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Tough Nuts
About the Author: Melodie Desmond is the pseudonym for two crime writing friends who love comedy and usually write on opposites sides of the law. Des Ryan, a career cop, is author of the Mike O'Shea police procedural series, and Melodie Campbell, author of The Goddaughter mob caper series, has found it impossible to leave her Sicilian heritage behind. This loopy story combines the characters of both series who, to their surprise, end up on the same side.

“I’m not driving back in this rain,” Mike said as they got into the unmarked car.

“So what do you want to do?” Ron asked, wiping the water off his fedora.

“I could use some dinner. There’s supposed to be a pretty good restaurant across the street.”

Mike turned on the car and set the windshield wipers on high.

“A good restaurant here?” Ron said with a sniff. “And since when do you know anything about The Hammer?”

“I don’t. I asked one of the doctors. Unlike you, I actually speak to people.”

“Highly overrated pastime.”

“Looks pretty nice,” Mike said, looking across the street from the hospital parking lot.

“If you want to eat with mobsters.”

“Why do you have to be like that?”

“Oh, come on! La Paloma. In Hamilton. Need I say more?”

“I’m hoping not.” Mike pulled across the street to a parking spot in front. “Are you coming in or are you going to keep six while I go into this den of iniquity?”

“Rule #1: Never leave your partner out to dry.” Ron made a dash from the car to the front door of the restaurant.

They were seated immediately, directly beside a man and a woman who did not look like they belonged together. Unless there were very big fees for equally discrete services being exchanged.

“You know you’re staring, right?” Mike said.

“Sorry. I’m just tired,” Ron said, looking back from the young and remarkably attractive woman.

“Long day with very little return. I get it. If it wasn’t so obvious, I’d be staring too. I still don’t know why we couldn’t have one of their D’s take the statement. Our guy’s in the ICU. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Because it’s a Toronto case and I’m the OIC and I don’t want some townie copper messing it up.”

“Ouch. Testy or hangry? Either way, what are you having?” Mike looked at the menu. “I’m going to start with a glass of the house red. Or do you want to split a bottle?”

“You’re the one whose driving,” Ron said. He looked up just as the server arrived. “I think I’ll have the Rigatoni alla Bolognese. And a glass of your house red, please.”

“Same,” Mike said as he handed his menu to the server, somewhat disappointed that Ron hadn’t ordered a bottle.

“Now you’re staring,” Ron said. Mike was looking at the immaculately dressed older gentleman at the table beside them.

Before Mike could respond, the man slumped face-first into his plate of pasta, knocking his empty wine glass to the floor.

Without thinking, Mike leapt up, pulled the man up with one hand and put his ear to the man’s mouth while checking his jugular vein with the other.

“He’s got no pulse. Call an ambulance!” Mike directed Ron, who already had his cell phone out.

Mike slid the man down onto the floor and began CPR while the young woman the gentleman had been with stood up, screaming.

“They’re on their way,” Ron said. “And this is why I didn’t want to come to this restaurant.”

Three tables away, another two people were quietly talking to themselves.

“Crap, Gina. How do we get out of here?” Nico held up his cloth napkin and peeked around it at the murder scene.

“Damned if I know,” grumbled Gina. “Honest to God, Nico. Our family sucks. WHY does this happen every time we go to Uncle Vito’s restaurant?”

“Tch tch. You’re not being fair.” Nico dropped the napkin and stole a full-on glance. “It’s only happened once before.”

“And that wasn’t my fault either!” said Gina. “I do my best to avoid murder scenes. You know that. First rule of the family …”

“ ‘Never get caught in a room with a dead body,’ ” said Nico, nodding his bleached blond head. “I know. But we didn’t have a choice this time.”

“And now the cops won’t let us leave the crime scene,” said Gina, putting her head down on the table. “Who are these guys anyway? I’ve never seen them before.”

“Can’t be local,” said Nico, craning his neck. “I know all the local cops.” He shivered from experience. “Not that I’ve done any B&E’s in a donkey’s age,” he added quickly.

This story appears in our JUL 2022 Issue
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