Man, fuck this asshole. I was still angry at him for putting me into that fucking Hydra, angry at what he'd said about Sweet, and now he comes in here at midnight and says we need to talk, then starts making fun of me for the SUCCESSFUL business I was running? Fuck Toreno!
"Toreno, fuck you," I said,"I almost lost my life out there for you!"
"I've just got one tiny little thing for you to do," he said, ignoring me yelling at him, acting like nothing had changed, that I was still an errand boy and not a fucking success who RAN SHIT NOW,"Then I'm out of your life forever."
"You know what?" I said, reaching behind me,"I'm tired of your fucking little jobs."
His reaction to me pulling a gun on him, me having him at my mercy to kill or not like he KNEW I could.... wasn't exactly respectful.
I stood there feeling stupid and useless, Toreno going on like nothing had happened.
"Hey," he said, changing the subject,"I got a little surprise for you here. You ready for this? Huh?"
He pointed down at my cellphone and I looked down at it.
"Answer it," he said.... and it started ringing.
How the fuck he do that?
I reached down and picked it up, pressing it to my ear.
"Hello?" I asked.
Fido stepped into the doorway, blinking as he saw the man inside who looked up at him, looking irritated.
"Who the fuck are you?" the man asked.
Fido made his move.... straight back out of the cell and onwards down the tier, keeping that same smooth lope, wondering what was going on. Had Tenpenny been playing with him?
"What was that all about?" WCTR's Richard Burns asked, sitting in the cell that - until earlier that day - had been Sweet Johnson's.
"Who cares," grunted Jack Howitzer, action movie star and convicted murderer,"We gonna do this interview or not?"
"Carl," said a very familiar voice,"It's me, Sweet."
"Aw, Sweet!" I shouted, surprised, dropping into my seat.
"I don't know what happened," he said, sounding surprised as I was,"They just released me! No idea what's going on, but I'm in the square outside the precinct in Commerce."
"A... alright," I shouted down the phone, so excited I could barely sit still,"You hold tight, I'll be right there!"
He said alright and I hung up, jumping up to go and finding Toreno standing right there in front of me, little grin on his face.
"So... what was that little job you was talking about, Toreno?" I asked, figuring that if it had been worth springing Sweet from prison, it must be BIG.
"I just want you to go pick up your brother," he said with a slight shrug, then added quietly,"Get out of here."
I'd never see Mike Toreno again.
I was so excited I could barely keep control of the car, and my thoughts were bouncing all around - it was funny, all that effort I'd gone to, all the stuff my lawyer had told me, and then Toreno had just said a word in someone's ear and Sweet was out of prison, just like that.
I pulled up outside the precinct, feeling weird to be there on legitimate business. Last time I came here was with Sweet and Smoke to pick up Loc, but this time the end result would be better - the Johnson Brothers together again, we could go to Fierro and stay at the garage with Kendl and Cesar, I'd take Sweet to Venturas and we could blow off steam at the Casino, I'd show him the quarry and the trucking business, introduce him to everyone, he could help on producing Madd Dogg's album - he'd used to love Madd Dogg till he went weird that time and said he didn't want to hear his stuff no more, but if he got a chance to meet him, talk to him, I was sure they'd respect each other and.... oh shit, here he was.
We hugged, me asking how he was, him saying he was alright, and then I was hugging him tighter.
"What happened man?" I asked,"How'd they let you out?"
"I don't know man," he said, stepping back looking a little embarrassed to be hugged so hard,"Some asshole shows up at my cell, I ask who he is, he tosses me a clipboard with some paper on it, tells me to sign it and I can walk free. I look it over, it says shit about chain of evidence and judicial review of cases, and that if I sign it and agree not to sue for damages, I'm a free man, my record cleared. I fucking signed it in a heartbeat."
"Shit, Toreno," I whispered, shaking my head, and he raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing, man," I said, then grinned, excited all over again,"Hey, man - we off to our new spot! We got a mansion, Sweet! We been putting in work, and shit is going well! We got a stake in a casino, we got some insane shit in Fierro.... we're getting into the rap game! Hey man, let me get you some new clothes, c'mon!"
