thanks again for the support andy. Feels like you're the only one at the moment
Also feel free to have a peek at the chapter titles posted in the first page
kind of a teaser.
New chapter:Chapter Ten – On The Trail
There was something strange about Ashley, Luis had noticed. She was broke – what money she had went into rent and groceries. And judging from the place that Luis had seen, she hadn’t done too good a job.
She was definitely depressed. She simply didn’t like her life. Luis assumed that he past contributed to that. He’d gotten the skinny of it from her in the last day. In fact he actually felt sorry for her. He let her sleep on his couch – he had very little temptation to talk her into bed, though that would be easy. Too easy.
It was clear that she was an addict – former addict, he reminded himself. He allowed himself to question the truthfulness of her claim. Had she kicked that habit? From what she’d said it seemed like she’d claimed so before.
Whatever, he told himself. She wasn’t his burden – at least not in the long term.
As a result of his pity, he’d bought her a gift; some clothes. She wasn’t a classy girl, but after a fresh outfit she looked much better. She actually looked attractive.
And so it was that they set off, with a good breakfast in the stomachs, and fresh clothes on their backs. Luis filled up his Freeway with gas and they headed west.
“How much do you remember of the trip?” Luis called into the wind.
“Not a whole lot to be honest. I remember this town… We had dinner. The lake we stayed up all night… The town by that where everyone spent the day hung-over… I didn’t do the whole trip. No way I could have made the whole thing… I was so impressed he had. He was so… I dunno.”
“Where is the first town?”
“Keep heading west for now, on the freeway. There’s a turning next to a gas station and motel, with a huge parking lot. It was down there.”
“You don’t know the name?”
“No, I only remember turning at the gas station.”
“Great.” Luis muttered under his breath.
The Italians were importing weapons. The information taken from the Mafia’s Alderney mansion had revealed where and when. So Niko and Rami, following a quick supply stop, had headed to Port Tudor. They’d spent the morning scoping the docks out before taking the gathered photos and information back to their safe-house – an apartment on Sinclair Street, where they collated the information and decided on their plan of action.
Niko stood hunched over the map they had sprawled out on the table, with photos pinned to it. Rami, after retrieving a coffee – the last one he’d allow himself before the operation – sat and looked at the map.
“One feet down, one eyes high?” Niko suggested, meaning one of them moving into the docks while the other watched from a snipers position.
“Ideally I’d like a perch across the river. But with two of us, that’d remove any dynamic support.”
“What about here?” Niko prodded a spot on the map with a marker.
Rami stare for a moment, then reached to a laptop. Seconds later the screen displayed a street view of the area. Rami manipulated the keyboard and got a view of the perch Niko was thinking of.
“Yeah.” Rami tapped a few buttons, rotating the view to face the docks.
“Ah.” Niko stood straight.
“Yeah, no line of sight. Apart from that it’s a great spot though.”
“But not for the meet.”
“No.” Rami tapped at a pin on the map. Pier B was the target area.
“What about the cranes?” Niko suggested, leaning over the map again.
“Hmm.” Rami stared for a minute. “That could work. Even better, this crane.” Rami tapped a written note that read ‘Pier A’. “You can see more of the pier. Protected by the water.”
“But what you said about… dynamic support?”
“Yeah. It’d be difficult for one of us to aid the other feet-down if needs be.”
“That is a pretty good spot though.”
“How long do you suppose that ship will be there?”
Niko shrugged. “It’s a dock. Could leave in five minutes, could leave in a week. I really wish we could use the tunnel maintenance building for the snipers nest.” Rami tapped the map to the East where a lone building stood, directly over the Booth Tunnel, that served, among other things, to supply air to the road below.
“Wait. What’s this?”
“What?” Rami asked looking at the map. Niko tapped a photo.
“The last photo we took shows a barge or something, half in dock here.” Niko pointed at the gap between Pier A an Pier B. When they began their scouting mission there was a single cargo ship sitting at Pier A, being unloaded. In the last two photos there was a flat barge pulling in next to it.
“A barge. Well there’s the route across to the pier if support is needed. But better to search for alternatives.”
