Neon lights flashed through my window from a mushroom sign speckled with white and red. The red jumped out at me. It bled out into the carpet, it told me dark stories I didn’t want to hear.
New Donk City was quiet tonight or as quiet as it could be with the pouring rain, the endless traffic outside, and the noisy Shy Guys next door. For a people with ‘Shy’ in the name, they seemed awfully loud when to themselves.
But the Shy Guys weren’t the problem tonight. There were a lot of problems. A lot of problems everywhere, always! The microwave never worked, for one, no matter how many times I complained to Pete, our Pianta landlord. Why would Piantas even want to live in New Donk? They clearly hate it here! It’s always damp, dark, and awful, but at least it’s not as bad as that humid sunny island they seem to love so much.
Another problem is just the city itself! It’s so dirty and covered with wet trash! And while I don’t hate Koopas and Goombas… there’s so many of them and so many of them work for that nasty King of theirs! I’ve written many letters to Mayor Pauline about it, but she’s never even responded!
Oh, wait, I’ve forgotten an important tidbit about the microwave. There’s no good place to get pasta here either! So even if I do get a nice plate of spaghetti or make some myself, the leftovers have to be eaten cold! It’s terrible! Sure, Chef Torte can make a nice ravioli from time to time, but his prices are out of this world! Not to mention he’s clearly more of a baker, so his sauce tends to be lacking.
I stared out into the rainy window and let out a sigh. This whole city was full of problems. This world was a scary place, but none of it seemed to matter anymore. There was only one thing on my mind, one thing repeating over and over.
Mario is missing.
I shouldn’t think like that, I know I shouldn’t! I’m sure he’s just out working a case, getting too deep into it. It wouldn’t be the first time! Mario takes his private eye job very seriously. Everybody knows about the famous Detective Mario! Whenever there’s a robbery or a mystery or a… er, um, well I hate to write it but, murder , Mario is almost always the first to get the call!
The chief of New Donk’s police force seems to be quite fond of him, too. The ‘Princess’ they call her, though she’s anything but spoiled royalty. She’s overworked and understaffed, bless her, but she’s always trying to rid the city of its crimes the best she can.
I’m not a gossipy person by any means, but I think she gets the nickname because she’s the old Chief Toadstool’s daughter. The old chief was a Toad! They say she’s his legitimate daughter, but, well, I have my doubts. I just don’t say them out loud.
I was trying to keep my brother out of my mind. Trying to think of something else. But…
It’s been a week since I’ve seen him. I held the Princess’ personal number in my hand. ‘Only use this in an emergency.’ Is this an emergency? What really counts as an emergency? It’s not an immediate emergency, I guess, and it could just be Mario doesn’t have any coins to call me and let me know he’s okay. He’s probably fine. Ms. Toadstool is already very busy. I really shouldn’t bother her. Not to mention I’m not the best at phone calls. They give me anxiety.
I tried to go about the days as normal, hoping, truly hoping that things would turn out okay. I dusted Mario’s desk three separate times just today! I checked the pipes in the bathroom and made sure the kitchen sink wasn’t clogged. They’re all working perfectly!
But I’ve been finding less and less problems around the office. There’s only one problem now, and no matter how many of the smaller problems I fix, this one seems to get bigger and bigger every minute. I had to face it.
That’s it. I should just call her! I should call Princess Peach and ask her if she’s spoken to my brother! That’s all! It won’t be too hard, she won’t be mad! Sure, we’ve only spoken maybe once or twice over the years, but she… she likes me, right? She wouldn’t hate Mario’s brother, right? Even if I am just a worthless plumber who couldn’t solve a mystery to save my life.
Oh no. Oh, she must think that, doesn’t she? Everyone surely does. We’re the Mario Bros. Detective Agency, but everyone must know that I never help. I’m never out there with Mario!
No! No, no, this is bigger than you, Luigi! Come on, you can do it! You can call her!
I reached for the phone and already I noticed my trembling fingers. Why must I be like this?! I lifted the phone off the receiver and I heard that dreaded dial tone buzzing, demanding I do something with it.
Call her! Call her, come on!
I put in six digits. Only one more number. Just press this number and you’ll be calling the chief of police’s emergency personal line! That’s all! No big deal. Just press it, Luigi, come on! Mario wouldn’t hesitate to call if you were missing!
Bang bang bang bang!
Someone knocked at our door, the sudden noise causing the phone to slip out of my gloves with a jolt. I suppressed the urge to scream because the Shy Guys next door kept complaining about that, and then Pete would show up knocking and ask what the ruckus was all about and-
“W-we’re-a closed!” I mumbled, cursing my awkward stutter. This was why I didn’t like talking!
The door went quiet for a moment, as if contemplating if it wanted to keep being knocked on. It then said, ‘ Yeah actually, I still wanna be knocked on. ’
Knock knock knock!!!
“You guys are supposed to be open!” a voice yelled. Female. My heart pumped even faster. I’m no good at talking to anyone, especially women! “I’ve seen the flyers! I read ‘em! I’ve seen you on the news! Always sayin’ ‘We’re-a always open!’” She mocked my brother’s voice.
