This whole collection of short stories is inspired by watching the first half an hour of The Godfather. These are meant to be "primers" for a full-length novel featuring the characters in this series. For now they will be in these stories, inspired both by the book and the movie. The opening lines are adapted from, of course, The Godfather, which is probably one of the greatest films ever created.

Blood, Booze and Bullets
#1: Morelli
By Raven Silvers

Camire City, New States
United States of America

Dom stood to the side of his father's office, half-hidden in the shadows. He leaned against the fireplace, his arms crossed over his chest, as he listened to the poor blubbering wreck that Nicotera had become.

His father's office was large, large enough for several people to be in there at once. It was usually the case; there was his father, Emilio, Vito and Carlo. And occasionally, himself, though his father knew of his marked distaste for the business of the Family.

"I believe in America, Don," Nicotera started. He was holding his hat in his hands, having declined Vito's assistance in putting it up. Dom could see that he was trembling. "America has made my fortune. I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her — I made sure that she would never dishonor her family."

"She found a boyfriend, not an Italian," he continued, hands shaking even more. "She met him in school. She went to the movies with him, went to the clubs, stayed out late. I didn't protest. He seemed like a good boy."

A cat purred as it rubbed itself against Dom's leg. He recognized it was one of the six strays that lived in the office. He had found this one. It purred again, its long tail stroking his leg. He let it, until Emilio caught his eye and frowned. With a light nudge Dom sent it on its way.

"...made her drink. Then they tried to take advantage of her." At this point, Nicotera had to stop; he was shaking too hard and his voice wavered. As if on cue, Vito came forward with a shot of whisky, which Nicotera gladly took. He recovered his composure. "She resisted, made sure she didn't dishonor her family."

"So they beat her," he choked. "Like an animal. When I got to the hospital, I saw her and I wept."

"She was the light of my life, my beautiful girl, my Allegra. Now she will never be beautiful again." There were tears in his eyes. "I went to the police, like a good American. They said they would bring them to justice. But they did not. I was there at the trial — the judge said there wasn't enough evidence. Not enough evidence!" He threw up his hands in the hair. "They broke my daughter jaw and her nose and she will not leave the house, and there wasn't enough evidence!"

Carlo crossed himself as Emilio muttered a prayer. Dom felt sorry for the young woman. He had seen the article about an Italian girl being brutally beaten up. He hadn't known it was Nicotera's daughter.

Dom could see him fight for control over his emotions in front of his father. "And those two bastards, they smiled at me, because they knew that their American parents with their American money would buy them freedom," he began at length, "So I said to my wife, for justice we cannot go to the police. They cannot be trusted. We must go to Don Morelli, because he is a man of family and he will understand what it is like for a man in my position. He will understand the need for justice."

"Will you help me, Don? For my daughter's sake?"

Don Luca Morelli considered this. The cat had found it way to his lap and stretched languidly as he stroked it. Dom watched his father closely, but said nothing. He was here to observe and to learn. At least, that was the idea.

"Nicotera," the elder Morelli started. He bent down and set the cat gently on the floor. "We have known each other for a very long time. Twenty years, I helped your family come here, yes?"

"Yes, Don, from Palermo. You have done so much for us, sir —"

"Correct." Luca cut in, silencing Nicotera with dark eyes. He was dignified by a sleek head of graying hair that hinted at once being a dark brown. Not that he was saying his father's presence wasn't dignified in the first place, Dom reflected. When Luca Morelli stepped into a room, everyone noticed. "And you have not come to me for help or to settle disputes in that time."

Dom heard a muttered affirmation as his father continued. "Unlike some of the others who have come to America." He leaned forward, linking his fingers together and looking Nicotera in the eye. "There may be a day where I need you to help me do something, but that day may never come. Do you understand that, Nicotera?" The skinny man nodded.

"Then rest assured that I will make sure the bastardi responsible for this atrocity are brought to justice."

"Thank you." Nicotera looked like he might weep. "Grazie, Don Morelli, grazie..."

He was still thanking the Don as Vito showed him the door. Luca was silent as he left and the cat tried to get back into his lap. He ignored it and it gave up, sulking off to seek a more willing subject.