The pair spent a farther fifteen minutes selecting and evaluating alternative sniper spots. They ended up with only one more, though it was not as good as the first.
“What about us both going in?”
“Flank them, or double-team?” Rami asked picking up his now-cold coffee. He screwed his nose up and set the mug down.
“Well flanking doubles the surprise. We may be able to take most of them out quickly. But moving in side by side, if one of us goes down…”
“If I get hit by a bus tomorrow…”
“So plan B, flank them?”
Niko tapped the map. “Move in from here?”
The rest of the afternoon was spent planning their operation. When they were satisfied with their plan of action, they checked their equipment. Then they set off.
Both men had tactical suits on, and they had their goggles fully charged. Their load-out was expanded though. They still had their suppressed pistols, but they also had suppressed assault rifles – not the P90 variants like before, but the P90’s bigger, badder brother, the F2000. Their weapons had grenade launcher attachments, as well as telescopic sights, and heavy duty suppressers. They had plenty of ammunition, in both 5.56mm rounds and high-explosive grenades, a few smoke grenades and a few flash-bangs. Both men also carried combat knives.
Niko was tempted to bring a combat shotgun, but Rami talked him out of it. They’d be outnumbered and a shotgun may not have been the best choice.
Content with their weapons and apparel, the men moved everything to their car – a Sultan RS. They wanted the off-the line speed, corner-speed and toughness that only that car could provide. Niko’s choice was a Turismo, but if they went home hot, then the car, while able to outrun most pursuers, would not stand up to much of an assault. And assault was definitely the word of the day. Every man in the vicinity of the meet would be a target.
Niko looked at the clock, as did Rami. Right about now the mafia would have some low-level goons scoping the place out – early to watch for anyone else doing the same. It was an irony that Rami found beautiful. Almost a paradox, he thought. Both factions sent men to set up for an ambush, in the event the other side was doing the same – and the other side would
be doing the same, because they were covering themselves. Neither side wanted to rip each other off – neither side were likely to at least – but both sides prepared for it. What was that saying?
Rami asked himself, To achieve peace, one must prepare for war?
War was exactly what was going through Niko’s mind. It felt like they were waging a war – a secret war. Black, as the Americans called it – or did everyone call it that? In the last year Niko had experience with a former KGB colonel, who worked with them and ULPC on a few occasions. The man had some ego, and he liked to recount stories of his life behind the Iron Curtain. Stories of the KGB’s Department V and the mokrie dela – the wet work – that were run often behind everyone’s backs. Wasn’t that what they were doing now? Niko asked himself. Wet work, named for the act of spilling blood – which made your hands wet – that was his trade after all wasn’t it? Morality barely came in to it anymore. Sure, he didn’t want to shoot a kid, but if he was shooting mobsters, drugs smugglers – did it matter? Did honor amongst thieves really exist? Or was every man against the world by default? Niko had done ‘bad’ things in his life – the worst of them probably the smuggling for Bulgarin. Not once did he stop to ponder the fate of his… victims. Most were probably dead, or sex slaves in Africa or some backward part of the world. One countries standards rarely applied across oceans, a fact the Americans failed to acknowledge, at the expense of respect on the world stage – at least to countries that didn’t suck up to the United States.So where does that leave me?
Niko asked himself, looking over at his partner, not realizing that the Israeli was sharing similar thoughts. ‘There are no good guys in Liberty City’, Niko had been told once. He couldn’t remember by whom. He used to wonder if he was fighting for the good guys or the bad guys, but now? Such a thing was subjective; nothing other than opinion. The cold war was a perfect example of that. To the Americans, the Soviets were the bad guys. To the USSR, though, the amerikanski
were the zlodyeev
. Were either right? Were either wrong
? Niko stopped his train of thought there, before questioning the righteousness of the people he fought against – and with – so many years ago.
“All’s good here.” Rami said, pulling himself out of his personal monologue. He was colder than Niko, and rarely worried about morality or if anyone was right, but he did reflect on certain ironies. Today’s internal observation was of the great circle his life had taken. From ‘honorable’ soldier and intelligence officer to soldier of fortune and mercenary. He’d played for both teams.
