After the deal had been done with Silverman, I headed back to Grove Street, figuring I'd keep an eye on the set. Sweet would be home by now but probably getting some rest, and I didn't want any crack addicts who hadn't been scared off sneaking back into our houses.
The place was quiet, but it was interesting to see some guys standing on the corner shooting the shit.... wearing Grove Street Colors.
"Nice threads, CJ!" yelled one.
"Yeah, should we be looking out for a pissed off naked cracker?" yelled another, and they all burst into laughter. I grinned and gave them a wave, I had to admit it was good to see people representing again - these guys didn't look like they was jonesing, which meant they'd escaped getting addicted but had just lain low while Smoke and the Ballas took over Santos. Now the Johnson Brothers was back, they'd come back too.
Inside the house I pulled off the jacket, shirt and tie and let out a happy sigh, it was good having that off from around my neck. I put on some coffee and settled in front of the television, meaning to watch a show I'd been looking forward to all week.
So I sat there in the comfort of my childhood home, a millionaire half out of an expensive suit, drinking fine coffee after settling a multi-million dollar contract for a rap star. I sat and I watched Frank Tenpenny exposed as a murderer, a thief, a fraud and a scumbag.
The Prosecutor was loving it, the entire city was wrapped up in watching it - the scandal was in all the papers, and everyone who'd ever been fucked by Tenpenny wanted to see him go down.... and everyone who had no idea that a monster was the one safeguarding them was fascinated too, it was a fucking circus and everyone had tickets.
I'd watched other days, basically the prosecution had been throwing all the cards on the table - audio of Pendelbury revealing the shit that Tenpenny and Pulaski had pulled; a video tape of a witness interview with Hernandez; dates, times and photos of Tenpenny in places he shouldn't be in or that didn't match where he'd reported he HAD been. Witnesses came forward, they faces blurred and voices changed so they sounded like robots, talking about shit that Tenpenny had done to them or they'd seen him do - prostitution, drugdealing, stealing money, shakedowns, beatings and a few accusations of murder.
Of course the Defense was up and down constantly, Tenpenny had a high priced lawyer representing him for free (or so he said, maybe he wanted the exposure, maybe he wanted a challenge, or maybe Smoke was paying him on the down low). He claimed it was all circumstantial, tried to make the witnesses look like scumbags or gangbangers or hos, anything so it looked like they was just trying to get even with him or wanting the limelight. But for all his efforts, he couldn't convince the Jury not to see the truth right in front of them - Tenpenny was crooked, he was a monster, and he needed to be put away.
Tenpenny's career was over.
The man himself just sat there, never said anything, never changed the fixed, hard expression on his face. Just sat in his County Lockup Orange, looking somehow older and weaker without his uniform, watching as his career and his life ended in front of him.
Best damn thing I'd seen on television in my life.
I woke up with a surprise when a gunshot went off on the TV, and realized that I'd dozed off, hat pulled low over my face. Some terrible Made-For-TV movie was playing, based on a real life crime with former soap actors playing the leads - something about some high school teacher who fucked her kids and got them to kill her husband for them.
I got up and stretched, then walked over to the window and peered out, the lights on at Sweet's and a lot of shadows moving around behind the curtains. Some homies was shooting the shit outside, and I decided to go over and take a look at what was going on.
"Hey CJ, good to see you man," one of the homies said, passing around a blunt,"Sweet said if we saw you that he wanted to see you inside."
"Good to see ALL of you," I nodded, and headed up the stairs to see what was going on inside.
What was going on, was Sweet was addressing the troops.
There was a bunch of homies inside, but from the way they couldn't quite sit still and was constantly sniffing or scratching, they had all fallen at some point and used the shit that Smoke and Tenpenny was peddling. That must have been why Sweet had them inside, because they'd proven they wanted to give it up, and he was trying to explain why that was good, and what we had to do now that we had them back. Hell, even the Crack Ho that B-Dup had sent over was here, wearing a hat too big for her but looking like she'd actually had something to eat.
