As we got into Sweet's Greenwood, I looked around the old street, and at the smoke rising in the distance in the parts of the city still rioting, and I wondered just what the rest of the world was making of our city and this fucked up situation.
.... Denise Robinson watched as the Balla was slammed face first into the trunk of the car, the Grove Street homie kicking him in the side as he fell to the ground.
"STOP!" she shouted, catching the homie's attention.
"WHAT!?!" he demanded.
Denise rushed up to the fallen Balla, knelt down beside him and grabbed out his wallet, emptying it of money and dropping the rest to the ground.
"Asshole owed me money!" she said, giving him a kick,"Say.... what you doing after this?"
"Word is that Smoke's got a place in East Los Santos," I told Sweet,"Right on the edge of Los Flores - some old apartments and a warehouse... he's as good as dead."
Sweet nodded, satisfied.
....Helena Wankstein sat in a plush chair, multiple televisions in the entertainment centre in front of her showing scenes on multiple channels of the rioting, smoking city that she could see in the far distance through the window of her farmhouse on the outskirts of Los Santos. She was naked, her panties dangling from one ankle as she masturbated furiously to the scenes of looting, mugging and burning.
"OHHHH GODDDD!" she moaned,"WE'RE GOING TO GET A REPUBLICAN MAYOOOOOR!"
"I can't believe you bought this same bucket ass car, man!" I told Sweet as we drove over the bridge out of Ganton.
"Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," shrugged Sweet.
...."-ioting continues in Los Santos tonig-"
"So you can see the sound system works fine," Michelle Cannes said with a grin, casting an appreciative look over the man in her garage looking over the Stafford she'd overhauled for him,"Any other questions, Mr. Fa Li?"
"Hrmmm," grunted Ran Fa Li, clearly eying up Michelle's own assets, and his translator spoke up.
"Our associate Mr. Wu Zi Mu says you come highly recommended," he said,"Mr. Fa Li is very impressed with your.... work."
"The feeling is mutual," Michelle grinned, walking up to Fa Li and openly sliding her hands over his belly, making the large man's narrow eyes widen in surprise,"I was just appreciating his form myself."
"Hrmmmmmm," said Mr. Fa Li.
"My apologies," said the translator,"I did no-"
"He said, we can take things from here," grinned Michelle, pressing her own body up close to Fa Li's,"Take the rest of the night off, junior."
"So this is it, huh?" Sweet said as we passed streets that seemed strangely quiet with rioting going on in other parts of the city. Armed Grove Street homies stood on corners, nodding to us as we passed, getting closer to a section of the city where the Ballas had been holding out, getting involved with running battles with the police, even I hadn't wanted to go in there with my tank, and it only made sense to me now that the resistance was higher because that was where Smoke was based,"Johnson boys sorting shit out."
"Yeah," I said.
"Nervous?" asked Sweet.
"....yeah," I admitted.
"Me too," Sweet said quietly,"Me too."
"Darling, have you seen my medication?" asked Colin.
"Hmm? No, no," muttered Katie Zhan, obviously distracted by the sights and sounds on her television set of the rioting in Los Santos.
"Why does it always go missing?" mused Colin quietly to himself, not wanting to make a fuss and bother her while she was obviously so.... interested.... in what she was seeing,"If I didn't know better I'd swear she wanted me to get sick again."
We passed the Pig Pen strip club, turning up the hill after driving the long way around to avoid a shoot-out going on between some SWAT assholes and some Ballas. I could see the old warehouse now, someone had built apartments over the top of it in the 1980s actually thinking they could get upmarket tenants and "gentrify" the hood. Smoke had probably bought the place at bargain basement prices, and I wondered how much crack they was pumping out of that place, how many lives destroyed by that shit.
We pulled up down the road, two Ballas holding AKs stashed outside the entrance, the door a massive steel thing that looked like it could take a shot from a rocket and still be standing.
We'd have to do something about that.
....Barbara Schternvart sat in the police station watching the riots on television. She was alone, working the night shift while her kids were with their father.
"Lack of discipline in their officers," she said, frowning,"We'd never let things get that bad around here."
