With a sudden jolt of his muscles, Tommy Vercetti was sitting upright in his bed. Immediately, a refreshing breeze swayed over his face and upper body, cooling his damp and tepid skin.
"Tommy, wake up."
The sobering voice brought Tommy to his senses. He opened his eyes but was temporarily banned by the sunlight flowing into the bedroom from the open door that led to a balcony. He attempted to lift his arm, but it was forced still by a stronger force. Opening his eyes entirely, Tommy observed that his arm was pinned under a woman that he didn't recognize and couldn't help laughing.
"Good, you're awake. Get dressed and meet me at the gazebo in ten."
The voice belonged to Ken Rosenberg; Tommy's partner in crime, his lawyer, his friend, or as close as you could get to one in those days. As Ken walked out of the room, Tommy looked to his right. A pair of red curtains was flowing in the breeze of Vice City air, and the distinct scent of the sea filled the room. Tommy took a moment to bask in this beautiful scene, then discreetly pulled his sore arm out from under the anonymous nude woman. He stood motionless, the woman only awakening for a fraction of a second before turning around and falling into a deep slumber yet again.
Tommy walked down the narrow, well decorated hallway plastered with beautiful contemporary art and freshly watered plants in the bathroom. He had a quick shower, then dressed in a red Hawaiian shirt, beige pants and sandals. He walked down the spiral staircase into his living room, which was technically not just that, but also the kitchen due to the open-floor plan. This was Tommy's home; a 2.25 million dollar Spanish Renaissance-styled mansion that he purchased in 1986. Now, this was his main residence.
As he sauntered across into the beige tiled kitchen, complete with dark hardwood cabinets, enameled lava stone countertops and an overpowering scent of coconut, Tommy felt a sense of overriding success. He had everything he wanted, and was happy with it. Maybe all the bloodshed was worth it, after all. The wall mounted the calendar was approached, and Tommy changed the date to present day: June 16, 1987. Just yet another diurnal cycle for Tommy.
Tommy snatched a green apple from a fruit basket on the counter and rubbed it against his shirt. He bit into it, and the succulent yet acidic taste overpowered his taste buds. He then exited the kitchen by the patio door and made his way to the gazebo out back.
Sweet, flowery air seeped into Tommy's nose, and he smiled. The day was beautiful, the sky totally clear; not a cloud in sight. The distant commotion of car horns coming from downtown was nearly unnoticeable. The yard itself was secluded; a high fence and large trees gave a feeling of solitude that Tommy appreciated. It was crowded with beautiful plants and bushes, yet enough room remained for a pool, hot tub, and a path that led to the far back of the yard where the small gazebo sat.
Tommy took a final bite of the savory apple and threw it in a trash bin to the side of him. He greeted his gardener, Marisa, and ascended the few steps to the gazebo. Sitting at the circular table under it was Ken, tightly gripping a cup of coffee. His appearance hadn't changed for quite a while; he still wore pastel suits in every color possible and had the same white horn-rimmed glasses. A small amount of weight has had he lost since 1986, but he looked otherwise the same. He was nibbling on a donut when Tommy approached.
Tommy took a seat across the table from Ken.
"How'd you get into my bedroom?" Tommy asked with a bold grin.
"Mario let me in. Listen, Tommy, we got trouble," Ken responded humorlessly.
"Of course, we do. What is it?"
Ken grabbed a large file from his lap and placed it on the table. "The Leone family." He opened the file, a considerable amount of dust flying in the air along with the smell of old paper. Tommy took the paper at the top of the pile and read it carefully.
The Leone crime family operates mainly in Liberty City. They were recently involved in a power struggle after the death of Giuseppe Leone (1894 - 1985), and a new leader was not properly elected. However, Salvatore Leone (1928-) appears to have come out on top and is the new Don. Wiretap surveillance indicates that there are plans to expand their operation to Vice City, Florida, by July 1987, which presents a problem to already existing crime in the area, such as the Vercetti family led by Tommy Vercetti (1951-), a Haitian gang led by Jessyka Poulet (1910-) and newly introduced Columbian Cartel led by Gonzalo Morales (1941-). The Leones is not known to have any alliances with any of these groups; expect major bloodshed.