"It's always been that way," he was saying as I came into the kitchen,"And ain't nothing ever gonna change, I done seen it all."
"Nah, it ain't like it was," he said,"But it's gonna be, we still gotta get everybody in the hood back together. I was just telling these cats what's important, we gotta let everybody know: Grove is back on the map!"
What the fuck? We was barely back in town, had only just kicked the dealers and the addicts out and only just started putting together our gang again - made up of mostly recovering addicts - and he wanted to fucking go out and start making statements? Which, as Sweet reckoned things, meant driving into Balla turf and going to fucking war. We weren't ready for this, not by a long shot.
"Hold up," I said,"Don't you think we ought to take it easy? You know, I got other things in mind - commitments I made...."
I trailed off, realizing I'd said exactly the wrong thing, and Sweet just glared at me, then turned to look at everyone else, and said coldly.
"Can y'all step outside for a minute? I need to talk to him."
They was out of that room faster than I could blink.
Me and Sweet sat in the kitchen, staring at each other, Sweet mad and me standing my ground, because what he wanted was suicide.
"If you don't get this shit together," he warned me,"What you think this place is going to look like? You always did REAL good leaving jobs half finished."
"That's cold, Sweet," I said, making a real effort to keep my own temper down.
"Man, we can't take care of this from no bitch-ass rapper's mansion!" he snapped, and I shook my head. He was looking at it all wrong, and it was time someone hit HIM with some home truths.
"Look!" I shouted back, and he flinched in surprise,"The world is BIGGER than this hood!"
"This is where our lives began and where it's probably gonna end!" he came back at me, then looked me up and down,"And don't forget where you came from, Mister Uppity Ass Nigga!"
"Now that ain't fair," I complained, walking away from the table because I was feeling a real urge to take a swing at him.
"OHHHHH!" he came back, on a roll, Sweet delivering his sermon and nothing could stop him, anymore than I could have stopped Moms back when I was a kid and we'd go to Church and the Spirit would take her, me and Brian trying our best not to be embarassed,"Somebody just crossed out all the writing on the wall, disrespected YOUR hood, and you act like you don't GIVE A FUCK!"
I stood with clenched fists staring towards the living room, and he stepped right up to me and thumped my shoulder.
"THAT ain't fair!" he finished.
I took a deep breath and let it out, then turned to look at him as he walked off his own energy, the two of us so close to coming to blows. He hadn't convinced me that going out and announcing Grove Street was back was the right idea, because it wasn't, but he had convinced me that he meant to do it come hell or high water.
And that meant that I HAD to go too, to make sure he didn't get his stubborn head blown off.
We grabbed pieces and stepped outside, closing in on dawn and ready to go and make some noise to wake up the Ballas.
"So, you got a plan?" I asked Sweet, knowing that he was just as likely to just drive in blasting and rely on his being "right" to pull him through.
"Yeah I've got a plan," he grinned, checking the sight on his AK.
Looks like I'd be taking the lead on this, for our own good.
"OK, let's get those motherfuckers!" I said, and we headed for his Greenwood, he'd picked one up on his way back into Santos - Sweet was a creature of habit.
"Look at these fools," said Sweet, pulling his AK out and looking over at some bleary eyed Ballas stumbling along the side of the road, obviously up all night and feeling the worse for wear,"No respect for themselves or they set, they should be as-"
"Let's talk about how much the gun-toting gangbangers are disappointing they Mothers AFTER we've killed them, huh?" I said, and Sweet actually laughed.
"Fair call, nigga, fair call," he said.
And then, early morning or not, it was on. Ballas came running out of they houses, guns out, word already out from a couple of days earlier that the Johnson Brothers was back in town, and sitting at the top of the drugs and power pyramid - Smoke would be planning for us to inevitable hit at the Ballas. So he'd obviously gotten his smart ones off of drugs, guns nearby in case Sweet did what Smoke knew he would do, and come at them hard. So after the initial surprise, they was ready for us.