Niko nodded, putting together the last of his weapon. It was new to him, though Rami had experience with it. Both men had shot the weapons in ‘training’ recently, but the nature of this assignment – to use Rami’s term – didn’t allow too much training, not that either man needed it.
With all the gear ready, packed into bags and stored in the trunk, the two men set off, Niko having the honor of driving. It was a simple and short drive, and neither man wasted their energy on small talk. Both men liked it that way. They had a job to do, and their minds were focusing on that, not what the other had for dinner the previous night, or how intimately tight their previous lover had felt.
They parked a little distance away from the pier, and with their gear all loaded on their persons, they split up, Niko heading for Pier A. He led with his assault rifle, the suppressor – Niko kept calling it a silencer – pointing the way as he moved with a slowness that tested his patience. He kept calm and checked any area he moved through, ready to put someone down. He saw the odd worker moving around, possibly finishing their shifts up, he didn’t know. There was activity down the end of the pier, where men in high-vis jackets walked on and off of the docked boat. A crane lifted crates and boxes from the boat, also servicing a few trucks and trailers sitting on the dock. Niko avoided that end of the dock, instead moving to one of the inactive cranes. He reached it unseen, and climbed the ladder with a final glance around. Once atop the crane he inched to the edge and looked down, using the night vision goggles to search for any threats. Aside from the workers – would the mafia hide any man in amongst them? Niko asked himself – he saw no one on this pier.
Content with his solitude, Niko set up his rifle, lifting the goggles up to allow him to use the rifle’s thermal imaging scope. The first thing Niko did was scan Pier B with the rifle, with the thermal mode off, to get a feel for the – what was it Rami called it? Operational parameters? Niko allowed a little chuckle at the expense of his colleague. Then it was back to business. He took his time learning the terrain across the water, making a mental note of the location of each building, container or stack of crates. Thankfully the thermal mode was quick and easy to activate and once he’d gotten a feel for the area, Niko activated it.
Immediately he saw the Mafia personnel that had taken ambush positions. Niko reminded himself that not all of the bodies that stood on containers or rooftops were Mafia. Some would be the dealers’ men. It made the Serbian think of that most American of images, the standoff at a high school prom, with each gender on their own side of the room, with no man’s land in the middle. Niko wondered if such a thing actually happened, or was it just a Vinewood creation – after all he only knew of such a phenomenon because of a Vinewood film, and not a very good one at that.
The down side with thermal vision was it made indentifying the gunmen difficult. But, Niko reminded himself, he wouldn’t find it too easy to see each ‘side’ without it anyway. Another thing games and movies failed to portray accurately; there was no color code or uniform for either side, this was not a football game, there was no Reds versus Whites. It is us versus them
, Niko thought, reminding himself that everyone was a target.
And that was his cue to find Rami – a task that proved more difficult than Niko anticipated. He could not find him anywhere between their car and the pier. Was Rami already in position? Or had he taken the long way round? The answer came seconds later.
“In position.” Rami’s voice sounded, in Nikos ear, like not much more than a breath.
“Ok.” Niko replied, his voice a less cautious whisper, but still quiet. “Where are you?”
“South west corner.” Niko took a second to find the location, for some reason thinking he was facing north. He saw Rami – or rather half his head, one of his arms and a knee – hiding behind a small cluster of containers.
“I got you.” Niko said. A few minutes later he observed more people arrive and meet up. There was talk, and it looked like the deal had been arrived at. Crates were opened. “We’re a go.” Niko said.
“Copy.” Rami replied. “Moving in.”
The plan was simple really. Rami was going to move in and take down the mafia personnel. Niko would cover Rami, and take out the men that Rami couldn’t see/get to. Niko was also loaded for bear – an American expression he liked – that, if he wasn’t mistaken – meant he was sufficiently armed enough to take on a grizzly bear. If sh*t hit the fan – another western expression – he was able to come to Rami’s aid. It was a tactic Niko thought was clever. Rami moves in from the south, while a sniper attacks from the north. Then he’d move in from the northwest, making the targets think there were three men. Perhaps four, as an advantage of snipers was you could never be sure where the shots were coming from. But the plan was… surgical, that was the best word, Niko decided, thinking like Rami. Quick, accurate, silent. No one would know there’s an assault. By the time anyone would think to call a check-in, everyone would be down. It was this surgical strike that made Niko and Rami a good team. They went straight for the head, quick, silent. Deadly.