He grunted and said nonchalantly "We have PD contacts? I did not know that."
He took a cigar from his pocket along with a small matchbook and lit it.
Ken's accusing glare made him defensive. "Wait, I gotta think of everything?"
Ken shrugged. "You're the boss. Anyway, you wanna be careless, it's still something to ponder."
Tommy took another puff of his cigar and put it out in an ashtray off to the side of the table.
"I'll handle it, Ken. Don't I always?"
"Like I said, you're the boss."
Tommy gave a small chuckle that would be the final sound he would make in seventeen months.
The emphatic report of the rifle, then the bullet whizzing through the air broke the peace. Tommy's smile was quickly replaced with an expression of anguish as the bullet pierced the right side of his forehead and he tumbled backward, onto the cold ground of the gazebo. The rest could only be described as hazy for all witnesses involved. Marisa's hysterical scream pierced the eerily silent sound of the day, and chaos followed. Ken sat motionless, staring at Tommy, his jaw comically hanging below his face for seconds before he came to his senses.
"F*ck, f*ck, f*ck!", he yelled to himself. He unhooked his legs from the table's benched seats and spun, went to the other end to see Tommy. His skin was already a deathly shade of gray, his veins fully exposed to the naked eye. No effort could be made to help him, other than the obvious.
"Call 9-1-1!", he bellowed to whoever was listening. "F*ck!"
Chapter One: This Thing Of Ours
The constant beeping of the EKG was the only sound in Room 113 of the Ocean View Hospital. The room was cold and bare; faded gray walls enclosed it, dark streaks where it had been recently cleaned. The black-and-white linoleum floor was in the same condition. A large hospital bed was positioned against the back wall, covered with a dull green blanket. Inside this bed lay Tommy, wearing a maroon hospital gown. The blanket was pulled up to his chin, and if it wasn't for the large jagged scar on the right side of his face, he would have seemed to be sleeping like a baby. To Tommy's right, Ken sat on a dark blue Morris chair with ripped and stained fabric, but still a comfortable one.
He was looking to the floor and rubbed his temples with his index and middle fingers; he had another migraine. The beeping wasn't helping. He stood abruptly, causing him to lose his balance, then forgot why he had stood. A quick glance around the room reminded him, and he shuffled over to a window to the left of the cot and opened it. Immediately, a cool breeze suffused the room. There was no screen; Ken peeked his head out the window and allowed himself a couple of deep breaths. Maybe I'll grab some aspirins on my way out, he thought.
The sun was just rising, and it was slowly casting a bright glow on the water of Vice Bay. Seagulls glided and gawked in the sky above, and their babel made Ken put his head back inside. He glanced over at Tommy. It's not looking good, Kenny, Doc Kavanagh had said earlier in the morning. The day was November 17, 1988. Seventeen months to the day Tommy was shot, and he was still in a dark abyss, the depth of which only he could fathom.
"Come on, Tommy," Ken said. "I can't be you for much longer. This isn't what I do." His response was the perpetual beeping of the heart monitor, nothing more.
Ken was dressed in a black flannel suit with a turquoise undershirt. As usual, he wore mahogany horn-rimmed glasses and his hair was a frizzy mess. He grabbed his glasses and softly wiped them against his breast pocket, then placed them back on. A light knock on the door was followed by Mario, Tommy's bodyguard, entering the room.
"Ken," he addressed. "The meet's in half an hour. I'll wait for you out front." Without waiting for a response, he gave a faint smile and closed the door behind him. Ken checked his watch. 7:30AM on the dot.
He went back to the window, closed it and rolled down the Venetian blinds that hovered above it, then said a silent farewell to Tommy and left the room. The hallways were relatively quiet, and he caught sight of Dr. Kavanagh near the reception. Ken approached the doctor, who was talking to a male nurse. Ken cleared his throat, and Doc Kavanagh said farewell to the nurse and turned his attention to Ken.
