinking either I wasn't packing or I had some old shit wouldn't stand up to what they had. I stopped the Broadway and hopped out, and grabbed from the passenger seat what I'd stopped in the kitchen to get. Something I'd picked up while throwing up Grove Street tags all over Los Santos, after my run-ins with the other gangs. An equalizer, back-up, my good friend.
AK Motherfucking 47.
I'd picked it up - as well as a few other pieces - from a group of Vagos who'd tried to run me off of the road and gotten their asses capped for their troubles. In the trunk had been semi-automatics, 9mms, bulletproof vests and the AK47, as well as a shitload of ammo. I crouched down to steady myself and fired, hitting a Seville Families banger who'd gotten too close right in the chest, taking him off of his feet. I heard the others cursing as I rushed behind cover, they shooting at me with good pieces, but nothing like the AK. Motherfuckers used this shit in Afghanistan to fight Communists, overthrow fools in Africa and South America - this was a gun with fucking history, man.
And history was what these fools were going to be, stepping to the Johnson Brothers.
Rain poured down over me, blood washed away from dead bodies lying in the street, and I looked around and found myself alone. Everyone had bugged out, there were no people on nearby streets, nobody looking out windows, for all I knew there was no one else on the planet but me and these dead bodies.
And then my phone rang.
"That's my Brother!" say Sweet as I stood in the rain, mind already putting the dead bodies aside. It wasn't cold, it was just a fact of life - it had been them or me, when you a banger, you don't get a chance for a conscience. Everyone who choose the life take they life in they hands, and they wouldn't have given me a second thought if I been the one to die,"Get a car and we'll meet you out front!"
I turned and stepped over the body, looking at my Broadway sitting on one flat tire. There was nothing in it to connect it to me, and the only thing of value that had been in it was in my hands now - the AK. Sweet's Greenwood sat in the rain, looking new and clean thanks to the water and the new paintjob Clarence gave it that afternoon. I hopped in and drove up to the stairs, Sweet and his girl rushing down and piling in... and I could see what all the trouble had been for - damn, that girl was fine!
As they hopped in, cars came rolling up onto the street, breaking the spell that had me half convinced the rest of the world had stopped existing.
"Seville Families on our case, nigga!" shout Sweet.
"I'm on it," I say, and floor the Greenwood.
Sweet pulled himself out the window and began blasting his piece at the cars, shouting insults at them and I realized something I hadn't until now.... holy shit, he happy!
"Don't worry, girl, I don't drive as bad as CJ!" he laughed as I pushed through the half-assed blockade the Seville Families bangers tried to put up. Then he shouted out to me, actually laughing, sounding like the Sweet I remember from way back in the day, before Brian died,"She's got a sister, CJ, you want her number?"
"Seville trying to start a war or something?" I shouted back at him as he lower himself back into the car, ignoring his jokes for now,"Yo dick getting us both in trouble again, Sweet!"
He just laughed as we skidded around the wet streets, Seville boys smashing into each other as they try to chase us, dodge each other and keep out of Sweet's line of fire as well. We passed through Willowfield and lost them, moving through the side streets back to Grove Street. We stepped out the Greenwood and he just stood with a goofy ass grin on his face - Sweet don't do drugs, but he high alright, high on banging, high on having me back in the game, high on Grove Street moving to take its spot back.... and high on tapping that fine ass we brought back to the hood with us.
She headed up in towards his place, and Sweet turned back to me with a grin, looking up in the sky.
"Look at that, rain stopped, it's sunny days ahead, CJ."
"This set tripping is killing the families," I warned him, trying to bring him back down to earth a little.
"You did good back there," he say, hugging me,"Get yo ass inside and out of those wet things, I'm gonna go inside my place and get myself into a wet thing."
I grinned at him, not able to help myself, it good to see the Sweet I grew up with back - the intense motherfucker who led Grove Street Family to greatness but knew how to laugh and have a good time too. I told him,"Hey, I'm a Johnson Boy."
He smiled and headed in to get himself some of that, while I headed back to my empty home. I'd meant to hang with Ryder later tonight, but that was before all this other shit, and now I was wet and tired and Seville Families would be looking out for Grove Street, so I figured fuck it. I headed back inside, glad to know Johnson Boys really were riding high again.
It was the next day that I'd be reminded there was a Johnson girl in this family too.... and that things weren't riding so high for Kendl as they were with me and Sweet.