It was sheer, petty-minded vindictiveness that saved Tenpenny.
In the days since he had been released, he'd been left sitting at home, on "indefinite leave" while the ADA and Detective Lombardi tried to build a case against him. Without being on duty, he had no way to check up on their progress and organize for evidence to disappear, so his days were spent just waiting for the other shoe to drop and a knock to come on his door and the report he was being arrested again.
But more than that, it was the thought of Carl Johnson that kept Tenpenny awake.
Carl Johnson, Carl fucking Johnson. A gangbanger punk, a nobody, a useful tool, a way to get back at Sweet Johnson for what happened all those years ago - rubbing salt in the wound of putting the Grove Street Leader into prison. But somehow, some way, that gangbanging punk had gotten the better of him, had turned the tables and fucked up Tenpenny's life while he lived the good life out in Venturas, his sister and her spic boyfriend enjoying success with their garage in Fierro. They weren't supposed to win, HE was supposed to win, he was Officer Frank Tenpenny, he RAN Los Santos, it was HIS city! How DARE Carl Johnson!?!
So it was that at five in the morning, after another sleepless night, that he was across the road inside a diner from his apartment, making a call to the correctional facility where Sweet Johnson was being held. Initially he'd targeted CJ as a slap in the face for Sweet, but as CJ had proven more and more useful he'd shifted his priority to make Sweet the collateral to keep CJ working for them. Now that CJ had managed to fuck over Tenpenny completely though, it was time to strike back with the only weapon he had left - he wasn't going to have Sweet killed... yet, but he was going to have him beaten and crippled and left wishing he was dead. And he was going to make sure Sweet was told it was all his precious brother's fault.
The call went through to the guard he had in his pocket, or more precisely in his control. The guard's brother was a two time loser and continual fuck-up and Tenpenny had promised to sweep any infractions he made under the rug in exchange for calling in a favor when he needed it. Now he needed it, and as the guard came on, Tenpenny was starting to feel control coming back to him. Oh CJ had landed a killer blow on him, all right, but he was still standing, still surviving, he always survived and he always ended up thriving, and this time would be no different.
"Murray," he said, careful even though he was on a payphone,"You know who this is?"
"Yeah, yeah," said Murray carefully,"What's this about?"
"Calling in a favor, my man," he said,"I was hoping you could give some of the boys out there something.... sweet.... you take my meaning?"
Murray didn't say anything for a few moments, and Tenpenny frowned, what was the problem?
"I.... I can't, man," he said at last,"I'm sorry, I really am, I know everything you've done but I... I can't."
"What the fuck you mean you can't, nigger?" demanded Tenpenny, voice quiet and cold,"Need I remind me that you OWE me for thi-"
"I know, I know," said Murray, sounding miserable,"But I can't.... God I was hoping this call would never come. Swe.... he's protected, man, from on high like you wouldn't believe. I can't touch him, no one can touch him, he's protected."
Tenpenny's mind was reeling, CJ might have made a success of himself but he didn't have the kind of stroke needed to protect his brother.... if he did, then Sweet would be out of jail now.
"You know what I can do to you, Murray?" demanded Tenpenny.
"I know," agreed Murray, sounding more miserable than ever,"But I'm more scared of what HE could do to me. I'm sorry, Frank, but my famil.... I can't, I can't."
He hung up.
Tenpenny stood staring at the phone, shocked. How the fuck had things come to this? He slowly hung up the phone and turned to walk out, still in a state of shock, when the phone started to ring. He turned and looked back at the phone, a frown on his face, then reached out and picked up the handpiece, asking quietly,"Hello?"
"Look out the window," said an unfamiliar voice.
"Who is thi-"
"Look. out. the. window," repeated the voice in a tone that Tenpenny DID recognize. It was a tone that said do what you're fucking told. He turned and looked out the window of the diner, and saw something alarming. An unmarked van was pulling up outside of his building, then another, then another. As he watched, men in suits climbed out the back of the vans holding shotguns, pulling away Velcro strips that revealed badges. Now police - FBI. The FBI were raiding his building.
"It's over," the voice said,"I don't care what you do now or where you go next, but whatever it is it will NOT include Carl Johnson, do you understand me?"
"Who is this?" demanded Tenpenny.