Rami, Niko saw, was moving. He was using his cover well, and his first target was a man standing on the back of a trailer. Rami climbed up and surged forward. Niko didn’t see the knife. He didn’t see it penetrate the base of the man’s neck, but he saw the man collapse, and the Israeli set the body – doubtlessly noiselessly – down with misleading care.
“Target down.” Rami noted, almost unnecessarily. “Clean.”
Rami moved on, dropping noiselessly to the dock. He allowed his knees to bend on landing, taking most of the noise out of the drop. That was one mostly unknown fact about stealth operations; it was hard on the knees. In fact Rami wore knee supports during such ops, and would wear lighter supports for the next day too. Oh to be young again.
Rami allowed himself to yearn. That was the ultimate misbalance. Youth had the physical requirements for such operations, but not the experience. With age came such experience, but at the expense of physical capabilities. That’s what training was for, Rami knew, so there would be a peak in both experience and physicality, a crossing point where the soldier would be on top of his (or her) game.
The next target was leaning against a container with a cigarette in his mouth. Rami moved in and, as the man pulled the cigarette away from his mouth, Rami moved in.
“Didn’t anyone tell you smoking kills?” Niko heard in his ear. The target managed a quizzical breath before the knife severed his spinal cord. “Target down, clean.” Rami whispered, gently setting the second kill of the night down.
The third target didn’t go so well. As Rami’s hand grabbed the man, his other knife pulling the knife back, the target reacted with a cry. Not a loud one – Niko barely heard it through the mic – but enough to attract the attention of a mafia overseer who stood on top of a container. Out of Rami’s reach. Niko moved the thermal sight and lined the crosshair up on the man’s head as the target drew his gun.
Rami turned, hearing the thump
of the body drop. “Target down.” Niko said. A second later he gave Rami what he wanted. “You’re clear.”
“Copy.” Rami moved on. Their code list was clear. When taking a target down, Rami would say so, and also add how. ‘Clean’ meant the target was down without notice. ‘Noisey’ meant that the kill made noise, and was likely heard
. ‘Messy’ meant that the kill had immediately attracted attention and that Rami would be actively engaged in combat.
The difficult thing for Niko was whether to shoot or not – and who to shoot. Rami was moving forward well, but was approaching the concentration of guards/goons. That was where Niko had to be sharp. Rami, with his instincts and night vision goggles, could see most of the men, but Niko had the responsibility of warning Rami of anyone not in his line of sight.
“Be advised,” Niko said into his microphone, taking a cue from the police chase shows he sometimes watched, “You’ve got three men round the corner.”
Rami tapped a button on his headset – he didn’t want to risk being heard now – that transmitted a squelch of static to Niko, a signal that he’d already established meant an affirmative response; ‘ok’ ‘yes’ or ‘copy’. Two squelches mean no.
“Can you take two?” Niko asked, receiving a burst of static after Rami had risked a quick glance. Yes… probably
“I’ve got you, I’ll shoot on your cue. I’ll take the one farthest from your position, slightly to your right. You got the left hand and the closest one?”
Rami tapped his headset once, then moved round the corner, his gun up.
Niko saw Rami move and fired on his target. Two men fell, almost as one. Then, as Rami adjusted his aim, Niko saw, the remaining target had his gun up ready. Niko fired.
Rami, too had fired, and the man collapsed in a heath. Rami’s bullet hit the man in the forehead, just above an eye, and Niko’s struck true in the back of the head. The result was the man’s head almost collapsing in on itself. Rami was thankful he was far enough away to avoid the blood splatter.
Onward, both men thought. They had half of the mafia men down, but the remaining men seemed better armed. The deceased were just watching the road, and not very well.
Rami scanned the area and considered his options. No one was patrolling. Rami guessed they were used to not being disturbed. All the better, he thought.