I was so excited, talking a mile a minute, wanting to get into the car and just drive, that I wasn't watching Sweet, watching the sour look on his face, the way he just stood there, holding his bag at his side and then just dropping it to the ground, furious.
What the fuck?
"What you mean, man?" I asked,"What's mine is yours, and you know that."
"You never did get it, did you, Carl?" he snapped,"I need to check things in the hood! Man, that's the problem, you always a perpetrator, running from what's real!"
Oh he did NOT just fucking say that to ME! After all the shit I had been through, where the fuck did he get off telling me I was a perpe.... I stopped, took a breath, calmed myself. He'd been inside, he didn't know what was going on.
"Hey man," I said, trying to make him understand,"Shit's fucked up there. You don't want to be in the hood."
"NO!" he shouted, getting in my face, and I had to fight an urge to shove him back,"That's EXACTLY where I want to be!"
He reached down and picked up his suitcase, then turned a look at me, looking angry and disgusted and disappointed, the last thing I'd expected to see,"What you done for our hood?"
OK, now that was it, enough for enough.
"Man, what the hood done for me?" I yelled back at him, two brothers reunited on the steps of the police precinct, already arguing less than five minutes after getting back together,"Always dragging me down, ever since I got out of the hood shit been cracking! That's everybody's dream, to get out of the hoo-"
"Man, you sound just like Smoke right now!" he yelled at me, interrupting me and catching me by surprise. How the fuck could he say that?
"Alright, man, you hard," I said, breathing out. If he wouldn't listen to me, maybe showing him would get through to him,"I'm gonna show you what's going on in the hood."
We walked to the car together, only together five minutes and already a wall up between us.
"You gotta understand, shit's all fucked up now, dude," I tried as I pulled out onto the street."What you want, it ain't round here no more."
"Just take me to Momma's house," he complained, so I shrugged and started driving. He switched on the radio, frowning to hear it turned to WCTR.
"-ke out of a POW camp in Korea, alright? So I'll be out of here soon," a familiar voice was saying.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," said Richard Burns' voice,"That was a movie, and it wasn't real."
"Oh no, it was real," the other voice said,"I'm a veteran, of over forty films!"
"Is that Jack Howitzer?" I asked,"The movie star?"
"That motherfucker was always eying up my cell," complained Sweet,"Kept talking shit about holding the high ground, he's off his fucking rocker."
"-ferent Ho Chi now, say hello to the news man, Ho Chi," Howitzer was saying.
"Um...hello?" asked a confused sounding dude.
"You want me to kill you like the last Ho Chi!?" shouted Howitzer,"Say it like an Asian girl!"
"Uh, hewwo, hi," said the other guy, sounding miserable.
"Wow Jack Howitzer!" laughed Burns,"That is a fine prison bitch! Where can I get one of those? Ha ha! Richard Burns, WCTR News!"
Sweet frowned and switched over to Bounce FM, where "The Funktipus" was asking how the hell the Army could lose a $60 million dollar aircraft before throwing on Fantastic Voyage. I didn't think it was worth mentioning anything about how such a thing could happen, Sweet didn't look in the mood.
The night was ending and the sun rising as we moved out of the city and through Little Mexico, Idlewood, and into Ganton.
We hopped out of the car and looked around. To me the whole place looked smaller, and like it was decaying. Grass hadn't been mowed, paint was flaking, the place was mostly deserted with a few people stepping out blinking at the morning light, looking hungry and in pain, hollow eyes and scratching hands. This was Tenpenny's "peace", this was how Smoke had become a "philanthropist", through using up people we'd grown up with, people we knew.
Grove Street was just like any other hood now, full of junkies and no more hope.
A guy in Family Colors ran up to us, but he wasn't excited to see the Johnson Brothers, he was looking for money, money to get a fix, selling anything he could get his hands on.
"Looks like baseheads have took over the spot," I said, watching the crackhead running away hugging the blender like it was gold - which to him it probably was,"Let's go home."
I turned to walk towards the car, but Sweet stayed where he was, looking around Grove Street.
"This IS home, man," he snapped,"Get these fuckers out of Mom's house! You was born in there. Damn!"
I sighed, rubbing my forehead, shaking my head. Sweet was opening the trunk of my car, which I'd already told him I had weapons in, pulling out an AK. Fine, if that was the way it was going to be, we'd play it his way.
