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 II)

They went from door to door, visiting customers who had previously done business with their family, and they were met with looks of sympathy and a slow shake of the head.

“I’m sorry, Mario, but given what your father has put us through, we just have to go with these other guys.”

“I wish I could, but I just don’t know if I can trust you boys.”

“No, and if I ever see one of you Morellis on our property again, I’ll call the cops!”

It brought a great sadness upon the boy’s hearts knowing that the burden of their father had passed down to them.  More and more of their customers were turning to their competitors because of his actions, and were now passing their judgement of him down to the hardworking duo.

As the day dragged on, they found it increasingly difficult to find their smiles before knocking on each new door.

“What are we going to do, brother,” asked the younger of the two.

“We have to show them that we aren’t like that bastard of a man.  We have to prove that we can be trusted, that it’s better to do business with a face you know, than with an app, or a phone service,” Mario answered passionately.

“And how do you-a say we do that,” Luigi answered with a sharp edge to his voice.

He didn’t have an immediate answer for his brother, nor would he find one in the near future.  He only knew that the best way to prove his worth was to get in and do the work.  If they couldn’t get over the threshold, how was he going to be able to ever do that?

He shook his head sadly and lowered his faced into his hands where he would hide his shame for the next several minutes.  When he next spoke, it his voice was thick with emotion.

“Offer them our next service for free,” he dared softly utter.

“A-wha…?”

Luigi flew up from his seat as he attempted stand over his brother in anger, only to slam his head on the ceiling of the van.  The breath whooshed from his lungs, stolen by the surprise of the situation as he tumbled askew to his seat.

For the first time in hours, Mario first smiled, and then laughed at what had happened to his younger, clumsier sibling.  It was a brief reprieve, for as soon as the other had recovered, the two argued in earnest about his latest proposition.

“We cannot give away our business,” the younger shot back. “We have-a precious few supplies as it is!”

“We’ve a-gotta do something,” Mario retorted. “If we don’t a-show them our intentions, we’re done for good!”

“Maybe it’s-a for the best,” Luigi fired in return.

The afternoon waned as their Italian blood fueled each side of the argument and by the time they found themselves wore out enough to settle on a compromise, the shadows had begun to stretch back toward the direction from which the sun had begun its journey.

They were no closer to what they had set out to do at the beginning of the day, and neither noticed that the needle on the fuel gauge had begun to dip below the ‘E’.