Luca was a world-weary man, a respected businessman in the New States. He had been born in New York to Italian parents, but he had returned to Italy soon after. He considered himself a Sicilian even though he had spent ten of his fifty-odd years there. He made sure his children all knew the culture and the language. He shuddered to think of one of his daughters in Allegra Nicotera's position.

"Who should I send?" Vito asked, taking out his notebook and poising his pen above the paper. He always wrote down whatever the Don ordered.

"Someone loud and messy." Luca thought over it some more. "Make sure the media hears about it."

The sound of pen on paper could be heard. "Do you want them to find out by themselves or a tip-off?"

"Make it noticeable enough for them to find out." Luca waved Carlo over. "The vigilantes will get the credit."

Vito nodded. "Yes sir. I'll get right on it."

The Don acknowledged that. "Did you hear it, son?" He looked at Dom, who straightened in an attempt to impress his father. "Allegra kept her family's honor even though they beat her like an animal. It is only fitting that some form of justice is brought on the bastards. If the American police cannot do it, then we Italians will take things into our own hands." He stood up and Carlo helped him with his coat. "Always remember that. Never let people go unpunished if they do wrong to a family. Especially when all they were trying to do was to keep their family honor." He shrugged on the heavy coat. "When you have your own family, you will understand."

They left the office and headed down the stairs, then for the large, black car that waited in the basement of the office building. Carlo was driving as he always did. Dom got in behind his father as Carlo held open the door. Vito climbed in behind him.

Luca looked like a giant bulldog as he sat opposite his oldest child. The car started forward. "Are you coming home for dinner? Your mother is cooking. Cannolis."

Dom shook his head apologetically. "I promised some friends I'd join them tonight."

Luca looked disappointed, but he hid it behind a gruff grunt-like sound. "I'll tell your mother to save some for you." They passed small shops run by immigrants from all over Italy. The provision shops were closing for the night. They did a good job of ignoring the black limo they saw every night. "Don't stay out too late. Your mother hates that."

"Yeah, Dad, I know. I'll be back before midnight."

"You want me to drop you off, Dom?" Carlo called back. "You going anywhere tonight?"

"Club Street's good." He gave Carlo an address that was a block away from the apartment building he was going to. It was shaping up to be a nice, cool night, the kind of night that was good for a walk. And for once, he wanted to enjoy the night.

The rest of the drive was passed in his silence as Luca and Vito discussed Family matters. It was an unspoken rule that he didn't bring the business to the table. In his study he held conferences with Dom's "uncles" but at the dinner table he lay down the line. He would not speak of Family matters while tucking into his wife's lasagna even though all the uncles sat down with them.

It took them about ten minutes to get to the street and Dom alighted there, waving as the car drove away.

"He's a good boy," Carlo commented. Luca just grunted.

The place the twins owned was a large apartment located near the clubbing street of the city. They paid an exorbitant price for it, but they were more than happy to fork out the money. They went back to their own house often enough, but they liked the freedom.

When they weren't at the clubs, the boys were hanging out at the pad. It was a bachelor's dream with a huge NewsCast set into the wall, comfortable chairs, lots of booze, and cable coverage of every major football game of the season. It wasn't uncommon for one or two of them to crash at the house for the night.

It was a comfortable place, even though there were about a ton of dishes that remained untouched in the sink. Shakespeare had been given the unofficial position as housekeeper.

When he knocked on the door after going up three fours in a glass lift, it was opened to the loud jeers of the boys. Bishop grinned and let him in. "'bout time you got here."

"I was with my father," he explained as he removed his shoes and went inside. "What's up?"

"'lo Dom!" Priest was balancing a large bowl of popcorn. "The Lions look like they're gonna lose out to the Temples today. Jonson's not playing."

"I'm telling you, the Temples are going to be pawned," Deacon insisted. "Since they got the new coach last season their games have been spectacular."

He left the two to their argument, chuckling. Deacon and Priest could never agree on which team to bet on. Clearing a space on the couch, he plopped down and listened as Aaron read from the newspaper broadcasts.