I walked up beside him and grabbed out a shotgun, and he nodded at me, the pointed under bridge near Ryder's old house.
"Check it, sun's barely coming up and the vultures are out already."
"OK," I said,"Let's sort this out then."
I stepped up to a dealer in a hoody stepping out between two houses, a little fanny pack to hold his drugs and the money he'd take in. He spotted me coming and, judging from his own bleary eyes, was too fucked up on his own product to take into account the shotgun I was holding. It had gotten so bad that dealers didn't even worry about 5-0 rolling up on them, and all the drugs coming through one distribution point meant they didn't worry about rivals.
"Hey dude," he said, sloppy grin on his face,"Something to take the pai-"
Instantly everyone on the street's heads came up, another dealer across the street under the bridge spotting what was happening, those junkies who hadn't gotten they fix yet spotting trouble and struggling slowly away. There was a time when Grove Street would have been clear before the echo of the gunshot had faded, but everything was so fucked up now, it was like they was moving through molasses.
Sweet and me looked around, the junkies had finally come off the street, but something was bothering me about the last dealer. I stepped up to his body and kicked it over, frowning when I saw he'd had his cell out.
"What's the problem?" Sweet asked as I bent down to pick up the phone, pressing it to my ear - nothing.
"I think he made a call," I said,"We ain't done here, reinforcements coming."
"Let 'em come," Sweet grunted,"This is OUR home."
Maybe once, yeah, but now wasn't the time to bring this up. I moved back to the car and grabbed the M4 out of the trunk, shifting the rest of the weapons to the side of the old house. I unscrewed the fuel cap poured some gas down the side of the car before stepping back.
"What the fuck you doing?" Sweet asked.
"I ain't interested in a drawn out gang war," I told him,"They come, I'm putting them down immediately."
"Who?" he asked.
"If Tenpenny's on trial," I said,"Smoke's running drugs in Santos without any competition. Tenpenny ran the gangs, so now Smoke runs them by default, each gang will run the dealers in they area - which means we got Ballas coming to see who's killing they boys."
"Smoke running the Ballas? That's just fucking sick," spat Sweet,"He was Grove Street."
"Not anymore" I said, walking away with Sweet falling into step behind me, neither of us thinking (then) about the fact hat it was ME taking the lead,"The only green Smoke cares about is money.... I ain't NOTHING like Smoke, Sweet."
"I know, man, I know," he said, and for a second we stared at each other.... and then the Ballas were coming.
We crouched down and opened fire - they was Ballas in that they had the purple colors on, but like the dealers it seemed like they was fucked up on they own product too. Drugs hadn't just swamped the city, they had swamped the dealers too, and according to Pulaski they was making they own shit too, which had probably gotten them even higher.
Opening fire, the Ballas did just what I'd known they'd do and ran for cover, not used to resistance like this. The nearest cover was my car, and now Sweet understood at last what I'd been planning.
Those who survived backed out quickly, dragging they dead friends with them, and the ones too wounded to walk, screaming and crying in pain. I wondered if police would come and figured that it was unlikely - everyone around here was either too high or too scared to do anything but cower down and hope they didn't get caught up in the shit. Santos was straining on the edge, police stretched to the limit as they dealt with the sudden explosion in burglaries, jackings, robberies and muggings from junkies who'd gotten hooked and run out of money trying to keep they fix. This part of Santos was dying, and maybe now that Sweet had seen how things had gotten this bad even in Grove Street, surely he'd see things my way.
"Alright," I said,"Let's get out of here, go see Kendl."
"Kendl can come see me right here, at her home!" snapped Sweet angrily, walking up the steps towards his old place.
"But it ain't nothing here no more!" I insisted.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, nigga," he snapped, and walked into his house, screaming at the junkies squatting inside who ran out or were kicked out on they asses. I looked over at Momma's old house, technically speaking my house, and sighed, figuring I'd go in there and clear it out myself, try and get some sleep and then figure out what the fuck I was going to do about Sweet.
I turned away from Sweet's, and all I could think was that after all these months working to get him free, it had only taken him a few hours to remind me of something I'd known all my life.