It was two hours, nineteen minutes and forty five seconds since Olive Snook, intrepid waitress and hidden karaoke star, walked into Emerson Cod’s office. And two hours, nineteen minutes and twenty seconds since Olive Snook had decided to hold her breath until Emerson Cod, gumshoe detective, told her his big, red, jolly secret. Or at least that was what Olive had told Emerson she was going to do.
“I’m going to hold my breath-” Olive began, sidestepping round the oversized stuffed dog toy in the corner. “-Until you tell me your big, red, jolly secret. You know, who you got for Secret Santa.”
“Well, you’ll be holding your breath for a damn, long time because I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Emerson Cod replied, not looking up from his knit one, purl one. Emerson, of course, knew what Olive was talking about.
The facts were these... after several weeks of persistence; Emerson had finally given in to the continuous pleas from the terrible tag team trio that was Chuck, Olive and Ned. His giving in, of course, referred to his participation in a Secret Santa Shindig. A Secret Santa Shindig that meant gifting a present upon someone else in secret at the Pie Hole’s first annual Pie Hol-e-day. Not that Olive had taken any notice of the secrecy part of a Secret Santa Shindig and had taken upon herself to become the detective out of the quartet finding out whom each and everyone had gotten for everyone else. A job she was currently failing at with regards to one grouchy, grumpy, gruff, Grinch of a detective.
“You know you’re not even holding your breath.” Emerson muttered grumpily.
“Am too.” Replied Olive, pointedly blowing her cheeks up to indicate how much she was holding her breath. Olive Snook was not in fact holding her breath and had not in fact been holding her breath for the last two hours, nineteen minutes and twenty- sorry, thirty five seconds. While Chuck’s aunts could hold their breath for a ‘real long time’, Olive had not in fact been engaging in secret underwater breath holding competitions. She was in fact bluffing, a fact that Emerson knew.
“Mmmhmm,” Emerson replied dubiously. His eyebrow raising as he looked her over. If Emerson were being entirely honest, a feat he never did when it came to tax returns and gift giving, he would admire Olive’s gumption. Her persistence, her loyalty was admirable... in a dog. And the only dog he knew was an alive again dog whose owner refused to pet him, due to the fact that patting him might lead to alive again dog becoming a dead again dog pretty quickly. Qualities like loyalty were good in dogs, particularly Digby, but in a person, in his office distracting him from his knitting a new cosy for his cigars? They weren’t all they were cracked up to be. “Well, if you weren’t holding your breath I suppose you’d be interrogating me what with you being a detective and all. You might even crack the case.”
“I would?” Olive began. “Darn tootin’ I would. I’d crack the case wide open if I weren’t holding my breath and all.”
Emerson did not, in fact, think that Olive would crack the case but Emerson did not relish the idea of spending another two hours, twenty minutes and ten seconds with an Olive, who was a strange shade of puce. A colour he’d only ever seen before in corpses and pies.
“I suppose if I were asking myself a question about what I’d gotten my secret Santa then I’d start with size or colour.” Emerson began, his hands moving in time with the way Olive’s eyes followed his needles. Waiting for her to take in a big gulp of air, wheezing and coughing and spluttering our intrepid detective and pop-up-book author tapped his foot impatiently.
“Size or colour?” Olive began. What Olive didn’t know was that you could learn a lot about a Secret Santa by size, shape and colour. For example-
“For example, if I had a circular package wrapped all in black about oh yay big then you might think to yourself that I’d gotten Ned. You could even surmise that I’d gotten him a pie or a pie tin,” Emerson’s voice trailed off. The look on Olive’s face might have been categorised as priceless but as Emerson Cod believed in the value of all things, including the value of looks he would value the look on her face at about five dollars ninety nine. Minus tax.
“Ahuh, so you’ve got Ned is what you’re saying.” Olive deduced.
“What I’m saying is there’s a lot you can learn about a present from visual clues.” Emerson responded, tapping his finger on the orange papers on his desk and giving Olive what might have been a smirk. A smile almost, if one knew Emerson and knew he was not in the business of smiling. He was in the business of asking a lot of questions, and quick and easy money.
“I see.” Olive smiled nodding at Emerson.
She did not.
“Yep, well I knew I’d crack you and it only took me-“ Two hours, twenty three minutes and forty two seconds. “-two hours.”
“Give or take. One could almost say three.” Emerson drawled, looking appropriately impressed. Impressed at himself and his ability to con Olive, a feat that wasn’t too hard in all honesty. But Emerson wasn’t in the business of smiling or honesty.
“Or you could say two. I knew it, I knew you’d crack which must mean that Chuck has me! Ned spilled in ten seconds- all I had to do was lean over the counter and he was too busy averting his eyes to avert his tongue from slipping and spilling his juicy secrets.” Olive replied. It was true to say that Ned’s ability to avoid Olive’s overt and obvious flirtations had left him susceptible to truth telling. Although it had taken him a whole ten seconds, mostly because he’d spent the first seven seconds slipping on a banana peel as he’d tried to run from the vast sight of Olive’s... overt obviousness’s.
“I’m sure that’s not the only thing you wanted his tongue to slip over-“ Emerson stated accurately.
“Huh?” Chimed Olive.
“Nevermind... so, we done?” Emerson asked, looking up at Olive from his knitting and watching as she waved her hand towards him.
“Sure, sure. Now, all I’ve got to do is drop some subtle hints about what I want for Christmas.” Olive plotted thoughtfully, heading towards the exit. Carefully avoiding the giant stuffed dog that stuck out of the Noir-esque room. “Nice dog.”
“I’m sure you’ll be real subtle-“ Emerson began waiting for Olive to wave goodbye and shut the door before he added. “-subtle like a brick to the head.”
Putting his knitting down Emerson pulled the sheet of orange wrapping paper from his desk and pulling open the drawer before he hid it out of sight. Emerson Cod was right as he was about most things, except for the recently alive again people and their feelings, there was a lot you could tell from the size, shape and colour of a present. For example bright orange paper; the colour that might match a uniform and the cheery nature of its recipients. A present so big that it dominated the room and yet would be ignored by those who couldn’t see its value. But Emerson could.
It had been two hours, thirty two minutes and eight seconds since his Secret Santa recipient walked in and strolled right past his gift. And exactly one minute since she walked right back out past it.
“Heh, maybe I am good at the whole secret gift thing.” Emerson Cod, detective-author-gift giver, said to himself. And to us dear readers. And for once he was most definitely, one hundred percent right about something. Although still not right about the recently alive again and their feelings but that dear readers is another story.