The doc was a tall man with protruded cheekbones, blond hair and dark, smart eyes.
"Leland," Ken said. "You got anything to battle an ungodly headache?", he asked, again massaging his temples.
The doctor grabbed a penlight from his breast pocket and shone it in Ken's eyes. "Have you been using again, Kenny?"
Ken was caught off guard. "No," he said unconvincingly. "Of course not." Leland grunted in dissent.
"Wait here a moment. Actually, go to the waiting room," he said, pointing to the large area. He nodded, then disappeared through a white door and Ken went to the waiting room.
It was in somewhat better condition than Room 113; the walls were painted a light orange and adorned with charts and diagrams, and the floor was a clean beige and black linoleum. Four rows of affixed red chairs lined the room, and about a half dozen patients sat in one or another. Ken sat next to the only person in the front row, a man he guessed to be in his mid-forties, with light brown hair and a sunken face. His eyes were green, but glazed over and stubble made him look older. Despite his apparent unhealthy state, he wore a brown suede suit with a crisp white shirt and green tie that looked expensive. His attention was fixated on a magazine, but when Ken sat beside him, he put it down and looked Ken over.
"Hello," he said, exhibiting an Irish nearly identical to the doctor's.
"You look troubled."
Ken twisted his body to face him.
"Troubled? I'm not troubled," he said.
"Your face betrays your words," the man responded, smiling. "My name is Liam."
Ken nodded. "You look just as troubled as I do, Liam," he said.
"I don't doubt that. Spent the last night getting bolloxed and woke with scutters and feeling like sh*te. Thought I might's well come here."
"My da' died last week. I've been feeling like bollocks since."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Ken said sincerely.
Liam grunted. "He was a good man. A cop, but a good man. He had a temper, though."
"He was a cop?"
"Yeah," Liam said, staring blankly ahead. "When he died, he was Deputy Chief, he was. He made a name for himself. James Donnelly, Deputy Chief," he finished, spreading his hands as if imagining a picture.
Ken nodded again and left Liam to his thoughts.
Doctor Kavanagh exited from the white door and stood in front of the reception desk. Ken walked up to him. He was holding an orange pill bottle in his hand.
"This is Sumatriptan," he said. "It's not available over-the-counter yet, so you ain't got much more."
Ken snatched the bottle from his hand. "Don't take more than eight in 24 hours, or you'll be getting worse than a migraine," Leland continued. "And only every two hours."
Ken nodded, then opened the bottle and popped three pills. "... and always take them with liquids."
"Well, I don't seem to have any liquids with me. Where can I get some?", Ken said sardonically.
The doctor rolled his eyes, then went back to the door and returned with a Styrofoam cup holding cold water. Ken took the cup and downed it.
"Get out of here, Kenny," Leland said. "And remember what I said."
Ken walked out of the hospital, almost running into a group of four paramedics rolling a stretcher up the stairs. The commotion continued behind him into the hospital, then he noticed Mario toying with the wrapper of a cigar nearby.
"Ready?", Ken asked.
"Was waiting for you. Let's go."
Mario ripped the transparent wrapper of the cigar, threw it on the ground and placed the Cuban between his fingers. He grabbed a set of keys from his pants pocket and walked to his car, a blue and white Glendale. It was brand new, the paint shimmering in the now risen sun.
Mario entered the front seat, Ken the passenger. It was stuffy in the car, and so Ken opened his window immediately. Mario turned the key in the ignition, backed the car out of the lot and entered the steady stream of traffic on Washington Street. On the radio was an interview with Jezz Torrent about Love Fist's concert at Hyman Memorial Stadium in the evening. Ken turned the dial to a channel playing Gloria and sat back in his seat. Mario lit his cigar and threw the match out Ken's window.
"Who else's coming to the meet?", Ken asked.
"Billy and Christian are meeting us there. Why?"
"Why?", Ken echoed. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe because this could just as well be an ambush. Tommy wouldn't have trusted these f*cks, would he?"