He decided to loop round and eliminate some of the dealers, allowing Niko to take the high road while he skulked about on the ground. Then he’d try to eliminate the rest.
It was almost boring to Niko. He watched Rami move then starting picking off the idiots on the roofs of containers and whatnot.
But it was too easy. Rami grabbed one man and plunged the knife in, but the man cried out, a rapid response to the touch. He flinched and, instead of a silent kill by severing the spinal cord, the knife embedded itself in the neck/shoulder muscle. The man screamed and other men turned round.
Gunfire erupted from the docks. Rami left the knife sticking out of the man’s neck – the man himself was on the floor in pain – and darted for cover, his suppressed assault rifle coming out. Niko opened fire on anyone posing a direct threat to Rami, then shot at anyone on a roof – most were jumping down with their guns ready.
Rami saw the man closest to him fall as if his legs were kicked from under him. He flipped and hit the ground face first. Rami rose from behind… whatever the hell it was, and fired at anyone he saw.
Niko had run out of targets, and he knew at least six men were left. They were likely flanking Rami. Either way, Niko had no shots.
Rami had moved cover after whatever it was had broken apart. Unfortunately, his run took him out of Niko’s line of sight.
Niko was now out of the game. He set his rifle down and begun Plan B, by descending the ladder.
Rami had to reload but was running the risk of being overrun. He got up and moved, firing as he ran – toward a man with a carbine. As he reached, having killed one man and hit another, he used the butt of his gun to stun the man with a swing to the face, then ducked behind him. Rami grabbed the man and used him as a human shield. This saved his life.
Niko sprinted across Pier A and up the access ramp onto the waiting ship. He dodged a worker and dismissed a security guard with a running elbow, then ran across the boat.
Rami rapped into his headset. “I’m in trouble here.” But he couldn’t understand the reply.
Niko leapt off of the walkway and into the air. He saw the water pass below, then the side of the barge. He fell and landed in a roll, feeling a jolt of pain shooting up his leg and spine. He carried on and leapt at a ladder on the side of the dock. He climbed it, ignoring the pain.
As he reached the top he pulled out his mini assault rifle and moved toward Rami’s position.
Rami’s training paid off. He brought it up and fired with speed reminiscent of a Wild West showman. The speed and accuracy – headshots – saved his life. But, inevitably, he ran out of ammo and had to reload. But, worryingly, a man appeared, bringing a shotgun up.
Niko saw it but lacked the time to stop, bring his gun up and aim. Instead he went for a more direct, hands-on approach.
At the last second the shotgun man turned his head, looking at something behind him. A shadow came out of nowhere and tackled the man. The shotgun clattered to the floor.
There was no Vinewood moment of appreciation. No brothers-in-arms embrace, or hand shake. Rami simply picked up the discarded shotgn and opened fire on the other men that were approaching.
Niko stood, having snapped the man’s neck. His gun was now free and aiming for targets.
Rami vaulted – seemingly in slow motion – over the cover. The shotgun empty, he dropped it and fired his pistol, mid slide.
Niko moved round, using a container as a makeshift cover. He fired and within seconds the men in range were down. Niko caught Rami’s attention and point up. Rami gave a thumb up in acknowledgement.
Niko’s move to the top of the containers allowed him to see the threats – the few of them there were. He used his pistol to take down the ones in range before moving on.
Rami ended up where the gun dealer leader was, trying to get away. Again, Rami avoided the Vinewood clichés and said nothing. The only noise, following the man’s gasp – was the metallic action of the gun as the bullet fired. The man’s head snapped back and he fell, his lifeless head bouncing on the concrete.
Niko understood combat. He wasn’t intimidated by it and he knew what to do. But now was the part he hated most. They’d taken everyone down – or so he thought. He saw no threats. No more targets, but that didn’t necessarily mean that the area was clear.
But that didn’t matter. Rami’s voice sounded, reporting all clear, and their night vision goggles showed no threats. They two rendezvoused and, after a quick check of the area, made their way stealthily back to Pier A.
Niko got in the car after retrieving his rifle and putting it in the trunk. He also had the honor – or chore – of driving.
“Mission success?” Niko asked lightly. Rami exhaled, half from relief, half out of humor.
