The Time of Your Life - Part One

Author's Note: Man, this is so different from what I usually write. It's nice to cut loose and write something that isn't going to turn into some sprawling epic or touchy-feely. I feel so rebellious. LOOK OUT! THE CANADIANS CAN SWEAR! Also, on an unrelated note, VCPR was always my favourite station.

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"Fuck!" Martin Lubello yelled, laying on the horn as the car shot across the intersection in front of him, feet all but stomping a hole through the floorboards as he braked. He hadn't even been going that fast, but the car fishtailed briefly on the rain-slicked road, and he swore again, leaning out the window to bellow after the retreating tailights, "You fuckers! Fuckin' pissant shit-suckers! Learn to fuckin' drive or keep off the fuckin' road, assholes!" For good measure, although there was no way they could see him, he flipped them the finger before settling back into the driver's seat with a grunt. "Sorry." he said as an afterthought, looking into the rearview mirror.

"That's perfectly allright." the woman said stiffly, although her companion said nothing. She looked as though she'd rather be anywhere, even hoofing it out there in the storm and the dark, than sitting there in the back of Lubello's cab. She smoothed the legs of her expensive looking black slacks and said, "Could we get going, please? We're already late."

"Sure thing, ma'am." Lubello said, remembering to flick on his turn signal as he took a right.

Tight ass, he thought.

Lubello didn't think he was asking much out of life. He was a good man, mostly; paid his taxes without complaint (much), went home to his wife every night (usually), and always put at least a fiver into the collection plate on Sundays (grudgingly). The truth was, he spent so much of his time trying so hard to toe the line at home, that his job really was about the only place he could cut loose. While most of his customers couldn't give a rat's ass if he used a colourful phrase or two, usually so stoned off their rockers they would have hailed him as the messiah if he'd asked, every now and again you got people like the broad in the back and her date, who had to snag a taxi because their driver had the night off.

To cover up their disapproving sniffs, Lubello flipped the radio on and twiddled the dial until he heard a familiar theatrical voice. "Fuckin' Chavez, man." he announced, aware he was swearing now only to further irritate his fare in response to her snooty glare but not caring. "What a corker. You listen to this shit? He's got everythin' on here. Fuckin' hippies, nudists, psychics, all that weird shit."

"So I hear." the woman's date said flatly.

Grinning to himself, Lubello rubbed his paunch and headed towards the Malibu, thinking of the salami sandwich in the glove compartment. It was the little things that made life worth living, really.

And in Vice City, you took what you could get before someone bigger took it away from you.

Lubello had come over with his wife from New York less than five years ago. No mistake, New York was a badass city, where you were just as likely to pick up a fare as you were a gun at the back of your neck each time you pulled over. His wife had insisted on the move, as much for his own safety as lured by the stories from her sister of sandy beaches, margaritas, and high living.

What the fat, smug bitch hadn't talked about, of course, were the gang wars, the pokey apartments, and the sex on every corner.

While Vice City had more than enough of it's share of crimes to heft on the scales along with the Big Apple, there was a slimy, unpleasant coating over the place that Lubello hadn't noticed in the other city. Here, all the sex and violence and drugs did itself up before it went out for the night, in stilletto heels or three piece suits or a pastor's collar. Lubello had never before seen a place where it seemed like everyone had their fingers in something they shouldn't, and everybody either pretended not to notice, or didn't care.

Lubello didn't care.

You had to make a living somehow.

"Malibu." he announced now, pulling over to the curb, deliberately further down than he could have parked from the covered enterance in the rain. "Please yourselves. That'll be twenty-six-fourty-five."

Not surprisingly, they didn't stay to chat after the man had shoved the money into Lubello's outstretched hand. No tip, either. As they stalked past him, hurrying towards the indoors, Lubello could see the woman's mouth moving angrily and the frustrated gestures she made in the chill air. Let them call his boss; Mary-Anne Stubenski was twice as wide as he was, twice as mean, and at least three times as colourful in her choice of words. If Lubello hadn't already been taken, he might have married the woman.

He had barely opened the glove compartment, however, when the back door opened to the cab.

"I'm on my break." Lubello yelled, not bothering to look around as he rooted inside.

"Yeah?" a man's voice, demanding. "How about an extra twenty? You still on break then?"

Reluctantly, Lubello looked over his shoulder. His fare was a man in his early thirties, tanned skin, hard, dark, arrogant, violent eyes, and touselled wet black hair. The hawaiian print blue shirt he wore was almost soaked through, as were his faded jeans, and even if he hadn't been able to see the dark suspicious shape under the shirt, Lubello instantly recognised the man as trouble. He'd seen the exact same eyes on his nephew, a violent young man with a hair-trigger temper and a healthy drug habit, and again almost every night on the evening news.

"I might be." he replied cautiously, combing his moustache. "Where you wanna go?"

The man grinned; good looking in the dangerous, hardened way that drew so many stupid doe-eyed young girls. "Around." he said. "I'm lookin' for someone. I'll tell you when to stop." And he pointed past Lubello through the windshield at the car idling ahead of him at the Malibu's entrance.

Lubello looked, a little uneasy at taking his eyes off his passenger for the moment, and his jaw dropped. Forgetting all about caution, he leaned forward. "That's the fucker cut me off!" he bawled.

The car was white, long-slung like the pants the young assholes preferred to wear these days, with the typical flame decals painted down the side. Under the thrum of the rain, Lubello thought he could hear the faint ­thump-thump-thump of a music beat, and as he watched, a tall, scrawny young man, face obscured by shadows, hurried out of the club and tossed something in the backseat before he slid into the passenger's seat.

"Young fucks." Lubello said angrily. "No respect. I shoulda known."

The hard-eyed man behind Lubello leaned forward like a doberman on alert as the car's engine revved once. "Well?"

Lubello looked back at him. He wasn't a nervous man by nature, or a cowardly one, but he could smell trouble on the wind like a rabbit in a field. The smart thing to do would be to say no. This close to the club, the sidewalk choked with people, he didn't think he'd be risking a bullet in the eye by turning him down. He could say a happy goodbye, take cab back and catch a bus home, and forget all about it. Some bad shit was going to be going down somewhere tonight.

Instead, maybe thinking of his wife sitting in her armchair with her cold cream on watching the television and waiting for him, or maybe of re-runs and the same-old-same-old, he heard himself saying, "Sure. Why the fuck not?"

The man relaxed almost imperceptibly and grinned again, leaning back in his seat. "Thanks. This is gonna sound really stupid, but follow that car, okay?"

"You're the boss." Lubello said, and as they pulled away from the curb, he flicked on the fare timer.