je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho (shinealightonme) wrote in gen_ficathon,
je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho
shinealightonme
gen_ficathon

Pushing Daisies: "Like No Business I Know" - for attempt_unique

Title: Like No Business I Know
Recipient: attempt_unique
Author: shinealightonme
Fandom: Pushing Daisies
Character(s): Olive-centric, appearances by Ned, Chuck, and Emerson
Prompt: I love everything about Olive Snook. Let her have an adventure (big or small).
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~4,500
Author's Notes: Songs quoted are "No Business Like Show Business," "Blue Skies," "What I Did For Love," and "Nobody's Heart Belongs to Me." Thanks to moonlightstorm for beta reading.
Summary: Pie, parrots, and impromptu performances – just another day in the life of Olive Snook.

It all began, as many things do, with a pie.

The pie in question was a deliciously tart rhubarb pie, baked to mouth-watering perfection at the Pie Hole.

People had often asked Ned, the owner of the Pie Hole, what his secret was, and to this he gave no answer. This was not to protect his business interests or a family recipe but to protect himself from the outcry that would result if the truth were known: that his touch could bring the dead back to life. He used it not only to revive rotted fruit for use in his pies, but also to revive murder victims to aid private investigator Emerson Cod's investigations, and to give new life to lonely tourist Charlotte Charles.

Olive Snook knew none of this. She only knew that the Pie Hole pies were the most delicious, the Pie Hole crusts the flakiest, the Pie Hole fruit the juiciest...and that the Pie Hole secrets must be equally juicy. She was determined to one day discover what, exactly, the Pie Maker and his associates were hiding.

She would not manage it today, however.

"Olive?"

"Yes?" the waitress replied, stepping out onto the open floor of the kitchen without any guilt. Without much guilt. Because she didn't need to feel guilty about snooping – because she wasn't snooping. It wasn't snooping if she had a real reason to be where she was, right? And if she happened to overhear some conversation while she was walking around because no one had noticed she was there, well, that couldn't be helped...

It wasn't like she'd heard anything interesting, anyway.

"Shouldn't you be minding the front?" Ned asked.

"It's a bit slow right now."

Emerson Cod rolled his eyes, as he was wont to do. "Yeah, well, it isn't a slow day back here, if you catch my drift, and this is a PI only party, so why don't you just drift back out front."

Olive could have pointed out that the girl called Chuck was not a PI either, and she was allowed access; instead, she smiled and explained, "I just need to grab that pie, won't take but a minute."

"See that it doesn't." For a moment, Olive thought Emerson was actually going to pull out his watch and time a minute. If he had, they would have seen that it had taken her significantly less time to grab the rhubarb pie in question and leave the kitchen and its occupants to continue whatever conversation they had going when they were unobserved.

Olive had not lied when she'd said that business was slow; it was not long after opening in the morning, too early for most people to be eating dessert. She set the rhubarb pie, still warm from the rack, down behind the counter and decided to wipe down the tables that were unoccupied (as most were).

Halfway through her task, the bell chimed, alerting her to the presence of new customers. Olive turned to greet them but her customarily cheery welcome faltered on her lips when she caught sight of them – three men dressed head to foot in black, with sunglasses and hats. Nice sunglasses, too; she recognized the designer brand. They looked like escapees from some ultra-modern theater piece, or maybe exceptionally successful undertakers.

Still, they served all kinds at the Pie Hole, never mind their clothes, so she brightened up again. "Hello and welcome to the Pie Hole, home of the most delicious pies known to man," she chirped, grabbing a few menus and guiding them to a booth. "Have a seat! My name's Olive, can I get you anything to drink? Some coffee, maybe?"

The oldest man at the table nodded, and one of his companions told Olive, "Three coffees."

"Regular or decaf?"

"Regular."

"Coming right up!"

Olive kept an eye on them as she grabbed the carafe and some mugs. They were not a chatty bunch, she observed; in fact, they didn't say anything to each other. Nor did they respond to her attempts to make small talk when she went to take their order; the oldest man simply pointed to a spot on the menu and the third man – the one who hadn't ordered the coffee – told her "He'll have one slice of rhubarb, and we'll take the rest of the pie boxed up to go."

"Oooh, you're in luck, just pulled that one out of the oven a minute ago."

They nodded solemnly. Maybe they'd just come from a funeral or something. That would explain the clothing and the dour expressions. Olive wasn't used to her customers looking so solemn. Of course, some people turned to pie in their moments of need, but in such cases, they usually cheered up somewhat as they ate. These three remained just as silent and just as grim as they ate – well, as one of them ate and the others drank their coffee.

