What I'm gonna live for
What I'm gonna die for
Who you gonna fight for
I can't answer that
"I'll go in and investigate the uh, proceedings," Packie told Niko, from where he was crouched in cover behind a Dumpster. "You guys cover my ass, okay?"
"Fine," Niko said. Sean, one of the two muscles they'd brought with them, elbowed Niko in the ribs as soon as Packie was gone.
"You better fucking hope he makes it out okay," Sean said.
"Oh yeah?" Niko replied evenly, fingers curling around the trigger of his carbine.
"Yeah," added Ryan, the other muscle, leaning back against the crumbling cement half-wall. "You don't want to be the one to tell Gerry his brother's dead. Or even maimed. He'll rip your fucking throat out, Russky."
Niko was silent, ears pricked for sounds of struggle or gunshots. A moment later, Packie walked out of the building and shrugged at them.
"Completely clean," he said. "These assholes left an entire truck full of goods just waiting for us. Fucking Italians. C'mon, we'll boost it and get out of here."
Sean and Ryan stood, and Niko, after a moment of hesitation, followed.
"This doesn't look like a trap to you?" Niko said quietly, as he passed Packie, who shook his head.
"The Morettis are too tiny a family to bother," he replied. "I think. Well... Heard from Kate lately?" he said, clearly trying to change the subject.
Niko grimaced. "We had one date. It didn't go so well."
"What the hell happened?" Packie demanded, climbing into the back of the truck and rummaging around. Niko didn't answer.
After a moment of inspection, he came around the front and opened the passenger side door. "Didn't see any fucking car bombs or anything, so we should be okay," Packie said. "What are you waiting for, Niko? Get in."
Niko smirked to himself as he climbed into the driver's side.
"Is that sirens?" Packie said, wrinkling his brow.
Niko glanced in his rear-view mirror. His stomach sunk at the familiar red and blue flashing in his peripheral vision.
"Damnit," said Ryan. "You sell us out, Russky?"
"Screw you, Ryan, Niko's a damn sight more trustworthy than either of you bonehead motherfuckers," Packie snapped, before Niko could reply. "You and Sean don't like who I work with, you can get out, 'cause I can replace either of you faster than you can fucking blink. What do you think?" he muttered to Niko.
"Could be nothing," Niko said. "I was speeding a little back there... Could be this coke was a trap after all."
"Think you can lose 'em?"
Niko glanced in his mirror again. "Sure."
He hooked a right down Vitullo Avenue, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. The sirens grew louder.
"We'll be fine, Niko," Packie said, but he sounded nervous. "Christ. If only Francis was still around to bail us out."
Niko felt a twinge of guilt. He had never told Packie he had been the one to kill his brother. Derrick was the only one who knew.
Packie glanced at him. "You okay, man?"
"Yeah," Niko said, pressing down on the gas, hard. Ryan lurched forward from where he was crouched behind Packie in the cab of the truck and swore as he hit his head on the seat. Sean hit him in the arm. "Shut up."
"Is that another cop up ahead? Shit," Packie said. "Listen, if we get busted -"
"Don't talk like that, Packie," Sean said.
"It's a distinct fucking possibility!"
Niko waved his hand, motioning for them to be quiet. "All right," he said quietly. "I'm going to pull into this alley. We'll only have a minute or so. Grab the goods out of the back, we'll make a run for it."
"Crazy fucking Russian," Ryan said, in a full-blown panic, standing up and whacking his head on the truck. "I'm out of here."
"Fine," Packie said. "Have fun in prison." He shoved open the door of the truck and looked at Ryan earnestly.
"No one's going anywhere," Sean put in.
Niko pulled into the alleyway and hopped out. Packie followed suit.
Each of them grabbed a bag and hoisted it over their shoulder. Niko glanced at Packie.
"We can't take it all," he said.
"Destroy the evidence? I hear you, man," Packie said, and pulling a small package out of his bag, began rigging a car bomb to the bottom of the truck.
Niko, Ryan and Sean headed across the street. Ryan and Sean ducked behind a Dumpster in the alley and Niko leaned close against the brick wall, watching Packie.
"You know, I seem to be spending a lot of my time hiding in or behind fucking garbage cans," Sean said, breaking the silence. "Guess that's what you get, working for the McRearys."
"I heard that," Packie said as he crept into the alleyway. "You know, the McRearys used to fucking run Liberty City. That's more than I can say for any other Irish fa -"
Niko jerked his head and Packie fell quiet. The truck across the street was beeping.
It stopped, and there was a brief pause, and then it exploded in a flash of light and sound, sending debris flying across the street.
