Emerson Cod likes money. He likes cold, hard cash: in his hands, in the bank, or stuffed under his mattress in his hand-knitted money cozy. In fact, he likes money more than anything else in the world.
What he does not like is people interfering in his business.
Emerson glared over the top of his glasses at the tiny woman standing in front of his desk. Her violently orange dress clashed horribly with his office decor, he noticed, and that cute grin was not convincing him to do anything.
"That cute grin of yours ain't gonna convince me to do anything, you know."
"Aw, you think I'm cute?" Olive's insufferable grin got even bigger. "I always knew you liked me." She pulled up a chair in front of his desk and dropped down on it, plopping her feet on the desk. Emerson looked pointedly at her as she placed her arms behind her head, face nearly disappearing behind her feet, but she didn't budge. "Now," she said, "back to business."
"Ain't no business goin' down in here. Now shoo!" Olive glared at him, so he sat up and waved his hand, a condescending grin on his face. "Shoo, you know. Move on, go away, get out of here." Olive held her ground and glared a little. Emerson almost laughed at how non-threatening the look was on her tiny pixie face.
"Listen, just cause you my Itty-Bitty doesn't mean I'm gonna make you a partner. Emerson Cod does his business alone!"
"Oh yeah? Is that why Ned and Chuck work on all of your cases? I mean, what do they do, anyway, threaten the suspects with pie-related torture?" She stopped to ponder for a moment. "Although, with the right kind of pies, that just might work. Especially those pear and cheese concoctions that Chuck's aunts- well, aunt and mom, I suppose- like so much."
Emerson glared at her. "The answer is still no. I ain't never had a partner, and I don't need one. Ned's just around for consulting, and he can't go nowhere without dragging that girl along with him, you know that." He stood up, taking Olive by the arm and towing her to the door. "Go on back to the Pie Hole - I'm sure Ned needs you to clean tables or serve coffee or somethin'."
Olive smiled up at him brilliantly. "All right, but I'll be back! I'm not fooled by your mean, calloused, heartless exterior - inside you're just a cuddly, squishy teddy bear." She hugged him as high up around his stomach as she could manage, as if to prove her point.
Emerson stumbled backwards, dragging Olive with him. "Hey, hey! Ain't nothing squishy about me, inside or otherwise." He pointed one finger at her menacingly. "And you better believe I'm mean, calloused, and heartless, or you gonna be real disappointed soon." Olive still would not stop grinning, or hugging him. It was starting to make Emerson feel a bit uncomfortable, but he blamed it on the position his neck had to adopt in order for him to look her in the face.
Olive was still smiling, infuriatingly. She squeezed him once more and released, planting her hands on her hips. "Just you wait. I will prove to you that, not only do you need a partner, but you need me."
Emerson turned her around and started shoving her towards the exit, hoping to end their circular conversation once and for all. He got as far as the door, Olive struggling valiantly the whole time, before she grabbed hold of the doorjamb. "Wait, wait!" she said, kicking her legs wildly as he picked her up in an attempt to forcibly remove her fingers from the frame. "I have one last question!"
Emerson sighed and put her down. "All right, one question, and then I am throwing you out that nice window behind my desk if you don't leave."
Her hands were back on her hips, an exasperated twist to her mouth and eyebrows. "All right, all right, no need to get violent just because you don't know how to deal with your emotions." Emerson quirked a warning eyebrow at her and she deflated a bit. She glanced up through her eyelashes at Emerson, looking plaintive. "I'm still your Itty-Bitty, though, aren't I?" she asked, looking close to tears. "I mean, even if we're not partners and all, I still get to help, right?"
Emerson cleared his throat and looked away from her before he spoke. His voice was rough as he answered, "Yes, you're still my Itty-Bitty. You're helpful on cases and you're less trouble than Ned and d--Chuck." Olive grinned widely at his admission, her teeth almost blinding Emerson with their brightness. He brought up a hand to shade his eyes as he continued, "But don't let it go to your head. You still got lots to learn before you gonna be ready to do any of this on your own."
"And no," he interrupted her before she could ask again, "that still don't mean that we're partners. I'm teachin' you what I know, and you're learnin' and sometimes bein' helpful. That's all."
She glared at him, again, and Emerson marveled once more at how her tiny face turned the fiercesome expression into something... adorable? He mentally slapped that thought away and looked back down at his minuscule assistant.
"All right, all right!" Olive threw up her hands, shaking her head. "I got it. I understand." Emerson looked skeptical. "No, really, I get it! Your mom never had a partner, not even when she was working with you, and so you think you don't need one. Well, you're wrong!" Olive looked triumphant, confident in her reasoning.
Emerson considered the possibility that he'd been hanging around with Olive too much recently. Maybe he should cut back on the telling of childhood stories on stakeouts. Damn the piemaker and the dead girl for opening the floodgates on that one.
"That ain't got nothin' to do with it," he said, shooing her out the door, "and you better not mention my momma again." He finally got her out in the hallway and waved her on, saying "Time for you to leave, Itty-Bitty."
Olive glanced back. "You'll let me know if we get a case, won't you?"
Emerson grinned. "If I get a case, I will surely let you know if you can help me."
He watched until Olive turned to go down the stairs and sighed in relief, then groaned as her head popped back around the corner. "And Emerson?" she shouted.
"I will convince you, you know. Just you wait." And with a big grin and a toss of her hair, she disappeared once more, leaving a consternated and confused Emerson Cod in her wake.
Even without his amazing accurate PI-trained senses, Emerson could tell that this was going to be a common occurrence. And he couldn't quite find it in himself to regret it.