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1 October 2021

It's been a while since we caught up Detective Nick Nessuno but that wasn't our fault. He was on vacation. And when he goes on vacation he doesn't go to Club Med (anymore) or Hawaii or Las Vegas. He goes home to Momma.

Only Momma can make eggplant parmigiana like Momma. And start it off with an antipasto to die for. He brings the wine and cordials but they both enjoy them. Which explains why he's still single in his mid-thirties.

Of course, like any dutiful son (are there any dutiful sons or are they all dutiful daughters?) he's a frequent visitor to his mother's home. He takes the garbage out on garbage night, he winds the grandfather clock, he makes sure she has bathroom supplies distributed appropriately, he cleans up the kitchen, he pays her bills.

Which may seem like an onerous burden but Momma can't see to write checks or hear very well and she can't walk on her bone-on-bone arthritic knees. She's disabled, in short.

But her worst disability is her hearing. She insists she can hear Tommy Dorsey playing across the road at the country club. Nessuno tries to explain phantom hearing to her but it's lost on her. She thinks he's deaf.

It's her worst disability because he has to yell for her to hear him. And he's not an expert yeller. He's afraid someone is going to call the cops for elder abuse. The only reason they don't, he suspects, is that they're all deaf too.

By some miracle, the plumber's name turned out to be Jesus.

Retrieving the mail one day he noticed a small river running through the garage. It hadn't been there before, he remembered. So, using his detective instincts, he followed the flow back to its source. The water heater.

But it wasn't coming from a leak in the tank itself, he observed. Instead, it was coming from the temperature and pressure relief valve.

He fetched a bucket and let the steady drip accumulate so he could evaluate the problem while he did the bills that had come in the mail. When he came back to investigate, it was clear there was a big problem.

And the problem was that Momma needed hot water or there would be no antipasto, no eggplant, no nothing.

The water heater had been installed in 2005. It was end of life for a water heater. Beyond end of life. It was enough to make you believe in the after life, actually.

He called the plumber. No one was available until next week. He called three other plumbers, same problem. He called a water heater replacement company and they agreed to replace the tank for $1,800 the next day.

He let it drip into the bucket, emptying it every few hours, until the water heater could be replaced.

But water heater guys rescheduled until the day after and that day they determined their replacement wouldn't fit. "You need a plumber," the guy told him.

"But if it's just leaking from the relief valve," the savant said, "you could try replacing the expansion tank for $40."

Hope, like a water heater, springs eternal.

And he would have done just that but Nick Nessuno does not, as a general rule, roll up his sleeves. He's a detective. Look, Momma, no hands.

Momma had her own resources, of course. She prayed to St. Jude, the saint of impossible causes and, sure enough, the plumbing company she always used put her on hold for 38 minutes playing Tommy Dorsey's swing music before agreeing to send a plumber out to give an estimate later that day.

By some miracle, the plumber's name turned out to be Jesus (hay-SOOS). His mother always wanted him to be a carpenter, he said, but he liked to play in the water.

He listened to the nonsense about the water heater size and the expansion unit. He rapped the expansion unit with his knuckles. "It's empty," he said. "Not the problem."

He went to the first faucet in the house by the garage door where the shutoff valve was and put a pressure gauge on it. When he opened the valve the needle bounced up to 150 lbs. "Wow," he said, "that's a lot of pressure."

"You've never met my mother," Nick said.

Jesus put the gauge on the water heater's drainage outlet to see what the pressure in the tank was. The needle shot up to 140 and kept rising to 180 pounds as the water heated. "No wonder the relief valve is opening," he said dogmatically. "That's what it's suppose to do at 180 pounds."

With detective-like skills Jesus found the pressure regulator valve and told Nick he suspected that was the culprit. "If it was working, it would knock the pressure down to no more than 80 pounds," he said. "It's not working."

An hour later, or $1,300 in plumber terms, the pressure had been regulated and the leak stopped. Not only the water heater leak but the kitchen faucet leak. And the bathroom faucet leak. And the shower head leak.

Nessuno reported the results to Momma, who had just put slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil in the oven.

"I fixed it, Momma," he announced. "When do we eat?"

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