She looked over at the radio dispatch and checked it for the millionth time to make sure it was working. There hadn't been a single call the entire night, and only one call last night which had turned out to be a drunken idiot who had lost the keys to his trailer.
"Still," she sighed,"A little action now and then wouldn't be soooo bad."
"Time to do this," Sweet said, and again I remembered Toreno's warning. I'd come to my own decision about whether to tell Sweet about Smoke's location and decided in the end that I had to let him know. But now we were here, it was time to tell him the other thing I'd decided.
"Sweet," I said, carefully,"You ain't going in there."
"Guten Tag," said the trim little man in his tidy little uniform,"Wie kann ich ihnen helfen?"
"Guten tag," replied Millie Perkins, smiling sweetly,"Ich spreche nur ein bißchen Deutsch, könnten sie mir bitte helfen?"
"Certainly, madam," replied the man in excellent English,"How may I help you?"
Millie looked around the restaurant of the fine German hotel she'd been driven straight to from the hospital, the first place she would be staying in her new life now that her cut of the Casino Heist had been cleared through to her bank account.
"I'm here on business," she smiled,"Can you please let Herr Thaur and Frau Krüger know that "Kit Kat" has arrived?"
"What the fuck, nigga?" demanded Sweet,"What you mean I ain't going?"
"Look," I said, trying to choose my words carefully and walk the fine line between telling him the truth about what I NEEDED to do, and what I was afraid would happen if I didn't stop him coming,"I know you down for this, but I gotta go in there alone."
"What?" he said, sounding angry.... but listening, at least he was listening.
"Smoke played me," I said,"Tenpenny played me."
"They played us all," Sweet came back, and it was true, but there was more to it than that. It was stupid but ever since Toreno had told me that Sweet and Tenpenny would be the death of each other, I'd become convinced it was true. Stuff he'd said about me still being a character in Sweet's "story" had stuck too, but nothing more than the knowledge that that Sweet would let himself die if he thought he could take out Tenpenny. And besides that..... there WAS something I hadn't faced up to since I'd come back to Santos (both times), something I'd never admitted.
"Yeah, but you're right," I told him,"I was a buster when my family needed me the most. Hey.... I let Brian die, man."
"This one's for him, for Moms," I said quietly,"... and for you, bro."
Sweet stared out the window into the darkness, then he slowly shook his head.
"No," he said,"Not for us.... for Grove Street."
"Yeah, for the Grove, baby," I agreed.
He put his gun down and I opened my door to step out, but he stopped me.
"Hey," he said,"If you need me, you know I'll be."
"For sure," I said,"You've always been there for me, man."
Stepping out of the car, I looked down the street at the two Ballas stationed outside the warehouse, and the big-ass reinforced door. The only way through there was with a key, which the two guards probably didn't have. Even if I'd driven the Greenwood at full speed at it, it probably wouldn't do more than dent it - so how the fuck was I going to get through?
With a little help from the police.
The guards were starting to look in my direction, so I slipped down into the yard of one of the houses across the street from the warehouse and moved over a fence. Places were either heavily boarded up or abandoned in this area of town, I wondered how many of the properties were owned by Smoke, and how many people had been "convinced" to move out so he could have some privacy. I moved through alleys and over fences, getting closer and closer to the street where Ballas and SWAT were shooting it out, the SWAT tank just sitting there doing nothing but providing a big shelter from gunfire.
Man, no wonder these assholes hadn't taken this street back yet.
"HEY! HEY!" shouted a SWAT guy, pounding on the door,"OPEN UP! COME ON, MAAAAN! COME ON!"
I ignored him, settling into the driver's seat and checking out the controls. It looked more like it controlled like a car than the Rhino I'd been driving recently, but it was big and heavy and it looked like I could get it up to top speed, and with any luck I'd be like that mean bitch from the movie with the aliens.... fuck, what was that called?
I got out of the tank, dead or crippled Ballas lying in a trail from the hole in the wall round to this entrance. Junkies lay on the floor fucked out they heads on crack - either they was test subjects for the drugs that Smoke was producing or "guests" that had been used up and dumped down here to the bottom level. Judging from the way one of the girls was dressed, I figured she'd been pretty high class when things started, and had been reduced to having these assholes on the ground level running a train on her - she looked used up and wasted, absolutely pathetic.