"It doesn't matter what Tommy would've done! Madon', Ken, you're the boss now. Face it; he might never come back."
Ken was silent. His migraine was already dissipating, and he sighed in relief. Mario glanced at him, still waiting for an answer, then focused back on the road.
"Where the hell are we going, anyway?", Ken inquired.
"Crapitto's. Little diner in Pann, I've been there lots of' times."
"I thought this was gonna be a private meeting?"
"It will be. We're meeting upstairs."
Ken nodded, then put his head back and fell asleep.
Ken opened his eyes to see Mario staring at him. They were parked behind a small, beige-bricked building with a two white Washingtons parked on either side of them. Other cars were parked in a separate lot to the left. Through the four windows in the back of the building, Ken could see a few people eating in booths, but the rest of the restaurant was empty. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then replaced them. Mario reached over Ken's lap to open the glove box and his hand came out holding a Walther P88. He shut the glove box and looked over at Ken.
"German import," he said. "Great quality."
He placed the gun in the front of his chinos and pulled his orange Hawaiian shirt over it. Mario was a tall, heavyset man who was balding, but still young looking with tan skin and dark brown eyes. He was clean shaven and had not a wrinkle on his face, which had to be pushing fifty.
"Close the window," he requested.
Ken complied and exited the car. He then noticed the stench coming from the Dumpster's and blocked his nose.
"That's not a welcoming smell for a goddamn restaurant," he said.
Mario grunted and led Ken around to the front. The restaurant was the lone building on the short block of Eaton Avenue, and it took on the look of an American '50s diner, somewhat uncharacteristic of the city. The front of the restaurant had ceiling-height windows where, inside, burgundy booths lined them. A cursive sign reading Crapitto's lay above the door.
Inside, the place smelled of bacon and fresh coffee. A series of wooden tables were placed at divergent angles, and booths lined the front windows and the right of the diner. To the left was the service station, where lit-up menus lined the ceiling and an old man stood waiting for a customer. At the back of the bistro were three doors; two leading to restrooms and one that said Private on the front.
"We're going there," Mario said, pointing to the latter door.
As the pair walked across the restaurant, Ken noticed that two or three of the half dozen diners were casting gazes towards them every other second. Spies, he thought. Mario looked over at the elderly cashier and he responded with an almost indiscernible nod that meant access to the Private door. The door was made of a light polished wood, and Mario opened it for Ken and let him lead ahead.
"Ladies' first," he joked.
Ken smiled faintly and walked through the door. It leads to a small corridor with a matching wood staircase leading upstairs at the end. The two walked up, and at the top reached a pair of French doors. Ken knocked and after a brief murmur of voices inside, it opened. The room was adorned with expensive furniture, a bar off to the right and a couple of red-felted pool tables in the middle. Dark hardwood floors and two chandeliers made the room even classier. A half dozen or so men stood at the pool tables, playing and drinking along with another three sitting at the bar. A small door leading to a fire escape lay next to the bar. On the left was yet another door, where two men stood on either side.
"Hello, Mr. Rosenberg," the taller one addressed. "He's waiting for you."
Ken nodded and looked back at Mario, who then turned around and went to sit at the bar. The guard opened the door for Ken, and he stepped into the dimly-lit room.
"Nice to finally meet you," said Salvatore Leone.
Chapter 2: Shoot The Breeze
Ken walked in and felt overwhelmed. It was dark, but he saw the outline of a figure step up from a desk to the back of the room. It pulled an arm upward and the room brightened immediately; he had opened the blinds. Intimidation Tactics 101 - Ken refrained from making a nervous joke about the Don spending his time in darkness.
Salvatore was dressed immaculately in a double-breasted navy suit worn over a cream dress shirt and red tie. His facial features were harsher; aging skin and a balding hairline over dark blue eyes and a greying mustache. He stuck out his hand to meet Ken's and they shook.
"Siddown, Rosenberg. You wanna drink?"
"Sure," Ken responded before remembering the Sumatripan. He kept silent.
