Everyone was silent for a few seconds, and then everyone was up and talking at once, talking over the top of each other so you could barely understand anything anyone was saying.
"WHAT?" from Sweet.
"That's bullshit!" from Kendl.
"...n't trust the system..." from Truth.
"....n't no justice...." from Sweet again.
"I've been arrested numerous times!" from Maccer.
The same thing was happening at the Press Conference, the press and TV reporters was shouting over the top of each other trying to get a question, the News Anchor was talking over them.... and the smart ones had already left. They was going to call in they stories, and then the REALLY smart ones was going to get out of town, because a bullshit thing like this wasn't going to go down well in a city that had been watching and waiting to see Tenpenny go down, and even the dumbass News Anchor knew that, safe in his studio, saying what anyone with half a brain was thinking.
"Ain't nobody gonna be rioting in my hood!" yelled Sweet angrily, furious that Tenpenny had somehow found a way to fuck the system again to get out of paying his due. The Defense Attorney had lost his fucking nerve, no way any Jury wouldn't have found that motherfucker guilty, either that or someone had gotten to him, and now after all of Tenpenny's fucked up shit had been dragged out into the light for the city to see.... he was getting away with it?
Santos would burn all right, people were going to be angry, and then other people were going to take they opportunity, and the city would become a War Zone like it had in Jefferson back in 65.
"Power systems corrupt everyone," Truth told us, breaking our attention away from the growing screams, gunfire, sirens and smoke already building up in the city. We all stood looking at him, and he just sat there looking calm until we realized he didn't have anything more to say.
"Look," grunted Sweet, shaking his head clear,"I say we go secure the hood, we ain't getting shit together so some idiot can burn it down."
"CJ," said Cesar as Sweet headed for the door and I stared looking out at the city, wondering how people could be so stupid, even animals knew that you weren't supposed to shit where you live - and all this would do would take attention AWAY from Tenpenny,"CJ my hood is going to be in the middle of all this, friends, neighbors, people I've known my whole life. I gotta get down there, man."
"No man," I said, shaking my head,"I can't stop Sweet so I gotta go with him, but I need you here man, to protect Kendl."
"This is going to be safest part of Santos, man, police will be keeping a close eye on the rich people, it's the ones in the ghettos gonna suffer, even if they're the ones doing the looting."
"Not this time," I said,"The whole city's been waiting to explode since Tenpenny and Smoke flooded the streets with drugs, please man, I can't have my mind divided between Sweet and Kendl, I need to know someone is looking after her, and you're the only man I trust to do it."
Cesar stared out the window, fists clenched, then he nodded.
"OK, CJ," he said,"But once you and Sweet take care of business, I have to go."
"When the time comes," I promised him,"I'll be right there with you."
We slapped hands, and then I was heading out the door to drive Sweet back to Grove Street through a city filled with maniacs.
As I turned up the winding driveway, Sweet broke out into a fresh rant on Tenpenny.
"There ain't no justice, man!" he shouted,"How does scum like Tenpenny stay on the streets?"
"Man, I dunno," I admitted,"Just the way shit stacked I guess."
"Man, this is fucked up!" complained Sweet, staring out over the view of the city, smoke rising as people set fire to cars and buildings, breaking into places and looting or just destroying, most of them already lost in the mob mindset after they initial anger cracked them. Then Sweet said something that sent a chill down my spine.
"We should take that bastard down ourselves."
"Sweet isn't done with his story yet, and don't think for a second that Tenpenny being on trial is going to be the last of it. Their stories are linked, and so is yours.... but yours doesn't have to be, you could make a new life for your family, live in Fierro, Venturas.... hell, anywhere but Liberty City.... but Sweet won't go with you, Carl, and you know why?" Toreno yelled.
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me," I grunted, pissed at him.
"Because Sweet can't let it go," Toreno said, turning back to look out the windscreen, rain dying down now,"He could have taken you all out of Santos in 79, he SHOULD have, with Tenpenny out to get him, but he's proud and he's stubborn and he's a big fish in a small pond. If Sweet ever gets out, he'll stay in Santos till the day he dies, and it'll probably be him and Tenpenny strangling each other to death that does him in.... and if you stay, if you remain a character in HIS story, then you'll go down with him. Because he can't let it go, Carl, but you can, and you should. Do you under-"
"-stand?" Sweet was saying, breaking me out of my memory,"We find that motherfucker and we take him out!"
"And we will Sweet," I nodded, even as I found myself desperately willing Tenpenny to realize he'd used up all his luck getting off his charges and he would get the fuck out of Santos while he still could.
We turned down the hill from Vinewood down to the city proper, and Sweet made an effort to chill out the tension a little.
"So who's the weird Brit?" he asked.
"What?" I asked, then grinned,"Oh, Maccer! He's got a little.... problem.... he can't control."
"What kind of problem?" asked Sweet.
"He can't stop, you know, giving himself a little bit."