“No, uh, we’re a-ah-a, no.” Agh, I couldn’t get the words out right. I had this all planned out if any customer showed up! Mario was on vacation and we’re not here! Although… wait, if I told people that, they’d know I’m here. Oh.
“Stop being weird and open up already!”
No! I’m never opening up! Leave me alone!
“Okey dokey,” I said. Why do I do this.
Despite my brain’s insistence on keeping the door locked, despite wanting to be left alone right now, I found my legs moving towards the source of the horrid yelling. With an extremely un satisfying click, I unlocked the door. Immediately it swung open, practically throwing me back against Mario’s desk.
“Finally!” the woman shouted with a huff. “I expected better service from the famous Mario Brothers!” Her bright blue eyes scanned over our office wildly, as if she were looking for some kind of hidden treasure. “Kind of a dump. You live here?”
Her legs were tanned and fit, probably from years of sports and other strenuous activities. I felt the strangest urge to categorize the height of said legs. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the fact she was wearing very short shorts on a rainy day? I felt her piercing gaze land on me and quickly averted my eyes. Her brown hair was short and stylish. Clearly someone with a lot of time and money on her hands.
“Don’t you talk?” she asked, shaking her dripping umbrella all over my carpet without a care.
“I, uh, a, yes.” I wish Mario was here. He would have handled this so much better. I’m such an embarrassment.
The woman narrowed her eyes. “You’re weird. You always seem way more upbeat on TV next to Peach .” She practically spat the name out.
I’m not Mario! I don’t look anything like him! He wears red, I wear green! Also, why do you hate Peach so much?
“I, uh, a-heh,” was all that came out, mixed with a few awkward hand motions.
She stared at me. I could feel the judgement.
“Yeah well, whatever, I got an important case for you, Mario.”
I felt my hands smothering Mario’s hat way too harshly. Wait! Mario’s hat!? Had I been holding that this whole time?! I quickly checked my head for my own hat. Phew, still there. Still, this woman was oddly fixated on the one bit of red I wasn’t wearing.
She tapped her sporty shoes on my damp carpet, very much making it harder to clean out. “Aren’t you going to get behind your desk and offer me a chair or something? What kind of establishment are you running here!?”
It’s! I’m! I’m not Mario! I’m not a detective! I’m just a plumber! I can’t help you with your case!
“S-sorry,” I said, scooching behind Mario’s desk and sitting in his cold chair. I awkwardly held out my hand in the direction of the chair opposite of the desk. With a grumpy huff, she sat down, crossing her legs directly in front of me. Again, I felt compelled to note the length of her legs and the shortness of her shorts. The word ‘dame’ came to mind for some reason, but all of this seemed very rude of me.
Fortunately, my potted Fire Flower stared at me now instead of her. It was the desk’s colorful centerpiece. I always made sure to keep it watered and happy. I really felt like it livened up this dark dreary place. Even if it had a cold unblinking stare, I knew that the Fire Flower wasn’t judging me. I allowed myself a smile in the privacy of our gaze.
“Ugh, can you get that thing out of the way?” the woman grunted, pushing the potted plant to the side, and revealing her scowling face to me again. My smile disappeared with it. “How am I supposed to talk to you if I can’t even see you?!”
It’s much better that way!! It’s way easier to talk if I can’t see you!
“This city,” she sighed, pressing her hand against her forehead. “You guys have fun, but you’re all weirdos and freaks. Guess that’s why I like it here. Better than back home. Nothin’ to do there except play tennis or golf or whatever with all the rich assholes.”
Ah! I am not okay with that language!
The woman appeared to completely forget why she was even here. “You okay with smoking in your office? I mean I assume that’s what the Fire Flower here is for.”
I shook my head, the universal sign for no!
However, this woman was apparently from another universe.
“Great, cool,” she said, taking out a cigarette from her pocket. Before I could protest, (not that I’d have been able to protest) she placed the gross thing between her lips in what I could only imagine was a kissing position. Without so much as a warning, she leaned closer towards me and my heart nearly bursted out of my chest.
My Fire Flower lit the edge of her cigarette. She took a slow drag from it, fire and ashes burning where the once clean stick used to be. Disgusting! I couldn’t help but notice the calming effect it had on her though. Her excited demeanor changed as she exhaled a black cloud of smoke into my face, like she was expelling all the Bad inside of her. There was a lot of Bad. I coughed, but she didn’t mind.
She leaned back with a quiet sigh, her eyes staring out to the same white and red neon mushroom sign outside the window. “Ah. That’s much better.”
I let the room stay quiet. It was nice this way. The sound of the rain, her hushed smoking breaths and the various rustlings from the Shy Guy next door. It was… almost soothing? I could nearly forget about the hat in my hands. But not quite.
“Oh,” she said slowly, finally bringing her attention back to me, her head in a cloud of smoke. “How silly of me. I forgot to introduce myself.”
She pressed her cigarette down onto Mario’s desk, snuffing out any flames with her strong fingers. I was hypnotized by her lips, by the black of the smoke floating about her. She breathed her words out slowly, her mouth moving in slow motion to me.
“Hi. I’m Daisy.”