Author’s Note: This quick glimpse into Nick and Carlo’s lives after the end of the Morelli Family series was originally written as a fall-themed piece for my Facebook Group. It’s short and fun and I hope you enjoy it!
Grabbing Nick Fontana’s massive bicep is something I will always enjoy, but right now, it’s a little like grabbing a Great White by the tail when it’s scented blood in the water.
“Nicky,” I announce, “as your lawyer, I’m advising you to calm the, uh, the eff down.” I’m watching my language because there are kids around. A lot of kids. More kids than could possibly exist in the whole of Manhattan seem to be stuffed into this Fall Fair.
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” he snarls, shrugging off my hand. “That—uh, jerk is gonna get what’s coming to him.” And with that, he takes off for the fun house, right after his prey, who disappeared into it after his attack on Nick.
Nick completely ignores the outraged operator yelling at him to show a ticket, and dives into the fun house headlong.
I have to admit, the fun house is not a place I’d choose to enter under normal circumstances. As a lawyer, I know the rough stats on personal injuries from these mobile fairs.
I’m also a Mob man’s boyfriend, and I know the stats on personal injuries from that, too.
But as Nick Fontana’s loyal partner and lawyer, it’s my responsibility to keep him out of trouble where I can. I calm the carnie by folding a hundred-dollar bill into his hand, and ignore the boos and protests from the folks already in line as I run up the metal gangplank. I stagger my way over a shaky rope bridge and then a rubbery, scissoring walkway into the first enclosed area.
That’s where I find Nick.
He’s stuck between a few soft, rotating pillars, trying to shove his way through with sheer force.
“Hey, come here.” I yank at that bicep again. “You bonehead, you can’t just bulldoze your way through.”
“Watch me,” he snarls.
“Observe and learn,” I tell him. I push him behind me, and turn into the forty-five degree angles that allow me to make my way calmly through the pillars. Nick follows with a typically ungracious scowl. “I’m serious, you need to be careful in here,” I tell him when we’re through. “All these moving parts, you could lose a finger.”
“I don’t care.” He still has that pugnacious jut of the jaw that I know means trouble. “Let’s move. I’m gonna get him if it’s the last thing I do.” He pushes past me onto the next wiggling walkway, growling at it as though that will keep it still, and I follow with a sigh.
“This is really not the place for violence, Nicky,” I say when he stops at the next section: a walkway made up of rollers. “It’s supposed to be family-friendly, not Family-friendly, if you catch my—look out!”
The rollers have taken his feet out from under him. He grabs the rails at the sides to avoid falling straight on his ass, but the enforced clumsiness just seems to enrage him more, judging by the roar of frustration that echoes off the metal walls of the fun house.
The next section is another vertical staircase, and once I make it past the roller walkway, Nick is already pounding up them like his life depends on it. Each step has a cartoon animal painted on it—and as Nick’s feet hit them, they make the noise of said animal.
Watching Nick Fontana, feared Underboss of the powerful Morelli Family, stomping up stairs that moo and crow and honk, is just too much for me. But I’ve lost valuable time with my giggling, and when I get to the top of the stairs myself, he’s disappeared again.
I find him not far along, in the moving “Farm Night Sky” tunnel. Nick seems dizzy and disoriented as he tries to work his way through the spinning corridor. I get a touch of vertigo myself when I step into it—dark and painted with stars and constellations, it makes my head spin along with the walls.
I stumble out after Nick, who’s looking a little green. “When does this end?” he mutters.
I pull him around to look at me. “You can end this right now, Nicky. We can just stop, let your temper cool off, and then go get candy apples and enjoy the rest of the night.” I pause for effect. “It doesn’t have to end in violence.”
For a moment I think I might have persuaded him. But then his eyes turn hard. “This is a matter of honor. He chose violence. I’m sorry, Harvard; there’s only one way this ends.”
He’s made up his mind. The only thing I can do now is mitigate the damage. “Okay,” I sigh. “Let’s get him. Together.” I take his hand, and he gives me a grim nod.
He lets me lead him through the vertical-rope walkway, and even patiently lets me untangle him when he inevitably gets caught in the rubbery ropes. It’s quicker than it would have been with him trying to thrash his way through, and I don’t mind doing it—it means I get to run my hands all over that spectacular body.
We’re high up over the Fair by this time, and we pause to look through the crowd below, hoping for a glimpse of our quarry. Nothing. “He’s still in here,” Nick says darkly. “Let’s keep moving.”