"Shit," I said, reaching back inside the tank for the unexpected bonus I'd found inside,"Enough is enough."
Smoke had this coming a long time, and nothing was going to get in my way.
Not for long, at least.
The police had got the same idea as me, it seemed, busting a SWAT tank through the wall. Unfortunately for them, they ran right into a firefight between me and the Ballas, and I was in no mood to check my line of fire. Everyone was fair game tonight, nothing was getting between me and Smoke.
Only one floor up from where half-naked slave labor put together drugs to flood the streets, Smoke kept his Ballas and Vagos in luxury with they own bar, hos, and sound system. How nice for them, getting to live in luxury while they poisoned they own people.
That all ended tonight.
I'd been a machine - like that robot in that Jack Howitzer movie - mowing down everything in my path, blasting away anything that got between me and Smoke no matter how fucked up it was. But as I moved through the Ballas Lounge, I finally saw something that made me stop.
"What the fuuuuck," I whispered. They said Smoke was paranoid.... maybe he was crazy, too?
Enough fucking around, I had a job to finish, a fat fuck to face, and questions to ask.
And I WOULD get answers.
I stepped up to the last stairwell, dropping the big mini-gun to the ground and pulling out my pieces, ready to work up close and personal if I had to. I intended only one of us to walk out of this place alive, and I didn't intend it to be Smoke.... but I would get answers from the man I'd thought was my best friend before we came down to it.
I'd walked in resolved, but seeing him again for the first time in months, hearing his voice - sounding sad and tired and worn out..... I hesitated. I lowered my gun, looking at the back of his head as he sat there playing a game console, the fat man I'd played with at school and run the streets with, the man who'd had a part in my Moms being killed and set up me and my brother.... but he was still Smoke..... I.... fuck.
"How'd you know it was me?" I asked, as he went on playing his game, wearing body armor but otherwise acting like I hadn't just killed my way through a fucking army to get to him.
"Knew it was my old dog CJ," he rasped out, then lowered his controller into his lap and finally turned his head to look at me, a little fire coming back into his voice,"Knew you was coming and I don't give a shit."
He turned back to the TV and lifted the controller again, going back to playing as I just stood there feeling dumb, staring at the back of his head, wanting to hate him. Finally, I lifted my piece again, pointing it at the back of his head.
"I'm here to take care of your fat ass," I told him,"Then I'm gonna take care of your friends in the police departme-"
"Man, fuck this shit," snapped Smoke suddenly, dropping the controller and reaching for something else on the table. I braced myself, thinking he was reaching for a piece, but when I saw what it was, I almost wish he HAD drawn.
Fuck. At the end of the day, that fucking drug got everyone who touched it - no matter how smart they was or thought they was. There he was, and I was finally starting to see, this wasn't Smoke no more, at least not the Smoke I'd known.
He was just another pathetic fucking junkie.
"Fuck Tenpenny and fuck his Polish lap dog," said Smoke, standing up and turning to face me, walking around the couch so nothing was between us,"And fuck the police, man. All that's old shit."
He looked me up and down and then threw open his arms,"Look at you, you got the whole world! I ain't got no regrets, man!"
He came closer, his eyes the same fucked up desperate I'd seen in a thousand junkies, Smoke desperate to tell someone else the lies he told himself, because maybe someone else would believe what he couldn't.
"I CAN'T BE TOUCHED!" he yelled at me, and I just felt... sad. This was what he was now? The smart man, the thinking man?
"I don't give a fuck," he grunted, turning away from me and walking towards a heavy looking safe near the wall,"Fuck the whole world!"
"What happened to you, man?" I asked him, really wanting to know. Surely the old Smoke was still in there somewhere? He had to be.... even if the old Smoke was the one who had betrayed us, it was better than this paranoid, crazy junkie asshole in Smoke's body.
"Man, what the fuck do you care?" he snapped at me, opening the safe door and staring inside at great big piles of money. He sighed.
"Guess we better do this shit then," he said, and the old Smoke was in there, all right, because the crafty fuck had tricked me again. If I hadn't been a different person from the one he'd had run out of Santos, he would have had me dead to rights.
