Aaron Steinmetz

...be very still...the bird's angry...and I think he can see us.

Cocoa Tales: Episode Fifteen

A week later–my time–when I felt like going at this again, I returned to find Harold waiting for me, patient as ever. "Shall we continue?" he asked.

Fine, I replied. Glad to see you haven’t turned on me.

"Turned on you? Why?"

When I leave you guys alone for a while, sometimes you turn on me.

"What does that mean?"

Nothing. Let’s move on.

"Okay," Harold said in a nervous tone. "What’s next?"

Floyd arrived at the precinct sans Faber who was, at that moment, exploring his refrigerator for any potential intoxicants. Floyd was wishing he could imbibe an intoxicant or two but, doggonit, the poor fellow had a solid work ethic.

"Floyd!" the chief hollered, and Floyd froze in place. "Floyd, get your butt over here!"

Turning slowly, Floyd approached the chief and said, "You’re back, sir. Thought you were at ground zero."

"I thought you were with Faber," the chief replied.

"He," Floyd said with a shrug, "went home...sick, I guess."

The chief nodded. "Probably for the best. Listen, Floyd: she’s back."

"She?" Floyd was confused, but only for a second. "Jessica Holiday?"

"Is that her name? I can never remember their names. They all look the same to me, those FBI types. It’s the redhead. Wanna distract her again?"

"Sure," Floyd said with an exasperated shake of the head, "but do you know what she wants. I mean, what she really wants?"

"All I know," the chief said turning from Floyd, "is the FBI is trying to rain in on our parade again. Don’t let them. And when Faber feels better, tell him he’s fired. Understand?"

"I understand," Floyd replied, making a mental note to add a check mark to the number of times Faber’d been fired that week. "Where is Jessica waiting for me?"

"Who’s Jessica?" the chief asked as he was walking away, as though what he said was not a question at all but an expression of his lack of interest in anything FBI-related.

Floyd sighed. Redding being bombed back to The Stone Age and he gets to play babysitter to the FBI. Again.

"She’s probably in the meeting room again," Floyd muttered and he started across the upper cubicle room for the conference room. And even before he was inside, he saw her, Jessica’s straight, bright red hair announcing her presence like a lighthouse.

She was seated at the desk, for once not rifling through paperwork. She was waiting patiently for Floyd’s arrival. And as he stepped into the room, she said quickly, "Close the door."

Floyd obliged, but said nothing.

"Where’s...the other one," Jessica asked.


"Yeah, him."

"He’s home sick."

Jessica nodded, inhaled slowly through her nose and said, "I should probably tell you, Detective Floyd, I wasn’t really here to find the Redding Bomber."

Nodding once, Floyd said, "You don’t say."

"I was here because I had reason to believe an assassin was in your city. An assassin who calls himself ‘The Sandman’ recently booked a ticket to a large, far northern California city, and Redding fit the bill. I had planned on coming here even before the explosions started happening. The bombings, I hate to say it, were a convenient cover story."

Sitting at the conference table across from Jessica, Floyd said, "Did the FBI know who you were actually looking for?" He knew the answer, but he wanted Jessica to know he knew without necessarily revealing to her the fact that she talked to herself. Wouldn’t want to lose the interstate into her mind.

"No they didn’t," Jessica said quietly. "And they don’t know I’m here now."

Tilting his head to the side in a manner that he hoped made him look conversational, Floyd said, "What have you been up to lately?"

"I found him," Jessica stated.

That did surprise him. He hadn’t seen her since she ran off at the Gerald Estate. That meant this Sandman fellow really was at the Gerald Estate. "Was he in the Deluxury truck after all?" Floyd asked.

Jessica nodded. "We went on a bit of a drive," she said quietly, "and he could have killed me, but he didn’t. One of the things he said really stuck with me. He said he wasn’t the only Sandman." Jessica looked at Floyd with menacing eyes. "The name Sandman, it’s a title. It’s something assassins earn." She shook her head. "I never knew."

Floyd lifted a finger. "May I ask," he said, "what does this have to do with the bombings in my city?"

"Huh," Jessica said, turning to him confused, but only for a moment. "Oh, nothing. Turns out The Sandman had nothing to do with any of the bombings. Unless you count the Deluxury truck he exploded near Castle Crags."

"What Deluxury truck explosion?"

"Exactly," Jessica said with a nod. "He covers his tracks well. He’s good at what he does. Had a lifetime to master it. He was trying to use this bomber as his own cover, figuring they would find the bomber before him. Not a bad idea, really. He would have gotten away with it, were it not for my quick actions and able investigation."

Jessica’s voice had fallen quieter, and Floyd didn’t know how much of what she was saying she meant for him to hear, so he simply remained quiet, waiting for that lovely, deranged woman to return to reality.

"But he didn’t just get away with it," Jessica continued muttering. "He pulled me aside for a pow-wow, a discussion between two equals who think they’re fighting each other but in fact are actually on the same side. I found several Sandmans, or is it Sandmen? I found several people going by the name of Sandman over the years and they all have connections to the very agency I work for and now the detective is looking at me funny. Maybe he’s a mind-reader too, just like his partner–"

"Ms. Holiday," Floyd said, interrupting her without her even knowing it, "there’s something we need to talk about–"

"Whatever it is," Jessica interjected as she stood up, "it can wait. We need to find The Sandman."

"Which one?"

Glaring at Floyd, Jessica stated slowly, "The only Sandman there is."

Looking away from him as she walked by him, she muttered, "I’m surrounded by the telepathic, everywhere I go."

With a sigh, Floyd rose from his chair. "This nut had better not be my fairytale ending," he muttered to the empty room.

I said nothing. Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

"See?" Harold said to me behind his desk in his office. "It’s not that hard."

Don’t distract me. I’m on a roll.

"Pay me no mind," Harold replied, his head bowed. "I’m not here."

Following Jessica out of the conference room, Floyd asked her, "Where are we going?"

"I have a lead on the would-be victim," Jessica said without turning around.

"Monty Gerald?" Floyd asked, hustling to keep up with the redhead with the, admittedly, rather attractive bottom.

"Yes," Jessica said as she pushed the button at the elevator for the ground floor.

"Monty Gerald’s in jail," Floyd said when he reached her. Being in the FBI, she surely had to know that, right?

"I realize that," Jessica replied, "I’m in the FBI, after all. But there’s a connection between him and Shasta Savings and Loan."

Harold was taken aback. "Between him and what now?"

As the elevator doors rumbled open, Floyd asked, "The bank on Shasta Street?"

Jessica turned to look at him. "Is everything in this area named ‘Shasta’?"

"The Shasta family has a lot of influence in Redding."

"Huh," Jessica said with a nod.

They stepped into the elevator and waited as the doors slowly closed.

"They’re coming here?" Harold asked nervously. "Why?"

I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.