"Let's get out of here," Ryan said, standing up, heaving his bag back to his shoulder.
Someone screamed as the four of them hurried out and around the corner. People were abandoning their cars and lunging for their cell-phones, punching in 911.
"Maybe they'll think something went wrong and we blew ourselves up," Sean said hopefully.
"The LCPD's pretty fucking stupid, but I don't think even they're going to believe that," Packie said. "Let's just lay low for a while."
Niko was casing an SUV someone had abandoned in the sidestreet. He waved them over and the four of them climbed in.
"Back to Dukes, I guess," Packie said. "Niko, after we drop the coke off, you want to get a drink?"
"I could probably use one," Niko replied, twiddling the steering wheel as he headed automatically toward the Humboldt River bridge.
"Cool," Packie said, and settled into the passenger seat, kicking his feet up on the dashboard and rummaging through the glove compartment. "Christian easy listening? Christ," he said, picking up a CD and throwing it out the window, "whose car did you steal, Niko?"
"Fuck, how drunk are we?" Packie mumbled as he stumbled out of Steinway Beer Garden, one arm slung around Niko, tripping over himself.
"I am about half in the bag and you are completely shitfaced," Niko said, slurring slightly as he sat down on a barrel. Packie slumped to the ground beside him.
"I think you're also completely shi... shitfaced, Niko my man," Packie said, laughing as Niko tumbled forward off the barrel and hit the pavement. "You know how many drunk fucking Irish guys have probably barfed wh... right where your face is?" He laughed harder.
Niko moaned and tried to push himself off the ground. Packie leaned forward to help him up and fell on top of Niko.
"Shit," he said. "Sorry about that."
"'S fine," Niko said sleepily. "You know," he said, "it's funny that all of your friends seem to think I am Russian."
"Fuck, man, I got friends that think I'm Scot... Scottish. Listen, let's get a taxi, Niko," Packie said. "I don't want... last time we were drunk... I mean - fuck, Packie, make some sense. I don't want that to happen again... we should... go."
"Yeah," Niko said, quietly.
The last time he and Packie had gotten plastered together there had a been an incident between them that they claimed after the fact they really didn't want to repeat, except clearly they both did, judging by Packie's boner pressing against Niko and Niko's boner pressing against the cold, hard ground.
"Niko," Packie said warningly.
Niko moved to the left and Packie rolled off of him.
"Let's grab a taxi," Packie repeated, his mouth closer to Niko's ear. He smelled like booze and coffee and peppermints.
And then Niko turned and their lips met, Packie sitting up and grabbing a fistful of Niko's leather jacket, and Niko knocked him back onto the ground and scraped his hand against the cement, nudging a knee between Packie's thighs and pushing up against him, dick throbbing as his mouth moved to Packie's neck and started to suck.
Packie moaned and bucked up against Niko, grinding against his leg. Niko's fingers began to find their way into Packie's jeans. As he undid the fly, he was caught by a blinding punch to the side of the head.
Niko lay flat on his back, blinking, stars fading against his eyelids, wondering what happened.
"Sorry," Packie panted, propping himself up on his elbow and then his knees.
"What the hell?" Niko demanded, trying to sit up. His head was pounding.
"I got a little... you can't blame me, man!" Packie shouted, standing up, wobbly. "After what my dad did to me, after what happened in prison - can you blame me? Jesus, the last time I fucking touched a guy without being forced, I was blowing my dealer so I could score some coke, I don't know what I'm doing, I'm drunk off my ass -"
"Packie, calm down," Niko muttered, rubbing his temples.
"Don't touch me, then!"
Niko spread his arms in surrender. "I'm not."
"Let's go back to my Ma's," Packie said. His tone was sharper this time, piercing Niko's drunken haze.
"Fine," Niko said. "Give me a minute." He sat down on a lawn chair haphazardly perched next to a keg.
After a moment of silence, he stood up and walked to the street, vision blurred, looking for yellow among the mass of cars moving along before him.
Niko let out a piercing whistle and a taxi pulled up to his street, beckoning him in. Packie followed.
"Not too far," the cabbie said, wistfully, and pulled out.
"I'm not a fucking fag," Packie said, quietly.
"Neither am I," Niko told him.
"I... just..." Packie sighed. "I'm drunk. Fucking forget it. There was something I was supposed to tell you from Gerry."
Niko waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't.
Ten minutes later, they pulled up in front of the now-familiar red door of the McReary's Tudor, and Packie stumbled out of the cab. "Come in, Niko, have some coffee."
