A Better Tomorrow
'You must choose a road for yourself.'
Kazuo KoikePrologue: Another Deal
The dream came again, having haunted him for the past fifteen years.
A running man sprinted down a street, pistol in hand and pointed high in the air. Only his back could be seen. A pistol rose up, and its sights aligned themselves with his chest. The shooter squeezed the trigger slowly.
The gun barked, its muzzle flash illuminating the cool night air. The bullet flew straight and true, blowing into the runner's chest, breaking through his ribs and entering his right lung. The running man screamed, and the shooter fired again. This bullet entered the upper part of his head, opening it and spraying out its contents for a foot or so. The runner collapsed, bleeding from his fatal wound, the final death of a day marked with so many, and the first of a boy/man who would later take more lives.
Andy's eyes opened, seeing the white ceiling above him, heart hammering a staccato in his ears. Cold sweat emerged from his body, staining his clothes and the bed sheet.
Damn it. It's time to leave.
The sun was benign today, despite the lack of clouds in the sky. The sun's rays were just so, and the humidity level, usually very high, was actually pretty low. Which was why Nick was wearing his 'business' attire.
He was dressed in a long, black duster overcoat, covering a white shirt and dark trousers. A pair of UV-reflective Ray-Ban sunglasses covered his eyes. His long, left parted hair framed his thirty-year-old oval face just so. A smile of yellow, faded teeth was etched into his face, a lighted cigarette hanging from his mouth, explaining his poor teeth.
He was also doing something very stupid. He was standing in the middle of a road in VC, in this case 3rd and 8th Street, outside the police headquarters downtown. What was even stupider was the fact that the police had not seen him, obvious as he was.
He turned, and walked towards the pavement, as though realizing how foolish he must look standing in the middle of the frickin' street outside a frickin' police station.
Nick sauntered down the pavement, passing by all manner of vehicles. Their drivers were nowhere in sight. The only other person save he was a boy selling newspapers by the road. Well, what the hell, he figured. It was only fifty cents.
Walking over to the boy, he extracted a half-dollar from his wallet.
"I'll take one, kid," Nick said, tossing the coin over.
The boy caught it expertly, and passed him a copy of the Vice City Times, a publication that was, unlike the rest of the other tabloids, only mildly influenced by the Outfit.
"Thank ya, mister," the boy replied.
Nick smiled and turned away.
The boy ran off at the sound of a rapidly approaching car.
"Hey!" Nick called, running after him. He stopped after maybe ten or so feet, and laughed to himself. The things he did for fun.
A cherry-red Washington drove up next to Nick, beeping its horn as it stopped. He turned right, looking into the passenger area.
"Nick! Where were ya? We got another deal with the Cubans, remember?"
"You think I'd forget it, Andy?"
Andy chuckled a little.
Nick opened the door, and sat next to Andy, closing the door as he entered. The chauffeur drove on, trained to ignore what his boss was saying until directed.
Andy was another thirty-year-old Caucasian, but his tanned, nearly olive skin made some people believe that he was Hispanic, something he used to his benefit when working with the Cuban community. He was dressed in his black business suit and trousers, and he even remembered to wear his tie, something that his partner constantly razzed him for if he didn't on days with important deals. Both of them were Made Men of the Mob; largely because they accomplished what nobody else thought was possible. Another pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses hid his iron-gray eyes.
Andy saw the newspapers in Nick's hands.
"What's the headlines?"
Nick set it on his lap.
"Let's see…the usual. Congressman Shrub thinks he can run for Senate."
"Him? That transsexual? Hah!"
"Not my problem."
The trip continued with the two of them discussing the sports, weather, and Andy telling the driver to change the radio station to Vice City Public Radio, which Nick hated. The latter preferred rock music, which Andy abhorred.
Their first stop was the Print Works. Three years ago, Vercetti bought it to print fake money with which to deceive his boss. Unfortunately, an African American named Lance Vance betrayed him to Sonny Forelli, eventually leading to Vance's and Forelli's demise, along with maybe three dozen or so others.
Shortly after that, Vercetti rebuilt the Print Works, and replaced the printing presses and plates within the facility. There was also an employees-only parking garage under the facility, accessible from a tunnel behind the building. The Print Works was now pumping out high-quality fakes, better than the ones Vercetti had tried to cheat Forelli with. It's been less than eight months since Tommy Vercetti took over, but he had somehow managed to find the cash to do all that. Tommy also upgraded security at the place.
The car entered the brightly lit garage, and the driver quickly found his reserved parking lot. Both Made Men exited the car, and the driver stood guard over it.
Andy and Nick made their way to the back of the garage. A lift there took them to the interior of the Print Works, where the real counterfeiting took place.
Leaving the lift, they found themselves in a long white corridor. A door at its end led to the main facility. A camera mounted above the door on its left allowed the guards within to determine any visitors' identity. A keypad next to the door was the other security element the place had. A man stood in front of the door, dressed in a business suit. He smiled upon recognizing the Made Men, and they returned it.
