8th April 2008
2:00pm the Ojo Del Diablo, the Atlantic Ocean
The sea frothed and rolled around the edges of the rusted iron container ship as it ploughed through the storm, rain and sea spray battering the sides whilst lights from the ship swept the black ocean beyond.
The ship was the Ojo Del Diablo, a ship notorious for its use in black market deals including drug smuggling and gun running. Its current voyage was from the ports of the Deep South and Mexico up to Liberty City on the East Coast of the United States, carrying all manner of articles with everything from a shipment of Sprunk soft drinks to crates of illegal AK-47 assault rifles for the Liberty City arms market.
On the bridge, its captain, Juan Manteca stood, watching the rain lash against the windows whilst the other bridge staff hurried about their duties.
Lighting a thick cigar, the barrel chested captain turned to face his companion, and the only passenger not sweating down in the hold, Luis Cartes, a rat faced scrawny wreck in a crumpled white suit, rubbing his top lip as the captain spoke.
"Alright Luis, what do you want? If it weren't for the fact your employer would have my tongue cut out if I harmed you in any way, I would have had you thrown in the hold with the others hours ago."
Luis only grinned. As the cousin of feared Mexican drug lord Caesar Reyes, he was able to freeload as much as he wanted off any business deals Caesar's cartel made, including this one, which included free passage to Liberty City and a private room on the top deck, one of the few which didn't have the faint stench of vomit or blood in it. Juan couldn't stand him, and would be glad when the little man left his ship for good. All he had done for the last day was snort cocaine in his cabin and try to start fights with the crew whilst wasted on cheap booze.
"Nothing much captain, I just want a look down in the hold…"
Juan instantly shook his head.
"Out of the question, you dumb fuck. I'm not having you rile up my passengers. I'm being paid good money to ship them to Liberty City and the buyer doesn't want them messed up in any way."
"Nothing like that captain, I meant the other hold, where all the good stuff is..."
"As if I would let you go down there either. Most of that stuff is more valuable than the entire contents of the main hold. What do you need exactly? More crack to snort like a fucking anteater? If it's a cheap high you want go talk to the cooks in the galley."
"Not that captain, why would you think someone like me would stoop to that level? I wanted to see the er…artifacts."
As he said that he lowered his voice, stepping closer to the captain, so close that Juan could smell the stench of sweat and cheap cologne on the man's suit.
The captain knew exactly what the man was talking about. They had been contracted to ship a number of historical artifacts from the city of Escalera in the Nuevo Parisio province of Mexico, the base of operations for Caesar Reyes operation. They weren't exactly priceless, which would probably be the main reason Luis wanted a look at them. Most were just old clay pots and burial garments from Aztec tombs, as well as ancient weaponry and armour, bound for the Libertonian Museum's upcoming Aztec exhibit, and probably the only legal shipment on the whole ship. But then there was one article which Juan knew that Luis would want to see.
"It's the mask isn't it?" he said shortly, turning on Luis.
"No, no, course not…" Luis spluttered, his previous arrogance lost as the angry captain rounded on him, for a second a hand going to reach inside his jacket, before then raising both hands in a calming gesture.
"Look, I just want a quick check. Can't hurt can it?"
Juan stared at the man for a second, until the first mate interrupted the conversation from the helm.
"Captain, we're just coming into the city now. Probably about five minutes until we dock."
Juan nodded as the imposing form of the Statue of Happiness loomed up to their left, rain sliding off it in miniature waterfalls. The lights of a police boat swam alongside the mighty vessel, and a voice crackled over the radio.
"This is the Liberty City Harbour Authority, please supply all needed documentation for docking…"
"Keep that fucker talking." He said to the first mate. "Far as he knows, all we're transporting is those artifacts and a whole load of Sprunk…"
The first mate nodded and started speaking into the radio, whilst Juan turned to Luis.
"Alright, we're going to the hold. Might as well check everything else down there is all locked up tight. Don't want any customs pendejo finding Mr Ancelotti's arms shipment."
Two minutes later and the two men were clattering down the steel stairway to the hold, Luis fidgeting as they came to the main corridor between the two holds.
From behind the thick steel doors to the main hold could be heard low whispers and sounds of people crying ,as the immigrants from Mexico prepared to start their new lives in Liberty City. The other door, rusted and studded with old iron rivets, was opened by Juan and the two stepped into the cool confines of the cavernous room.
"Shit…" said Luis softly, giving a low whistle as he looked at the maze of crates beyond. "It's like that Indiana Jones film, but with real treasure…" he added with a sly grin which Juan ignored as he led the scrawny little man through the hold, past a black Presidente' car draped in a blue tarpaulin, and stopping to shut the lid of a crate filled with neat rows of white packages, replacing the straw over the top.