"Wasn't a question," Packie added. "I'll take care of the cab." He began digging around for his wallet.
Niko was greeted at the door by Kate.
"Hello," he said awkwardly.
"Niko, come in," she said, smiling warmly and giving no indication that she harbored ill will toward him after their incredibly shitty date. "You look pretty drunk, where'd you and Patrick go? Can I get you some coffee?"
"Yes, please," he said.
Gerry came out a moment later and clapped Niko on the shoulder. "There we are. Where's my brother?"
"You're out of -" Niko began in surprise, but Gerry cut him off.
"Posted bail," he replied, gesturing toward a house arrest bracelet around his ankle. "It's not for long. Had some unfinished business I couldn't take care of from inside. Niko, you know Derrick -"
Derrick smiled at Niko. It was the first time they had seen each other in person since Francis' funeral. Niko nodded and looked away.
"My associate, Alan, and a friend of ours, Declan."
"So he's who you were telling us about? He was in on the bank job?" Alan said, raising an eyebrow at Niko. His face was heavily scarred and pitted, and he had a thick, dark grey beard to go with grey-peppered black hair and dark, muddy eyes. Declan, in contrast, had bright red hair and a mischievous smile.
"He was in on the bank job?" Niko heard Packie retort incredulously as he appeared in the doorway of the sitting room. "Wouldn't have made it out without this son of a bitch. Get out of my seat."
This was directed at Declan, who stood up immediately.
"You guys go to a strip club, too?" Derrick said, glancing at Packie's hickey and unzipped jeans.
Packie did his fly. "Yeah, Honkers," he lied, glancing at Niko as he sat down.
"Thought they had a no touching policy."
Niko cleared his throat.
"Our current problem," Gerry interrupted, "is that someone else seems to be after the coke we just lifted."
"Well, that was fast," Packie replied. "Shit, what's it been, four hours?"
"It appears that the Morettis were acting as a front for a sting operation by the Ancelottis," Gerry continued. "They have a few cop connections, figured they'd leave it up for grabs and tip off the Feds or the LCPD and then we'd be left holding the bag."
"But we got away," Packie said. "And they didn't exactly make it hard."
"Maybe they wanted to lure us into a sense of false security," Derrick replied. He was twitchier than usual, which was saying something. Niko figured he was jonesing.
Gerry just grunted. "Regardless, they're going to be coming back for what we got out of there with."
"I don't like dealing in coke," Niko said. Everyone looked at him. "Or any other hard drugs. Too high-risk."
"We're not asking anyone to deal in drugs," Alan said.
"Who's 'we'?" Packie replied, looking nettled. "Gerry -"
"They'll be coming to the warehouse where the coke is," Gerry said. "It's only a matter of time. And they'll be heavily armed. They have more muscle than we do. If we want to cripple them, now's the time to do it."
He looked at Niko.
"How much are you willing to pay?" Niko replied.
"You'll get a cut," Gerry said. "A significant one."
Packie seemed to cheer up considerably at this. "Well, all right, boys," he said.
Gerry took a swig of whiskey and left the room. Packie followed him, and after a moment, so did Niko.
"You can kip here," Gerry said to Niko, "get sobered up. We should be expecting them soon. They'll take a while to collect manpower, but they're a big family, it shouldn't be long. Guest room fine?"
Niko nodded and Gerry went upstairs.
Packie was arranging lines of cocaine on the kitchen island. He jumped when he heard Niko walk in.
"Hey, man, want some coffee?"
"Don't," Niko said shortly. "We need you lucid."
"Coke sharpens my senses," Packie replied.
"Cream or sugar?" Kate said, walking out of the pantry. "Oh, Patrick, don't."
"Jesus!" Packie exclaimed, sweeping the powder back into a plastic bag and tossing his razor aside.
"Sugar," Niko replied. "Thank you."
She handed him a cup.
"You should lighten up, Niko," Packie said.
Niko cursed at him in Serbian. Kate left the kitchen, carrying a vase of mostly dead flowers with a tag attached that said Francis will be in our prayers.
"Listen, about tonight," Packie said, and hesitated. "Maybe it's a drunk thing. Maybe we shouldn't get drunk together anymore."
"Maybe," Niko said, taking a sip of his coffee.
"I just don't want it to, y'know, affect us working together. When I said you're my guardian angel, man, I meant it. I need you covering my ass. Makes me feel safe." He laughed. "That's the gayest fucking thing I ever said, but... you get me?"
Niko nodded. "I'm going to get some sleep," he said.
He saw them when he was asleep, and tonight was no different.
Children, brutally mutilated, murdered, dismembered. Under his own hand. His own knife.
