info ;; Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed the first chapter, I love to hear from you. It really helps me push the story in the right direction. I hope to keep you coming back for more, and I apologize for the sporadic updates. I've finally beat the second game, and in light of such events, I'm going to point out that this is before Shanghai by seven months. Everyone who has finished the game will understand, and those who havent, you should go do that. Thanks for sticking around, and please do enjoy this second chapter.
Rolling to a stop at a massive New York intersection, the rusty Oldsmobile Cutlass chugged loudly. Beside it, a cherry-red corvette soft top purred smoothly. The owner glared daggers across the doors, but the moment the bulky, scar-faced driver of the Cutlass glanced over, the Corvette clammed up and faced front. Grinning smugly, he pressed a hand over his bald head, perhaps remembering dimly how hair used to feel. Chirping over the sound of the engine, the t-mobile phone Alice made him purchase caught his attention for the second time that day. Rios lifted the cellphone from it's perch on his dashboard, shifting the car into first as the light turned green. Never one for fancy gadgets - or cars for that matter - he pressed the ancient nokia to his ear.
Rios paused for a moment, his foot letting off the gas slightly. Alice's voice sounded different, and while Rios had never been able to read people to begin with, he knew when Alice or Salem were troubled. Fourteen years of working together did that to people. "What about Salem?" he asked, pulling the car into second gear and clearing the intersection.
"He was in an accident on the wharf," Alice said. "Paramedics are on their way."
"He what?" Rios demanded angrily, hooking a left across two lanes of traffic. Cars honked, but they never came close to touching him as his Cutlass barreled down the new road. "That fucking idiot," he grumbled, forgetting the phone as he dropped it to shift the gears. As it clattered to his feet, he remembered Alice still on the line and reached for it. Apologizing, he put it back to his ear with his left hand and used his knee to steer.
"We're going to have to cancel the flight," Alice said, keyboard clicking beneath her fingertips. "Another leaves at five tomorrow morning, but I don't know-"
"We're talking about Salem. One hit and he's down," Rios grunted. "I'll let you know when I get there."
"Drive safe," Alice reminded him before hanging up.
With one thing in mind, the Cutlass took a right at a red light, cutting off a moving van. A chorus of honking sounded behind him, but Rios heard nothing. Blasting through a yellow light, he reached the main road that passed the piers. Already, he could see the lights flashing as the paramedics pulled up from the other side of the road. Motorists drove slowly by, gawking at the accident. Rios didn't see it, not so far away. He saw a black SUV parked along the sidewalk, its door open, the lights blinking rhythmically. A man in skin-tight fabric stood with one foot on and one foot off the pedal of his speed bike, staring down at the wooden dock. Rios felt his stomach drop as he pulled his cutlass over to the right side of the road, crossing in front of the gawking drivers who honked in irritation at his invasion. He didn't care. He felt the front of his car bump into the guard rail as he slammed it in park, opening the door before his keys were even out of the ignition.
Wearing a tight white t-shirt and army-green cargo pants, his sheer, towering height and girth made people stare. Perhaps they wondered how such a large man could fit in such a small car. Whatever it was, their attention quickly turned back to the accident as paramedics rushed down the short stairs from the sidewalk with the gurney, shouting to each other in their complicated medical language. Rios had no desire to know what they were saying, only a desire to make sure Salem was alright, and then to kick the shit out of the wiry brat for making him worry.
Walking down the stairs as fast as possible without being utterly suspicious, he saw a sopping wet man in his mid-twenties standing by as paramedics strapped a sopping wet Salem to the gurney. From Rios' position, he couldn't see motion from the limp body of his partner, and it sent shivers of tension down his rigid spine. Apprehension, perhaps, of what was going to happen now. Now that it was real, Salem was being carried to the ambulance, the paramedics were clearing the way, police had set up a thin strip of yellow tape proclaiming crime scene - do not cross over and over. The reality of the situation hit Rios hard, and he picked up the pace. A cop in uniform tried to stop him, but he simply moved to the side and kept walking. He made it to the stairs as the paramedics began pushing Salem into the ambulance, and, without further hesitation or reaction to consequences, he shoved the paramedics out of the way, ripped the oxygen mask from one's hand, and leaned over his partner.
"What the fuck were you thinking?"
"Tyse, is that you?" Salem croaked, squinting his red-rimmed brown eyes. Paler than usual, the mercenary coughed, spitting water out. "The hell are you doin' here?"
A paramedic brave enough to step forward held his hand up to get Rios' attention. "Sir, you can't be here, please go behind the tape or-"
"Shove it," Rios growled, glaring. He looked down at Salem, grabbing the younger man's pale hand in his own. "You're gonna be fine, man. Hold tight, alright?"
Salem glanced around, breathing heavily. "Tyse, I didn't do this. Some asshole in a black car hit me, bro," he explained quickly. After a momentary internal debate, he coughed and said, "It's some guy that's been following me."
Rios narrowed his eyes, every nerve on full alert. "Why didn't you say something earlier?"
"I didn't think anything of it!" Salem protested, coughing, his breath wheezing.
"Calm down, I'll take care of it. I'll be at the hospital," Rios said thickly, squeezing Salem's hand tensely.
A man stepped forward, hand on his hip, and looked sternly to Rios. "Sir, if you don't leave, I'll be forced to make you leave." The cop's voice stayed firm, steady.
"I don't want any trouble," Rios said calmly. It wasn't the truth, he wanted to find trouble, huff and puff and blow it's house in and shoot any survivors in the head with a slug from his trusty Saw. He knew how to hold his emotions back, and none of his murderous intents showed to the world around him. He gave Salem's hand a final reassuring squeeze, backing away as the cop moved forward. "I'll wait at the hospital."
The cop followed him slowly, and the paramedics swarmed around Salem again. The younger mercenary disappeared from view as the paramedics lifted him into the ambulance. Rios looked away, scowling, his scars accenting the emotions on his face. Pulling his phone out, he stepped quickly towards his car, speed-dialing Alice. Before she even spoke, he began talking. "Someone's been following Salem, he says the guy hit him over the barrier. Is there anything we should know about?"
Alice paused, and after a moment, said, "No, not that I know of. I'll see what I can do. I might be able to get a satellite image to go off. Did he say anything else?"
"Black car. Following him. That's it." Rios didn't see how it could be any more straight-forward than that.
"It'll take a few minutes. What are you going to do?"
"Lay low until you find something out."
Alice sighed. "Tell Salem I'm sorry I cant be there. Traffic is terrible."
"I'm sure he'll understand. He's a big boy." Rios dropped the call, getting into his cutlass. One last look at the scene of the accident, and he sighed deeply, shaking his head. The ambulance roared by, lights and sirens on as cars pulled over to the side of the road. Mechanically, Rios started his car and pulled out, following the red and blue lights down the road. Trapped in his thoughts, he hardly noticed the world around him.
Crushed in on the left side, a black sedan drove down the opposite lane, headed towards the wharf.