Both men made their way to the guard.
"Another deal today, right?" the guard said.
"Maybe," Nick replied.
Turning to the keypad, the guard typed in four numbers, and looked up at the camera. The other two did that for the security department beyond. After a second, the doors opened with a metallic clang.
The men walked in, and found themselves in another corridor. This time, there were two doors: one at the end, and one on the right. The former led to the printing presses while the latter led to the security team.
The men walked on to the end. Opening the door, the gangster let the Made Men into the next room.
It was a control room. All of the room's walls were lined with computers, save for a small section reserved for a door. Some sort of data roll, like half of an oversized cassette, sat in a bullet-resistant glass cabinet next to the door. There were two of them, actually, each the other's twin. There were two men in the room.
"Nick, Andy," the closer of the two said.
"Hey Oliver," Nick replied. Andy merely nodded.
Oliver walked off, grabbed a data roll, and fed it into a nearby machine, which was supposed to be a data reader of some sort. He activated the machine, and a computer screen next to it came alive with all sorts of numbers and letters.
At another side, some computers were working in tandem with the first. A hundred-dollar bill was fed into a scanner mounted on the desk. Its image came up on a large screen in front of the Made Men. Both Oliver and the other printer walked over to the computer. After pushing a few buttons, the image was magnified, and the serial numbers came up clearly.
Working skillfully, the forgers changed the serial number on the image, and set the computer to randomize the order of the numbers and letters. After they were done, both Made Men inspected their work. Nick nodded and flashed another one of his famous smile. Andy just nodded.
Oliver pressed a button, and the printing presses came to life. Loud clanking noises and the smell of printer's ink filtered through the door. The four men entered the next room, which housed the printing presses.
Money-quality sheets of paper—actually, a mixture of cotton and linen that really could pass off as real money—leapt off conveyor belts at the beginning, and were sprayed with green ink. When that was done, they were cut into multiple notes, each the size of a paper note. Tone was added, and black ink sprayed where necessary. Facial features and fine detail was added at the end. Nick picked up one note, and lit it. It burned beautifully. Nobody objected; it could, would, and already had been replaced very easily and cheaply. Andy walked over to the end, grabbing an attaché case that was crucial for this deal.
The completed notes rushed out at the end, and stacked themselves up. Each gangster grabbed a bundle of notes, and stacked them inside the case, and the surplus was split four ways and shared. After all, Tommy Vercetti didn't know or care, and banks had no idea how to differentiate their fakes from real money. Or people on the street, for that matter. When they were done, both Made Men thanked the forgers and returned to the garage.
Upon entering the garage, their driver met them at the door, and escorted them to the Sentinel. He coughed as Andy entered the vehicle.
"You all right man?" Nick asked.
The driver nodded.
Nick extracted a bundle of (fake) hundred-dollar bills, and gave it to the driver.
"See a doctor when we're done, will ya?"
Nick took the seat next to Andy, and the driver took over.
The car exited the garage at a leisurely pace, cruising down the worn-out streets. Years of gang warfare had scared away anyone who wished to repair the roads, and killed those brave and/or foolish enough to do so. The Haitian gangsters on the road offered the three men a passing glance before losing interest and memory; their quarrel was with Tommy Vercetti and the Cubans, not three Caucasian strangers.
"If only those poor sons of bitches knew what we have, eh?" Nick said.
"Yeah…if only they knew."
There were more than enough Haitians to overwhelm the vehicle, kill the occupants, and take off with the loot. Both men had pistols, but neither held the illusion that the Haitians had no guns of their own.
The chauffeur drove on and on, leaving the ghettos of Little Haiti and entering the barrios of Little Havana.
The Cubans and Haitians were supposed to be honoring a ceasefire after their war a year or so back, ostensibly to relieve the heat on them by the police. However, the VCPD, corrupted from within and attacked from without, really couldn't do a thing to end the warfare.
Both sides were taking the opportunity to rearm, lick their wounds, recruit new people, and solidify their control over the lucrative drug trade. The Cubans obtained their cocaine from processing plants in Columbia and Cuba, and the Haitians' supply came from the smaller Pacific islands, along with locally produced and processed voodoo, before Vercetti blew their factory up. The Cartels might take offense if the Haitians were to take over from the Cubans as their distributors, and the gangs in the islands would be displeased if the Cubans overthrew the Haitians, hence the length of the war and the fruitlessness of it. Not that the foreigners saw it, of course. Profits, plus race of their distributors, were the only things they cared about.
Of course, that does not mean that accidents could not occur. People were always running other people over in Vice City.
The driver drove down the dusty roads of Little Havana. The Cubans weren't stupid enough to prevent city maintenance vehicles do their jobs properly, and they actually ensured that their fellow gang members were relatively well off. The apartment blocks of this section of the city were more modern than their counterparts in Little Haiti, which really wasn't saying much.