The smell of corpses was still as strong as the day he had stood there, above the graves, counting out twelve of them. His friends. The innocent, betrayed.
Niko awoke with a jolt, breathing hard, and looked around, fingers tightening on the SMG lying next to him in bed.
"Govno yedno," he muttered.
He made up his mind then, that when he came face to face with Darko Brevic, he would kill him. No questions asked.
"You look like shit," Derrick told Niko.
"You're one to talk," Niko snapped.
Derrick's ring finger twitched. "Sleep okay?"
"No," Niko said brusquely.
Gerry entered the foyer and handed Niko an AK-47 wordlessly.
"Excellent," Packie said, jumping up from the couch. His eyes were bloodshot and dark circles rimmed them, but he was wearing a smile. "We ready to fuck these Ancelotti wops up, boys?"
"I guess," Niko muttered.
Niko, Packie, Declan and Derrick left Gerry and his blinking little house arrest ankle bracelet behind and climbed into a black SUV, where two more nondescript Irishmen were waiting.
"Niko, this is Kevin O'Leary and his dick-for-brains brother, Liam."
"Hey, fuck you, Packie," said a small, dark-haired man in the backseat who Niko guessed was Liam as he lit up a suspicious-looking cigarette. The fumes made Niko cough.
"Everyone ready to kill some Dagos?" Declan asked with relish, clapping Derrick on the back as Niko sent the car lurching into motion.
"What's your problem with the Italians?" Niko replied.
"I need a reason?"
When they got to the warehouse on Charge Island, Packie drew in a breath. "We got company."
"They're early," Derrick muttered.
Seven guns cocked. Niko backed the truck up, crunching over some bushes, until it was partially hidden.
"They're using Russian muscle," Liam hissed, throwing his cigarette out the window. "Bastards."
Packie left the truck and took cover behind his door. "Might want to get ready to roll, boys."
Niko swung his door open and hoisted his gun.
They crept toward the warehouse. As Niko got into cover, Liam hissed, "You gonna cover the entrance?"
"No, I thought I might sit here, jerk off, and wait for the Russians to come blow my brains out," Niko replied sarcastically.
"All right," said Liam, as he took position.
"I'm going through the window," Packie said. "Derrick, Declan and Kevin are gonna flank me, Niko, get the door, you and Liam give us a second and then come in and get the drop on them."
"You sure about this?" Niko muttered.
"I got a little surprise for our friends," Packie said, and held up a partially zipped backpack. A loaded rocket launcher was hanging out of it.
"Ah," said Niko.
The others departed, leaving Liam and Niko to crouch there, clutching their weapons, listening to the distant traffic on the freeway overhead.
A minute or so later there was a bang, a pause, distant shouts and the sound of shotgun shells bouncing on metal, an explosion, and then silence.
Niko glanced at Liam, who nodded. Niko stood up, kicked the flimsy door down, and stormed in, firing off rounds.
"Y'know, there was a doorknob," Liam shouted over the angry roars of Russians and gunfire.
Niko ignored him, rolling into cover behind a pile of lumber. He spotted a figure lunging past the fiery crater Packie's rocket had made and he fired twice. The figure dropped to the ground.
"Fuck 'em up, Niko!" Packie yelled.
They continued to blast their way through the warehouse until the six of them met in the middle, covered in blood, dirt, and ash, the bodies of seventeen Russians and a few Italians littering the ground.
"We done here?" Declan panted, running a hand through his red hair.
"Shut up," Packie told him, tilting his head.
There was a quiet moaning coming from behind a pile of rubble. Packie moved toward it cautiously, Niko flanking him.
"Please do not kill me," a small dark-haired man moaned through a thick Russian accent, shielding his face with his hands. "I'm not a mobster, I'm a fucking accountant! Please do not kill me!"
Packie kicked him. "Who sent you guys?"
He continued to whimper, cowering on the ground.
"I said, who sent you?"
"I fucking know that! Who?"
"Packie, he doesn't know," Niko said quietly.
"Big Alf," the Russian cried.
"Alf?" Packie said, wrinkling his brow.
"Alfredo Angelo Giordani!"
"Don't kill me," he whimpered. "I was not even going to come here, but they told me - my wife, they said they would kill her -"
"Yeah, all right," Packie scoffed. "Let's get out of here," he said loudly, stepping over some rubble.
"The coke's all still here," said Derrick.
"Yeah, you'd fucking know," Packie said. "What's that in your pocket, Derrick?"
"You're one to talk, Patrick, you goddamned junkie."