"...the Daily Beacon says that the Temples look like they have a fighting chance, but the Lions are going to beat them hands-down," he said. His voice was hesitant and quiet, nothing like his brother or his father's cheerful boom. "But the Camire City Reporter says that Jonson might drag himself from the bench if the game goes badly. He's still out from the thigh injury he took in the game against Lakeside."

"And what a spectacular defeat that was, 5-0." Shakespeare was reading over his shoulder. "My money's on the Lions. What about you, Dom?"

"I'm telling ya, the Temples're doomed." Priest gestured wildly to emphasis his point. He looked to his twin brother for support. "What say you, Bish?"

Bishop came out from the kitchen bearing booze. "Leave me out o' this, bro."

"Aw, c'mon!"

"My money's still on the Temples." Deacon peeled a twenty from his wallet and put it down on the table, underneath a paperweight in the shape of a football.

Dom thought his choices over. "I'll go with the Lions."

"That's my man!" Priest grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "Twenty quid on the Lions it is!"

The NewsCast was on, showing the pre-game lineup. A hush came over the friends as the game started. Dom settled into his seat with a bottle of cold beer. Bishop sat down half the nearest seat, an expensive specimen from an Italian designer Dom had been able to acquire through his family's contacts.

As the game progressed, they got more excited. By half-time they were typical college boys.

Even though the guys were from rival families who were always trying to kill each other when they weren't trying to bite into the other's profits, they were friends from since they were children. They had gone to the same school and then played on the same football team, united both by alma mater and love for the game. It was to the twin's house that they flocked to every season.

"And the Lions go at it, will they beat the Temples in the second game of the season?" one of the commentators was yammering. Dom was on the edge of his seat, cheering with the others.

It was during half time that Dom got the call. He felt his mobile ring in his pocket, and he excused himself to the balcony so he could answer it. Inside, he could hear the others furiously debating who would win the game. It looked like he win some money after all. "Dom Morelli."

The steam of Italian was fast and near-hysterical. He didn't understand a word beyond 'come home' and 'sister'. "Mom, slow down, I can't understand you."

His mother was crying now. She was even less coherent. Eventually the phone was taken away from her and Vito's voice came over the line. "Dom? You there?"

"Yeah, what's wrong?" He was suitably alarmed. "What happened to my sister?"

"We're not entirely sure yet, but the police called." He paused, as if hesitant to break the news. Dom could still hear his mother's faint sobbing in the background and someone comforting her. "Allegra was attacked on her way home. She's in the hospital now. Dom, they say she's in a pretty bad condition."

His blood turned to ice in his veins. He nearly dropped the phone. Vito's voice was quiet, as if he could see the young man's reaction. "Carlo is on his way to pick you up. He's going to bring you to the hospital. Your mother is in no condition to see your sister now. Dr. Taza came for dinner, he says it might be a good idea to sedate her for a few hours."

"Where's Dad? And Anna?"

"Your father is on his way there as we speak. He was out with your sister at the art gallery when the call came -- your mother was staying at home. She was waiting for Allegra so they could go together. Which club are you at?"

"Saints and Sinners," he lied. "I'll meet Carlo outside."

"Alright. I'll phone him to let him know."

"Thanks, Vito." He was numb inside.

"Sorry to be the bringer of bad news." And then the line was cut.

He went straight for the door. Priest called to him from his place on the couch's arm. "Dom, where you going?"

"My sister's in the hospital." And with that, he was out the door and hurrying down the street.

In addition to a black eye, Allegra had a broken jaw, three cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken nose. The number of bruises and cuts on her body were too many to count. The doctors had given her morphine, a drug that they said would help ease the pain also. He had heard of it before; it was an old drug, one that was hardly ever used, but he trusted the doctors. She was sleeping now.

Only Luca and Dom remained in the hospital. Luca had taken up his post beside his daughter's bed and sent his wife and daughter home. Dom had refused to go home and sat near his father, still wide awake.

Luca had never seen his son like this before. The strain of the past few hours showed on the young man's face. Then again, he was quite sure it showed on his face too.

The irony was not lost on Dom. Earlier that evening he had watched as his father handled Nicotera's plight. Now his sister was suffering like the other Allegra.

His worry had been replaced with a cold fury. He knew Vito had already sent out men to find out who had done this to her and would soon report back to his father with their findings. There would be justice, but he wanted to do it himself. The bastard would pay.