As Salvatore walked to a minibar, Ken took the opportunity to look around the room. It was lived-in, very office-like. Beige walls over white paneling, a mahogany desk and mini-bar. The desk was strewn with papers; newspapers, police files, reports and mugshots. The Don had his sources. A large window looked over the parking lot.
Salvatore returned with two shot glasses and a bottle of fiery orange liquid, placing them on the table.
"What is this?" Ken asked.
"It's grappa, my nephew ferments it in Sicily. It's the best of the best, but if you ain't had it before let me tell you - it burns going down."
"Yeah, I've-I've never had it."
"Well, you're about to. You might wanna call it a token of our soon-to-be friendship."
He poured the liquor into both glasses and capped the bottle, then sat down.
"Salute." Salvatore raised his glass.
Ken fumbled with his. "Uh, salud, Mr. Leone."
"Really, kid? Salute, I just said it. Salute. Also, call me Sal. No need for formalities."
They clinked their glasses and downed their drinks. Sal was right; it burned Ken's throat like hell on the way down.
"You like it? I always have, it's got real furore. A real drink."
"Yeah," Ken responded hoarsely.
Salvatore put his glass down and crossed his arms.
"You ain't talkin' much with me, and from what I hear you're a real talker. What's the matter?"
"I ain't gonna clip you, if that's what you're worried about. I wouldn't invite you into my own office to kill you, so get that outta your head."
Ken laughed nervously. "Okay."
"Seriously. Look, I was real sorry to hear about Vercetti - real sh*tshow that was. We had a mutual enemy."
Ken noticed a gleam in his eyes.
"You ain't found out who did it yet, have you?"
"Well, it'll come out eventually. Can't keep something like that under the radar forever." Sal tried to smile, but it came off crooked. Sympathy wasn't his strong suit.
"I don't wanna be rude, Mr. Leone-"
"Sal. But-but what am I doing here?"
"Relax, kid. I like small talk. Not enough of it nowadays. Everybody's always in a rush, always wanna get straight to brass tacks. A little conversation goes a long way. You wanna cigar?"
"No, I don't smoke."
"Yeah, I heard that you prefer that birdie powder." Sal shrugged and imitated a bird with his hand. "Ah, I don't judge."
He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a cigar wrapped in cellophane. He ripped the wrapper and placed it in his mouth, using a zippo to light it. Smoke clouded the air.
"Alright. You wanna get to business, let's get to business then." Sal took another puff of the cigar and placed it in an ashtray, crossing his arms.
"I said before that Vercetti and I had a mutual enemy - the Forellis. You heard what's happening in Liberty City?"
"Well after Vercetti took out that gavone Sonny, his brother Marco took over. Now Sonny was a prick, but he knew how to run his people. Marco, not so much. The Sindaccos took the opportunity and started thinking that they was gonna run LC by '87. I arranged a sit-down with them instead, and we made a temporary deal: we f*ck over the Forellis and share their businesses. No pointless killing."
"Don't patronize me. So the Forellis realized they were f*cked, and they stuck to their corner in Saint Mark's. Long story short, the Sindaccos are a bunch of selfish stronzi. I realized that the smart thing to do would be to expand out here to Vice - lots of opportunity, nice weather. The only problem was Tommy owned it. Now I respect the guy, real initiative in him, so I was thinkin' of arranging a meeting. Maybe he could've let me in on some action down here. Now that must've been...May of '87?"
"Tommy was shot on June 16th. Seventeen months today, actually." Ken nudged toward the grappa. "C-can I have another?"
Sal chuckled, clearly pleased that Ken took a liking to his liquor, and filled both of their shot glasses.
"So June 16th, you say? Then yeah, must've been around May. So like I was sayin', I thought maybe Vercetti would be happy to let me in. But just when I got to seriously thinking of getting in touch with him, the news came down that he got shot."
"How'd you hear?"
Sal seemed taken aback.
"You don't really know what kinda influence Vercetti had down here, do ya? The papers wouldn't shut the f*ck up about him until earlier this year because he did the smart thing - lots of legit businesses under his belt, they thought they were gonna lose a decent guy. Your name got thrown around a lot."
