It was around ten o'clock in the morning, Jack Zerilli was sat on his couch wearing a robe and a pair of boxers. He was shoving spoonfuls of cereal into his mouth when his wife, Susan, came in from the kitchen with a sorrowful look on her face. Jack looked at her and put his bowl down.
“What?” He asked.
“Your father died.” She answered.
“What the fuck you talkin’ about?”
Susan sat down on the couch next to Jack and put her hand on his shoulder, “They say he went to sleep and the next mornin’ his cell mate tried to wake him up and well...”
“Jesus christ, does Mike know?” Mike was Jack's younger brother.
“Yeah. It was Carmella who called. You okay?” Carmella, Mike's wife.
Jack sniffed, rubbing his hand against one of his eyes, “Fuckin’ feds. He should've died surrounded by his family, not in that fuckin’ cell.”
“We're gonna have to tell the kids. You want me to talk to them?”
“No, I'll do it.”
“I'll call the school,” Susan kissed Jack on the cheek and got up to use the phone.
It was a several weeks after Vito Zerilli had died, he had died in his prison cell, from what an autopsy determined to be a heart attack. At the time of his death, Vito was around seventeen years into serving a life sentence after being indicted on an array of charges including racketeering, extortion and conspiracy to murder.
Vito had started his criminal career by running errands for members of the Borgesi crew, named after the man in charge, Frank Borgesi. Capable with his fists and a good earner, Vito quickly found himself working for Borgesi directly. He was given the opportunity to ‘make his bones’ when a civil war broke out in the seventies. Dominick Ciancaglini had been the boss of the Philadelphia based crime family since the commission was established by Charles Luciano in the thirties.
Dominick had managed to avoid the pitfalls which had led to the downfall of other bosses. He maintained a low profile and only spent five years in prison for extortion early in his career. But his reign had to end eventually and after Dominick died due to stomach cancer, tensions over who should be the next boss of Philadelphia quickly erupted into war.
There were two men at the forefront of the civil war and both believed they should be boss. The first was Salvatore Ida, a ‘Moustache Pete’ from the old country, as Dominick was, he had been Ciancaglini's underboss and thought it only natural that he should be the one to succeed the recently deceased Dominick. The second was Vincent Avena, a charismatic and respected captain, he was part of the newer generation who had been raised in America and he had grown tired of working for ‘Moustache Pete's’ like Dominick and Salvatore and wanted to take control for himself.
In what would turn out to be a fortunate decision for Vito, Frank Borgesi lined himself and his crew up behind Avena's claim to the throne. Avena gave Frank the contract to murder Anthony Mazzone, a captain who had pledged loyalty to Ida. Borgesi drafted Vito and several other members of his crew to preform the hit. Anthony Mazzone was at a restaurant with his mistress when four men wearing ski masks entered the establishment and shot him multiple times.
Many more murders followed with people on both sides of the war being killed, some simply disappeared, while others were murdered in broad daylight. But a bullet didn't end the war. Salvatore Ida and a number of his associates were arrested on racketeering charges and given heavy sentences, with Salvatore himself being given a life sentence. With his main rival out of the way, Vincent Avena ascended to the position of boss relatively unopposed (after a little more house cleaning that is).
As reward for his loyalty and successfully orchestrating the hit on Anthony Mazzone, Frank Borgesi was made Avena's underboss. Vito Zerilli was also rewarded by being inducted into the crime family and was immediately promoted to be the captain of Borgesi's old crew. The Ida-Avena civil war reshaped the hierarchy of the Philadelphia crime family and the hierarchy that was formed in the aftermath largely remained unchanged through the next two decades.
However, at the turn of the century, the family was hit by a rash of indictments which put key figures in the family behind bars. Vincent Avena, the boss himself, was sentenced to life in prison, along with now long-time captain Vito Zerilli. Vito's two sons, Giacomo “Jack” Zerilli and Michael Zerilli were made acting co-captains of their fathers crew. Frank Borgesi was also indicted but only on minor charges, he was released on parole after a couple years and was made acting boss while Avena continued to run the family from prison.
Jack and Michael stood over their father's grave, each had a handful of dirt in their grasp. They threw the dirt down on the coffin and hugged each other. There were lots of people stood in groups around the grave, Vito was well known in the community. The two men returned to group of men they had been standing with previously as the ceremony continued. The group of men was made up of various associates and soldiers who were part of the Zerilli crew.
They all turned to look as a limousine drove into the cemetery and stopped among the cars which were a part of the funeral procession. The driver stepped out of the vehicle and Jack recognised him instantly. It was Peter Borgesi, Frank's nephew. Peter was made, but recently he was little more than a caretaker for his uncle. Peter walked across the grass and approached the men. Before saying anything, he hugged Jack and Michael, giving his condolences to both of them.
“Frank's in the car,” Peter explained, “He wants to talk to you.”
Jack nodded and started to walk away from the group and toward the limousine. Michael also started walking, naturally assuming that Frank would want to talk to the both of them, given that they ran the crew together.
“Frank said Jack only.” Peter said, Michael stopped dead in his tracks, rolled his shoulders and returned to where he had been previously standing. As Jack and Peter walked toward the limousine, Jack overheard Michael telling some of the men who were talking to ‘shut the fuck up and show some respect’. When they reached the vehicle, Peter returned to the driver seat and Jack climbed into the back of the limo. Also sat in the back was Frank Borgesi. The two men hugged and kissed each other on the cheek before reclining back into the leather.
“Vito Zerilli. What a fuckin’ blow. Great man your father. I'd go pay my respects in person but y'know, fuckin’ parole.” Frank said, he was well into his eighties now and wore large glasses.
“He was,” Jack nodded in agreement, “I appreciate you comin’ out here anyway Frank.”