There was just one problem, Sweet might have been the same guy he was before returning to Santos....
But I wasn't.
"Jesus, CJ," said Sweet, who had managed to take down a couple of Ballas in the time it took me to kill a dozen,"You join the fucking Army or something while I was inside?"
"You said we needed a long talk," I said, M4 over my shoulder,"I've organized a little surprise for you in a couple of days, I'll tell you all about it then."
"OK, nigga," he said, as we moved on back to the Greenwood and drove away from the dead bodies - police would be swarming the place in a few minutes, but by the end of the day Grove Street Homies would be moving in,"We'll play it your way, seems like you holding all the cards anyway."
We turned a corner and drove in silence for a minute or so, but when Sweet spoke up again, it was clear he'd been thinking.
"Those Ballas came out armed to the teeth," he said,"They knew I'd want to push an attack on they turf, but how'd they know that, huh?"
"Smoke," I said, and he said it at the same time.
"Motherfucker using all those years he was pretending to be loyal against us," spat Sweet angrily.
"I don't think he was pretending," I said quietly,"That's what makes it so fucked up."
"So you tell me, CJ, you the only person knows me as well as Smoke.... what would I do NOW?"
I pulled up to a stoplight and didn't say anything for a moment, thinking.
"Old days, you'd hit a Balla spot, send a message, then back to Grove Street and drink some beers, laugh with the homies and then stick your dick in some fine sista," I said at last, and we both grinned.
"That's right," he nodded,"So if that's what I'd normally do.... let's go hoo-ride on these Ballas!"
It made a fucked up kind of sense, the Ballas wouldn't expect another attack so soon, even if they had been told beforehand to keep weapons at the ready.
"OK," I said,"Might pay to put a call through to some of the Homies on Grove Street too, tell them to keep an eye out for Ballas rolling up for an ambush on us when we come back.... they'd be looking for your Greenwood, Smoke knows you love this model."
"Fucking Smoke!" growled Sweet,"OK, I'll make the call, you get us to another Balla set."
So he did, and I did, and together we did.
The Johnson Brothers.
Sirens were going like crazy, we'd stirred up a hornet's nest, but we'd also killed a shitload of Ballas and gotten what Sweet wanted done in a way that made sense to me - we'd announced Grove Street was back AND made actual tactical gains instead of the usual hit and run bullshit.
"We did it, CJ!" laughed Sweet, phone in one hand and AK in the other,"Homies called in, they chased off some Ballas and they're feeling REAL proud, let's go tell them what real OGs are capable of! Let's bail back to Grove Street."
We got back into his Greenwood and left the dead bodies and carnage behind, our calling card and a sign that the Ballas place at the top of Santos wasn't going unchallenged. I thought about what B-Dup had said about Smoke getting paranoid and wondered how he'd react to this. I looked over at Sweet to ask him, but the grin on his face was so big that I didn't feel like taking it away from him. I'd told him the world was bigger than this hood, but to him the hood WAS his world, and he felt like he was making a difference again - I couldn't take that away from him.
We pulled into Grove Street and homies were jumping all over us, laughing and cheering and talking about what they'd heard we'd done, and about what THEY'D done, running off those Ballas like that. They was happy, they was excited, but most of all they was proud - in Grove Street, in us, and in themselves.
Sweet told everyone to lay low and alibi each other up in case the police came around (they never had in the past and they probably never would), and stood with a big grin on his face as everyone headed away, then turned to me.... and the smile instantly faded. What the fuck now? What did it take to get my brother to cut me a break?
OK, so how come he was frowning?
"But nigga, you gotta represent!" he complained,"Get yourself in some Grove Colors, boy!"
He told me he was going to get some sleep and headed inside, and I couldn't help but laugh, we'd just ridden into Idlewood and taken out maybe 20-25 Ballas between the two of us, and he was bitching about me not wearing fucking colors?
Well if that's what it took to get him to give me a break, then that's what I'd do.
Only difference was....
....I'd do it with style.