"Yeah, regularly," I nodded.
"Yeah!" I laughed.
"Quit it!" I shouted, laughing so much I was having trouble keeping control of the car.
"Enough, man!" I shouted, and we both grinned at each other as we drove into Temple, two brothers fucking around and shooting the shit.
Our good moods didn't last.
"Shit!" I shouted as the woman slammed into the windshield. She was dressed nice, she looked like she HAD been a businesswoman, but she didn't look too businesslike as she rolled off of the hood and hit the ground. Any other time I would have stopped, but not this time. We hadn't hit her, she'd hit us, thrown by a screaming shirtless asshole who looked high as a kite and was holding a piece, shooting it wildly in the air now and hollering like crazy. He'd killed her and thrown her at us, not out of hostility to us, but to the whole fucking world. Tenpenny had kicked this riot of by getting the charges dropped against him, but now that people had kicked off, it was a crazy meaningless mess that wouldn't end until someone stomped down on them hard or they burnt themselves out.
We just kept on driving.
"You need anything, give me a call," I told Sweet as he got out of the Greenwood and a group of homies who'd been gathered together came running over to find out what the fuck they were going to do about the riot,"I'm gonna check out the city and see what I can see."
"You be careful out there, CJ," he told me, and then turned around and started shouting out orders to the homies, a General getting his troops ready to settle in and defend they homes from attack.
I was going to go see the rest of the battlefield.
I returned to Grove Street early in the morning, Sweet's Greenwood all fucked up from people attacking it, leaping on it screaming they wanted to kill me or begging me to take them to safety. Ghetto Birds were all over the air, but pretty much all they could do was watch. Some patrolmen were on the streets trying they best to do something, but they was mostly outnumbered and scared shitless by crazy fucks - both on drugs and just all natural crazy. Shit was too far gone for the police to do anything but try to contain the crazy and let it burn itself out - I could imagine even now the Mayor was trying to figure out how to end this without doing anything, if he asked for the National Guard he couldn't run his own city, if he sent the police in force he'd be accused of overreacting, if he did nothing he'd be accused of not taking action. Just like the rest of my life growing up in Santos, I couldn't rely on politicians or the police to make things better.
I had to do it myself.
"You can do this for me, Woozie?" I asked, on my cell as I rolled into Grove Street, seeing guys watching me from windows, holding guns, recognizing me but looking out for anyone else who didn't belong - while the city was rioting, Sweet had Grove Street on lockdown.
"It'll cost alot to get done, even more to get it done fast, even more to get it to Santos considering the current situation," Woozie said,"But your credit is more than good, I'll have it to you by tomorrow, you have my word."
I hung up and got out of Sweet's Greenwood, the man himself stepping out of his house with a posse of homies behind him, all of them strapped, only back in colors and clean a few days but feeling like soldiers again already.
"I hope you got a good look at Santos," Sweet said, eyes narrowing as he saw the state of his Greenwood,"Because all we're gonna see till this riot is over is Grove Street. We're locking the hood down and protecting our own set from these idiots shitting where they live."
He turned to head back towards the house, but one word from me stopped him.
"The hell you say, nigga?" he demanded, turning to look at me.
"You said it, Sweet," I told him,"Santos is our home, the hood is our world, and that ain't just Grove Street. We've let the Ballas and the Vagos fuck with this city long enough, let assholes like Tenpenny and Pulaski fuck the system, and we've let them get away with it because we was protecting Grove Street. Well I say Grove Street ain't enough, I say if the city is burning and the people are rioting and the police can't do shit about it.... WE do something about it instead."
"Nigga are you crazy?" he demanded, pointing at not too distant smoke from surrounding neighborhoods, at police and news helicopters darting here and there,"How the fuck you going to put down a riot? Even if I let you take all of these OGs out of Grove Street and left it unprotected, you wouldn't have enough to fight through rioters, looters, Ballas, Vagos, and police."
"You're right," I said,"I can't do it even with all the GSF behind me.... so I'll do it alone."
"ALONE?" he laughed, sarcastic,"Nigga get inside the house, find a position to protect the street and wait for this shit to boil over."
"For tonight, OK," I told him,"But tomorrow.... you'll understand."
"My brother, Superblack," laughed Sweet, and we all headed inside together.
The next day, Sweet woke up in the late afternoon after being up all night waiting for an attack that never came - a drunken Balla had staggered by the top of the street near dawn but kept on going. He'd finally been talked into getting some rest and slept a solid six hours before all the commotion woke him - laughter and cheers and whoops.
"What the fuck?" he said, and headed out the door, blinking against the sunlight.... then blinking again when he saw the package Woozie had sent by a chartered flight, the pilots paid triple their normal fare to land in Santos.
"Holy shit," he said, then shouted,"CJ! YOU'RE FUCKING CRAZY!"
"YEAH!" I shouted back, laughing,"BUT WHO THE FUCK IS GONNA DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT NOW?"