"I think I know this guy," Liam said, nudging a felled, ash-covered Italian with his foot. "Luca... Luca somebody?"
"Kind of hard to tell," Declan said.
"So what's the plan? Half of us take the Squalo back to Dukes, other half takes the car?"
"Yeah," Packie said. "Niko, come with me and Derrick, all right?"
"Fine," Niko said.
They got out on the water as the sun began to sink behind the clouds. Packie tossed Niko a towel and he wiped the soot off of himself, and threw it to Derrick, who did the same, rubbing a bloodstain out of his greying hair.
Packie noticed this and demanded, "What, you're shot?"
"Grazed," Derrick said. "It's just my ear."
Packie shook his head. "So who's Alfredo Giordani?"
"Big Alf?" Derrick said, as he pulled the small bag of coke out of his pocket.
"Niko, can you drive this thing?"
"Sure," Niko said, climbing into the driver's seat.
"You know him?" Packie asked Derrick. "And give me that fucking coke. I didn't almost get blown up so you could snort it all away in a week."
"I know of him," Derrick said, stuffing the coke back in his pocket. "He's a capo in the Ancelloti family, he's got a cover as a lawyer in a firm in Algonquin."
"Let's kill him," Packie said with relish.
"Stupid," said Derrick, shaking his head.
"Why don't we find out why they set up that sting?" Niko said.
"Does it matter anymore?" Packie replied.
"Luca!" Derrick yelled suddenly.
"God bless you," Niko replied.
"He's Big Alf's son, Patrick, Luca Giordani!"
"Oh," Packie replied. He grinned and lit a cigarette. "Well, boys. This is gonna be fun."
Less than a week later, Packie and Niko stood in front of the Dawson, Dawson and Schnetzler firm in suits, casing the joint.
"So we're just gonna walk in there, nonchalant," Packie said. "Don't pull any of that lead-spraying maniac shit, Niko."
"I'll hold off on the lead-spraying maniac shit, Packie," Niko replied. "I got the pistol in my pocket."
Packie pulled a bandanna out of his pocket. "And I have the gag in case he gets loud. Let's go, man."
They stepped into the building. Niko glanced around. Vaulted ceilings, marbled columns, and armed guards lining the exits.
"We have an appointment with Mr. Giordani," Packie said to the receptionist.
"You're his three o'clock?"
"Yeah," Packie said.
She glanced at Niko. "Is this business related?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am," Packie said. "Very business related." He smiled at her.
"Well, go on in," she said, and returned to her computer.
Packie wasted no time. As soon as he stepped into Alfredo's office, he locked the door behind them and said, "Pin his ass, Niko."
Niko pulled his pistol.
"Well, well, well," said Alfredo, who was a tall, silver-haired man with a gaunt face, aquiline nose, and haunted eyes. "Niko Bellic? You're working for the Irish?"
"What?" Niko said, caught off guard. "How do you know me?"
"We have a friend in common," Alfredo said, ignoring the gun pointed at his head and stepping out from behind his desk. "U.L.P.C.?"
Niko stared at him.
"You sent those Russians to our warehouse," Packie said.
"Yes, yes I did," Alfredo replied. "You see, you have our coke."
"That's not your coke. You ripped it off the Pavanos, and they stole it off those fucking Russians who brought it over on the Platypus!"
Alfredo smiled beatifically at Packie, sitting on the edge of his desk. "Are you here to kill me?"
"We'll see," Niko said.
"You're the weakest family in the Commission," Packie told Alfredo. "How's it going to look when they find out you can't even fight off six guys, with Russian muscle?"
Alfredo said nothing.
"You made pretty damn easy for us," Packie said. "Why?"
"You're right. We're weak," Alfredo said quietly.
Niko looked from him to Packie.
"We've lost too many good men," Alfredo said. "It's only a matter of time before the Ancelottis are done. But how long will this opposition last, I wonder, with your brother in jail and the last of your shitty, ruined little family dying off? McRearys, we're going to bring you down with us."
"Fuck you," Packie snarled. "At least we know what we're fucking doing. You can't even organize a sting!"
"You killed my son," Alfredo hissed. "So are you going to kill me, now?"
He began to laugh hysterically.
"We'll bring you down with us, mark my words."
"I didn't kill your son," Packie said.
"Spare me. He was a drug-addled fool, anyway," Alfredo said dismissively. "If you must, Patrick McReary, fucking kill me already. I won't be missed, and it would be merciful to die before I have to see the family go up in flames."
Niko cocked the pistol. "You wish to die, Mr. Giordani?"
Alfredo spread his arms. "You wish to kill me, Mr. Bellic?"
