The Vulture and Cash

Alondra Arnetti and Porter Sloane were both born into crime, both coming from a family that had been on the opposite side of the law for the better part of the last century.

That's about where the similarities ended.

Alondra was royalty, her father the head of the Arnetti Mafia family while her mother ruled the cartels in most of South America. She was the princess of a criminal empire that spanned a third of the United States and descended even further to the south. By the time she was seven, she had witnessed her first execution and she'd started carrying a pistol in middle school. A pair of extortionists once thought that the frail young girl would provide perfect prey and they could retire after getting the ransom. Several hours after the kidnapping, Alondra's parents received a call not for a demand of money, but of their daughter calmly telling them that she was fine over the sounds of sobbing and fading pleas for mercy. Her vicious sadistic streak was barely contained behind a porcelain mask of aloof eyes and a slim smile, but she kept her raging emotions in check. Nonna Carla made no secret that the eldest child her son had produced was her favorite, and she reveled in the love lavished upon her.

Porter was trash. His dad was a thief, conman, mugger, drug-dealer, and just about whatever else he could be before he was tossed into prison once again. His mother was a negligent woman who grew tired of her husband's empty promises before leaving with another man who could satisfy her – abandoning Porter. Somewhere out there, he was fairly certain that he had some half-siblings but he never really considered such thoughts for long. He was more concerned with making sure that any of his state-appointed skeeves didn't touch him, that his foster siblings didn't touch what was his, and that, at the end of the day, his belly was full. When his father was out of jail, he stayed with him in relative peace until the elder man was shipped upstream again for his latest infraction. Even behind bars, the elder Sloane ensured that a Word-of-the-Day calendar found its way under whatever ugly plastic facsimile of a tree stood in Porter's current living room for every Christmas Day. For the most part, the youth prowled the streets, mastering the art of smash and grab on whatever shop presented itself and practicing extortion on his classmates, at least when he deigned to attend school.

By any account, the pair should probably have never crossed paths. Alondra was destined to rule over a kingdom that had been passed down through her family for generations. Porter's fate lay, at best, as a mediocre gun-for-hire and, at worst, dead in some gutter with a needle in his arm or a bullet in his head. He should never have ended up as much as a blip on Alondra's radar. Unfortunately for an all too large percentage of the population, he became so much more than just a blip to her.

Family dinner was a regular event in the Arnetti household as they all gathered about the long solid oak table, bought with money soaked in blood. Carlo Arnetti sat at the head of the table, broad shouldered and solidly built with a face that looked like an amateur mason had carved from granite. Marcia Arnetti, La Reina to her legions, sat at his side, her dark complexion and darker soul juxtaposed to the pure white dress she wore. At Carlo's other side, his mother and former head of the Arnetti family demanded the seat where she picked at her dinner, grousing about everything that came to mind in the language of her homeland. Alondra claimed the place next to her, surreptitiously trying to acquire the glass of golden champagne while across from her, her little brother Joseph set up a catapult with his silverware, arming it with unwanted broccoli and aiming at his elder sister. Gina diligently ate her dinner, trying to ignore the imposing men who stood at the door, heavy firearms evident under their jackets, and pretend that her family was normal. The twins sat next to each, inseparable but refusing to cease their squabbling.

"Alondra," Carlo suddenly boomed, interrupting his mother's tirade and prompting his eldest daughter to quickly draw her outstretched arm away from the drink. Hazel eyes focused upon her father's face and she offered what she hoped was an innocent smile as he continued, "How many times have I told you to stay out of my office?"

"I wasn't in your office, papi."

He arched a thick brow at her protest, "Piccolo, you were messing with my papers. I've asked you before not to do that."

Her eyes fell but were defiant as she grumbled, "But I can help. I'm already in high school and I'm ready to start learning. La famiglia d'affari. Please, papi-"

"Alondra, I've told you before. You are too young. Too rash. You will focus on your studies for now," he declared, his tone clear that the discussion was over but Alondra refused to accept that.

"I am meant for far more than listening to esas perras estupidas whine about their clothes, and their hair, and 'oh! That boy's cute. Oh gosh, yeah, isn't he just yummy?' It makes me want to rip my hair out!" she spat.

"That is normal, chica. Try joining a sport or something," Marcia suggested evenly.

Alondra scoffed and flopped back in her seat, crossing her arms over her budding chest, "I'm fairly certain there are better uses of my time then to be chasing around a ball with a bunch of hormonally imbalanced perras."