“I believe so. The dealers’ leader was neutralized, The Mafia lieutenant was eliminated – he was one of the men you’d sniped.” Rami sighed. “Better go back to the old man and report.” Niko merely nodded.
They’d found one of the bars the bikers had stopped at. Eventually. Luis had figured out – from semi admissions, and from clues – that Ashley had been wasted – or high – for most of the trip. Her memory was hazy. Unless, he told himself, drug use affected your long term memory. Did it?
They walked in to the bar a couple of hours after sun down, and Luis found himself holding his breath. He expected the bikers to all stop and stare but they didn’t. The two were barely noticed.
The barman saw them though – he saw potential customers. This was not a gang bar. The security men were armed – their jackets open and Luis could see the butt of a submachine gun poking out of one of jackets. The man’s eyes had that steely look of a man who was no stranger to dealing death. Luis wondered if they got a lot of rival gangs here.
“’help you?” The man asked with a southern accent.
“Yeah. Two whiskeys.” Luis slapped a note on the bar. The man took it and returned with two glass of the golden brown spirit. He didn’t offer any change.
“Anything else?” The barman asked after seeing Luis’s stare.
“Yeah. I’m looking for someone. He was here years ago, but he might have returned.”
Luis pulled a photo from his pocket. Its former home was Ashley’s wallet.
“Can’t say I recognise him. That tattoo’s hard to miss. Pretty cool actually. What is it, an eagle?”
“You sure he passed through here?”
“No. We think he did.”
“Why you looking for him. You don’t look like the biker type. She does – ” The barman offered Ashley a suggestive nod and a wink – “You’re not cops are you? I got no problem but many of the patrons don’t like cops.”
“No, we aint cops. I been inside. We’re looking for him cause…”
“Tell him.” Ashley said. But Luis took initiative.
“She’s his old lady. And she’s got one in the oven. It’s his. We need to find him before he does something stupid. They had a bust up and, well he took off.”
“So what are you then?” The barman asked.
“A friend.” He said, keeping his voice soft and passive.
“Well I still aint seen him. Sorry. ‘Nother drink?”
Luis shook his head. “Better hit the road again.”
“Come back soon.” The barman said as they turned away. “Try the gas station up the road – pretty much every biker that passes through stops there. If he’s been through and given his hog a drink…”
Luis nodded in reply and led Ashley out of the bar.
“Well that was a waste of time.” She said.
Luis shrugged. “Let’s try that gas station.”
They were in luck. “Take away the tattoo and beat him up a bit…” The gas station clerk said.
“You seen him?”
“Not that man. I seen someone who looked a bit like him. Guy bought some camping equipment and fishing supplies.”
“Yeah. My guess is they’re heading for the lake.”
“Lake?” Ashley asked. “That might be it.”
Luis asked how to get to the lake, and the man gave him directions.
Luis pulled the bike over at the end of a gravel track. Ashley’s memory had returned apparently as she ran off down a hill. Luis followed, catching up with her after a minute. She was surprisingly quick.
Ashley stopped, twenty feet from the lake.
“Wha’sup?” Luis asked.
Luis looked at the ground in front of them and saw a burnt out campfire, and a lighter patch of grass where a tent had sat. It was then he realized that Ashley had merely followed a set of bike tracks in the grass. Luis sighed.
“Now what?” He asked her.
“I don’t know.”
“Is there anywhere else he’d go? Anyone else he knew?”
“The only person he’d turn to would be Jim but…”
“But what, lets go find Jim.”
“I wonder if he would have… No.”
“I’m thinking that maybe he might have gone to Jim’s wife’s.”
“And where’s that?”
Ashley’s directions weren’t great and it took an entire day to get to the suburb where Jim’s wife lives. Luis had no idea where the hell they were. Ashley explained that Jackie – that was her name apparently – had moved away from Alderney after her husband died, and Johnny had promised to send money to support them. How noble
, Luis thought.
So Luis knocked on the door and the door opened.
Luis breathed a sigh of relief. “Johnny.”Click Here to read the next chapter - Reunion This post has been edited by Mokrie Dela on Wednesday, May 2 2012, 22:46