"Someone who can put a call through to the Agent in Charge across the street," snapped the voice angrily,"Someone who bring down evidence on you that you thought was buried years ago, fucking decades ago! Who am I? I'm The Devil, son, and I can make all your little bitchy smalltime crap you've pulled over the years seem like a boy scout jamboree."
The voice paused, then calmed, and continued in a calm fashion,"I had nothing against your operation, it was relatively benign, but now you're bordering on crossing into MY territory. You were a big fish in a little pool, Fraaank, but your time is up now. I trust in your abilities to get yourself out of this mess, but your time as the big fish is over, and you don't want to jump out of that little pool into the ocean, because there are sharks in there, and they bite, Frank, they bite."
The phoneline went dead and Tenpenny dropped the receiver like it was hot, stepping out of the booth and looking out the window where Agents could be seen rushing up the stairs armed towards his floor, his apartment. It was pure luck that had seen him out of the building, and he didn't know what they had on him but he knew they could make it stick. It was time to pull a fade, to get the hell out, his life was over, his reign over Santos was finished, finished by a gangbanging punk nobody and a disembodied voice over the telephone.
He stepped out onto the street and pulled the collar of his jacket up high, buried his hands in his pockets and walked away from the FBI Raid, feeling conflicting emotions boiling up in his stomach. Paramount amongst them though, was rage, and there was one person it was directed at, mysterious warning or not.
"-olice are investigating the murder of Liberty City crime family, the Sindacco's, whose bodies were found in a meat factory in Las Venturas. Could this be the start of a Mafia war? Or was it a sick game gone hideously wrong? Either way, America's beef producers say it will all blow over."
I had the news on as I headed down the strip towards the Four Dragons, Ran Fa Li had arrived last night and Woozie wanted to discuss the details of our partnership. I was still surprised the Sindacco story wasn't getting more play, but apparently Venturas Officials had put enough pressure on the media over the hit that tourism would take to keep it from getting major focus. The news that followed though, that got my attention.
"Los Santos Police Officers Frank Tenpenny and Eddy Pulaski are being sought by Government officials in order to stand trial for the murder of Ralph Pendelbury. The pair, whom prosecutors claim have masterminded a huge criminal organization, have disappeared. LSPD spokespeople said they were undercover."
"About fucking time," I said, a grin on my face.
"Las Venturas was recently celebrating the opening of the Four Dragons Casino," Lianne Forget continued,"A huge new pleasure-palace with a Chinese feel, setting a new level of optimistic debauchery for the country. Richard reports from Venturas where the Four Dragons hosted the Child Actor Convention."
"Who do you have to fuck to get a free drink in this place? How do you stay fourteen when the dealer is showing twelve, you moron? Yeah, hit me," muttered Richard Burns, sounding half cut. Suzie had been complaining about them setting up they equipment, saying he didn't feel comfortable with outsiders bringing electronic equipment into the Casino, but I guess they sorted that out.
"Lianne!" he shouted, realizing he was on the air,"As you know, actors are a shallow and insecure lot, often
uncomfortable with their sexuality. But what's worse are child actors-especially when they get together. Jimmy from the canceled sitcom "Just the Five of Us" was dragged out by poli-"
I turned off the radio, a big grin on my face. Man, things was going pretty damn good for me - the Sindacco's was dead and the police had no clue who'd done it; Tenpenny's career was ruined and he was on the run from the police; and the Four Dragons was going great and getting lots of good media attention.
"Karma, Tenpenny," I laughed,"All that shit you did finally caught up to you, and all the shit I got put through finally turned into gold. It's all about karma, Truth was wrong, I do understand this shit."
I noticed a bunch of people standing outside of the Royal Casino and looking up and frowned, even for Venturas that was a weird sight. They was blocking traffic, so I pulled over and stepped out, wondering what was going on.
"Madd Dogg?" I said,"Aw, man...."
Shit, Truth was right, think you got karma down and you end up fucked.
"JUMP! COME ON!" laughed one of the assholes in the crowd.
"He lost all his money in the Casino and went batso!" laughed the other fat fuck beside him. I shook my head, looking up at the idiot staggering about all the way up there. Fuck, all my high talk on karma, and here was a guy who I had fucked over, a guy who'd had it all, and now he'd lost everything, and I was the one who'd set it all off. I had to do something.