"Enough with the language," her father growled. "And stop your grumbling or you won't be touching any of the business for decades."

She abruptly rocketed up from her chair, sending it toppling over as she clenched her fists and roared, "Stop treating me like a child!"

Storming from the room as she seethed under her breath, her father slammed down his cutlery and prepared to go after her when a withered hand with a steel grip wrapped about his wrist and forced him to return to his seat.

"Lasciala andare, Carlo. La ragazza ha bisogno del suo spazio," commanded the Arnetti crone, her voice forceful and driving Carlo to settle back into his seat though his expression was disgruntled.

"Madre," he rumbled, "Quel bambino e troppo selvaggio. Ha bisogno di riposare."

"Hush," she cut at the red steak on her plate that pooled with its crimson juices. "La cara e solo vizioso . . ."

She bit into the piece, lifting a napkin to dab at the juices that dribbled from the corner of her mouth and gave a carnivorous smile, "Proprio come la sua cara vecchia nonna."

Alondra's foul mood polluted the car, effectively cutting off any words the enforcer she had dragged away to drive the vehicle might have offered. On her command, they were driving through the streets of the city Alondra was sure that she would one day rule, no particular destination in mind. The dark of the moonless night was complimented by a light but steady drizzle that dampened all caught in it to the bone. It was a miserable evening and the Mafia princess found that it fit her mood perfectly as she glared at the passerbys on her street, the drug dealers and prostitutes who pandered their services, demonstrating a dedication to their jobs that rivaled that of the postal service's oath.

When her stomach heaved with a discontented growl, furious at her for abandoning dinner only a quarter of the way through the meal, she tried to ignore it. However, it only grew louder and pangs struck, causing her to grimace and lift her chin from her hand, turning her gaze towards the front of the vehicle and barking at the driver, "Stop at the next store you see."

"I know a few good restaurants around here if you want, miss," he offered, glancing in the rearview mirror.

"I don't need a lot. Papi says I eat like a uccello," she gave a small smile before remembering that she was mad at her father and scowling again, setting her chin in her palm to glare out the window once again. Blowing out a heavy breath, the man scanned the sides of the road for stores and gave a soft exclamation upon spotting the glowing lights of a store. He turned into the lonely parking lot and rolled to a smooth stop in front of the door. Alondra stepped out and stalked to the entrance, paying no heed to the rough teenager who lounged against the corner wall, spinning a quarter between his fingers.

Porter, 'Cash' to anybody who liked keeping their teeth in their mouth, gnawed on his busted lip as he watched the pale, slender girl in the nice clothes that definitely did not belong in his part of town stroll into the store he'd been casing as though she owned the place. His father was out of prison again and they were celebrating the likely brief freedom with a round, preferably several, of cigarettes, alcohol, and whatever else Cash could manage to grab. It was their custom and he considered heading to another store as the rough coin danced between his blunt fingers. Wincing as his teeth brushed over the scab on his lip, he went over the mental map of stores with lax security systems in his head when he heard the chime and saw the slender girl exit with a bag in hand. Sticking to the shadow where the man behind the counter couldn't see him, he slipped his quarter in his jacket's pocket and hissed, "Yo, pulchritude!"

She glanced over at him in surprise and her eyes narrowed dangerously as she said, "What did you call me, perdedor?"

With a groan, he rolled his blue eyes and hurriedly explained, "Pulchritude. Noun. Physical comeliness. Anyway, is that guy's back turned?"

Looking through the glass door for a second, she nodded, "Yeah, he's organizing the cigarettes and stuff."

"Thanks," he muttered as he rushed forward to seize the opportunity. Just before he opened the door, the girl blinked and noted his armament.

"You have a brick."

"I'mma magician. Gonna turn it into cash," he smirked before jerking the door open and dashing inside. Alondra merely shrugged before heading to the car and sliding into the leathered back seat, not paying any attention to the bulky youth who bounded over the counter to the startled worker within the store. Her seatbelt clicked into place and she reached into the bag for the beef jerky she had grabbed as Cash raised the brick again to bring down on the man's head, neither of them thinking anymore of the chance meeting.

These our are children, our characters, in comics we are working on publishing. This is a series of origin stories for the different characters. Alondra uses a portmaneteau of English, Italian, and Spanish that I decided to leave untranslated, along with the comments of her family members. Please, enjoy and review.