They didn't stick around long, paying the bill and taking their pie without even one smile.

"Takes all kinds," Olive shrugged. "At least they touch people."

-

Olive saw the strange trio a few more times over the next couple of months, but she didn't pay them much attention. There were many other things to keep her mind and her body busy.

The Pie Hole was doing well, with a steady stream of customers to keep her active with everyday activities. The Pie Maker was experimenting again, which meant making more pies than usual and working harder to pitch the virtues of the new flavors. The private investigator kept bringing cases around, and while Olive didn't usually take direct part in the investigations, she often spied on Emerson and Ned discussing them - well, it wasn't spying if they were sitting out in the open - or talked about them with Chuck, who was more forthcoming.

She wasn't forthcoming about why she'd faked her death, and Olive had temporarily put her plans to figure that out on hold in favor of her plans to help Chuck's aunts Lily and Vivian.

She could ignore the death of a woman who was not dead, but it was harder to ignore the fact that the Pie Hole had become a center for detective work. That was especially true when there were cases like this one, that brought Chuck, Ned, and Emerson stumbling through the door at three o'clock in the afternoon covered in feathers.

Olive could not help but laugh. "You all look like you fell in a chicken coop, that is if chickens came in that many colors, because I know there are white chickens and black chickens and brown chickens but I don't think there are green and blue and red chickens, or maybe you were at a feather boa factory when it exploded. You weren't really at a feather boa factory or a chicken coop, were you, because if you were you should probably wash up before you go into the kitchen."

"No feather boas or chickens were harmed in the making of this scene, I promise," Chuck told her. Chuck was the only one of the three who could see the humor in the situation.

"Still want to get cleaned up, though," Ned mumbled, and beat a hasty retreat.

"Think he's got the right idea," Emerson frowned. "Can't go around letting people see me like this, it'll ruin my reputation. People don't want to hire a private detective who looks like a bad punch line."

"Well I don't think it's that bad," Chuck pronounced. "I think I might keeps some of these feathers. They'd make good accessories. What do you think, new earrings?" She lifted a few feathers off of her shoulder and held them under her ears to demonstrate.

"Oh, they'd be lovely," Olive reassured her. "They have such great coloring. What are they really from?"

Chuck looked both ways before pulling Olive to sit down at the nearest booth with her. "Parrots," she whispered.

"Parrots?" Olive didn't know why that needed to be kept a secret, but she whispered it anyway to keep in the spirit of the thing. "Where'd you find that many parrots?"

"These weren't actually attached to the parrots when we got them dumped on us. It was a booby trap."

"Who sets a booby trap with parrots feathers?" Olive demanded. "Whatever happened to good old trap doors?"

Chuck laughed. "Some people just have no respect for tradition. But in this case, I think it was more that they already had the feathers and wanted something useful to do with them."

"Well who has that many parrots, then?"

"Parrot smugglers," Chuck answered smugly.

"Parrot smugglers?" Olive repeated. "Is there a lot of money in that?"

"Apparently there is if you can get the right kind of parrot and the right kind of ornithophile."

Olive whistled. "I tell you, the things some people get up too..."

"That's not all," Chuck wiggled her shoulders the way she did when she had some particularly exciting piece of gossip to share. "We got in on this case because a guy was murdered the other night. And it turns out," she lowered her voice for the good part, and Olive had to lean in closer. "He had gotten in trouble with a certain organized crime syndicate."

"Shut up!" Olive exclaimed, temporarily forgetting that this was a whispered conversation. She waved nervously at a few of the Pie Hole patrons who had looked up at her outburst. When they had all turned back to their pie, she turned back to her informant. "You mean the Mafia is here? In town?"

Chuck nodded fervently.

"And you guys are trying to take down their parrot-smuggling, smuggler-offing ways?"

Chuck nodded again.

"That is so cool."

"I know!"

"When you die, can I have your clothes?"

"Olive!"

"What? I mean, I'd have to hem some of the dresses, sure, but they're cute enough to be worth it."

Chuck threw a handful of feathers at Olive, and they both collapsed in a fit of giggles.

-

For the next few days, Olive was almost relieved that Ned and Emerson were making little progress on the case, a fact that they did not share with her outright but that she inferred from Ned's long face and his long hours of absence from the Pie Hole. The image of a horse's head in her bed haunted Olive and made the parrot-smuggling Mafia slightly less humorous than they had originally seemed.