Shit, OK, this wasn't going to be easy.
"This is the end! It's over!" shouted Madd Dogg, drunk and high out his fucking mind, and as he was yelling he lost his balance and began to spill forward, waving his arms wildly, shouting,"WUH - WOAH! OHHH..."
"Oh shit oh shit sh shit he's gonna go over!" laughed one of the fat fucks in the crowd, his friend chanting,"He's gonna go over he's gonna go over!"
"No, Dogg, get a grip, dude, get a grip!" I shouted,"You still got it! You still gangsta!"
"I don't give a fuck no more!" Madd Dogg shouted back down at me, unsteady on his feet but not in danger of falling off the side for the moment,"My manager got killed, some asshole stole my rhyme book. Shit is rough. All the kids like this "Loc OG" or whatever the fuck his name is... some fake ass gangster rapper bullshit!"
Shit karma, kick me in the balls, why don't you?
"C'mon, Dogg, you just need a new manager, baby, you're looking at him!" I shouted, desperate to do anything to keep him from jumping. Shit, I'd made this mess, maybe I could clean it up.
"I hate y'all!" slurred Dogg, stumbling forward towards the edge of the ledge again.
"Just come in off that ledge, man!" I shouted.
"Damn," I whispered,"This town is cold..."
"JUMP!" the crowd went back to shouting, as a couple of Casino workers climbed out on the ledge to try and grab Dogg, who went crazy at them, furious at them for getting in his way.
"Oh, hell no!" I sighed as I saw him pinwheel wildly again as he almost lost his balance,"I gotta catch this fool."
I pulled up under the ledge as the crowd was shouting encouragement and taking bets on how long until Madd Dogg jumped and how far he'd make it. An Elvis impersonator was laughing that death had been great for his career, while a homeless looking dude was calling out that Madd Dogg wouldn't need his clothes anymore.
This fucking town.
The Casino Workers had retreated inside, either scared of being taken down with him or worried about a potential lawsuit. Madd Dogg was just stumbling about now on the ledge, back and forth, drunkenly freestyling.... and damn, from what I could hear he still got it, that shit was tight.
Now I just had to keep that brain from being splattered all over the ground.
The crowd rushed up to the back of the pick-up and looked over the side, then groaned collectively as Madd Dogg moaned and coughed, alive.
"Ahh well, let's go play some craps," grunted one of the fat fucks and everyone headed off as I looked back at Madd Dogg, who was barely conscious and looked to have broken a few bones... but he was alive.
"Time to take your sorry ass to rehab you drunken idiot," I said as I began carefully moving the car towards the road, being careful not to bump him.
"Am I still the top rapper, dude?" Madd Dogg moaned, lucky that he'd been so drunk and high, it had probably saved him from death by masking most of the pain.
"Best there ever was," I sighed,"Second to nobody else, homeboy.... and the name's Carl."
"Thanks, Carl...." he moaned, then lowered his head, too fucked up to say anything more.
I helped him up out of the back of the Pick-Up, but he only made it as far as the hedge of Ivory Towers before his legs gave out and I had to lower him to the ground. Two nurses came out to check on him, but Madd Dogg waved them off to turn his head and look at me.
"Hey, get yourself straightened out, then we can get you back in the studio," I grinned at him.
"Carl," he moaned.
"What?" I asked.
"When I get clean... I'm gonna need a new manager.... thought I might look you up."
"You do that, homie," I grinned, and they carried him inside while I gave in his details at the desk and paid for his treatment in advance. I walked out feeling like I'd done something to make up for all that shit I did for Loc back in Santos, and with a new understanding of karma.
I didn't really know how it worked, I could see that now, but when it did work, it worked great. My old dream of being a Manager to a major Rapper was going to come true, and not with some nobody wannabe like Jeffrey.
It was going to be with the best rapper in the damn world.
And just like that, I was a Partner.
Woozie had called me in, told me that Ran Fa Li had given his blessing, and we'd signed the papers and made it official. Woozie had been hoping to make me into a public figure, but with our plan to hit the Mafia Casino and run those assholes out of Venturas, I had to stay a silent partner for the time being. Not that I minded, I was getting the same amount of money either way.... and Casino's made a LOT of money.
