"Nicky," Nora said when she came back from a quick trip to the powder room, "what happened to my olive?"
"Hmm?" Nick, who had been absorbed in placing the fragile little candy-striped glass balls Nora was so fond of on the Christmas tree in their suite at the Normandie, looked across the room to find his wife holding a full martini glass and looking puzzled.
"The olive from my martini. It's gone."
"Are you sure you put one in?"
"I'm positive! I hope I have a few more years before senility sets in."
"As long as it doesn't affect your looks, darling, I wouldn't worry about it."
She stuck her tongue out at him, and he replied in kind. Leaving the tree to decorate itself, he walked over to her and took the glass from her hand, then swallowed half the drink in one sip. It was indeed a martini, heavy on the gin and light on the vermouth, just as Nora liked it. And it was indeed missing the olive.
"Well," he said, "I suppose we'll just have to search for it." He placed the glass back on the end table. "Could it be here?" He brushed one of her curls away with a finger and peered into her left ear.
He leaned back and met her indignant gaze. "It's entirely possible that olive just couldn't stand being parted from you while you were indisposed. And I can't say I blame it."
She preened a bit at the compliment, then narrowed her eyes. "As nice as that theory is, I rather think it's you we should be investigating for the olive—specifically your stomach." She poked him in the suspected region.
"Darling, do you really think I'd eat the olive and leave the martini?"
She contemplated that for a moment. "No, I suppose that's not your style."
"Thank you." He picked up the martini glass again and swallowed the rest of it—just to be sure the missing olive hadn't turned up while they were talking, of course. "Now, it couldn't have gotten far in five minutes, so it must still be in the suite. Personally, I'd suggest talking to its friends to see if they know where it might have run off to. We should interrogate every last olive in that jar."
"And then if that proves inconclusive, we should move on to the maraschino cherries."
"And after that, if all else fails, the citrus. I've always thought limes were highly suspicious. Too green."
"I suppose you found them in cahoots with some lemons once when you were missing a sugar cube," Nora said archly.
"No, I'm afraid that was entirely the fault of the absinthe."
Their conversation was interrupted by Asta trotting by. He settled on the rug in front of them, chewing ostentatiously on whatever was in his mouth.
"Oh, he's got something! Asta, put that down right now!" As Nora knelt to grab the mystery object, Asta leapt to his feet and ran to the other side of the room, barking delightedly around whatever was in his mouth.
Nick edged toward the dog from the other direction, intending a divide and conquer approach. "Distract him with something," he suggested.
Nora grabbed an ornament from the coffee table—a supremely and thoroughly tacky stuffed squirrel wearing an even uglier hand-knitted sweater. "Here, Asta! Get the squirrel!"
"Didn't your grandmother make that for you?"
"Yes, and I've hated it since I was a girl. Come here, boy!"
Asta cautiously wagged his tail, obviously intrigued by the thought of chewing up even a stuffed squirrel. He allowed Nora and Nick to creep closer. They got within a couple of feet before he darted between them, making a break for the bedroom.
"Asta!" they both cried. Nick whistled, and the dog paused at the door. "Throw me the squirrel!"
Nora did. Asta followed the ornament's arc like a spectator at a tennis match. Distracted, he crept forward a couple of steps. "Oh, he's interested! Keep throwing it!" Nora yelled.
Nick tossed the squirrel back to her, and she waved it in Asta's direction before tossing it back to Nick. As they volleyed it back and forth, the dog sidled closer and closer.
"Come on, boy, get the ugly squirrel!" Nick encouraged.
Finally, the temptation became too much for the dog. He dropped the object in his mouth and bounded toward Nick, leaping up to snatch the squirrel from his hand. Victorious, he pranced away to chew on his prize.
Nora stared at the mangled green ball lying on the rug where Asta had spit it. "Well. I think we've found my olive."
Nick shook his head disapprovingly. "Fished out of your martini glass, too. Who knew the dog was such a lush?"
Nora glanced at the empty martini glasses lined up on the coffee table, evidence of the morning's activities. "I think I might have an idea where he gets it from."
"From your side of the family, of course."
She scrunched up her nose at him, and he couldn't help but kiss it. She didn't seem to mind.
"Remember that time my father managed to drink you under the table?" she asked.
He shuddered. "I've tried to forget it. The hangover lasted an entire week."
"That was the moment Father changed his opinion about you. He said that any man who could put away that much gin in two hours must have the stamina to keep up with a Carrington woman."
Nick furrowed his brow. "Did he mean just as far as liquor was concerned, or was it more of a general observation?"
"I'm not sure. Another martini?"
"Don't mind if I do."
Nora went over to the drinks cabinet and poured them both martinis, adding an olive to each glass. "Let's see if we can't keep these away from the dog," she said.
Over in the corner, where he was ripping the stuffing out of the squirrel, Asta whined softly.
When she brought the drinks back to the sofa, Nora gave her husband a peck on the cheek before handing him one of the martinis and sitting down to snuggle against his side. "Thank you for helping me find my olive."
He kissed her back, rather longer and not exactly on her cheek. "For you, sugar, I'd find an olive in a haystack."
"Even if there was no martini to put it in?"