"Here it is…The mask you've been so desperate to see." He said as he grabbed a small redwood box from on top of a crate and handing it over to the other man, who was grinning from ear to ear.
"Xolotl be praised…" Luis muttered softly as he opened the box, the interior filled with soft red leather, and the green jade form of the mask.
Juan stood to one side, not looking at the other man as he pored over the mask, every so often saying the word 'Xolotl' and giggling slightly.
"Ok,let's see if it still works…" Luis said softly, and that's when Juan turned around, not wanting to get one of his most valuable shipments broken by this spoilt little freeloader.
"Look…" he began, then stopped instantly when he saw Luis looking right at him, the mask in one hand, and in the other a chrome plated Desert Eagle ,pointed directly at Juan's face.
Juan felt his blood chill as he looked at the man before him, who seemed to have almost completely changed. Gone was the hazed, spaced out look in his brown eyes, replaced by a sharp intelligenece, whilist he stood much straighter, having lost his hunched, subservient posture.
It took the captain a second to realise that he had been conned, and by a master at that.
"But…" he began, but was cut off as Luis fired, hitting the captain in the chest, who instantly fell to his knees.
"As I was saying…" Luis was saying, but the captain barely heard him, as his vision already began to fade. The last thing he saw was Luis advancing towards him.
"Let's see if this works." He finished, as he placed the mask on the dying captain's face.
A few minutes later, and Luis was finishing the last dregs of the dead captain's cigar. He stopped when he heard a low moan from the direction of the captain's corpse, and the clatter of the jade mask falling to the steel floor.
Drawing his pistol, he watched the captain's body begin to move slightly and, with one last glance at the open door to the rest of the ship, placed the Desert Eagle to his forehead.
"Xolotl be praised." He said softly, and blew his brains out.
A few hours later and the container ship sat in a bay of the Broker harbour, where it had been dragged by two rusted tug boats after it was spotted drifting by a NOOSE helicopter on a night patrol.
With a squeal of sirens and roar of engines, three white LCPD cruisers screamed into the empty shipyard, their occupants spilling out and standing, looking up at the silent ship.
The group's leader, Sergeant Boyd, a veteran officer, albeit an overweight one, stepped out of his cruiser, hefting his Ithaca 37 Stakeout shotgun.
"Alright boys, control wants us to check this ship over. Move in and search the area!" he bellowed.
As the others clattered on board, guns drawn, his partner, Officer Higgins, stepped out of the car and looked up at the Ojo Del Diablo, a frown on his face.
"Why we here Boyd?" he said, checking his Glock pistol as the sergeant gave him a withering look.
"Look Jack, we got told by control to check this shitpile, so we're going to do that, ok?"
He grinned as they walked towards the gangplank.
"What were you expecting? A fuckin' NOOSE team?"
Higgins sighed as they clattered across the empty deck.
"Isn't this a job for those 'Patriotism and Immigration' guys?"
The sergeant only sneered as they entered the empty galley.
"Look, all I have to say is…Jesus!" he screamed as he spotted the bloody corpse between two trashed plastic chairs.
"Holy fuck…" Higgins said softly as he crouched down by the corpse. "It ain't been shot or anything either…"
"Why the fuck would that matter?" Boyd snarled his face pale as he nervously hefted his shotgun.
With a sigh Higgins turned to him.
"Well it actually looks like this sorry bastard was…well, eaten."
But, as he pored over the bite marks all across the pale corpse, Higgins noticed the sergeant examining a huge blood stain on the floor, leading towards an open door, covered in bullet holes.
Standing up, the officer looked at the holes, whilist his superior glanced down the gloomy staircase.
"Hmm, looks like AK bullets to me…" he said thoughtfully, then turned to the sergeant.
"Just the way to the hold…God it stinks down there." He added, wafting at the air with his free hand.
Without a word Higgins drew his pistol and slowly made his way down the stairs.
"What the…Are you really going down there boy?" Boyd spluttered then, with a resigned sigh, followed the officer down into the darkness.
He found Higgins's poring over the metal doors to the main hold, a desk thrown in front to make a crude barricade.
"Help me shift this will you?" he said as the sergeant stumbled over.
As the two officers hefted the heavy desk to one side, Higgins said thoughtfully.
"You know, we should probably radio this in now, call for backup…"
"Like hell we will." Boyd laughed as they moved the table away and set it down. "If this is going on Weazel News, I want to be the guy who that sexy Jenny Acorn interviews." He added with a lecherous grin.
Higgins sighed as he pulled the heavy doors open, and then felt a slight twinge of disappointment.
"Huh, it's empty…"
Then he noticed the figures shuffling out of the darkness.
"Ok, please remain calm." He ordered. "LCPD! We do not…"
Those were the man's last words as the horde engulfed him.