"Never should have watched the Godfather," she mumbled to herself as she swept up one evening close to closing time.

The door opened, and in walked the three mysterious, darkly clad customers. "Hello boys!" she greeted. "You're here late tonight, what can I get you?"

"Strawberry."

"Any coffee or anything? Maybe a little ice cream?" She hadn't yet managed to sell them on the virtues of pie with ice cream, but she kept trying.

"We're in a bit of a rush tonight. We'll take it to go."

"All right. One strawberry pie, coming right up." Olive set aside her broom to box up their pie. One of the men paid her in cash, with exact change, as they always did. She took it, as usual, as a sign of courtesy, because it saved her the trouble of making change, though it might just be that they were persnickety. In any case, she figured it worked in her favor.

They didn't wait for her to enter the transaction into the register and deposit their payment; when she looked up to say good night, they were already leaving.

She noticed something on the ground near where they had been standing. "Hey wait, you dropped your – " she called out, but they were already outside and did not return for their fallen item.

"Hope it's not something too important," she said to herself. "Though maybe if it is, they'll give me a reward for returning it."

She crossed the floor to retrieve the item, which, once she was close, she could see was...a feather.

"Now that's weird. Chuck wasn't in here shedding earlier today." Chuck's attempts to make jewelry out of the brightly colored feathers had not met with much success, and after a few days she had set the project aside for later, when she had more free time. "And it can't be from yesterday because I swept this up. Which means..."

Which meant that the feather had to have come from the three men who had not just left.

Olive gasped. "Oh my God. I've been selling pies to the Mafia!"

Ned, Chuck, and Emerson were all out again tonight chasing a lead – one they hadn't been too hopeful of, Chuck had reported; it seemed the ring leaders of this particularly crooked crime circus were cautious to keep their identities hidden. There was no way for Olive to be certain that the men who'd just left were involved in the smuggling, but neither was there a way for Olive to tell when they would return to the Pie Hole. She had to make her decision, and make it quickly.

Luckily, it wasn't a very hard decision to make.

"Looks like we're closing up early tonight!" she announced to the empty room. It only took her moments to turn off the lights and lock up the doors; she would have to return later for the last of the closing time cleaning routine.

She looked around and spotted their car – black, of course – turning left and vanishing from sight. "Oh no you don't," she said. "You won't get away from Olive Snook that easily!"

In the movies, characters were always jumping into conveniently placed taxis at times like this and shouting "Follow that car!" There were no taxis near the Pie Hole, though, and even if there were Olive wouldn't have wanted to pay for one when she had her own means of transportation. Still, she thought as she dashed towards her car, it would have been exciting to get to shout "Follow that car!"

She followed the suspected Mafia just fine without any shouting, once she'd caught up with them. They led her on a merry little chase while she debated whether she should call the others. She didn't want to bother them if it turned out the men she was tailing were really just members of the Dramatic Bird Watchers Association, but if she really had found something, they should know.

She decided to wait and see if she couldn't find out for sure before calling anyone. Besides, it wasn't good to talk on a cell phone while driving.

Olive was just starting to think they were leading her in circles when the car slowed and parked outside of..."A nightclub?"

It was a fancy club, with candle-light, piano music, and well-dressed patrons drifting out onto the street. The men leaving their car would fit right in; Olive, less so. She glanced down at her dress and sighed. It was a fetching number, but not quite on the same scale as what some of the women inside were wearing. Emerson had told her (or more like scolded, because the man only had two modes of conversation, angry and sarcastic) that when you were doing detective work you never wanted to stand out.

Surely there would be a back entrance she could sneak in.

She slid along the back of the building, ducking low and clinging to the wall for good measure, and she found her entrance. An employee from the night club had just left to take out some trash, and through the open door she could spot darkened hallways.

Olive counted thirty seconds after the door had shut behind the employee before creeping forward to enter the building. The music was much quieter, back here. It looked like the nightclub itself was only part of the building. The first door on the left was open just a crack, and she pushed it a few inches to reveal a room that looked like an office. She kept walking.

A few offices, a bathroom, and a dishwashing room later, Olive had made her way back to the club. She might not be able to blend in with the customers, but she knew a thing or two about how to act as a waitress. She donned an apron she had picked up in the last room and walked out onto the main floor.