"My name? Really?"
"Yeah, your name. Don't you read the papers, watch the news?"
"Well I've kind of been overwhelmed the past few months. I mean, I'm the only one keeping Tommy's businesses afloat while losing good people by the f*ckin' dozen, and I always need eyes over each shoulder 'cause people know I ain't Tommy!"
"Yeah, and I see it's getting to ya."
Ken hadn't realized he was raising his voice, and he rarely got mad. He took a deep breath and massaged his eyes - it didn't work.
"So please just tell me, why the f*ck am I here?"
"I was gettin' to that, slow your f*ckin' horses."
The door behind Ken opened and a head peeked in. The tall guard.
"Everything ok, boss?"
"It's fine, f*ck off." The door shut.
"Like I was saying, I wanted to have a sit-down with Vercetti, maybe join forces down here. By the time I got to makin' the decision he was already breathing through a tube. Before I could think of a new move, the Forellis started pushing in on my businesses in Liberty and it all got put on hold. But here we are."
"So, you..you wanna collate our forces?"
"In as many words, yeah." The Don leaned back in his chair, puffing on his cigar.
"You and me?"
"Yeah. Look, like you said you ain't Tommy, but you've still got control of Vice and I know you're running out of loyal men. You need us. I ain't one for negotiation but I think this would benefit us both."
Ken was surprised. A deal like this was the last thing he was expecting.
"On what terms?"
"What kind of profit are you making now? I've had some a' my guys keeping a watch over your businesses, and I know they ain't backed out on you just yet."
"Well, the Malibu Club is still bringing in the most of our income, and-"
"A number, kid."
"In a month? Around seventy-five thousand."
"Seventy-five g's?" The Don whistled. "So that's what, around nine hundred a year?"
"Alright, so lemme be frank here. I know Vercetti's loyal men ain't so loyal no more without him. With us helping you, you'll have some more manpower and that should help you get back on your feet. So in exchange for that, I think half your profits would sit well."
Ken grabbed the bottle of grappa, poured himself another shot and downed it.
"Can I think about it?"
"Yeah, you can think about it. Just remember; I'm doin' you a favor here. You got until tomorrow night to decide, I ain't waiting around."
"Okay. Well, uh, thank you Mr. Leone - Sal. I'll definitely have you an answer by tomorrow."
The two men stood up and shook hands once again.
"Don't leave me hanging here, Rosenberg. I'm doin' this out of respect for what Vercetti built."
Ken nodded and left the office. He took a deep breath, relief washed over him for a moment before the stress returned. Salvatore's proposition wasn't even resonating within his mind yet. Mario was still sitting at the bar, shooting the sh*t with some of Salvatore's guys. He got off the stool when he saw Ken and approached him.
"So?" he whispered.
"We'll talk in the car."
The tall guard eyed the pair as they made their way back downstairs and out of the diner. Outside, the sun was in full blast and the stench from the dumpsters wafted.
"Seriously, someone ought'a clean those f*ckin' things. Hey Ken, you mind if I go in and grab a burger? I'm hungry."
"You're thinking of food now?"
"What do you think about when you're hungry? You want something?"
"No. Hurry up."
Mario hurried back inside and approached the cash. Ken ran his hands over his face.
"I need a bump," he muttered.
He went to Mario's car and threw his jacket in the backseat, then leaned on it. Inside, Mario gave some money to the elderly cashier and left with the chime of the door. In his hands was a paper bag containing two burgers and a Sprunk.
"I said I didn't want anything."
"When's the last time you ate something?" Mario retorted, taking the packaging off the burgers and handing one to Ken.
Ken shrugged and took a bite as Mario brought the bag and wrappers to a dumpster. He flipped the lid open and immediately started a coughing fit. Flies flew out in droves.
"Motherf*cker," he said between hacks.
Ken walked up beside him and looked into the dumpster. Inside was the corpse of a middle-aged man, drenched with matted blood. Maggots crawled out from dozens of bullet holes - the smell was revolting.
"I need a Goddamn bump."