We stood facing each other, guns drawn, two old friends looking to put holes in each other.
"You killed Ryder!" Smoke yelled at me.
"You killed my Moms!" I yelled back.
".....fuck, got me there," Smoke admitted,"NOW!"
Vagos, Ballas and even a couple of Aztecas came running out of rooms around the studio apartment he'd made his own, from out of the big kitchen, down the stairs, bouncing off the giant trampoline or appearing from behind shelves. He'd laid a fucking ambush for me, a fucking junkie but still Smoke underneath it all - smarter than anyone had ever given him credit for..... except me. I'd always known he was smart, and I knew how to get to him.
"You wearing body armor, Smoke?" I yelled, even though I was wearing my own under my black undershirt, running to crouch behind a wall as the Vagos opened fire on me,"Man, I'm disappointed in you - I thought you was gangsta!"
"Hey, I'm a motherfucking celebrity!" he shouted back, giving away his position going up the stairs,"All kinds of crazy cats out there want a piece of me! Somebody save the Smoke!"
These assholes was all out for my blood, for they friends and family I'd killed on my way up here. They should have learnt - nothing was getting between me and Smoke.
I'd grabbed up an M4 from one of the dead gangbangers, and when Smoke saw me coming up the stairs with it he turned and ran as fast as he could - which was surprisingly fast for a fat man. But as I opened fire, the lights suddenly went out, and I automatically dropped and rolled to the side as my eyes try to adjust to the darkness.
I heard him huffing and puffing, and knew that he was going for the night vision goggles by the lower window. Not so he could wear them, but because he knew I would have seen them when I came in, left in place so they couldn't be missed. He was laying an ambush for me, so I waited where I was on the top of the steps and listened, listened for the right moment and....
"AHHHH FUCK!" I heard him shout out, and knew I'd winged him. But I'd also given away my position, and I rolled away from it and moved as silently as I could, eyes adjusting to the darkness. I'd get by without the goggles, I'd have to, he wanted me to go for them and that meant I had to stay away from them.
I heard cursing in Spanish and saw the flash as a shot went off, seeing a Vagos briefly falling choking blood, dropping his shotgun as he fell, shot by Smoke who was smart enough NOT to say anything when he realized his mistake. I moved quietly to the fallen body and grabbed up the shotgun, listening quietly as I heard Smoke doing his best to move in silence. This was getting us nowhere, and I knew what I had to do.
"Smoke," I called out,"I can't see a thing man! It's too dark.... smile and let a nigga see your teeth!"
It was silent for a second, just a second, and then I heard a low, shocked laugh come out of him. Moments later the lights came back on, and there he was standing in front of me, the old Smoke back in full force, the junkie completely gone for at least a little while, smiling at me and shaking his head.
"Shit, CJ," he said,"How the fuck did we ge-"
Sweet sat in the Greenwood, radio on as he listened to Julio G telling everybody to calm the fuck down and quit rioting.
"Business to be done first," he said to the radio,"Debts to be paid."
He'd dragged himself as far as the safe, grabbing at a stack of money before his strength had failed and he'd collapsed back against the wall, breathing coming hard for him now, the end near. All my hate and anger for him was gone, I'd done what had to be done, but he wasn't my enemy anymore, just my old friend dying.... and I meant to be there with him at the end.
But I still wanted my questions answered.
"Hey, Smoke," I asked,"What made you flip out like that, man? Was it the drugs, or what?"
"I got caught up in the money, the power..." he wheezed, clutching onto his money like it was a teddy bear,"... I don't give a shit. Oh fuck, man...."
"Why didn't you just quit, man? We was like family, homie," I said, putting my hand on his shoulder, not sure if I was telling him something or asking him something.
"I had no choice...." he wheezed,"I had to do it.... I just see the opportunity...."
And then, unbelievably, he smiled.
Big Smoke was dead.
"Oh damn, man," I said quietly,"What a waste...."
I heard footsteps, and I turned my head as I heard something being dropped onto the floor. I stared at the man standing in front of me, knowing that I shouldn't have been surprised but not able to help myself.