A Washington was far more easily noticed in this part of the city than the others, with the exception of Little Haiti. Cubans simply didn't prefer vehicles like that. The car stopped by the pavement outside a café.
Both partners left the vehicle, leaving the driver to guard the car by himself.
The men entered the café, named Café Fernandez. It was an old, lovingly maintained house of business, unlike many other businesses in the area. It had to be run by a mom-and-pop business family; in VC, only these people had the time and dedication/stubbornness to repeatedly fill in bullet holes. The walls were covered with brown-striped wallpaper, which, unlike so many of its counterparts in the city, were actually completely stuck to the walls.
The tables and chairs were solidly built of lacquered wood, arranged neatly along the right side of the building. The left was a dedicated counter, behind which was the kitchen. Mr. Fernandez was behind the counter, letting his wife perform her duties in the kitchen. Several electric lights and fans shared the ceiling, doing their jobs with admirable efficiency. At least they were all working. The café itself smelt of rich, home-cooked Spanish food, cooking oil, grease, and spices.
The Cuban gangsters they were supposed to be meeting were seated at the far end of the café at two tables. Andy knew the setup: the table closest to the door had the security detail, the gangsters who held the big guns to protect their boss while the other table, to the detail's right and closest to the corner, would be where business would be conducted.
The detail's table had four men; each dressed in typical loud Spanish attire, and had bulges in their pants. Nick's experience said that the two sports bags on the floor under the table held either a Remington pump-action shotgun or an Uzi each, or maybe both. The boss was also dressed pretty much the same as his subordinates, except that he was wearing sunglasses to proclaim his seniority. From his past experience, Andy figured that the man would be the actual boss, not a negotiator. After all, he had to show that he had cojones.
Nick became the friendly, casual partner while Andy put on his 'businessman' face: an earnest expression that proclaimed to all and sundry that he was ready to make a fair deal with anyone.
Sauntering over to the table, Nick grinned widely and waved while his partner walked over to do business. It can't hurt to make friends. He removed his sunglasses. People whose eyes can't be seen clearly are more intimidating, something that he didn't want.
This was the final phase of a week of negotiations with this new gang; they couldn't afford to screw it all up now. Tommy would have done it himself, but he was currently in New York setting up a distribution network, so he left his most trusted lieutenants in charge.
"Hello!" a heavyset bodyguard greeted.
"Hi!" he answered.
He removed a cigarette from his duster's pocket, and placed it in his mouth. He reached for his lighter when he saw that the Cubans were offering to light his smoke for him. He accepted it with a smile. After all, never, ever, ever, refuse an offer like this.
The Cubans started jabbering in Spanish. Nick merely smiled and nodded, occasionally removing his cigarette to laugh with the bodyguards, as though he really understand Spanish. After a while, they turned to him and said something. Nick made out the words 'you', 'speak' and 'Spanish', and decided to take a chance.
"Of course!" he replied, in Spanish, smiling as he did so. His heart skipped a beat as the bodyguards froze for a second. Then, they cracked wide grins and laughed. Nick almost sighed in relief. They collectively decided that he wasn't a threat.
Meanwhile, Andy was speaking to the boss.
"You have the merchandise?"
"Yes. Two and a half keys of coke in this bag." He gestured to the attaché case under the table, identical to the one Andy held in his hands.
"Can I see it?"
He picked the bag up and placed it on the table, allowing Andy to inspect them.
It was filled with packets of white…powder. There was no way to really know if they were for real, unless he tasted the cocaine, which was singularly the most stupid thing to do. It was so very easy to become addicted to it. It only took a taste.
"Okay. Here's the ten grand we negotiated."
Passing the bag back, Andy picked his case up, and handed it over to the Cuban.
He opened it, and inspected the notes. After a minute, he closed it, revealing a wide grin.
"Good. The money's all here."
"A pleasure doing business with you." Andy stood up at the same time the Cuban did, and both men swapped their attaché cases. After shaking hands, Andy turned around, drugs in hand.
"Nick, let's go."
Nick waved goodbye, and escorted his partner out of the café. The Cubans returned the gesture.
"Went down as smooth as a baby's ass, eh?" Nick remarked. He didn't like making too many enemies; rivalry that escalates into shooting wars tends to be bad for business all around.
"Sure. By the way, I've noticed your Spanish has improved. Now, you know how to say 'Of course'," Andy replied, placing the suitcase of drugs in the trunk of the car.
"Of course!" he replied, in Spanish.
Both men laughed as they entered the car. Each man had separate appointments in two locations of the city to attend to before they could call it a day.
Author's Note: Well…I'd changed some dialogue and added a crucial scene to make the whole story in line with the original John Woo movie. That scene will make sense near the end, trust me.