"I have no interest in killing you," Niko told him.
"The Ancelottis will come for you," Alfredo told Packie. "We will fight to the death. You hit us hard today, but Italians have honor... we will regroup. We will come for you."
Packie watched him silently.
"We'll bring you down with us," he repeated, closed his eyes, and drew a pistol from his pocket. Niko went for cover, but Alfredo put it against his own temple.
There was a muffled gunshot. Blood spattered against his desk and he slumped to his side, falling to the floor, lifeless as a puppet.
Packie recoiled in horror. Niko seized his arm.
"We need to get out of here," Niko told him.
His office was on the ground floor. Niko shattered a gilded window with the monitor of Alfredo's computer and they both climbed out, landing in a quiet courtyard.
"This is gonna look suspicious," Packie hissed as they crept around the side of the building. "Shit. We should have killed the secretary."
"She didn't get our names," Niko reminded him. "And it is obvious he killed himself. And there were guards all over the place."
Packie nodded. "We have to get rid of this coke," he said. "Jesus, I didn't know it was going to cause this much trouble... We got a tip, figured we'd lift it and make some cash... fucking Ancelottis."
"Patrick, you want go get a drink or something?" Niko said suddenly.
Packie looked at him askance. "Right now?"
"I don't know, you look like you need to loosen up."
Packie began to laugh. "Yeah. You know what? Yeah." He pulled a bag of coke out of his pocket and smirked.
They were at the street now, and Niko strolled up to a sedan and motioned for the driver to roll down his window.
"I am going to need you," Niko said, resting the butt of his pistol on the window and leaning over, "to give me your vehicle."
"Sarah, I din... I didn't know you worked here," Packie slurred, holding onto Niko's arm so he didn't fall over as they stumbled drunkenly through the strip club. There were streaks of white on Packie's suit from where he had passed out onto the table of Maisonette 9 halfway through a key bump.
A stripper turned and faced them. She might have been pretty, once, but her face was now gaunt and pale, dark circles and bags ringing her eyes, which were dark and heroin-wasted and sunken in their sockets.
"Patrick," she said, voice low and hoarse. "Hey. You wanna lap dance? Please? I haven't had a good customer in a week, just these schlubs who don't pay... I need the money..."
Niko recognized the same hand twitch that Derrick had.
"Follow me to the back room," Sarah continued in her smoker's voice, glancing at Niko. "Your friend wanna join us?"
Niko raised his eyebrows.
"Sure, whatever," Packie repeated.
Sarah led them to the familiar back room of the Triangle Club and Packie sat down, legs spread.
The air was thick with mingled stale cologne and cheap perfume, cigarette smoke, pot smoke, and the sharp, bitter smell of spilled vodka.
Sarah's hips began to gyrate around Packie's crotch. Niko's mind buzzed drunkenly and the lights glowing in front of him began to converge and smear together. He blinked.
"What do you need the money for?" Packie grunted. "I thought you got clean, Sarah..."
"Nobody ever gets clean, Packie."
Niko watched as she tossed her hair over one shoulder and, grinding against Packie, but barely touching him, began to run her fingers along his neck, loosening his tie and popping the buttons of his collar.
Packie looked straight at Niko and something passed between them.
Niko stood up and made his way over to Packie, pushing his knee between Packie's thighs and brushing his lips against his neck.
Packie moaned and tilted his head up, pushing Sarah away gently and dragging Niko onto him with a surprising amount of force. "Damnit, Niko," he muttered, "I want you so bad, so fucking bad, man..."
Sarah stumbled away from them, unsteady on her high heels, and sat down where Niko had been a moment ago, lighting a cigarette and watching them with her dark, drug-starved eyes.
Niko's fingers drunkenly fumbled at the fly of Packie's pants, as Packie cupped his face in his hands, running his thumb over his stubble and the scar on Niko's cheek.
Packie's hips bucked up against him, his breath coming more quickly. Niko felt Packie harden underneath his fingertips and tightened his grip on the shirttails loosening themselves from his pants, pressing his body against Packie's, which was so warm and inviting and smelled like booze and worn cotton flannel, a smell he had grown comfortable breathing in when the two of them were huddled on a rooftop clutching twin sniper rifles, back to back, watching for movement in the darkness.
There was a high flush in Packie's cheeks now. Pre-come was seeping onto Niko's fingertips, sticky and messy, as Packie's fingernails dug into Niko's wrists.
Niko licked his lips and pressed them against Packie's. The world swirled around him, dark and quiet.
Niko woke up to the sound of traffic rushing above him.