The first thing she noticed was that the music was live. There was a piano on a raised platform, and also a microphone, although no one was singing. The second thing she noticed was an empty table that needed to be bused, and she set about clearing glasses to look busy while her eyes roamed the room.

Eventually, she spotted the older man from the Pie Hole, talking with someone she didn't recognize. The subject of their conversation was unknown to her, but the attitude was easy to recognize: angry. They were fighting about something, and Olive wanted to know what, so when they left the room to walk back down the hallway she'd just come from, she followed at a discreet distance.

When she was out of the main room she debated what to do about the apron. It would keep customers from asking questions, but it would only make real employees more suspicious of her, and she was more likely to meet the staff than the patrons back here. She slipped the apron off and hung it over a door knob before continuing after the two men.

The had stepped aside into one of the offices Olive had passed earlier, and she crouched nearby to see if there was anything she could overheard. This time she really was snooping, but it was for a good cause, so she let that go.

The door was doing a remarkably effective job of muffling noise, though. She edged closer.

"This delay is unacceptable," someone was saying.

"It's unavoidable. My contacts keep bringing birds in at the rate they have been and there's no way they won't get caught."

"And if my customers don't get their birds, they'll go somewhere else for them, and your contacts will have a lot more to worry about than customs agents."

"Maybe they'd be willing to take a few more risks if they were getting a little more reward."

"If you're trying to renegotiate the terms..."

A soft scuffling alerted Olive Snook that someone was coming towards her, and she stood up hastily and took a few steps back, hoping she looked like a casual loiterer and not a spy. Maybe she should have kept the apron after all, she thought in a moment of panic.

"Hey you!" The man who spoke wore a name tag proclaiming him to be Albert, the manager. Olive cringed, anticipating what he might say next, but instead of "What are you doing here?" or "Intruder!" he asked, "Are you the singer?"

It was easier to go with the excuse provided than to try to thing of another one. "Yes! The singer, that's me, I sure can sing up a storm." Some nervous laughter tried to escape, but she successfully swallowed it.

He didn't seem pleased. "You're late."

"Well, you know," Olive shrugged. "Traffic, and...things."

His frown only deepened. She wasn't about to let her escape rope escape without her. Act like a singer, she told herself. "You should just be glad that I am here at all," she snapped. "I have other places I could be, you know."

Strangely enough, that did the trick. "No need to get carried away. Just change quickly and we'll call it even."

An unexpected snag. "Change?"

"Your dressing room's this way," he jerked a thumb down another hallway Olive had not yet explored. "There's a few dresses from the last girl. They might be a little long," he held his hand several inches above Olive's head, presumably demonstrating the height of the 'last girl' to sing at the night club, "But they'll be better than that."

She might have started the rudeness, but that was no reason for some stranger to make comments about her clothing. "Hey, this is a great dress. Just not a night club singing-dress."

"Sure, whatever," he shrugged, and led her the rest of the way to the changing room.

It wasn't until she was inside, alone, poking through the wardrobe, that she really started to second-guess this plan. There didn't seem much of a choice now but to go with the flow – that, and call Emerson.

The phone rang three times before he picked up. "This better be good," he growled.

"Does finding the leaders of your parrot-smuggling gangsters qualify as good?" she asked, a trifle smugly.

There was a satisfying pause from the other end of the line. "You're joking."

"I'm really not."

"How the hell'd you find – "

"Ah ah ah," she interrupted. "Don't have much time. Just get down to the Buona Notte Night Club. They're here now, but I don't know how long they're going to stick around."

"We'll be there in ten." Emerson hung up.

"You have really atrocious phone manners, you know that?" Olive told the inert phone in her hand. While talking with the private investigator, she had found a dress that looked as though it shouldn't fit her too badly.

"That's one thing taken care of," she said, shimmying into the black dress. "Now I just have to sing in front of a strange audience with an accompanist I've never met before, hope the real singer doesn't show up, and help catch the bad guys." She pulled the zipper all the way up and studied her form in the mirror. Not bad at all, she decided. "Easy as pie."

The manager swept her on stage the moment she walked out of the door, leaving her no time to check if the crooked businessmen were still in the office. He also didn't leave her time to think of what she would sing, but she knew something would come to her. Songs had a way of sneaking up on Olive Snook. This time was no exception.

"I was blue, just as blue as I could be, every day was a cloudy day for me."