Another set of vertical moving stairs, more wobbly walkways, and second set of soft pillars to slide between.
“He can’t be far now,” Nick murmurs when we hit the mirror maze.
“This way,” I whisper, catching him just before he walks right into a black-painted wall. The mirrors distend and distort our reflections as we make our way through. More than once, I nearly walk straight into myself, and Nick’s biceps bulge in a cartoonish way.
“Quit snickering,” he hisses. “This is serious, Bianchi.”
“Sorry.” I bite my lips as we come to the end of the mirrors. We both stare at the round hole in front of us, the final obstacle between us and our target.
This slide leads right down to the ground, three stories of travel that will only take a few seconds. Or would, for anyone whose shoulders weren’t the width of the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Hurry,” Nick urges, giving me a little shove.
“Nicky, I love you, which is why I have to be honest with you. You’re not going to fit in there.”
He glares at me, and then at the entrance to the slide.
“Listen, no one’s saying you don’t know your way around a tight hole,” I say patiently, “but it’d take a whole bucket of lube to get you into this one. Why don’t you—” I tap the sign above.
If you don’t want to use the slide, follow the signs to the emergency exit.
As Nick stomps off, he calls over his shoulder, “You stay right there a few minutes and let me handle this, you hear me? I don’t want you involved.”
I’m just glad I’m not wearing one of my usual designer suits. As soon as he’s out of sight, I swing myself into the dark hole, and push. It’s a tight corkscrew of a slide, and it’s painted in black and white stripes, so that the flickering of the outside lights as I rush past is like a strobe effect.
I land ungracefully at the bottom and take a deep breath, pushing down the nausea. I really shouldn’t have had that corn dog earlier. But I need to warn our enemy, give him a chance to get away, if only to save Nicky from himself.
I duck the last few hanging bags and spot the enemy. He must have been hanging around the exit, ready for us. But as I shoot to my feet, his eyes go wide, and he turns and takes off.
I hear Nick shouting at me to stop, but I keep running. Fury makes Nick faster than me, though, and he shoots right past me to grab his mark.
“Got you!” he shouts triumphantly, as he bodily lifts the poor guy.
This is going to end badly—and publicly. I catch up to them, gasping for air. “Nicky, let him go!”
“Get offa me!” The kid is squealing, kicking wildly, and I have to skip back a step to avoid getting neutered. But the hard kicks don’t even seem to register for Nick, who dumps the kid back on his feet, grabbing his shoulders.
“Nicky, your sister!” I hiss.
Gia-Marie, Nick’s sister, is marching up to the three of us. “Sammy? Nick? What’s going on here?” she demands.
Nick lets go of his nephew Sammy, although the two of them keep up the mutual stink-eye.
“There was a little accident,” I say diplomatically. “Involving an ice cream cone.”
“He slapped the damn cone out of my hand!” Nick snaps at his sister, who raises an eyebrow and gives Sammy a cool look. “And then he ran off laughing about it.”
“Is that true, Samuel?”
Sammy glares at Nick. “Rat,” he mutters.
“What did you call—” Nick begins, but I elbow him aside.
“I think this could be solved with an apology,” I say firmly.
“And a new cone,” Nick adds.
“It was just a prank, bro!” Sammy protests.
“An apology will suffice for my client,” I say loudly. “I mean, for Uncle Nick.”
Later, when I’ve bought Nick another ice cream myself, he says, “I owe you one, Harvard. If I’d gone off on Sammy and Gia-Marie’d seen me, it would’ve been curtains between me and her.”
Nick’s relationship with his family can be difficult, and his sister in particular has always been wary of him. For Nick, coming out to the Fair today to introduce me to his family and hang out with them was a big step.
Fortunately, I could charm the skin off a snake. I’m pretty sure they all approve of me, despite the natural antipathy most people have for lawyers. Even Gia-Marie has given me the occasional smile.
“Yeah, you owe me,” I tell Nick, bumping him with my elbow. “You can pay me back tonight, huh?”
“Mm,” he hums, throwing his arm around my shoulder. “Tonight, I’d like to revisit the topic of tight holes and buckets of lube.”
I grin up at him, but before I can reply, he boops my nose with the ice cream.
“What the—” I stifle my curse while I wipe the cold mess off my nose.
Nick, meanwhile, is grinning and backing away. “Just a prank, bro,” he offers with a shrug.
“I’ll show you a prank,” I snarl, throwing myself at him.
Nick turns and bolts, laughing as he runs back toward the fun house.