Bishop had called to ask what had happened. Word would already be on the street that one of Don Morelli's daughters had been attacked. Those who felt indebted to the Family would be helping in the search effort.

Luca stroked his daughter's hair, careful not to wake her. Given the amount of drugs they had pumped into her, he had a feeling she wouldn't wake up even if a bomb fell on her.

"You see, Domenico," he said quietly, "Family is everything. I taught you and your sisters never to dishonour the family name." He turned sad eyes to his son. "Allegra listened to me. She did not sully our name — and look at her now."

Dom could see the sadness in his father's eyes, and the pain and suffering. It was a Morelli thing, not to cry if you were a male. The women of the Morellis seemed more than willing to go into hysterics at the drop of a hat.

He came to stand by his father. They had never been close and it was with some awkwardness that he watched the older man. Luca turned back to Allegra, gently stroking her hair.

"Family is everything, Domenico. Everything. Never forget that. Your family is the greatest bane and blessing that God can ever bestow upon you. When you are older, you will understand." His voice was filled with sorrow. "Treat your family and love them. They are your first and last defense."

Then he turned to look up at his strong, young son. His eyes were still sad, but they held an edge of cold steel that he recognised as controlled fury. "And when any of your family is threatened or hurt, strike back hard. Let them know that any move made against your loved ones will not be tolerated."

The manhunt was huge. The area controlled by the Morelli family was literally turned upside down as everyone, some of them not even involved with the Mafia, searched for Allegra's attacker.

The boys joined in, albeit quietly. The other families offered assistance, but the Don respectfully declined their help. Dom knew his father wanted to send the message that the Italian immigrants could take care of themselves.

His mother had not stopped crying in the weeks after the attack, but now she was more in control of her emotions. Anna had been locked up at home and was always escorted to school or anywhere she chose to go to.

Dom was involved as well. He would spend twelve solid hours questioning people. They were willing to help, because they were all indebted to the Morelli family in some way and were eager to pay the Don's generosity back in some small way.

The only witness was a man, a baker by trade. He had been out walking his dog when he had heard Allegra's screams. The huge bloodhound's barks had scared the attacker away, and it was he who had rushed her to the hospital.

Luca went to visit him, in order to pay his respects and gratitude at saving his daughter's life. The baker had been honoured by the Don's visit and was more than willing to help. One morning, when he had gone to check in on his sister, Dom had been greeted by the largest loaves of bread he had ever seen in his life. It was a get well gift from the baker.

At first it seemed like his efforts would just go down the drain. There were no leads, until one of the associates of the Family cornered him and told him he had a possible suspect. Dom had checked the guy out.

He had a criminal record, and the vague description fitted the one that the baker and Allegra had given him. It was good enough for him.

It was almost ten when he set off to get his revenge. He hadn't slept in days and he felt and looked like hell. He was high on bloodlust and the need for vengeance that had consumed so many youths like him. He met Vito on his way to the garage, and when asked where he was going so late at night, he only gave the cryptic answer of "out".

The drive to the man's house was not long. He had opted for the black Chevy with fake license plates — a gift from the twins for his last birthday — and as he drove, he bit his nails. He thought he had kicked the habit when he was eleven; it just goes to show how out of his mind he was.

He was going to enjoy it, he decided. Every single minute of it. He'd kill the guy, but he would make sure he suffered as his sister had. Broken jaw, broken nose, cracked ribs, and punctured lungs. He thought of how he was going to achieve that, and he regretted not bringing his brass-and-still knuckles with him. He contemplated going back to get them but decided against it. If the guy got wind that they were on to him, he would run for it, and then justice would not be served.

He didn't consider the possibility that he was wrong.

He was more than ready to beat the life out of someone when he stopped the car half on the curb. He was shaking with anticipation.

Barging up the stairs, taking them two at a time to get to the address he had taken from the guy's rap sheet, Dom didn't bother to hide his presence.

Dom kicked down the door. 316, just like the file said. The guy was watching television and he leapt to his feet at the intrusion. Dom's blood flared. This was the guy — he fit perfectly!