Her voice didn't waver, and as she finished the opening of the song, the pianist joined in to accompany her. The customers watched her appreciatively, and no one suspected that she did not belong. She had managed to hide herself in the metaphorical and literal spotlight. Emerson Cod would probably not approve, but Olive was delighted.

The light shining on her wasn't all that bright, but it was enough to make it hard for her to distinguish faces in the crowd. She kept looking, removing the microphone from its stand so that she could walk to one side of the stage, where the light wasn't quite as bright in her eyes.

This also placed her closer to the pianist, and as the first song drew to a close, she flicked the microphone off. "What else you play, Sparky?"

The pianist was torn between amusement and offense at the nickname, but he was more amused than offended and so they were quickly able to hash out the rest of the songs for the set. As Sparky played his opening notes, Olive turned the microphone back on and continued studying the crowd.

"Kiss today goodbye, the sweetness and the sorrow."

There was Emerson, Ned and Chuck in tow, and she could see the moment they realized who was on stage. Ned's mouth was actually hanging open. Chuck was grinning wildly and miming clapping before Ned gestured at her to stop. Emerson might have rolled his eyes, but it was hard for Olive to tell. They moved through the audience, getting as close to the stage as they could, and when the song was over Olive gestured to the pianist that she needed water. He struck up an instrumental number and she stepped off the stage.

"What the hell are you playing at?" Emerson hissed.

"I'm undercover," she told him. "Isn't that a PI-approved strategy from tracking baddies?"

"You should have told us."

"I did, when I called." Olive shrugged. "It was kind of a last minute thing."

"I think it's great," Chuck said. "Olive has a wonderful voice."

"We aren't here for the dinner-and-a-show part of the night," Emerson snapped. "We're here to catch our smugglers, so we can catch our killers, so I can get paid. So if you could kindly point us toward our smugglers, we can be on our way."

"They're around here somewhere," Olive told him.

"Somewhere? That's all you got?"

"I've been a little busy!"

"Fine. What do they look like, at least?"

"Well, there's a tall scary looking old guy and a shorter guy with a hat."

"That's all you got?"

Olive pointed. "Go through there, there's some hallways, about halfway down the first one there's an office. That's the last place I saw them. They were talking business," she added after a meaningful pause. "Now I really have to go."

"Wait – "

She ignored Ned and climbed back onto the stage. As she got back into place she saw Ned and Emerson heading the way she had indicated, though Chuck stayed in the audience and mouthed a 'go Olive!' at her.

She shot the pianist a look. "You ready?"

In answer, he started playing. Olive focused on the music, which was more difficult now that her friends were actually here. She didn't know what their plan was for confronting the lion in his den. She suspected they didn't really have a plan, except maybe asking them nice if they had killed the victim.

Whether they had a plan or whether they just ad libbed, it was effective. As she crooned "I admire the moon as a moon, just a moon," she spotted her shady friend entering the room, Emerson and Ned a step behind. They weren't stomping around, but none of them looked too happy. They exchanged a few words, Olive marveling a bit at seeing her taciturn customer talk, and he pointed towards a man sitting near the door.

Emerson nodded and slipped away to talk to the man. Ned just slipped away. As Emerson led the now-ashen faced man outside, Ned met back up with Chuck and Olive, dying of curiosity, signaled that she needed another break. The pianist sighed extravagantly but played another instrumental piece.

"You better explain what just happened there," Olive told Ned as soon as she was off stage. "Because that was all kinds of strange. Was that guy your killer? How'd you get the boss to cough him up?"

"We had some information about one of the boss's other men," Ned explained rather vaguely. "He was willing to trade us for the identity of the killer."

"And what about him?"

"What do you mean?"

"This whole parrot-smuggling, night club-running organization," Olive gestured at their surroundings. "You going to take them down?"

Ned sounded kind of embarrassed by that. "That wasn't really what we were hired for."

"I, for one, am intrigued by the possibilities," Chuck said. "We could bring them down, or recruit them to the good side, or have some sort of dark, morally ambiguous arrangement with them where we share information on cases but don't really trust them." She noticed the others staring at her. "So maybe I like noir a little too much."

"Well," Olive clapped her hands together. "You know how I love to chat, but it's time again for me to leave."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to finish my set."

"Why? We...got our guy." That was almost a question. Ned cleared his throat before continuing. "You cracked the case. Hurray, good work, now home in time for pie and bed."

"Not yet," Olive drew herself up as tall as she could. "The show must go on."
Tags: author: shinealightonme, character: olive snook, fandom: pushing daisies, recipient: attempt_unique
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