We drank, talked about our plans for the Casino, Ran Fa Li even cracked a joke or two, though the effect was lost when it had to be translated for me. Woozie and Fa Li were talking about advertising budgets and expansion plans and boring stuff like that which I normally left to Kendl when my phone rang.
"Sorry, just be a second," I promised, pressing the phone to my ear,"Hello?"
"Carl, it's me, Ken!" whispered a terrified sounding Ken Rosenberg,"The Leone Family had made their move! Salvatore's here, now! He's taken over Caligula's!"
I threw up my finger to motion for quiet, and Woozie and Ran Fa Li both shut up, looking curious.
"We're screwed!" whispered Rosie, getting a little louder and a little shriller,"It's war for control of Venturas, man, War! WAR!"
"Caligula's," I whispered to Woozie, and he nodded, whispering into Ran Fa Li's ear, while Rosie just kept on babbling.
"There's word of some Triad visit or something that should keep him busy. I'm calling from the bathroom, I gotta go, I really gotta go."
He hung up and I did the same, looking over at Woozie and Ran Fa Li.
"I need to know everything there is to know about Salvatore Leone," I said,"And I need to know it now."
I stood outside the Managerial Suite, thinking about everything Woozie had told me. I'd heard a little about Leone back in Liberty City, even done some work for a garage owned by his son, even though we'd never met. But I was hoping to use that, because what Woozie had told me only cemented what I already knew.
Salvatore Leone was fucking dangerous.
Still I though as I took a deep breath and prepared to enter the suite, maybe he just had an inflated rep, he couldn't possibly be THAT bad.
A fiiiiine white girl walked by me on the way in, a little shake in her walk, an angry shake that just made her hotter. I stopped to turn and watch her go, forgetting about Salvatore for a second until I heard his voice asking,"And who's this asshole?"
"The name's Carl Johnson, sir," I said, taking in everything in the office. Salvatore was obviously The Man, he commanded the room just by being there. The big goon was there to intimidate anyone with funny ideas, he was roughly the size of a mountain. Rosie was sitting miserably on a couch off by the window, ropes running out the window from behind the couch. Salvatore didn't waste time, he'd made this place his almost as soon as he'd gotten here,"Before working with Mr. Rosenberg here, I had the pleasure of doing business with your son, Joey, back in Liberty City."
"You know my Joey?" said Salvatore, surprised. Woozie had explained that for an old school guy like Salvatore, family was everything,"I like that.... so kid, what can I do for you?"
"Well, Ken'll vouch for me," I said, nodding towards Rosie,"I'm a straight killer."
"Oh! Oh he, eerr, one man fucking army!" shouted Rosie, excited to be included, speaking up from on the couch,"Real dependable. Total fucking maniac, too."
Salvatore looked over at Rosie, then back at me. He leaned back in his chair, the King, The Man, running Caligula's now, he'd replaced Rosie for the time being, probably permanently... I wondered how the Forelli's would feel about that. A second later, I got my answer.
"You know," he said, almost bored,"The Forelli's are sending over a crew to hit me. Their flight gets in soon - traveling as a string quartet."
He sat forward, closing his eyes and smiling,"I was going to send some of the boys over as a little welcoming committee, but, uh, maybe you can take care of it."
Woozie had told me Salvatore was hands-on, he liked to take control of a place, then test everyone working for him to see how they did, if they could be trusted. I'd been expecting to be sent on an errand, but taking out four Mafia hitmen seemed a bit extreme. On the other hand, do this for him and he'd accept me with open arms.
"Thank you, sir," I told him, glad I'd left my beret behind since I felt a stupid urge to take it off and hold it in my hands,"I guarantee you, you won't regret this."
Rosie sat back down on the couch looking miserable, while I took a closer look at the rope, guessing that Kent Paul and Maccer were hanging from it outside. Shit, Salvatore really didn't fuck around. I turned to go, figuring if I laid in wait at the airport I could take them out when they lande-
"Oh, and Carl," grinned Salvatore,"One more thing."
Venturas is my City, now," he said coolly,"I would consider it a.... personal insult.... if those motherless fucks from the Forelli's were to even set foot in my city."
Rosie let out a disbelieving snort of laughter, the worst thing he could have done, Salvatore's eyes narrowing as he turned to look at him.
