Aaron Steinmetz

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

Cocoa Tales: Episode Thirteen

The city bus rocked up and down, side to side, and the two detectives swayed with each motion, unwilling or unable to counter the actions of the aged city bus. Neither of them spoke, each barely able to stay awake. They’d had a pretty lousy night, after all. They needed someone there to cheer them up. Who better to cheer them up than their very own storyteller?

Faber glanced to his left, as did Floyd: I waved to them sheepishly. Look, I said, I know it seems like I messed with you, but understand, no one died today because of me.

Faber glared at me, the suddenly he threw his right hook at me, a fist that Floyd caught just in time. Good ole’ Floyd, he had my back.

"No, Faber, he’s not worth it!" Floyd exclaimed.

"He let the cats destroy the city!" Faber hollered back at Floyd.

Technically, I said, a finger raised, only one cat actually destroyed the high school. The rest were kitty bombs.

"Kitty bombs!?" Faber said, turning back to me. "That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!"

Stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? Come now, Faber, you’ve certainly heard dumber.

"You’d better keep your distance, Storyteller, or I’ll bust your bleeping nose open!" Faber paused, blinked a few times. "What did I just say?"

"Um," Floyd replied, "I think you said, ‘bleeping’ when you wanted to say ‘bleeping.’" Taken aback, Floyd said, "Bleep. Bleep."

Faber asked, "What the bleep is going on?"

"I don’t know," Floyd replied. "I’m trying to say ‘bleep’ but it keeps coming out as bleep. Son of a bleep."

"Eat bleep."

They both turned to look at me.

I gotta keep this one kid-friendly, guys. No ka-ka words, okay?

This time, Floyd wasn’t able to stop Faber from hitting me. Holding my bloodied nose up in the air, I watched Floyd pull Faber out of his seat and push him into his own. Sitting between us, Floyd said, "Listen, Storyteller, I’m tired of being a bachelor. I’m wanting to settle down into a nice, fairytale ending."

Faber rolled his eyes.

"Think you could do something for me?" Floyd finished.

Holding my nose, I nodded, patting him on the shoulder.

"Thanks, boss," Floyd said. "I mean, it’s so depressing seeing movies and concerts alone, you know?"

But I was gone. Had to go make sure my nose wasn’t broken, after all.

"You shouldn’t be so pleasant to him, Floyd," Faber said, shaking his head.

"The guy controls our destiny," Floyd replied quietly. "You shouldn’t go around punching the guy who controls our destiny."

"Why are you whispering? He’s gone."

"Yeah, something tells me he can still hear us."

Still fuming from her encounter with her storyteller, Cocoa stormed down the alleyway, grumbling, growling, a hop, skip and a jump away from a downright hiss about my meddling with her efforts to become a bonafide member of the Felidus. Hours were ticking away, though, and she knew darn well that she had to get a kill in before midnight.

How could she do it? Whom could she kill?

"I have an idea," came a voice from behind her.

Cocoa slowly turned to see the man who had been following her. She stared up at a face well known within the Feline Underground. "You’re The Sandman," Cocoa stated.

"I am," The Sandman replied. "And you’re?"

"Cocoa Tael," she replied. "You’re the one who killed Nibbles."

"I probably did. Remind me who Nibbles is...was."

"White cat," Cocoa said, "yellow around the eyes...wildly ambitious desires to be the greatest feline assassin the Felidus ever trained..."

"Ah yes," The Sandman said, "he went after President Winchester."

"Probably," Cocoa said with a nod. "He had lofty ambitions."

"And they were his undoing," The Sandman said with a shrug. "You don’t get to be the President of these United States without talented protection."

"Like you?"

"Like me."

"Did you harbor any ill will toward Nibbles?"

The Sandman thought for a second, then shook his head. "He was just a cat with eyes bigger than his claws. Not unlike another cat the Felidus trained."

With a roll of the eyes, Cocoa said, "I’m up against the storyteller here. It’s not my fault I haven’t killed anyone."

"We’re all up against a storyteller, Cocoa Tael," The Sandman said. "The trick is to get your way despite him."

I probably should have been paying more attention to all this but I was too busy stopping my nose from bleeding. Faber has a brutal swing.

"Cocoa," The Sandman said, "I could use some help. I have a quarry that’s gone to ground in the jail here in town and they’re in the process of relocating him to Susanville. He’ll be a lot harder to get to there, if not impossible. I have to kill him before midnight tonight. Interested?"

"I think you and I, Sandman, will become fast friends."