The Morelli Bros. (Chapter I, Part IV)

With solemn expressions, they gazed into the darkness of the alley before them. A trail of blood was the only marker that anyone had recently been here, for only silence was left to greet them.  Over the street behind them, the lamp flickered erratically.  Something was in the air, a smell that neither of them recognized, a rancid promise of death for any brave or foolish enough to continue.

“Wha-” Luigi began to ask.  The rest of the words, much like the breath from his lungs, were stolen from him as the air was suddenly, ferociously, drawn into the dark.  Several seconds passed, seemingly into minutes, and the brothers found themselves being pulled along with it.

The ground rumbled beneath their feet and debris fell from the buildings on either side of them. “Mario,” the young of the two exclaimed.  It was the first word either of them were able to utter since this had begun, but it was a detail that neither would later remember.

Luigi slid past his older brother, trapped in the clutches of the unseen force. Desperately, he turned and reached toward his stockier sibling, seeking with hands that were just out of reach of the other’s.  Mario, who had just managed to grasp onto the corner of the building to his left, could only watch in horror as events unfurled before him.

It was as if in slow motion.  As his brother slid past, he spun himself ninety degrees, until the two were face to face.  His brother reached toward him as the wind sucked his feet out from under him.

“No!  Luigi,” Mario screamed with new-found breath, but by the time the words were out, his brother was gone.  The darkness had swallowed him whole.

“No,” he screamed with raw emotion.

What happened next took only a split second of reality, but for the plumber in red and blue, it felt as if an eternity.  It was a moment that through the eyes of another, determined what kind of man he truly was.

He held onto the corner of the building by the tips of his left hand’s fingers, a grip which had begun slipping, along with his will to continue.  There was no explanation for what was happening around him.  He had no words for what had taken the woman they had come to rescue, nor could he fathom the loss he had just suffered.

The pain of watching his brother being stolen from him was great, but greater still was his own resolve.  He would not succumb to whatever it was that had ahold of him!  With a grunt, he rolled his right shoulder over, turning himself so that he was able to grab ahold of the wall with his free hand.

He knew that he wouldn’t last much longer.  Either the darkness was growing stronger, or his arms, weaker, and it was only a matter of time before it claimed him as well.  He growled in determination, fighting with every last bit of strength he could muster, but it was no match for the power he was up against.

He had managed to pull himself only a couple of inches closer to the street when the brick crumbled, sending him spiraling head over heels into the darkness.

The Morelli Bros. (Chapter I, Part III)

They left their van behind, both too tired for words, as they began their search for the nearest fueling station.  Darkness had fallen over Brooklyn, and despair seeped into their hearts.  In they heat of their argument, neither had noticed when they had taken a wrong turn.  As they exchanged words built on a strong foundation of frustration, neither paid heed to scenery that slowly became something they were unfamiliar with.  Utterly alone in and unfamiliar territory, they walked with one eye cautiously scanning the shadows.

Luigi looked over at his brother, expectantly, fighting between waiting for something to be said, and saying it himself.  “Spit it out already,” Mario said with a heavy sigh. “You’ve been-a looking at me like-a you want to ask me out on a date, or something.”

“I’m-a sorry.  You know…  For what I said back there.”

“It’s nothing.  Let’s just try to get out of this mess.  We need to calm down, anyways,” Mario said with a grin.  When Luigi didn’t take the bait, only cocked a curious eyebrow, his brother only chuckled as he explained; “Our stereotypes are a-showin’.”

As the two shared a tension breaking chuckle, a high-pitched scream interrupted the serenity of the night.

“What in-a world was-a that?”  Luigi’s voice trembled and he nearly lost his footing as he ducked behind his shorter, stockier sibling.

“Someone’s in trouble!  Come on!”

Mario sped off, leaving the other behind as he rushed to the aid of the unseen caller.  As it always was, he ran much faster than Luigi, leaving him little hope of catching up.  He only hoped that he could maintain sight of him, and the direction he was heading, from few seconds he appeared beneath the streetlights ahead of him.

The scream punctured the air once again,  this time much closer than before. Mario, startled by the close vicinity of the sound, skidded several feet across loose gravel before coming to a full stop.  Seconds later, his younger brother slammed into the back of him and the two tumbled to the ground.

“Hold on,” Mario hissed.  “Did’a you see that?”  He pointed to the mouth of an alley just a dozen feet ahead of them.

Luigi nodded, his face now ghostly white, as he followed his brother’s direction. They both had been looking in that direction as they fell, searching for the source of the sound, when they saw a woman being dragged into darkness of the alley.

Mario struggled out from beneath his brother and rolled to his feet, pausing only long enough to help the latter to his feet.  “We’ve gotta help her,” he exclaimed in a panic.  His younger brother gulped, agreeing with a slight nod, and followed the other into what would be the beginning to the end of everything he ever knew or believed in.

The Morelli Bros. (Chapter 1, Part I)

Lightning split the sky apart with the precision of a skilled surgeon, illuminating the surrounding area for only a fraction of a second before vanishing as fast it had come.  Seconds later the silence was shattered by the force of the molecules returning to the place they were so suddenly removed from.  Windows rattled as the thunder rolled on, though not many noticed it at this late hour.

Even this deep in the Bronx, most of it’s residents were fast asleep, while those remaining souls who weren’t sought out what protective cover they could find. In most cases, the eyes that looked out from the shadows were cold and apathetic. They belonged to those poor souls who had lost everything, that’d had nothing for years and had given up all hope.

They were the hungry ones.  They wanted what they didn’t have, but had nothing to offer in return.  They were the forgotten.  They had lost their homes, their families and friends, and have been out of the system for more years than they were ever in it.  They were the hated.  They were looked down upon because of their social status.  People were afraid to look in their direction twice, and only at a glance if they must.

They weren’t many, but they were more than most cared to admit to knowing about. The city refused to acknowledge they were there, instead focusing on more important things such as building parks for the children, or recognizing public officials for all the hard work they’ve done for the city.  And, for the most part, everyone bought into the propaganda.

The media directly influenced the public opinion by providing it only with stories that would create positive feelings.  Images of the city’s darker side were purposely edited to further the illusion being created and life continued as it had for as long as any could remember.

Awake and ever watchful, however, were two sets of eyes peering out from the safety of their red and green B-300 Dodge van.  Though the sun would not be coming up for another two hours, there was much to be done if they were going to tackle the day head on.

“It’s-a gonna be a wet one day, eh Mario,” the younger of the two asked.

“Yeah,” the elder answered somberly.

His mood was dark this morning. He had been looking through their savings, a meager pittance of thirty dollars, and was facing a rather difficult decision; they could either put the money into their gas tank and go without food today, or they could have a good breakfast and risk not being able to make their rounds.

“Did you remember to call the uniform supplier,” he asked his younger brother.

The other nodded as a smile lifted his rather bushy mustache.

“They should be ready by lunch,” he gushed.

“That’s-a good Luigi,” he replied.  “Maybe our luck will turn around?”

It was only speculation, but there was much riding on the decision to invest in these uniforms.  They had given up over two weeks of the hard earned cash in order to not only buy matching garments, but to have a sign made for their van as well.  If this didn’t work out for them, they faced another decision that neither one of them wanted to make.  They would have to give up their trade.