“I took a trip upstate, went to see Vincent. He sends his regards too.”
“Tell him I said thanks when you next see him.”
“I will, I will,” Frank nodded, “While I was there we decided on somethin’.”
“Your father's crew, you and your brother been runnin’ it good these past years on his behalf. But with your father gone now, may he rest in peace, we got to put someone in charge, no more ruling panels or any of that bullshit, this family needs to get back on track, you know what I'm sayin’?” Frank asked rhetorically, “We're making you captain.”
Jack raised his eyebrows, “Jesus Frank, I don't know what to say. What about Michael?”
“What about him? Look, you know I respect you and your brother, but he's hot-headed Jack, you know that. And there's his other problem.”
“I know how he can be but we been runnin’ that crew together over fifteen years now, now suddenly I'm in charge, ain't he gonna feel a little short-changed?”
“So you explain how it is, he's gonna be your number two, your go to guy, you give him some responsibilities, whatever the fuck, I got to think of everythin’ for you?”
“No, listen, I appreciate it, it's a big opportunity, I know that, I won't let you down.”
“I know you won't kid. Now get out of here, I got appointments to keep.” Frank said with a smile, “And say a prayer for your father for me.” The two men hugged again and Jack exited the vehicle. He watched as the limousine drove out of the cemetery before returning to the group of men.
“What was that about?” Michael asked, eager to know what he had missed out on.
Jack shrugged, “It can wait.”
It was a few days after the funeral and things were already back to normal. Members of the Zerilli crew were hanging out at their usual spot, the backroom / office of Teasers, a strip-club owned by Jack Zerilli, not that his name was on the deed. Criminals can't declare their illegal income on their tax returns, so having a cash-only business where the dirty money could be lost in the clean money was useful. Jack sat behind a desk reading a newspaper. Michael sat in a chair opposite him, counting out dollar bills on the desk.
There were two men playing pool, Anthony Belfiore and Richard Fiumara. Anthony was in his late twenties and had only recently been made, he was an early riser and was probably one of the most capable guys Jack had at his disposal. Richard on the other hand, was in his mid-sixties, he wasn't much of an enforcer but he was a good earner and a wealth of experience. Meanwhile, there was another man sat at a wooden round table which was next to where the men were playing pool. The man was Martin Staino, a year away from fifty years of age, he was another reliable operator who Jack could rely on.
This was the inner circle of the Zerilli crew, there were numerous other associates and outsiders who also worked for the crew, but these were the people Jack trusted the most, or what counted as trust when you were working with career criminals.
“We need to talk about somethin’,” Jack said as he put down his newspaper. Anthony and Richard turned away from the pool table to face Jack, Michael stopped counting his money and Martin sat up in his wooden chair. “That meetin’ I had with Frank,” Jack paused and looked at Michael, “I got the bump.” Anthony and Richard put their cues down and Jack walked out from behind the desk and embraced them both.
“That's really fuckin’ great Jack,” Richard said, “You deserve it.”
“No doubt,” Anthony added. Martin also embraced Jack and patted him on the cheek, but didn't say anything, he was a man of few words. It hadn't escaped the attention of the men in the room that Michael had yet to stand up and was sitting with his back turned to them. An awkward silence descend on the room and Jack gestured with his head for the three men to leave, the room which they did.
“What's the matter?” Jack asked as he leaned against the pool table, “Thought you'd be pleased for me, they coulda’ put some fuckin’ stranger in charge.”
“Happy?” Michael said as he finally turned around and stood up, “Happy, are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?! We been runnin’ this as a partnership for over fifteen fuckin’ years, now what? All of a sudden our father dies and I'm back to just bein’ Jack Zerilli's kid brother?! Fuck that!”
“Hey, take it easy! This is the way it fuckin’ works, you know that!”
“It's fuckin’ bullshit, I got a mind to go talk to Frank directly about this, I want a sit down!”
Jack stood up straight and pointed at Michael, “You ain't gonna fuckin’ do anythin’! You're gonna get yourself clipped!”
Michael stormed out of the office and Jack followed behind him. Out in the main area, there was a central platform where the girls danced, surrounding the central platform was a bar area. Anthony, Richard and Martin were gathered at the bar and watched as Michael walked past them and out of the building.
Martin turned to look at Jack, “You want us to go get him?”
“Nah, fuck him,” Jack answered, “He wants to fuck up his life, let him. Fuckin’ stunad.”
Michael Zerilli pulled into a parking lot next to a disused building which was scheduled for demolition. It was around midnight, he turned off his headlights but left the car inside the light on. He reached underneath the seat and brought up a small black zip-locked bag, the type you would keep aftershave or shaving utensils in. There was a needle inside filled with a brown substance and a yellow rubber tube.
He took the tube and wrapped it around his arm, just above his shoulder, he slapped his hands against the inside of his arm several times before pressing the needle into a vein, “Fuckin’ motherfuckers, think I'm a joke.” He pressed the needle down and after a few seconds, his head fell back against the headrest, his eyes glazing over.
After Jack had woke up, he made himself some cereal and walked toward the living room. Before he could get there, his mobile phone started to ring, which he answered.
“Hey. It's Richie, we got a problem.”
- Vito Zerilli, Philadelphia crime family captain, deceased
- Jack Zerilli, Vito's son, promoted to captain to run his father's crew
- Michael Zerilli, Jack's hot-headed and drug-addicted brother, as an NPC
- Anthony Belfiore, made man, as an NPC
- Richard Fiumara, made man, as an NPC
- Martin Staino, made man, as an NPC
- Frank Borgesi, underboss and acting boss of the Philadelphia crime family, as a contact
- Peter Borgesi, Frank's knephew and personal errand boy, as a contact
- Susan Zerilli, Jack's wife, as an NPC