I go by Ivy, no last name if I can help it. When your family is the mafia, there’s no point in getting too cozy with strangers.
Mostly Uncle Tom sends me on generic errands; deliveries that may or may not require a disguise. I’m mafia by necessity and a nutritionist when there is time for catering or cooking classes. Just remember the mafia never lets you go, not unless they decide you need to do the grocery shopping.
Of course, being in the mafia makes you a target.
“I wasn’t speeding,” I told Officer Kurt. He knew me or at least he thought he knew enough that he could pull me over and fine me for something.
“You were talking on a cell phone while driving,” he said, eyeing the boxes of cookies stacked on the front seat.
“Was not.” There were probably three cell phones in my purse; at least one was untraceable, one was for personal use and there was a backup just in case Uncle Tom told me to deliver a phone to someone.
“Your mouth was wide open, babbling away, completely oblivious to the rest of the world.” His lips thinned with disapproval, almost disappearing under his beard and mustache. His K9 kept his eyes squarely on me, the target.
“Hi Chance,” I said to the dog. “How are things?” Chance didn’t answer, although we had met more than once. “I was singing,” I told Officer Kurt. “The South Austin Moonlighters.”
His pen stopped scribbling. “What?”
I nodded. “Ask the dog. I bet he could hear me.”
“Chance could not hear you from the back of my vehicle!”
“My phone isn’t even out.” I gave a little Vanna White wave around my uncle’s van.
Officer Kurt was in his forties, old enough to know when he’d been outmaneuvered. His face, under his beard, turned red. He had highlighted his natural dark brown hair to mimic that of his German Sheperd. “This vehicle is not registered to you. Are you sure you have permission to drive it?”
Kurt knew crimes happened around my uncle, and he was pretty certain they happened around me too, but I’m not like my family. I just happen to be related to them. “It belongs to my Aunt Olivia.” It would have been more truthful to say it was registered under my dead aunt’s name and my uncle kept the records up to date, but I never offer more details than necessary.
“Singing, huh?” Officer Kurt folded massive arms across his chest. “Go on, then. Sing a verse.”
“What?!?” My voice was not what you’d call trained. I considered myself a nutritionist, not a musician. “I am not singing you a song!”
“You weren’t singing! I knew it.” He clicked his pen and went back to writing.
“You’ll be very embarrassed when cell records prove I was not on the phone,” I muttered.
The pen stopped. He stared into the back of the van via my window. There was only one back seat. The other side was open to the back. Shelves lined one side and a cabinet took up space on the other. Nutrition business is what you’d call “slow.” The only food needing delivery was on the front seat.
I glanced at Chance, more worried about the dog’s reaction than Officer Kurt’s casual search. Luckily, Kurt didn’t ask Chance to check anything out. There was no illegal contraband to be found because my uncle’s assignments were related to what he called the “government mafia,” not the crime syndicate. Still, if Uncle wanted to remain anonymous in this situation, it was better if the dog didn’t sniff around too hard.
“Start the car,” Officer Kurt ordered.
“He’s very suspicious, isn’t he, Chance?” The dog had cocked his head. One ear was tilted to the back of the van. My talking to him didn’t sway his gaze either. I quickly cranked the ignition.
The speakers obediently floated out the soulful pain of, “Mooovin’ On.”
Officer Kurt glared at me before snapping his book shut. “Something isn’t right here. You’re guilty.”
“La, la, la,” I sang while he made his way back to his vehicle.
“Is he gone?” the single back seat asked in Uncle Tom’s cultured tones. His voice was muffled from the cushions that pulled over a hidden space between the seat and the cabinet.
“He’s easing into traffic,” I said. “I don’t see why you can’t ride in the front like a normal person,” I grumbled.
“We aren’t normal, Ivy. Never forget that.”
As if I could. All I wanted to do was deliver a healthy batch of oatmeal whole wheat cookies to a customer. Uncle Tom, for reasons unspecified, decided to come along. My family always had a different recipe in mind, one that usually led to disaster.
One Good Eclair is the first book in the Nutrition Mafia mystery series, published by Bear Mountain Books, October 2016.
Ivy is determined to make her living as a nutritionist, but her family has other plans. When that family is the mafia, and one of them has gone missing, all other jobs are summarily pushed aside. Or else.
Ivy can’t trust anyone outside of the family, but Slate is not only willing to help, he’s the last person to have seen her uncle alive. It only makes sense to keep her eye and gun on Slate while they hunt for clues. Watching him is easy because Slate is more than happy to keep her close, but is he leading her away from her uncle or truly helping?
Ivy can’t cook her way out of this mess, but she has a recipe or two for dealing with disaster—if she can just put the fires out before she gets burned!
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About the author
Maria Schneider is the author of the Sedona O’Hala humorous mystery series, the paranormal Moon Shadow mystery series, the cozy fantasy Dragons of Wendal series, and now has a new series out: The Nutrition Mafia Mysteries.
All comments are welcomed.