Aaron Steinmetz

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

Cocoa Tales: Episode 21

Cocoa blinked a few times, suddenly standing inside the jail cell alongside The Sandman.

"Do you even know why you’re here to kill me?" Monty Gerald was saying.

"Oh," Cocoa said through the sleep in her eyes, "I missed something. What did I miss?"

"To be perfectly honest," The Sandman replied, "I really don’t. And I’ve wondered."

"So there’s your man," Cocoa said, pointing at Monty Gerald who took no notice of her.

"I’ve taken jobs from Winchester before," The Sandman continued. "He’s never been so dogged, so insistent before."

"Funny, isn’t it?" Monty asked quietly.

"Okay, Sandman," Cocoa Tael said with a glare. "There’s your man. Why aren’t you killing him?"

"I’ll even admit," The Sandman finished, "I haven’t killed every man I’ve been paid to kill. I haven’t returned the advance, but I didn’t demand the final payment. I think that makes me somewhat magnanimous for a hitman. When I went back to Winchester in the past with a missed hit, he dismissed it." The Sandman took in a long breath and said, "He won’t let me not kill you."

With a knowing nod, Monty Gerald said nothing.


"Because," Monty Gerald said finally, "the Feline Rehabilitation Agency is anything but rehabilitation for cats. And I know that."

The Sandman glanced down at Cocoa Tael who suddenly began wondering if resurrecting Nibbles was the best idea for her plans to kill someone. She wondered if her plan wasn’t foiled again by some outside force beyond her control. She wondered if that force really was beyond her control.

It was.

Because I say.

"What is the goal of FRAG?" The Sandman asked.

Staring silently at The Sandman, Monty Gerald weighed the options before him. He could trust him and possibly gain an ally in his war against the President, or he could simply, easily...

"Sorry, Sandman," Monty Gerald said quickly. "You’ve been in the pocket of Winchester far too long for me to trust you. Guards!"

Surprised–one of the few times in his life that happened–The Sandman turned suddenly to see the guards returning. At the behest of a criminal?!

"You see, Sandman," Monty Gerald said simply, "this is the safest place for me. By locking me up those two detectives gave me far more power than I ever could have wielded out there. This jail, it’s mine."

Grasping The Sandman by both arms, the guards dragged him backward into another cell.

"Come on, Sandman," Cocoa exclaimed, "you can take these guys and Monty Gerald!"

"It’s not that simple, Cocoa," The Sandman replied as they dragged him across the concrete floor.

"Be sure to lock up the cat too," Gerald said, pointing to the floor. "I don’t like the look in her eyes."

"Yes sir," a guard said.

"It’s not that simple for me, Cocoa," The Sandman said quickly, "but for you it’s different. You can get out of here, Cocoa Tael."

Cocoa hissed and swiped at a hand that reached for her. "They’ll shoot me before I reach the air duct."

"This thing, this whatever it is," The Sandman shouted from within the cell, "it has your name on it. Trust me: you’ll be fine."

Cocoa’s eyes narrowed. Guards had her surrounded, but their legs: their legs were wide open. Leaping forward, Cocoa darted between them and ran. She ran faster than any of the guards could run.

The fastest guard stopped suddenly and pulled out his gun. He aimed and fired at Cocoa several times, the bullets ricocheting off the walls before her. But she kept running, faster and faster, and as each bullet missed her she began to believe The Sandman’s words. She was safe.

She burst from the ventilation duct outside and continued running. Faster and faster, the world a blur around her. White smoke trailed behind her and a shockwave was building at her feet, but still she ran faster. And faster.

And faster.

Like, really, really fast, you know?

I mean, she was just running and running and running and, I guess, well, I guess I just couldn’t keep up.

I wonder where she went.

Anyway, in Smokey, Floyd was driving, Jessica was in the passenger seat and her eyes were closed as Nibbles rubbed Faber’s face against he side of the chair, nose to ear, each side, over and over again.

"Okay, why are you doing that right now!?" Floyd exclaimed, watching Faber’s body in the rearview mirror.

"I can’t explain it to you in any way you would understand," Nibbles said, "it just feels really, really good. So stuff it."

"If he starts nibbling my ear," Jessica said glaring at Floyd, "I’m out of here."

"That’s not why they call me Nibbles," Nibbles said leaning back and flopping Faber’s body against the seat, sated, it would seem, of his need to rub his face against soft objects for the moment. "Now: on to the matter at hand. You are aware that I am Nibbles, a Felidus initiate released from the Underground to kill a human, correct?"

"Sure," Floyd replied.

"Are you also aware that the Feline Rehabilitation Agency is not what it appears to be?"

"Sure," Floyd repeated.

"Are you even listening to me?" Nibbles exclaimed.

"Sure," Floyd and Jessica said in unison.

With a groan, Nibbles continued: "It started off well enough, I suppose, for an agency with designs at capturing rogue felines and reprogramming them to your preference. But somewhere along the line, something went wrong. Someone at FRAG realized felines are very good at breaking into things and sneaking around in things and their talents could be put to better uses than simply lying on human laps and sleeping all day."

Nibbles paused, wondering if he still had their attention. Whether he had it or not, he continued on: "Someone wanted a feline army. You understand that right? FRAG is building a feline army? The full weight of that has sunk in, right?"

After a pause, Floyd said, "Sure."

Throwing up his arms in exasperation, Nibbles said, "War is coming you blooming idiots! Where is Harold Gerald!? I need to find him!"

Glancing at Jessica Holiday who shrugged, Floyd flipped on his turning signal and said, "Sure."

Smokey stopped outside Shasta Savings and Loan, and Nibbles was the first out of the car. He hurried toward the building, Jessica and Floyd on his heels as they tried to keep up. "A dead cat has possessed your partner," Jessica said quietly to Floyd, "and you’re not screaming in unholy terror."

"I’m just along for the ride," Floyd replied. "Kinda want to see where this Nibbles cat is going."

"Do you trust him?"

"No," Floyd said with a shake of his head, "but I don’t mistrust him either."

They watched Nibbles enter the bank as they walked toward the front door.

"I had my suspicions about FRAG," Jessica said. "I’d like to pick his mind when we get the chance."

"Faber or Nibbles?"

Jessica snorted. "Now that Nibbles is in there, Faber has a mind."

Floyd reached for the door but didn’t have a chance to grab it. It opened quickly and Nibbles stormed out. "He’s not here. Where else might Harold be?"

"Don’t know," Floyd replied. "Perhaps you could sniff him out?"

"Cute," Nibbles said walking by them both.

"Nibbles," Floyd said loudly to the back of Faber’s head as he walked toward Smokey, "is there anything left of my partner in there with you?"

Nibbles stopped short of opening the car door and turned around. "I don’t know," he said, shaking his head. "Just keep in mind, Detective, I didn’t ask to be resurrected."

He turned and opened the car door, lowered himself inside.