He opened his eyes. He was sitting with his back against a cement half-wall, Packie lying near him, asleep and snoring gently. They were behind a gas station. Niko watched a squad car pull up and nudged Packie.
"Hey," he said.
Packie jerked awake and sat up. "Oh, Jesus," he said. "Where are we?"
Niko staggered to his feet and hopped up onto the wall behind him. He looked out at the Humboldt River laid out in front of him, Algonquin twinkling behind it as the dawn broke. Overhead, a freeway buzzed with morning commuters.
"Dukes," he replied.
"Fucking hell, man," Packie muttered. "Feels like I got hit in the head with a brick. How'd we end up all the way out here?"
Niko heard a rumble as a garbage truck pulled into the gas station, and then his pocket vibrated.
He fumbled with it for a few moments and then finally pulled his cell phone out. Unknown Caller.
"Niko Bellic?" asked a gravelly voice with an Italian accent.
"Yes," Niko said warily.
"You're working with the McRearys, right?"
"A friend. Don't worry about it."
Niko said nothing.
"This is a secure line."
"That's not what concerns me."
"Okay, I'm gonna be straight with you -" the caller took a drag off a cigarette "- I'm with the Ancelottis, and I wanna fuck them over. Hard. Bring a McReary, I don't care which one, and meet me at that big cafe in Algonquin, the one right off the expressway, in fifty minutes. You know where I mean?"
"Yeah," Niko told him. "I'll be there. But I'll be packing."
"Wouldn't expect anything less. See you then." Click.
Niko slid the phone into his pocket. "Packie."
"Sober up quick," Niko said. "We got someplace to be."
"Who was that?"
Packie was on his feet in a half-second, pulling his pistol out of his pocket. Niko slid off the half-wall and dropped to the ground, seizing him by the sleeve and pulling him toward the road. "I'll explain on the way."
"Good afternoon," Niko said warily.
"I assume you're Bellic," the mysterious Italian said, beckoning them both to sit down. "You look like a Serb. Well, more than he does," he added, gesturing at Packie with his cigarette. Niko felt Packie's hackles raise.
Niko took a seat in the small booth and Packie sat next to him, steepling his fingers and resting his elbows on the table. "Patrick McReary," he told him.
Gino was tall, and had the look of someone who was once robust and hearty but had wasted down to skin and bones, with dark circles under his eyes and bruising on his neck.
"I got locked up for five years," he said, putting out his cigarette and lighting another. "Bullshit possession charge. While I was inside..." Gino cleared his throat. "You know how it is. Either you become someone's bitch, you assimilate, or you kick the shit out of someone and everyone leaves you alone. Well, I got beat up pretty bad the first night I was in there. After that they got me in the showers... Anyway, one of the fuckers gave me HIV. I didn't know," he added. "By the time I got out, it was full-blown AIDs... and then the Ancelottis dropped me like that." Gino snapped his fingers. "Like I was nothing. I gave them my entire life, and all of a sudden I was blacklisted by the entire fucking city."
Packie shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"I'm dying," Gino said. "All I got left to lose is my honor."
"So what," said Niko, "do you want from us, Mr. DiCamillo?"
"I'll give you whatever you need to take Giovanni Ancelotti down. Any information I can give you. You know Pegorino, Jimmy Pegorino?"
"I've worked with him," Packie said.
"He'd screw over the Ancelottis in a heartbeat if it'd leave him an opening to join the Commission," Gino told them.
"Well," Packie said, placing his hands on the table and standing up, stumbling slightly as he did. "We'll be in touch, man. Thanks."
Gino shook Niko's hand and Niko and Packie walked out of the cafe.
"Quick," Packie said. "Look around, see any suspicious vehicles? I'll bet you anything that wop was wearing a wire."
"He seemed clean to me," Niko said, puzzled.
"You got too much faith in people you don't know shit about, Bellic," Packie said, craning his neck, hand on the butt of his pistol.
Niko scratched his head. "Listen, I'm going to try and get some sleep, Packie," he said. "Take care."
"Hold on a second," Packie said, and he hailed a cab. "Me and the family was going to go visit Frankie's grave this weekend. I was thinking you could drive down, join us, an' uh... we could discuss some things."
"Business related?" Niko said.
"Not necessarily," Packie said. The taxi pulled up and honked.
"Ah," Niko replied. "Yes. Sure, I'll do that. See you soon, Packie."
"Later, Niko," Packie said, sliding into the back seat.
That Saturday he jacked a car from a guy wearing an expensive suit and drove through Little Italy on his way to Colony Island. As Niko drove by Drusilla's, he heard Ray yell out to him.
