The uptown Algonquin apartment was empty, and its resident was asleep in the other room. Aside from dirty vodka glasses scattered about the kitchen, it was clean. A half-empty bottle of alcohol, unidentifiable except by taste, leaked its contents onto a laptop. The screen flickered, showing its image one last time, then flashed and went dark. Blood was morphed into the shape of a footprint, which trailed into the living area. There were handprints on the faux-leather couch, shaped with the same liquid on the floor. A cell phone rang on the couch, and a hand reached from the darkness to answer.
"Hello?" a groggy voice said, with a thick Serbian accent. The dull yellow glow of the phone's LCD screen illuminated the side of the speaker's head. Cheekbones jutted out below the ear in traditional Eastern European fashion, and chestnut brown eyes flashed yellow momentarily as the light struck them.
"Is this Niko Bellic?" a man on the other end asked.
"It depends on who's asking."
"An employer. If you're looking for some cash, meet my contact outside the Zirconium Building. He will be arriving soon." A click resonated through the earpiece, followed by a small tone played by the phone. Niko let the phone fall to his side as he stood. The slick piece of plastic he held in his hand disappeared into his pocket as Niko waded through furniture. An open elevator sat along the far wall, and Niko stepped into it. He smashed the lobby button with the muzzle of his gun and watched as the metallic doors closed in front of him.
Niko ran his hand down the bullet-ridden suit jacket he had worn for over a year. Blood stained its white pinstripes red and loose threads poked through bullet holes. The white shirt beneath it was dyed red, and Niko's black slacks were frayed along the cuffs. A knife had cut a jagged hole down the left leg. His loafers were scuffed, and blood oozed through splits in the soles.
The doors opened with a ding, and Niko stepped into the lobby. The hitman stepped outside into the drizzling rain. In a parking space outside the apartment building, a Banshee sat in the twilight. Niko stepped into the sports car and it sprung to life as he reconnected the wires where the ignition panel once was. The driver roared the engine twice, then took off toward Lancet.
Niko sat outside the Zirconium Building, watching the sun rise between the skyscrapers. Images of his friends and family skimmed across his consciousness, dropping notes of depressing news into Niko's mind. Derrick McReary died last week from a drug overdose, while Packie was in Leftwood hospital for the same reason. Gerry was ultimately found guilty of racketeering and sent down to Vice City Correctional Facility. Niko's Rasta friend Little Jacob and his mentor Badman were off at Jamaica for another week or two. Brucie had moved to Vinewood shortly after Niko took care of Dimitri and Pegorino. "Business calls," is what he had said.
Dwane was found dead in his apartment four days ago. It was determined suicide. Niko had never regretted his decision to dispose of Playboy X until he heard the news. Roman and Mallorie were married happily ever after in their Algonquin penthouse, along with their son. Young Niko Bardas-Bellic was currently sleeping next to his parents, while his namesake was out killing just to live. Roman proposed the idea over dinner one night to name the child after what he said was, "The greatest man alive, even if he kills and steals on a regular basis." It was a good joke, but Niko was not fond of the idea. Roman ended up doing this behind his back anyway, and it was flattering in a way, but it unsettled Niko to think that Roman may have destined his child to the same fate just through a name.
Before Niko could continue with his thoughts, the squeal of tires and the slam of a door startled him back to reality. There was a Middle Eastern man approaching the car. Niko rolled down the window to his Banshee. The man leaned in.
"Are you Niko Bellic?"
"Yes. Who are you?"
"That isn't important right now. May I get in?" Niko nodded and waved his hand over the empty passenger seat. The man got in and Niko jammed the accelerator. The Banshee jumped into traffic.
"So, what's this job I heard about?"
"Well, Mr. Bellic, we require your help smuggling drugs into the country." Niko resisted the urge to shove the man out of the car.
"Smuggling ruined my life, and drugs ruined my friends. I'm afraid you don't have a deal." The Middle Eastern scowled.
"What about killing?" Niko, although still frowning, raised a scarred eyebrow slightly. "NOOSE has started to investigate us and we need some protection." The man finished talking and straightened his jacket as Niko whipped around a turn.
"How much will you pay?"
"We can give you $10,000 per operation. I'm afraid our product movement isn't large enough to pay you more at the moment." Niko's scowl deepened, but his interest was thoroughly piqued.
"You said NOOSE. Is that all, or are there other factions involved."
"Just NOOSE right now. Like I said, we're fairly small-time and the other drug traffickers are too large to be bothered with us." Niko grunted as he jerked the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding a taxi. The driver honked and shook his fist.
"I'll do it. When do you need me?" The man smiled.
"Our next boat is coming in tomorrow. Meet me at Port Tudor, five A.M. I'll get out here." Niko reached down and gripped the emergency brake, yanking it up. The Banshee's engine shuddered and tires squealed against the pavement. The Serbian whipped the back end of the sports car around, spun it 360 degrees around before bringing it to a perfect stop against the sidewalk. The man stepped out of the car and looked back at Niko. "You drive well. Don't forget; Port Tudor, Five o'clock." With that, he shut the door and walked toward a complex of high-rise offices. Niko reached for his cell phone as he drove off, shifting through his contacts.