"C... co... come on, Mr. Leone," he stammered,"How the hell is he suppos-"
"Rosie," I interrupted, shutting him up before he could make things worse,"Maybe you don't understand what Mr. Leone meant when he said this was his city? What Mr. Leone wants, Mr. Leone gets."
Salvatore nodded, smiling up at me, a mean-spirited son of a bitch who'd survived in an organization run by killers, assholes and evil fucks by being the biggest asshole and most evil fuck there was.
"You get it, kid, you'll go far... if you do this job for me."
I drove to the airport wondering.... just what the fuck was I going to do? They'd be coming on a private jet to avoid leaving a trail through a commercial airline even if they was using fake IDs. I thought about the Hunter Helicopter out at Verdant Meadows, but I wouldn't be able to get it up high enough to shoot them down, and they'd be a lot more maneuverable than me and I'd have to get all the way out to Verdant Meadows first and they'd be here by now.... what the fuck was I going to do?
Well that was the thing, all I could do was do what he'd said, or else we could kiss hitting Caligula's goodbye, and. And with Salvatore in charge, Four Dragons' problems would just get worse and worse as he attempted to run Woozie out of town. All I could do was get up into the air and figure something out when I got up there.
What, I didn't know.
I was flying along in the general direction and height that I figured they'd be coming in from Liberty City, and the Air Traffic Controllers were doing their bit to help me, even if they didn't know it.
"RB904L, please lift up 1000 feet, you're on a direct course to an incoming flight," said a voice over my headphones. I grinned and did as I was told, while thinking, all the time thinking about what I needed to do and how I was going to do it.... and coming up with only one idea.
A fucking crazy one.
"RB904L, you don't appear to have filed a flight plan, please identify yourself," came the voice of the Air Traffic Controller, and I picked up the handset and clicked it a couple of times, letting static through, throwing in a syllable every so often.
"Please repeat, RB904L," they asked,"We're having trouble reading you."
I ignored them, thinking about my idea. What I knew about planes from my experiences learning to fly told me that what I was thinking was technically possible.... but so were lots of things, like feeding sharks with food on your dick, and I wasn't about to do that.
But I had to impress Salvatore, with the money I could make from hitting Caligula's the family wouldn't just be set up for life, I'd be able to afford a whole team of amazing lawyers to get Sweet out of prison. And all I had to do was the impossible.
In the distance a few hundred feet below me I could see the plane coming in, it had to be the Forelli Hit Squad, who obviously thought that Leone had popped the Sindacco's so he could take control of the Casino. I began to turn the plane, aiming to get myself behind the plane and dip down to just above their level as they passed underneath. I needed to time this perfectly.
"RB904L, please respond, your flight patterns are becoming erratic," the Air Traffic Controller said, but I ignored it, pulling my headphones off and taking a moment to take a deep breath.
"OK!" I shouted, trying to psyche myself up,"I'M DOING THIS! I'M DOING THIS! YEAH! YEAH! YEAAAAAH!"
Holy shit. I did it!
I crashed onto the floor, the door slamming shut behind me. The thing with plane doors - small ones, at least - is that they're designed to be difficult to open... from the inside. You don't really get many issues with people trying to open plane doors from the OUTSIDE when you're flying a few thousands feet up, but still.... did I really just fucking do that?
"Shit!" shouted a surprised voice as I staggered to my feet and ducked behind a wall,"How the fuck did HE get in here?"
You couldn't discount the element of surprise, and there wasn't much more surprising than a dude breaking into your private jet a couple thousand feet above the ground... but that wouldn't last too long, these guys were trained killers. I had to strike fast.
I was checking to make sure they were dead when I heard a sound behind me and whirled around to find the pilot holding a piece on me. I lifted my own, but he laughed.
"Oh like you're going to kill the pilot," he said,"How the hell are you going to get down to the ground?"
"How the hell you think I got up here?" I said back, and his smile dropped and he started to raise his gun higher towards me.
I settled into the pilot's seat and took the controls, putting on the headphones and happily following Air Traffic Control's instructions as they welcomed the Forelli String Quartet to Las Venturas.
I stepped down out of the plane and walked away, hopping onto my bike and riding out of airport I'd only entered a few hours earlier, no one any the wiser that I'd flown RB904L out and flown the private jet back in.
What Mr. Leone wanted, Mr. Leone got.
Even if it was impossible.