Niko slammed on the brakes and got out of the car. "What the hell do you want?" he said.
"Niko, Niko, my favorite Slav," Ray said, blowing cigarette smoke at him. "Come inside, come in..."
Niko followed him into the restaurant, scuffing his heels on the floor. "Yes? I have someplace to be, Ray, make it quick." He folded his arms.
"I heard," Ray said, slowly, sitting down at one of the little two-seater tables with its red checkered tablecloth and motioning for Niko to join him, "I heard you got some personal beef with the Ancelottis now?"
"I have beef with no one," Niko said, grimacing and not moving from the doorway. "I protect my business interests. You might want to try it sometime."
Ray ignored the dig and leaned back in his seat. "Where you headed?"
Ray waited for Niko to elaborate. When he didn't, he coughed and put his cigarette out on the table. "I'm just looking out for -"
"- your investment in me, I understand." Niko paused. "I'll see you later."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll see you, Nicky," Ray grumbled, and Niko turned and went on his way again.
On his way across the bridge, Niko glanced in his rearview mirror and saw two sleek black sedans a few carlengths behind him. It wouldn't have bothered him, except they had been trailing for ten minutes now and he was starting to get nervous.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and turned his attention back to the road.
The graveyard was quiet. It was an overcast, solemn day. Niko spotted a gaggle of McReary-looking people near an angel statue as he pulled in and he walked over quietly, giving Packie a nod.
"The Mafiya?" Packie was saying to Derrick. "Ah, yeah. Hey, Niko -" he pulled him aside. "Listen, Gerry's got an idea."
Kate, who was standing by her mother at the foot of Francis's grave, flashed Niko a small smile.
"We're gonna -"
"Don't tell him now, Patrick," Derrick snapped.
"I don't -"
"Christ, you don't think we could be bugged?"
Packie opened his mouth to retort, but gravel crunched behind them and everyone turned around. The two black sedans had pulled into the parking lot of the cemetery. Men in suits with ski masks pulled over their faces were hanging out the windows. One of them was holding a rocket launcher.
Niko seized Packie by his collar and pulled him back as the nearest guy yelled, "So you like explosions, McRearys?", cocked the launcher, and fired.
It hit the stone angel statue, which exploded in a burst of hot orange light. Screams tore the air. Niko was knocked flat onto his back. His vision faded out.
He lay there in complete, deafening silence.
Niko felt around him for Packie. Where - the black began to ebb away from his eyes and he blinked and looked up.
Kate McReary was lying there, surrounded by her brothers, who were soaked in blood. She was soaked in blood. Niko staggered to his feet.
Her leg was blown off.
No, not blown off, still hanging on by an inch of sinew at the calf, disturbingly useless -
Niko leaned back and closed his eyes. Packie's muted yelling rang in his ears.
Derrick looked up and mouthed something at the sky. There were tears streaking down his cheeks. Niko limped over to them and fell to the ground. Packie leapt up with a strange, murderous fierceness in his eyes, and ran toward the parking lot, pulling a pistol out of his pocket - but the sedans were already gone. He walked back and seized his mother, who was sobbing hysterically, and held her to him, muttering something.
Niko inched forward slightly. As he did the ringing petered out and he heard Derrick say something - maybe "is she dead", but he couldn't tell. Niko took Kate's wrist in his hand. Her face was chalk white.
"She's got a pulse," Niko said.
"Speak up, I can't hear a goddamn thing."
"Pulse," Niko said, louder. Mrs. McReary's sobs quieted. She ran a hand over her grey hair and whispered, "She's alive?"
"Barely," Niko replied honestly. "We need an ambulance."
"Well, we can't take her to the hospital ourselves," Derrick grunted. He took his sister's hand in his. "We'll have to drop her off in front. Don't you die on me, Katie," he said softly.
"Goddamnit," Packie said, "goddamn them." His face was bright red.
Niko smoothed Kate's red hair away from her forehead. "I'm sorry," he whispered to her. "Patrick -"
"They followed me here. The Ancelottis. Ray stopped me on my way to Colony... he must have tipped them off."
Packie swore and punched the crumbled remains of the angel statue. He pressed his knuckles to his mouth. "You gotta stop that bleeding," he muttered, casting a glance at Kate.
"I don't know what to do," Niko said. "We never - if someone lost a limb, in the war, we left them to die."
Derrick made a choked noise.
Niko took the jacket of his suit off and wrapped her leg in it. Blood spilled out over the grass. He grabbed her hand and held it tightly, even though she was unconscious.