"Who the hell are you?" the man demanded. He reached for the .22 that rested on the coffee table. Then it occurred to Dom that had left his gun at home in his haste to leave the house. The first jolt of fear and cold reality hit him, but it was too late to go back now. Kicking down the door had been the point of no return.

"The brother of the girl you nearly killed, you asshole." He lunged for the guy. A shot hit the top of the doorframe and embedded itself there as he tackled the guy to the ground.

The man called Allegra all sorts of names, many of which were racial slurs. Dom used to beat kids up in school for calling him names like that. The ones the man threw at him were fit to make the most hardened of his father's men blush.

The struggle was fierce. Both of them were strong and at least six feet tall. The gun was wrestled from one hand to the next, with one or two more shots going wild in the air above them. One found its way to the back of the couch and another shattered a dirty glass. He thought he saw a third in the roof, but he got the wind knocked out of him then, so he couldn't vouch for it.

Dom pummeled the man as best he could. It wasn't enough to get the man out for good. In return he got a black eye and a lot of bruises that would really hurt in the morning. Provided he survived the night, anyway.

He had managed to get the man underneath him. He was unconscious by now; being slammed headfirst into a solid wood table did that to you. He grabbed the nearest object to use for the killing blow. It was a beer bottle. He could feel the cold liquid trickle onto his hands as he grabbed it roughly. He raised it up, intending to do the deed, but stopped when he realized something.

He would be just like the man if he killed him. A mindless slave to violence, a willing accomplice to death. No matter how much he tried to reason it out in his head, a little voice told him that he would go to hell for this. That if he killed this man, others would follow. This was just the start of a long list of sins that would see him burn in the depths of hell for eternity. He would be no better than a cheap lowlife who attacked old ladies for their pensions.

"No," he whispered, the adrenaline leaving his body. For the first time in days he realized just what he was doing. "No, I won't become like you, I won't!"

He dropped the bottle on the ground and stumbled to his feet. His steps were lurched and unsteady as he left, sick to his stomach. Everything was just too much for him now; the acrid smell of the building, the too-bright fluorescent lights, the hideous excuse of a wallpaper.

He stumbled out of the building, leaning on the wall for support. When he got his first whiff of fresh air he thought he might collapse, but instead he sat down by the curb. He still felt sick but being out in the open did him some good.

He let himself get his bearings first before he trusted himself enough to stand up and walk to the nearest payphone. He would call a cab to get himself home. He was not very far away when he heard the low hum of a pickup truck come around the corner. The headlights were bright and he lifted an arm to shield his eyes.

He heard the engine cut and the lights dim. He looked up and the first face he recognized was Deacon's. Shakespeare was driving and Aaron peered at him from behind the cab.

"Thank god, man, you're alive," Deacon declared, jumping off from the side of the truck. His Asian features looked oddly devil-like in the lousy lamplight. He examined his friend. "You look like hell."

"Thanks," Dom answered dryly. As he was surrounded by his friends, he asked, "What are you guys doing here?"

Deacon and Shakespeare exchanged glances. Aaron spoke up with his soft lisp. "You see, we called your mobile, but someone called Vito picked it up and said you weren't home. He told us we could find you around here."

"He gave you the address?" He was incredulous. Had they known the man's location all along and not acted?

"Well, not really, the street." Shakespeare was using his most soothing voice, the one he used to calm down crying children. "We're not dumb, you know. We put two and two together, and we figured you'd come for the bastard who hurt your sister."

"So we brought shovels!" Priest supplied, cheerfully, from the truck. He raised one to show him. "Figured you might want help with the body."

"Is he dead?" Aaron asked. He regarded Dom nervously. "D-did you kill him?"

"No." As the others gaped at him, he could swear he saw Aaron let out a relieved breath. "No, I couldn't, I —"

He didn't get to explain any more, because there was a huge explosion a few streets away. Instinctively they hit the ground, Deacon pulling Aaron down with him. Something in his mind registered that the house that had just blown up was the one he had just left, his sister's attacker's home.

As soon as it became apparent that there were to be no more explosions, Dom lifted his arms off his head and looked around him to make sure his friends were alright. They were, though Aaron was using his inhaler.

It was Priest who broke the stunned silence after. "I guess we won't be needing those shovels anymore."